Remember that time you hit me with a fish/wrapped my present in duck tape/made me trip over the chair and almost hit the table/got into blue frosting and could not get rid of it? Insert your own story here. Funny family stories take on a legend of their own. And they are rarely forgotten.
But sometimes the stories are not as pleasant, and they hang around like cobweb-draped trolls that no one wants to acknowledge. For Joseph’s brothers, the decision to sell their little brother down south to Egypt haunted them. But the story wasn’t over yet.
Genesis 42-44. Everyone is starving, but Egypt has food. So Jacob sends the ten big brothers down to buy some food. And Joseph is managing the sales. And he recognizes them. But they have no clue. So begins a family experiment. Joseph accused them of being spies and threw them in prison. They said it was their sins come back to bite them. They bought food and returned as a company of nine, with Simeon in prison. And they carried an ultimatum to bring baby brother Benjamin next time they came.
Jacob threw up his hands. They were all against him. He was losing sons right and left…and it took them being short on food to bring him to the point of sending Benjamin to Egypt with his brothers, Judah leading the way.
Once they got to Joseph’s house, they were afraid they would be beat-up and sold as servants. So they did not notice when the steward mentioned God. And Joseph ate apart from the Egyptians, just like they were seated on their own because of an Egyptian cultural rule. And maybe the governor of Egypt picked up on what they were saying too quickly. And somehow he knew their birth order. And Benjamin seemed to make him emotional. And he kept asking about their dad. And…but he said something about divination, and there’s some explanation.
Joseph posed one last test. How would they respond to the second favorite, if he was in a bind? So he set it up so they could walk away from Egypt without Benjamin because a stolen cup was found in his bag. And yet Judah pleaded eloquently. Anyone but Benjamin. Their father couldn’t take it.
Many eyes rested on Joseph. What would he do? Send them away, leave the past buried? Send an envoy to gather his father and disgrace his brothers? Would he rub it in a little for all the years he spent as a slave and in prison? Eleven brothers stared at him, a crowd of Egyptians aloof but intent. And the chapter closes on a cliffhanger…
No! I have to know how it ends! But wait, how would you finish the story? God had been working on Joseph’s heart and blessing him. But could you forgive something like that? If you were one of the brothers, would you secretly want to leave the spoiled Benjamin in Egypt? Would you forgive your father who was still self-focused and absorbed with grief? What would it take for him to trust you, love you like that?
Aren’t you glad God doesn’t respond to us like this? He doesn’t say, “over and over, she starts to question what I’m doing. He keeps doing the thing, the thing that just keeps hurting him. When will they ever start to listen instead of complaining?” And God does not bring back old sins to rehearse them in front of us. He wants us to be free forever.
God, thank You for family, and all the crazy, goofy, hard things we go through together. God, thank You that You do not give up on people who have given up like Jacob. You heal hearts like Josephs in a foreign land. And You forgive the worst mistakes we make, and even use them for good. God, thank You for moving in my life. Please help me to learn to rejoice in what You are doing, and trust the plan You are unfolding. And forgive myself, my family, and those who caused the pain. Can’t wait to read the rest tomorrow! Amen.