Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Revenge or Mercy?

Genesis 42:1-20

Over the next few days, we will read about Joseph's heart.  Up until now, we have been told very little about his feelings, but we will now begin to get a glimpse of his heart.  Imagine how it must have been like to grow up in a family where you knew that your brothers despised you and you were lavished with favoritism from your father.  Imagine getting some dreams from God showing you that you would rise to the top yet your brothers bound you up and sold you to some traders going to Egypt.  Imagine being put into a culture that was so completely different from your own where an elaborate mythology had been created when you knew and worshiped the one true God.  Imagine that because of your brothers' decision to sell you, you ended up being falsely accused and ended up in prison.  Then after many years of being forgotten, your wisdom and godliness was recognized by Pharaoh and you ended up being in charge of the entire country of Egypt.  What a life he lived all by the age of thirty!  Yet, we are never told how often Joseph thought of his family and his home in Canaan.  We will now begin to unravel some of Joseph's feelings; please read Genesis 42:1-20.

This is an interesting twist of events, isn't it?  Who would think that Joseph's life would intersect with his brothers' lives ever again?  This would be the equivalent to someone being sold into modern day slavery today and sent to live in another country that their family never visits and running in to each other there.  Already, we can see God's hand on all of their lives and bringing the family back together.  Notice that we are told that Joseph recognized his brothers immediately but his brothers didn't recognize him.  This really isn't surprising that the brothers didn't recognize Joseph for several reasons.  First, they sold him as a slave - they never expected to see him again.  Second, Joseph was probably unrecognizable with the way the court officials dressed in Egypt.  Third, we are told that his brothers immediately bowed low before him, so they probably didn't get a very good look at Joseph.

How must it have felt for Joseph to see his family again?  Did he notice a difference in their physique as a result of starving from the famine?  We are told that Joseph was harsh with them and accused them of being spies from Canaan.  He told them that he needed to see their other brother to prove that they were not spies and that they would all stay in prison except one brother who would be sent to get his brother.  After three days in prison, we see a slight change and a glimpse of Joseph's mercy.  You can see where Joseph was giving them a hint of who he was by telling them that he was a God-fearing man.  He was also assuring them that no matter how much power he had here on earth, he recognized and worshiped One who was higher above all.  He would do as he says.  But he also changed the story a little and kept only one and sent the rest home to get Benjamin.  He also showed more mercy by telling them that he would send them home with the grain they requested so they could feed their families.  So we can see that even without finishing the story that Joseph was not acting out in revenge, but he was acting in mercy toward his family even though they changed the course of his life.  He wanted to see his entire family.

We can learn a lot from Joseph's example.  Even with all the horrible things that had happened to him, he was given the opportunity to enact revenge on his brothers.  Instead, we begin to see the incredible work of God in his heart and see mercy.  Mercy is possible when we have Christ in our hearts.  After all, Jesus is the one who showed us the greatest act of mercy this world has ever witnessed.  The desire for revenge only destroys our hearts; however, mercy heals.  When we are having difficulty having the heart of mercy, we can pray and ask God to change our hearts to become merciful.

Do you seek revenge or mercy for those who have hurt you?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday.

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