Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 4 2019 - Genesis 41:56-42:28 – Ten brothers go to Egypt

The famine affected not only Egypt but the whole of the surrounding region, including the land of Canaan. When Jacob learnt that grain was available in Egypt he sent his sons to buy food, keeping only Benjamin back, the remaining son of his beloved Rachel.

Joseph is overseeing the sale of grain at the place to which the brothers are directed – perhaps it is the one place where foreigners are allowed to buy food. His brothers bow down to him, just as had been revealed to Joseph some 20 years previously. Joseph recognises them but, unsurprisingly, they do not recognise this high official of Egypt.

Joseph decides to give his brothers a hard time. Accusing them of being spies, he demands that one of them, Simeon, be kept in custody in Egypt while the other nine return with the food. Simeon will only be released when they come back with their youngest brother – proof that their account of themselves is true.

This harsh treatment causes the brothers to recall the way they had treated their brother Joseph. They had failed to listen to his pleas to be released from the pit where they had thrown him. They had sold him into slavery and now one of them is bound and imprisoned in Egypt. Reuben, who had wanted to rescue Joseph, tells them that they are now being punished for their wrongdoing.

So the nine return with bags full of grain but, unbeknown to them, they return also with their money hidden in their sacks. Outwardly, Joseph may be treating his brothers harshly, but in reality he is full of compassion towards them and wishes to bless them. Nevertheless, at this stage Joseph's brothers do not see the return of their money as an act of kindness but rather as a mistake which will get them into more trouble when they return to Egypt to rescue Simeon. Like Joseph, they believe that all that is happening is being directed by God, but they believe that God is at work to punish rather than to bless them. I am reminded of the hymn by William Cowper:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform …

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

Even when everything seems to be going wrong for us and all of our plans misfire, we can still trust God. He provides his people with the promise, "I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11). Therefore we can respond with full assurance saying, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8:28). We know that, in the end, grace will triumph over judgment.

Holy Father, I recognise the many ways in which I have sinned against you and that I am deserving of your judgment. Thank you that you are a God who is abundant in mercy and love. Thank you that because of Jesus you do not treat me as my sins deserve. You have opened to me the storehouses of your grace and have invited me to come in and feast with you without cost.

Peter Misselbrook