In the last blog we saw that the brothers were fearful, Joseph on the other hand was a man of love. Yes, he had authority and power but he also had a perspective on life that was different to his brothers. He may not have grown up with them over the last 13 years but could have very easily given into fear right from the start of this story when he was sold into slavery, but instead, he was a man who knew who he was.
Right from the outset, Joseph is pouring love on his brothers. He orders that they be taken to his house – setting them apart. He commands that an animal is slaughtered – extravagance in a famine (and don’t worry, the significance of the symbolism of blood shed and forgiveness is not lost here!). He wants them to eat with him at his table – honour and acceptance.
This is what GOD does! There is nothing that we can do to sort out our own mess but he invites us in, pays the cost and sits us with him. Even in this bit of the story the brothers try to convince Joseph that they had paid for the first lot of grain but somehow the silver was put back in their sacks. Joseph’s response, ‘Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, had given you treasure in your sacks, I received your silver.’ Paid in full and overflowing! The brothers didn’t owe anything to this powerful man. We do not owe payment to GOD because He has already paid it in full … we could never pay it back because we could not afford what He paid. He paid in full and it is overflowing. Your treasure is in your sack!
Joseph’s love for his brothers is on display throughout this chapter. Joseph is deeply moved as he weeps at the sight of his brothers(43:30) and he gave Benjamin five times as much (43:34). Even in the test with the silver cup Joseph is showing love to his brothers.
The silver cup is hidden in Benjamin’s sack and the brothers are sent on their way. When they are recalled, Joseph doesn’t tell them that they will be taken as slaves if the cup is found with them … that is the brothers’ idea. Joseph’s steward narrows down their rather over the top claim to innocence and states that the one who has the cup will become a slave and rest will be free – a statement repeated by Joseph later. When they discover the cup in Benjamin’s sack they are distraught and throw themselves to the ground at Joseph’s feet (very similar to the dream all those years before). Judah, the brother who suggested selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites back in Genesis 37:26, declares that GOD had uncovered your servants’ guilt.
You see, fear was still playing a part. Judah had lived with the fear that Joseph’s disappearance and suffering had been ‘his fault’. If they had followed Reuben’s idea and just left him in the hole for a few days and then collected him perhaps life would have been easier at home all those years. All the brothers had played a part but Judah held himself responsible. His own guilt had been found out by this diviner from Egypt and he deserved to be punished. He reminds Joseph of the account that they had given before but now adds his father’s words about his grey head being brought down in misery, trying to explain the reason why the ‘cup stealing’ Benjamin should go free. Judah offers himself instead, ‘please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery of my father.’ Genesis 44:33-34
Guilt is horrid thing. Imagine being in a household where your guilt tells you that you have been responsible for someone else’s misery for 13 years, maybe you don’t have to imagine that kind of guilt. Judah couldn’t do it again. He had convinced his father to send Benjamin with them and he couldn’t conceive what life would be like back home if he didn’t return with him. Judah would be covered in shame and the pain of what he could envision was too much. Judah appeals to this man of authority to not let his father suffer … or himself suffer further, but to punish him as it was what he deserved.
Joseph’s love for his brother changes everything. Guilt and shame demand punishment in order for them to be dealt with justly but Joseph didn’t punish his brothers. Instead he poured out love and grace – the brothers didn’t get what they deserved they received mercy instead. GOD’s response to our guilt and shame is the same, He poured out His love for us and died on a cross taking all guilt and shame with Him.
Joseph sees the whole thing play out in front of him with his own eyes and not the second in command to Egypt’s eyes. He may have had a rough time but so have his brothers. I’d like to think that I would respond with mercy just like Joseph … but I think revenge might be popular too. Joseph could have taken Benjamin and sent the others home. He could have revealed himself just to Benjamin and they could have sat in the riches of Egypt free from the cruel and jealous brothers … but he didn’t. The test had revealed the wrong that they had done all those years before. It may have told Joseph that the brothers would not treat Benjamin with the same hatred that they had showed him. Maybe they cared enough about their father and their younger brother for Joseph to see that they had changed. He wanted to free his brothers from punishment …
The test was a demonstration of love because it brought the brothers face to face with their wrong doing, their sin, and then forgave them. It is love and mercy that lets us see the depravity of our sin, and love and mercy that chooses to cancel the debt and forgive us.
And now the big reveal … drum roll as the other people in the room are told to leave … ‘I am Joseph!’ And the brothers’ response – TERROR!
Oh dear! No longer just fear but terror. The brother that they sold into slavery is not dead, he is second to Pharaoh, he is there in this room without witnesses, he knows what they did and he would be right to punish … He could do anything! When we see the seriousness of sin the correct response is terror. Sin separates us from GOD and that is a terrifying place.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14
The brothers did not know that they were being dearly loved by Joseph. It was only when he demonstrated his love for them in freeing them from punishment that the fear left and they were free from guilt and shame. Do you know that you can be free from fear if you allow the Holy GOD to love you? Is it time that you let GOD’s perfect love drive out fear?
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:16-18
GOD loves you. A simple and sometimes too familiar phrase, but if you really grasp it it’s powerful. GOD loves you … there is no fear of punishment from Him, He loves you! He will train, teach, nudge, challenge and grow you. He will also adore, sing over, lay down His life for, rescue, lift up and redeem you. GOD wants to love you out of fear.