Today we will fast forward through the story of Joseph to find him standing before his brothers. Joseph has been released from prison. He has interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh, and in doing so, has been made second in command only to Pharaoh. He is certainly in a very different position than we left him in our last devotion. These are the same brothers who threw him into a cistern and sold him into slavery; the same brothers who told Jacob their father that Joseph had been attacked by a wild animal and killed. They have come to Egypt in search of food because of a famine in the land of Canaan. My mind immediately fills with all that Joseph has lost; years of his life, his youth, time with his mother (who has now passed away) and father, growing up with his youngest brother, his language (42:23); deprived of so much.
Joseph is not lost to all of this. He is real. Let’s take a quick look at his reactions as his past stands literally before him. I encourage you to read through the whole story in Genesis 42-45 as below I have simply gleaned some highlights from Joseph’s reactions.
Genesis 42:6- “Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the one who sold grain to all its people. So, when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them…. You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected…No! he said to them. You have come to see where our land is unprotected…you are spies! And this is how you will be tested…send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison…”
Wow! Joseph clearly has real emotions concerning all that has happened. He may be second only to Pharaoh over the land but his past still has an effect on him. His hurt is right below the surface, and it takes him quite some time to figure out how to deal with it.
Joseph relents and decides to keep only one brother in prison while the rest return to the land of Canaan to get Benjamin. A trip to the land of Canaan and back is not a simple 2-day journey. In fact, Jacob doesn’t even send them back to Egypt until they are once again on the brink of starvation, and all this time, Joseph lets Simeon remain in prison. “Now the famine was still severe in the land. So, when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, ‘Go back and buy us a little more food.’ But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ …As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.’ Genesis 43:1-3, 10
Joseph has anger. He also has heartache.
“They [the brothers] said to one another, ‘Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he [Joseph] was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us.’ Reuben replied, ‘Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.’ They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter. He turned away from them and began to weep.” Genesis 42:21-24
Joseph has had time to think through how to deal with this heartache. He has had time to consider revenge, how his rights were violated, and what would be a fitting punishment. On their second trip to Egypt the brothers are brought to Joseph’s house and with much fear and trembling, they prepare to eat a meal with Joseph. (Genesis 43) It is here that we see the true strength of Joseph and it comes from the mouth of one of the servants. In speaking to Joseph’s brothers who are terrified, this Egyptian servant says, “It’s all right. Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks.” A foreign servant somehow understands from his master’s life (Joseph) that it is truly the God of Israel who is in control.
Joseph is homesick. He has lost so much. He knows God is in control and yet, as he meets Benjamin (his brother from the same mother) Joseph is human and real. “Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.” (Genesis 43:29, 30) “After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, ‘Serve the food.’”
Joseph goes on with this charade for a few more scenes until he could no longer control himself. Sending all his attendants away, he privately reveals his identity to his brothers. We have seen the claim of the servant that God is in control. Here we hear it from Joseph himself:
45 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So, there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him because they were terrified at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.[a]
8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. 9 Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise, you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’
12 “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. 13 Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”
14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.
Joseph feels the whole gambit of emotions, and it takes him quite some time, but where does he settle? Firmly on the belief that ‘it was not you who sent me here, but God.’ And he sees a bigger purpose than his lost life and relationships, “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”
He believed God had a plan when he was second in command only to Pharaoh.
He believed God had a plan when he was emptying latrines in the prison.
He believed God had a plan when he was falsely accused.
He believed God had a plan when he told his brothers they would one day bow down to him.
And in the midst of wherever he found himself in life, he served wholeheartedly unto the Lord. It wasn’t dependant on how fun the plan was. It only mattered that he trusted God in the plan.
Wow. What a challenge. The key is in knowing who God is. Joseph lost the ability to understand Hebrew, and yet he was firm in understanding the God of the Hebrews. Joseph was able to overlook revenge and rights and choose relationship. It is in knowing God’s character that we can survive losing all that we have and still look heavenward and say, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.