I don’t fight with people often. This is not because I am such a good person that I get along with everyone but rather because I am a perfectionist. I don’t like things to go wrong. I don’t want to do anything that would leave me deserving of blame. I don’t want to deal with the aftermath of something like a fight. So I try to keep a tight handle on the things I say and even the emotions I allow myself to feel so that I don’t fool around and ruin one of my relationships. The operative word in that sentence was “try”. I am not always successful, and when a fight happens, when I do something wrong to someone or they do something wrong to me and I retaliate, what happens next? What is there to do? How can something like that be fixed?
Speaking of fights and fractured relationships, Genesis 43 takes us right into the thick of a family that is going through the ringer and has been for the last, like decade or so. Joseph’s brothers are now some months separated from their first trip to Egypt, where they unknowingly came face to face with Joseph, the brother they cruelly sold into slavery. The food they obtained in Egypt was not enough to last them through the famine, and now it is time to go back. They must bring Benjamin this time, because Joseph specifically asked for him, for obvious reasons. Joseph probably wants to make sure Benjamin is alive and in good mental health, because if they sold him into slavery, who can guess what those men would do to Rachel’s other “perfect” child?
Joseph’s brothers, however, were not aware of these motivations, so it took an argument with their father and a promise from Judah to personally protect and ensure Benjamin’s life before the men could set off. Finally arriving in Egypt, they are treated surprisingly well, compared to last time. Their fears are soothed and their bellies filled. Even though Joseph does things like seat the brothers in exact birth order and give Benjamin five times more food than everyone else, the brothers are oblivious and, at least for the moment, happy to eat, drink, and enjoy the moment of peace that God has brought them.
The Treasures Within:
What happened between Joseph and his brothers all those years ago wasn’t a fight. It was a catastrophe, an unnatural break in the affections between siblings, an event orchestrated by and stamped with the approval of Satan himself. The effects of it have reverberated throughout the years and now, Joseph and his brothers stand face to face with the sins and hurts and consequences of the past. They have decisions to make about how they will deal with them. We see some of those decisions in this chapter.
Judah and the rest of the brothers seem to live fairly tortured lives, always terrified that the negative things happening to them are just the beginning of the retribution God is going to dump on their heads (verse 18). Their fear is intense and pervasive, which is understandable, but it’s not the only reaction they have to the mistakes of their past. Judah, at least, regrets what he’s done. He’s realized the horror of his choices and how irreparably they broke the heart of his father. He aims to take steps to ensure this never happens again. We know this because of how he treats Benjamin. A person who felt no repentance over their sins would not go out of his way to protect and bless those he sinned against. Judah essentially lays his life on the line for Benjamin – after handing one brother a death sentence, he swears to protect the other’s life. After purposefully damaging his relationships, Judah changed and put his efforts into the opposite – actively protecting and treasuring those relationships. That’s a complete 180. That’s how you do it.
Forgive and Forget?
On the other side of all of this stands Joseph. He, unlike the others, knows that he’s meeting his brothers for the first time since the tragedy that destroyed them. He could have rendered the damage done irreparable by killing his brothers or casting them out or otherwise wounding them. He could have immediately welcomed them back with open arms, no questions asked. But Joseph did neither of these things. Instead, he observed. He waited. He held back. He tested. There’s no way the dinner, the silver, or the obvious favoritism towards Benjamin was arbitrary. Joseph has had time to think and plan.
What exactly is he doing? God tells us always to forgive and obviously Joseph has, else all ten of his offending brothers would be in jail right now, or worse. No, Joseph has forgiven, but he hasn’t yet exactly trusted. He doesn’t know if his brothers have changed over the years. He doesn’t know if Benjamin is in danger. And yet, despite his doubt, Joseph is not jumping to conclusions. He doesn’t assume his brothers are still evil, because he does not immediately snatch Benjamin to him and cast the others out. Joseph is taking his time, with an open mind, trying to see if it is worth it to start again. Think about that. Joseph has endured trial upon trial. Slavery and false accusations and years of jail time would not have happened were it not for his brother’s horrible sin. So much pain and fear and despair could have been saved Joseph had they not betrayed him and cast him aside as if he meant nothing. No one would risk deeper hurt. No one would risk reentering a relationship with people like that. But Joseph is willing. He is willing not only to forgive, but to welcome the offenders back with open arms. Careful, yes. But still willing. That’s straight-up inhuman. That’s how you do it.
God’s Message To Us:
“I can repair your broken heart, your broken relationships, your broken life.” God is a fixer and a healer. His fingerprints are all over this, because there is no way on planet Earth that either someone like Judah could repent and try to make things right or that someone who’s been through what Joseph has could forgive and try to start over. Jesus is the One who gives us the power to come back together and restore what looked to be completely destroyed. Jesus is the One that whispers to us, pointing out the errors of our ways, softening our hearts towards our loved ones. If Jesus can move to bring this destroyed family back together, what can He do in your life? What will He fix for you?
What do you think? What did you find interesting in this chapter? What did God teach you from this chapter when you read it with Him?