By Sarah Puryear
A Reading from Genesis 42:1-17
1 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at one another? 2 I have heard,” he said, “that there is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” 3 So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he feared that harm might come to him. 5 Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan.
6 Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. 7 When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8 Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9 Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” 10 They said to him, “No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies.” 12 But he said to them, “No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” 13 They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.” 14 But Joseph said to them, “It is just as I have said to you; you are spies! 15 Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! 16 Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies.” 17 And he put them all together in prison for three days.
Joseph’s life was marked by betrayal, suffering, and eventual vindication. Sound like anyone else you’ve read about in the Bible? There are many parallels between Joseph’s story and the events Jesus underwent during Holy Week, making Lent a fitting time to read about all that Joseph endured.
Today we see Joseph come face to face with his past in the form of his brothers “bowing themselves before him with their faces on the ground.” The last time he saw them, they had thrown him in a pit to die, before deciding to make some money off of him instead by selling him as a slave. Now he stands before them as the second most powerful man in Egypt, and they bow low before him in deference. This moment would be intense enough for Joseph simply due to the shock of recognizing his brothers. But there is an additional layer of intensity here, because this scene fulfills the dream Joseph had as a boy that one day his brothers would bow before him. That dream, his brothers’ jealous reaction, and the mysterious purposes of God ultimately led this family by a long and circuitous path to this moment. The tables have turned, and now Joseph’s brothers’ fate rests in his hands.
From this moment forward Joseph has a choice of how to respond: will he give them a taste of their own medicine, and do unto them as they have done to him? Or will he show mercy to them and extend forgiveness? As our readings take us through this story, we will see Joseph struggle with his desire for revenge as he tests his brothers in various ways to see if they have changed. As we read, we can keep in mind Jesus’ response to the betrayal, rejection, and suffering he endured in Holy Week. Pray that we will receive the grace to respond with a Christlike mercy and forgiveness toward those who have harmed us.
The Rev. Sarah Puryear lives in Nashville with her family. She is currently staying home with her young kids after having served most recently at St. George’s, Nashville. She enjoys writing for TLC’s Covenant blog.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Tucson, Ariz.
The Diocese of Kinkiizi – The Church of the Province of Uganda