Genesis – First, God
Revenge is never “sweet” when it is in our hands. It is bitter and cold and brings back the bad memories of the hurt and pain that is hard to bear. We lower ourselves to less than God expects us to be. When God turns the tide on the enemy and delivers us our hearts are more inclined to forgive and forget because of HIS work in us.
At first, in the story of God in Joseph, it looks as though Joseph is paying back evil for evil, but he is really helping his brothers realize their sin and the consequences of sin. Do you hear the brothers saying, what we sometimes say, “If only we hadn’t done….”
Joseph does not let on that he is indeed their brother. He seems to be “testing the waters” for remorse and regret of their sin toward God by selling him to slave traders and lying about his demise to Jacob, their father.
The dreams God gave to Joseph as a teenager are now coming to reality. These dreams and the ability to hear God tell him what they mean have served him well in this life in a foreign land. His dreams given by God helped him to stay the course in his faith with God.
God worked in Joseph’s life in those slave years to build his character, give him wisdom beyond his years, and instill his trust in God. Joseph knew, in good times and bad, God was with Him.
Joseph now has the power to turn the tables on his brothers. But he extends kindness, grace and mercy when we read the whole story. This is part one.
Genesis 42, The Message
1-2 When Jacob learned that there was food in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you sit around here and look at one another? I’ve heard that there is food in Egypt. Go down there and buy some so that we can survive and not starve to death.”
3-5 Ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to Egypt to get food. Jacob didn’t send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with them; he was afraid that something bad might happen to him. So Israel’s sons joined everyone else that was going to Egypt to buy food, for Canaan, too, was hit hard by the famine.
6-7 Joseph was running the country; he was the one who gave out rations to all the people. When Joseph’s brothers arrived, they treated him with honor, bowing to him. Joseph recognized them immediately, but treated them as strangers and spoke roughly to them.
He said, “Where do you come from?”
“From Canaan,” they said. “We’ve come to buy food.”
8 Joseph knew who they were, but they didn’t know who he was.
9 Joseph, remembering the dreams he had dreamed of them, said, “You’re spies. You’ve come to look for our weak spots.”
10-11 “No, master,” they said. “We’ve only come to buy food. We’re all the sons of the same man; we’re honest men; we’d never think of spying.”
12 He said, “No. You’re spies. You’ve come to look for our weak spots.”
13 They said, “There were twelve of us brothers—sons of the same father in the country of Canaan. The youngest is with our father, and one is no more.”
14-16 But Joseph said, “It’s just as I said, you’re spies. This is how I’ll test you. As Pharaoh lives, you’re not going to leave this place until your younger brother comes here. Send one of you to get your brother while the rest of you stay here in jail. We’ll see if you’re telling the truth or not. As Pharaoh lives, I say you’re spies.”
17 Then he threw them into jail for three days.
18-20 On the third day, Joseph spoke to them. “Do this and you’ll live. I’m a God-fearing man. If you’re as honest as you say you are, one of your brothers will stay here in jail while the rest of you take the food back to your hungry families. But you have to bring your youngest brother back to me, confirming the truth of your speech—and not one of you will die.” They agreed.
21 Then they started talking among themselves. “Now we’re paying for what we did to our brother—we saw how terrified he was when he was begging us for mercy. We wouldn’t listen to him and now we’re the ones in trouble.”
22 Reuben broke in. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t hurt the boy’? But no, you wouldn’t listen. And now we’re paying for his murder.”
23-24 Joseph had been using an interpreter, so they didn’t know that Joseph was understanding every word. Joseph turned away from them and cried. When he was able to speak again, he took Simeon and had him tied up, making a prisoner of him while they all watched.
25 Then Joseph ordered that their sacks be filled with grain, that their money be put back in each sack, and that they be given rations for the road. That was all done for them.
26 They loaded their food supplies on their donkeys and set off.
27-28 When they stopped for the night, one of them opened his sack to get food for his donkey; there at the mouth of his bag was his money. He called out to his brothers, “My money has been returned; it’s right here in my bag!” They were puzzled—and frightened. “What’s God doing to us?”
