Reading: Genesis 42-3
(Context: The plot returns and refocuses on the disturbing and dysfunctional family of Jacob. They are sent to Egypt to buy food, where they are treated as spies by the mysterious Vice Regent of the Empire. Joseph is not desirous to open-up to them immediately, but desires to test them. When they return home, they are later forced to again to return to Egypt for food, yet afraid for their life there. They must ask forgiveness and also bring their youngest son. Is the brothers’ life of lies about to get uncovered after 13 years?)
Joseph is in a supremely enviable position now. Imagine yourself in his position of being the second most powerful man in the entire world, with the world acclaiming your heroism and foresight in saving the world from severe drought and famine. Before your feet are prostrated a group of men, your brothers, in utter fear and terror of your wrath. They are in fear of your position, but they should really be more afraid of your ability to avenge their wrongdoings.
See, you know their deepest and darkest secret, a wicked and disgusting deed which they have covered-up for thirteen years. If only they knew. If only you could suck the life from them, torture them, and kill them. Perhaps that would give you the peace your heart had searched for. It would give back to these disgusting shriveled pieces of humanity exactly what they gave to you when they sold you into slavery at the tender age of seventeen. Now you are wiser, older, and vastly more powerful. Your wish would be your command.
When Joseph first saw his brothers arrive in Egypt, I don’t doubt such a terrible string of thoughts went through his mind. Let’s not be “pious gasbags” and let’s realize that Joseph was a human, just like us. I’m sure his mind had thought about revenge, and his heart had brooded in him for a taste of retribution. Wasn’t that fair?
In their first meeting, I think Joseph followed this though, even in a tempered way. He called them spies, accused them mercilessly of being liars and thieves. He was probably enjoying the thought of watching them squirm under his fist, and he was looking forward to the time when he might show them his face and see them fall to their knees in utter terror.
Am I painting the picture wrongly? Perhaps I am. Such a reaction can also be seen as him testing the integrity and humility of his brothers, to see if they were deserving of mercy. Yet even in this good intention, which likely did exist in some measure, there was mingled in it a certain love to hate.
What is remarkable about Joseph is not in how he treated his brothers, but in how he controlled himself, controlled his wrath, and showed them immense mercy and grace, to such low and undeserving wretches as them.
That was a Divine quality. Few, very few men and women would respond in the way Joseph did. Hopefully as Christians we would strive to react as he did, to forgive instead of to take revenge, to show mercy instead of to desire retribution.
This part of Joseph’s life is why I believe he is such an important figure in history as a pointer towards Jesus and His mercy and grace towards us, undeserving wretches that we are. Jesus loves us, we who hated and killed him. Jesus loves us, we who deserve eternal wrath, one which He can so easily and justly consume us in. Jesus is love. Actually, love is Jesus.
The love that Joseph showed his brothers, is God’s love. There is no true expression of love outside of Jesus, outside of God. John defines love this way:
[T]his is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Jesus is the very definition of love. To give without expecting return, to have mercy on those that deserve condemnation, and to give grace to lost, corrupted, and despicable wretches such as us.
Jesus is love. Love is Jesus.