Wow, so your back again! Awesome!
Yesterday Joseph saw his brothers again for the first time in 20 years. Twenty years of wondering why they hated him that much, what kind of men they had turned out to be, how Joseph’s little brother might have fared among the older brothers, how his father must have taken the news of his “death”. Can you imagine?
And it was interesting, wasn’t it, how their guilt had persisted all those years, how they blamed and recriminated one another about it after 20 years. Guilt is a powerful thing. We do all manner of things to get rid of it: we deny it, we try to ignore it (it might just go away), we seek psychological help, we drink or drug ourselves into oblivion, we try to justify ourselves, we rationalize, etc. We do everything but confess, make amends, and seek forgiveness. There’s something to learn here.
But today’s reading is about the brothers’ second trip to Egypt for food — a trip they must make with Benjamin. Jacob was very uncomfortable with this trip; he didn’t want Benjamin to go. I wonder: did he suspected something of the other sons, or was he just was pessimistic about how losing the most precious things to him? When the brothers arrive in Egypt, Zaphenath-paneah (Joseph) sets a banquet for them and places them “suspiciously” in order of age and birthright. He took the opportunity to get to know them better (43:34), and then sent them away with grain in their sacks the next day — with a little surprise in Benjamin’s sack.
After the brothers had journeyed a short distance Joseph’s servants caught up with them and arrested them for “stealing” Zaphenath-paneah’s personal silver cup. The older brothers were stunned and thrown into great grief, because they had solemnly vowed to bring back Benjamin to their aged father. When they returned back to Zaphenath-paneah’s (Joseph’s) palace, the brothers told him the whole sad story of how affected their aged father was by Joseph’s “death” and how the blow of Benjamin’s imprisonment would surely kill him.
Zaphenath-paneah (Joseph) could hold the truth back no more (45:1) and he clears the room (possibly to spare his brothers from the embarrassment and shame of knowing the truth about the brothers’ vicious behavior toward Joseph), and reveals himself — Zaphenath-paneah became Joseph again! It had to have been a shock to the brothers — more than a shock, they had to have been terrified. But Joseph encourages them to come closer and puts the proper perspective on things for everyone — God had meant it for good.
Let me make just a couple of observations from today’s text (there are many to make, but I’ll just take on a couple). First, some may wonder why Joseph seemed to have been playing games with his brothers. He had them at a disadvantage; he knew them, they didn’t know him. He understood Hebrew, so their private communications between themselves weren’t all that private. Why did Joseph wait so long to tell them who he was? I rather suspect that it was not because he wanted to play with them vengefully, but rather that he wanted to see what sort of men they had become, if they had any remorse over what had happened, and, of course, he wanted to see his full brother Benjamin quite desperately. What he had discovered is that they had felt deep remorse, that they had become better men, and that his brother Benjamin and father Jacob were alright. Joseph was being wise not just being a wise guy — he shows good judgment, compassion, and mature insight.
Speaking of the mature insight, that special insight was that God had allowed all this to happen in order to preserve the whole family through a terrible famine.
“”Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” Genesis 45:5-8, NAS95.
This insight and realization was probably a light-bulb going off in Joseph’s head at the time; however, when you look at the scope of Joseph’s life, he always seemed to have something extra in his attitude. He appears to be an individual who always had a sense of God’s purpose in his life — even if he didn’t know what it was, even when things really stunk, even when everything seemed to be going in the wrong (the really wrong) direction.
Wouldn’t we all be better off by being faithful in this way; keeping this sort of attitude in life? Some would call this just optimism, and there is certainly an element of optimism in this attitude, but it is more. It is knowing that God has something great planned for our lives and all we have to do is do the right thing. And by “doing the right thing,” I’m not talking about whether or not we turn left or right at the next corner, or marry this person as opposed to that one. Sometimes people get all “wound around the axle” (as the saying goes) about such details. If such details are important to the final outcome, God will take care of them — they are beyond our ability to see or know about. No — by “doing right” I’m talking about doing the moral good, obeying the command of God, taking the step of faith that God is placing in front of you, serving generously, loving our neighbors, growing in our faith, etc. If we’ll do that, we have a promise: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28, NAS95.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.