Read Genesis 42:1-17
1When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, "Why do you just keep looking at each other?" 2He continued, "I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die."
3Then ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. 4But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph's brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. 5So Israel's sons were among those who went to buy grain, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also.
6Now 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. 7As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. "Where do you come from?" he asked.
"From the land of Canaan," they replied, "to buy food."
8Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, "You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected."
10"No, my lord," they answered. "Your servants have come to buy food. 11We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies."
12"No!" he said to them. "You have come to see where our land is unprotected."
13But they replied, "Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more."
14Joseph said to them, "It is just as I told you: You are spies! 15And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!" 17And he put them all in custody for three days. (NIV)
In chapter 42, we have the beginning of the reconciliation of Joseph to his family. But when one reads the passage, we can tell that there are a lot of mixed emotions in this passage and the ones to follow. One can almost assume that what Joseph is doing to his brothers is cruel.
The passage begins with Jacob commanding his sons to do something. Jacob has heard there is grain in Egypt. One can almost presume that the sons have heard this too. We get this from Jacob saying, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” Jacob is one who has his whole life acted. From dealing with his father-in-law to get to marry the woman he wanted to dealing with his brother. His sons do not appear to be so decisive. Like many a child of a wealthy parent, they can assume everything will be taken care of for them. We are like this with God. There are times we know what to do, but we wait for some revelation before going. Thankfully God does not always let us sit there, but pushes us to act.
But we also see another force at play here. For the brothers, Egypt probably brings us bad memories. This the place that the people Joseph was sold into slavery were headed. Sometimes our past sins keep us from acting in the future. We see this in Scripture. David could not deal with one of his son’s raping of his daughter. The thought of what he did to Bathsheba no doubt weighed on him. Our past sins can come back to haunt us if we do not deal with them. The brothers have never dealt with what they did.
We Joseph finally sees his brothers, I am sure that he is not sure how it will go. I think most people assume the worst. I have had to listen to too many stories of families that have parted ways and do not speak to one another anymore. Neither side wants to give into the overcome past hurts. That may be partly what is at play here. Jacob when he returned to see his brother for the first time did not know how his brother, Esau, would react, so he devised a plan.
One can look at what Joseph did was to set a plan in motion to keep track of his brothers and his parents. The idea is to set up a connection that keep him in touch with his family until he is sure of how he will be received. He gets a glimpse that they still remember him when they say we are 12 brothers, but one is no more.
This story helps us to look at our own past hurts, hurts done to us and hurts we have done to others. How do these memories affect us in the future is something we all deal with. This is where confession to God plays a vital role. God wants to take our pains and tears so that we can live life to the fullest. We tend to want to hang onto them for whatever reason. We want to hold them as some strange badge of honor. How have you let go of past hurts? Have there been times when past actions affected future decisions? Do you confess your failings before God and then let them stay with God fully receiving his grace and forgiveness?
Blessings and Peace