Time passes. Joseph’s dysfunctional family moves on without him, although Jacob has not gotten over his son’s “death”. The brothers are probably happy because they got rid of the favored one. Have you ever wondered how they dealt with their deceit? Were they even a little guilty? Did they forget Joseph? Did they ever wonder what happened to him? Did they ever want to confess to their Dad?
Meanwhile, in Egypt, Joseph became the slave of Potiphar. He was falsely accused of attempted rape and ended up in prison. It had been 22 years since Joseph saw any of his family. Did he ever think of them? Did he miss them, or was he glad that he wasn’t around the people who wanted to kill him? What about his Dad? Did he want to get in touch?
God sent a famine over all the land. Joseph was taken out of jail and promoted to second in command of all of Egypt. His dreams had come true. People now bowed to him. But people were suffering, even under his God-inspired command. There had been seven years of famine. Seven years of no crops, no going to Publix for a pre-made chicken, no veggies, no Haagen-Dazs, no anything. People were hungry. People were probably quite frightened. Jacob and his family were out of food just like everyone else. Jacob sent the kids on a mission – get us some food!
When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” 2 And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” 3 So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him. 5 Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan. 6 Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. 7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8 And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. 9 And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them. And he said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land.” 10 They said to him, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies.” 12 He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.” 13 And they said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.” 14 But Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you. You are spies. 15 By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.” 17 And he put them all together in custody for three days. Gen 42:1-17 (ESV)
What a coup for Joseph! After all those years, he really had a chance to “stick it” to his brothers… and he did! Sent them to jail for three days. Demanded they bring back Benjamin, who was now Daddy’s pet. And best of all, his brothers did not recognize him, so he was able to sip on the nectar of revenge without them even knowing why!
Twenty-two years later, his brothers were maintaining the lie that Joseph is dead. They didn’t wipe him from the figurative family tree – I wonder why? Why would they still mention him all these years later? Maybe they were trying for sympathy… or maybe they still felt guilty…
And in verse 6, what happens? Joseph remembered. I wonder if his brothers even connected the “now” with the “then”.
Why do you think that Joseph treated his brothers harshly? What did he do to them that was similar to what they did to him?
We’ve all heard the phrase what goes around comes around. Boy, was that true for Joseph! Tossed aside by his brothers because he had dreams and because he was the favorite – and now he is in a position to be quite vengeful. I think there’s a little of that in this passage. Just a little “get even” time.
Have you ever been able to get even? How did you feel when you were planning the revenge? When you carried out the plan, did it make you feel better… or worse? Why? Is it a sin to plan a vengeful act, or is it just a way to blow off steam?
Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” 23 They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. 24 Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. Gen 42:21-24 (ESV)
Joseph’s brothers get it. They understand why they are currently being treated poorly. Reuben basically tells them “I told you so!” And they said all this in front of Joseph because they didn’t know he could understand them. I wonder if Joseph was secretly relieved that his brothers knew that they were getting a big payback for their actions. We know he turned away and cried. Was it tears of relief? Tears for the years of torment he suffered as a result of their actions? Or tears of thankfulness because God placed him in a position to help his ungrateful brothers and his beloved father?
Is there someone that you’re holding a grudge against – today? Did he say something bad to you? Did she stretch the truth to make you look incompetent at work? Or are you holding a grudge because you did something wrong to a friend, and when the friend reacted, you took offense? Whether it was you or me at fault, and whether I recognize my part in the problem, God makes us responsible for our own actions.
So if there’s someone who has caused you pain, or who you have wronged, or toward whom you feel bitter, now is the time to STOP. Get off your high horse and start the process of forgiveness. I’m convicted. Are you?
More about the amazing story of Joseph, they guy who had it all because he was wronged by his family, on Friday. Meanwhile, I hope you begin to look at this story with a different view – the viewpoint of forgiveness.