Facebook memories – now there’s a thing. I find myself being regularly turned to a broody, gushy mess as it presents me with “7 Years ago today” and a picture of a squishy, smiley baby or a toddler with little pig tails and chubby cheeks…. awwww they were so cute. And because we only share on social media our favourite shots of our happiest moments then looking back we only get the filtered joyful version of what 7 years ago was like. It can make today seem very ordinary and cute-less. But what about when you are faced with your past in the very real, raw sense? When it catches up with you and you are suddenly forced to face the disappointment or deal with the regret – this too can turn you in to a mess but not the broody, gushy sort!
Joseph is busy getting on with the business of being governor of Egypt, handling the rations saved during seven years of plenty and distributing them during the seven years of famine, when suddenly, out of the blue, he is faced with his brothers. The very same brothers who teased him, beat him, sold him. One morning he turns up at work and there they are on their knees before him begging for his help. How does he handle this?
And Joseph recognised his brothers, but they did not recognise him. And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them. Gen 42:8-9
Scholars suggest that over two decades have passed since Joseph dreamed about this moment – when his brothers would bow down to him. I wonder if he had given up on his dream? His brothers were still clearly living with their regret after all those years but Joseph had to choose to remember his dream. Suddenly he is faced with the exact situation that God had spoken all those years before. This was a God thing! He couldn’t have made this happen any more than he could control the dreaming in the first place. Remembering the dream is about acknowledging the sovereignty of God. When we are faced with our past do we remind ourselves of God’s promise to us and His sovereignty over our lives?
And he put them all together in custody for three days. On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: Gen 42:17-18
You can imagine Joseph would have been feeling all sorts of emotions confronted with his family – hurt at the rejection, grief at the loss, anger at the injustice…. but he didn’t seek revenge because he feared God. He knew that it wasn’t his place to bring judgement. Now I’m a bit of a heart-on-my-sleeve kind of gal so I’m not sure I would have been able to keep my reactions quite as close to my chest as Joseph did but he plays it very cool, giving himself time to process and respond to the situation in a measured way. He wants to test his brothers to see who they have become.
Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. Then he turned away from them and wept. Gen 42: 21-24
When Joseph hears his brothers talking, about how their current predicament was as a result of their previous sin against him, he is moved to tears. He doesn’t want them to know who he is yet so he turns away and weeps. It is an important part of processing our past – to allow ourselves to express emotions – to release our pain and anger, not to bury our feelings but release them. Joseph doesn’t use his emotions to punish or manipulate his brothers but he does let them out. Help us Lord to be people who handle our feelings well – not to bottle up or bury them, and not to be ruled by them or use them as a weapon but to express them in a healthy way.
Next he creates time for himself by sending them away to fetch Benjamin. He keeps Simeon in Egypt as a guarantee and sends the others on an errand to ‘verify their story’. Really it is more about testing their characters and, I think, buying some time (he also probably just wanted to see his little brother!) We can often feel like we need to be able to respond perfectly, instantly but sometimes there is great wisdom in giving ourselves some time and space to process and consider our reaction, particularly when we feel emotional. Making important decisions in the heat of the moment can lead us to further regret – whereas standing back and allowing ourselves time to choose well can be very very sensible. Father God please give us courage to not respond to urgency over wisdom but to trust you are Lord over time.
I love this next bit….
And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. This was done for them. Gen 42:25
Joseph shows his brothers incredible generosity – even before he has received an apology he demonstrates such grace in giving them the grain that they desperately needed and their money back too. I find this so challenging – it is easy to be stingy or aloof with those who have hurt us. We can offer the very minimum required of us or we can respond how Jesus taught us to; loving our enemies and blessing those who persecute us. Honestly, sometimes forgiveness can take us some time – but even as we pursue that goal we can know God’s grace to show generosity and bless those who have hurt us. In fact we may find that doing those things “in cold blood” can be part of our heart’s journey to healing and restoration.
I’ve learnt lots from Joseph this week. When his past catches up with him he responds by firstly reminding himself of his original dreams and what God had said! He fears God and so doesn’t behave rashly or get revenge. He expresses his pain by weeping in private. He wisely makes time to process. He shows generosity even before he has received an apology. I hope these thoughts have been helpful to you too. Thanks for taking the time to read. Much love Rach. x