Actions Based on Past Experiences
We continue our journey through the series Grace and Brokenness by returning to Joseph’s family living in Canaan where we learn that the effects of the famine have impacted their family as well. Jacob chooses to send ten of his sons to Egypt to purchase food because he has heard that the Egyptian Empire has food that they are willing to sell to foreigners. However, Jacob will not send his youngest son Benjamin because he is afraid that something will happen to him just as it did to his favorite son Joseph. Jacob has already experienced horrible grief and has no desire to go through it again. So he does everything he can to make sure his worse fear will not come true: nothing must harm Benjamin. Benjamin is the last connection that Jacob has with his favorite wife Rachel, and he cannot imagine what this final loss would do to him. The loss of Joseph almost killed him. The loss of Benjamin will finish the job.
As you look at your own life, do you find fear dominating your choices and your decisions? Do you choose not to reach out to others to develop relationships because you are afraid of rejection or isolate yourself from any experiences that may lead to failure or disappointment? Fear is a powerful emotion that can easily dominate our lives and make it impossible to experience the love and joy that God has called, and equipped us, to live. My observations as a pastor has led me to the conclusion that fear has become the predominate emotion driving the Christian community today. We do not make decisions out of hope, love, and faith; rather, we become immersed in the surrounding culture wars and become distracted by dark news that leads to broken decisions based upon fear. We must recapture the virtues of faith, hope, and love and experience the freedom these virtues were meant to provide in our individual and corporate lives.
The ten brothers travel to Egypt and come face to face with Joseph whose responsibility is to meet and question all foreigners requesting food. Joseph recognizes his brothers, but they do not recognize him. How is Joseph going to respond? It has been over twenty years since his brothers sold him into slavery. Has he forgiven his brothers or will he now take the opportunity to seek revenge? This poses a powerful question to the reader/listener of this story: If you were in Joseph’s place, how would you respond? Will this be a revenge story or will it be a story of forgiveness?
Difficult Crossroads Moving Forward
In a surprising twist in the story, Joseph treats his brothers harshly and accuses them of being spies. He skillfully asks them questions and gains much information about his family and how they are doing, especially his father and his brother Benjamin. He imprisons them all for being spies, but then relents and tells them that he will keep one brother imprisoned and will let the others go with the requested food, but they must bring their younger brother back to prove that their story is true. What is Joseph doing? He is forcing his brothers to remember what they did and he is trying to discern if his brothers have changed. He wants proof that Benjamin is still alive because he is afraid that they may have done the same thing to Benjamin that they did to him.
The brothers return home and discover that the money they paid to Egypt was returned in their sacks and they are now truly afraid. They relay the entire story to their father and Jacob is angry with all of them for telling the Egyptian leader about Benjamin. The story concludes with Jacob refusing to send Benjamin to Egypt, leaving the family at a difficult crossroad as to whether or not the family will survive.
Listen to the podcast of this message as we examine these difficult questions and understand the relevance for us today. Remembering our past is not always pleasant or easy, especially when we have a clear positional advantage.