Why didn’t Joseph tell his brothers who he was? What caused Joseph to play games with his brothers? We don’t really know what Joseph was thinking do we. We might guess how we would have felt in his situation. On the other hand, we are living in different times. Would these scenes from Joseph’s life ever play out now, in the twenty-first century? You bet they would—different circumstances maybe—still the same old problem. How to let our siblings who wronged us feel remorse, yet show them unmerited favor through the act of forgiveness.
We pick up the story after Judah pleaded with Joseph to stay in Egypt rather than Benjamin. “For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me—for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?” (Genesis 44:34). In other words, “Listen Joe, if I go back to my dad without my youngest brother, it would kill him.”
Too much for Joseph to think of his father dying, he “could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers” (Genesis 45:1).
Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! (vs 3-4).
Wow! Imagine now, that Joseph began to show forgiveness by reassuring his brothers … read more
When Pharaoh found out that Joseph’s brothers were in Egypt, he “said to Joseph, ‘Tell your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and return to the land of Canaan, and bring your father and your families back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.’”
If we are honest with ourselves, we might admit that our response to seeing our long lost brothers who sold me to a merchant traveling to Egypt would not have turned out this way. That’s the point.
That’s why we have spent our time reading this part of Joseph’s story. You can finish Joseph’s story by reading Genesis 45-52. Believe me, it’s a great read. Read now
Our culture, in many cases, resolves a dilemma like Joseph’s very differently. We see the unresolved anger and unforgiveness around us, and wonder why we all can’t be like Joseph. For that to happen, we must place Jesus and the cross in the front, middle, and end of our cultural catwalk. There is no other way.
Jesus came for a specific reason. His coming to earth as the God-man was prophecy fulfilled (Isaiah 53:3-5).
He [Jesus] was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Without Jesus in our hearts, we won’t ever forgive the way Joseph did. The art of forgiveness comes only through Jesus Christ. It’s by his wounds, we are healed. All of us fall short. We are all sinners. We are all capable of unforgiveness in our hearts.
For those of you who don’t think you are a sinner, let me ask:
Then why did Jesus come and die on the cross? What would have been the point?
Next week: How do we use Joseph’s story in today’s culture?