29-32 When they got back to their father Jacob, back in the land of Canaan, they told him everything that had happened, saying, “The man who runs the country spoke to us roughly and accused us of being spies. We told him, ‘We are honest men and in no way spies. There were twelve of us brothers, sons of one father; one is gone and the youngest is with our father in Canaan.’
33-34 “But the master of the country said, ‘Leave one of your brothers with me, take food for your starving families, and go. Bring your youngest brother back to me, proving that you’re honest men and not spies. And then I’ll give your brother back to you and you’ll be free to come and go in this country.’”
35 As they were emptying their food sacks, each man came on his purse of money. On seeing their money, they and their father were upset.
36 Their father said to them, “You’re taking everything I’ve got! Joseph’s gone, Simeon’s gone, and now you want to take Benjamin. If you have your way, I’ll be left with nothing.”
37 Reuben spoke up: “I’ll put my two sons in your hands as hostages. If I don’t bring Benjamin back, you can kill them. Trust me with Benjamin; I’ll bring him back.”
38 But Jacob refused. “My son will not go down with you. His brother is dead and he is all I have left. If something bad happens to him on the road, you’ll put my gray, sorrowing head in the grave.”
WHAT WE LEARN…
Some of us might be thinking felt that Joseph was wrong and even cruel in the way he dealt with his brothers. Instead of wasting so much time, Joseph should have immediately revealed himself to his brothers and brought about “instant reconciliation.” But is that humanly possible when you have been hurt so deeply?
True reconciliation requires sincere repentance and humble confession of sin, and often it takes time for a person to get to that place. I believe that Joseph dealt with his brothers in a patient, loving, and wise way, and that’s why his approach succeeded.
Joseph took time for God to do His work in them as He did with Joseph all those years in slavery. God had to bring Joseph’s brothers to the place where they admitted the evil things they had done to their brother and their father. Shallow repentance leads to an experience that isn’t reconciliation at all. It’s only a fragile truce.
From a human point of view, Joseph would have been happy for “instant reconciliation,” because then he could have seen his father and his brother Benjamin much sooner. But like a skilled physician, Joseph was patient. He spoke and acted in such a way that the thoughts of his brothers’ hearts were revealed and God finally brought them to true repentance.
After the promised seven years of plenty, the years of famine came upon the Middle Eastern world, but thanks to Joseph, there was abundant grain in Egypt. God had sent Joseph ahead (45:5; Ps. 105:17) to preserve his family so that one day the nation of Israel could give the world Jesus Christ, the “bread of life” (John 6:48).
These events took place during the first two years of the seven-year famine (Gen. 45:6). It was a time when Joseph’s brothers had to experience several tests that were designed by God to bring them to repentance.
I have been wondering if God is using the panic of this new virus to bring the world to repentance. If so, let us be His hands and feet, with no judgment on our part for all have sinned and fall short of His glory. Let us be a help not a hindrance. Help us look for opportunities to be the voice of calm. May our hearts, minds and souls be full of mercy and grace, abounding in the love of Christ to our world.
Lord, help us to listen to you and quickly obey. Help us to do whatever you ask. Protect us. Deliver us from evil. May your glory be seen in the repentance, reconciliation and healing of lost souls. May Your will be done in our lives and in the lives of our families. Bring the lost to you.
In Jesus Name, Amen
THINK ABOUT IT…
God is good, but God is just. Our sins have a cost that must be paid. Our sin has consequences. Fortunately, God is full of mercy and grace, withholding from us what we really deserve. Our debt of sin has been paid in full by the blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
God could demand reconciliation for our sin that drives a wedge in our relationship with Him, but He does not. He waits for us to realize our sin, repent and come to Him believing He has the power to save us for eternity. How can we pass on a relationship like that? I don’t know.
Joseph was certainly kind to his brothers in spite of the severity of his speech and some of his actions, and what he did was for their good. His motivation was love and his purpose was to bring them to repentance and reconciliation. We need to remember this the next time we think God is treating us unjustly.