Now is the moment … or is it? Joseph’s brothers are forced to go to Egypt because they have heard that there is food there and they are hungry because the famine has made life difficult for them too. It feels like a set up don’t you think? Only this isn’t a time for a family reunion. Joseph was unrecognisable and chose to speak to them through an interpreter … so they had no idea who he was.
It may be that lots had happened in 13 years for Joseph; he had matured and grown in favour and authority. One thing that seems to have been constant in this time is his identity as a son and not a slave. But it seems that for his brothers and father there had been very little growth.
13 years … The brothers lived with the guilt of what they had done to Joseph. They were constantly reminded of it because of their father’s grief and protection for their youngest half brother, Benjamin.
13 years … Jacob was afraid. Afraid that the last son of his beloved Rachel might die too. Afraid to let his other sons to take care of Benjamin. Afraid to trust GOD.
The brothers had sold Joseph into slavery because they had acted on their feelings of jealousy towards him. But because they hadn’t walked away from it and dealt with it in their hearts at the root, they were all subjected to pain, slavery and imprisonment for 13 years.
The brothers never fully understood who they were and so had to grab at whatever they could. Joseph knew that he was the son of Israel and great-grandson of Abraham – he understood his identity as a child of the inheritance. He behaved and created an atmosphere around him that spoke of who he was. Everywhere he went other people sensed it and saw it even though they had no idea of who he was. His brothers were the first to feel this and because they had no idea of who they were, their jealous act was to tear Joseph down.
Joseph even struggles with this a little bit. His response was to punish them when they turned up asking for food … maybe. He imprisons all his brothers (except Benjamin who is at home with his father) for three days. Initially, Joseph suggests that one of them goes back to fetch Benjamin to prove their story of not being spies, whilst he holds all the rest in prison. After three days Joseph changes his mind almost completely. He lets all but one go free and gives them food filled sacks and their silver back. He had behaved like his brothers but could not stay in that place because he was different to them. Joseph hadn’t behaved like this to Potiphar or his accusing wife now that he had the authority to do so. There was something about seeing his brothers that created that response.
I wonder if you can relate? Sadly, I know that I can. The response of being with, seeing or hearing about someone we feel threatened by reveals what is inside of us. When I say threatened I don’t necessarily mean physically threatened, it is more a sense that they have or are something that you don’t have or are not, be it money, career, influence, leadership, gifting, etc … If you have a section of your heart that is a slave or orphan you may respond with nasty thoughts, angry words, back biting, pushing aside and trying to imprison them in some shape or form. But if you know your worth and who you are you have no need to compare yourself with others and are able to truly celebrate and honour what is on their life.
What I love about this section of story is that GOD did not leave Israel and Joseph’s brothers in that place. He was going to deal with it. What a relief to know that He is the same GOD today and will not leave us in the place with an enslaved heart! He invites us to see and be who He has called us to be because He wants us to be free.
13 years is a significant age in Jewish culture. It is the time that a child comes of age. I don’t think that GOD left it 13 years in order to deal with this stuff in Joseph’s family is just a co-incidence, it feels like now was their coming of age. The time had come to shake it off.
The enemy always wants us to feel like we are not who we are created to be because he knows we are dangerous when we know who we are. This takes us back to the Garden once again. Satan said to Eve that if she ate the fruit she would be like GOD, he was saying that she should want to be more than she was already and that GOD was somehow withholding something from her. In fact, mankind had been made in the image of GOD and GOD had withheld nothing. Each time we respond with an enslaved or orphan heart we are doing exactly what Adam and Eve did and not believing that GOD has good especially for us and that we are His favoured children. Acting on a temptation is what leads to imprisonment. Joseph may have been physically enslaved and imprisoned but it didn’t affect him … the brothers were free men yet they were trapped by what they had done.
The truth is, an enslaved or orphan heart cannot ever free us. We will continue to grab what we can, try to prove our worth and step on others in our bid to rise up. The only real escape that we have from our prison is to know whose we are and who we are.
So, I want to challenge you (and me!) to look at others as GOD sees them and then treat them that way. Repent for listening and acting on the lies of the enemy and ask GOD to transform your heart so that you think, behave and act as the child of GOD … This may be a long process, you may find that you notice your slave heart after you have acted, but don’t be dismayed, this is the first stage! Noticing after the event comes first, noticing when you are doing it is next, noticing before you do it and still going ahead comes after that … then it begins to feel like something may be going in because you then notice you are about to do it and don’t!
I leave you with a few questions… What is the state of your heart? Is this the time for you to come of age?