Summary: What if you took a step beyond privately forgiving those who’ve hurt, betrayed, caused you suffering? What if you prepared a feast on their behalf and showed them love and mercy ~ whether it was done in secret, or whether it was done personally? What if
God in the Ebb & Flow of Life:
Toying or Feasting?
Scripture Text: Genesis 43.19-34
Have you ever-been “toyed” with?
[INSERT YOUR OWN STORY OF A TIME IN WHICH SOMEONE ‘TOYED’ WITH YOU OR PLAYED A PRANK ON YOU… KEEP IT LIGHT-HEARTED!]
It raises-the-question: Have you ever been “toyed” with?... Someone pulls-your-leg?... …or plays a practical joke, on you?... …or, even-maliciously tries-to-trick you in a sinister-way? Has-that-kinda-thing every-happened to you?
As I read chapters 42 and 43 of Genesis, …I’m left wondering whether Joseph isn’t ‘toying’ with his brothers!
You remember the story: Joseph had a dream about his brothers bowing-down to him… And because of the dream, …his brothers absolutely-hated him!
And-so, …they betrayed him: …sold-him-into-slavery, …and-then told dear-ole-dad that some wild animals must-have torn him to pieces because all they brought home was his bloody-coat.
But, …as we followed Joseph down-into-Egypt, …through a series of events, …God worked through situations-and-people to eventually-place Joseph in a very powerful-position in Egypt.
Years-go-by; …the rest-of-the-family still lived a long-way-away, in the land of Canaan. And-then, …a terrible-famine struck the entire region; …so-that Joseph’s brothers traveled all-the-way to Egypt to try-to-find-food for their family-and-the-flocks.
When they arrived-in-Egypt, …they came before Joseph, …who was in-charge of food-distribution. They had-to-ask him permission to-buy food ~ ..but, they didn’t-even-recognize that this-was their long-lost-brother!
Joseph pretended not-to-know them; …and he accused them of being foreign-spies! He determined to hold one-of-them captive while the others returned home, …fetched their youngest brother, Benjamin, …and-then, …they were to bring him to Egypt to prove that they were who they said they were!
You might-be-wondering how these guys didn’t-recognize Joseph, …after-all, he was their very-own-brother!
Well, it’s been over 20 years since they last-laid-eyes on-him! The last-time they saw him: he was around 17-to-18 years old; …now, he’s about 40~
The last-time they saw him: he was the son-of-a-shepherd; …now, he is the ruler-of-Egypt.
The last-time they saw him: he was stripped and wearing chains (carried off as-a-slave); …now, he wears the clothes of royalty (complete with ring and staff and a golden necklace).
The last-time they saw him: he had nothing in his possession; …now, he holds the stock-piles of the entire-empire-of-Egypt!
The last-time they saw him: they looked at him through the eyes of hatred-and-anger; …now, they look at him through eyes filled with fear-and-humility!
A lot-has-changed in the last 20 years! It’s no-wonder that they don’t recognize their-own flesh-and-blood – standing right-before-their-very-eyes!
And-to-be-honest with-ya ~ …it seems that Joseph is takin’ advantage of the situation! He keeps his identity a secret. He doesn’t even speak to them in Hebrew.
All-kinds-of-questions start-runnin’-through-my-mind: “What is Joseph doing!?!; Why doesn’t he tell them who he is? What does he hope to accomplish through this charade? Is he priming-the-pump before he unleashes on-them all that he’s dreamed-of-doing (in his darkest dreams)?” ~ These are the questions-that-run through my mind.
Now, a good-number-of-us know the end-of-the-story… But, if you read these-chapters (and-suspend what you know eventually happens), …then you begin to feel a certain uneasiness with what is-taking-place.
And-it’s-here - in-the-midst of this ‘uneasiness’ – …it’s here that we see some very-powerful-connections between Joseph’s life and our-own.
Joseph had been treated-terribly by his brothers. They hated him. They ignored him. They spoke-badly about him. And-eventually, they beat him and threw him in a hole-in-the-ground and-then, sold him into slavery.
Can you imagine the hurt that Joseph carried in-his-heart? Can you imagine the temptation to hold-onto hard-feelings?
We don’t know how long Joseph entertained-thoughts of harboring ill-will against his brothers; …but, what I’m-convinced-of is that at some point, …Joseph forgave them.
Whether he forgave them upon-his-release from prison ~ …when he said that God was “causing him to forget”; …or-whether he forgave them while he sat in prison ~ …and had plenty of time to reflect on his life; …or-whether he forgave them during the long-caravan-march from Canaan to Egypt ~
Truth-is, …I think that Joseph repeatedly chose forgiveness! After-all, …that’s the nature of forgiveness: …whenever old-thoughts …and old-feelings come creeping-up-to-the-surface, …we must decide-again: …what am I gonna do with this?... Am I going-to hold onto the hardness and the bitterness, …am I going to privately dream-about opportunities to take-revenge, …am I going to decide in my heart that they don’t deserve any mercy, …no forgiveness?
Or, will I choose to let-go, once-more, the impulse to be Judge and Jury?... Will I choose to surrender my perceived-right to hold-onto the hurt and the pain? Will I choose to forgive, even-as I have been shown-mercy by God?
II. The “Upper Hand”
Well, …as I said before, I think that Joseph had already chosen to forgive-them. But, …as-so-often-happens in-life, …new-developments, …new-situations, …new-circumstances often open old-wounds, …or remind us of old-events. And-sometimes, …the Enemy-of-our-soul will use those opportunities to throw-temptations-our-way; …the temptation to-take our forgiveness back!