These passages recount the well-known story of Joseph’s reunion with his family.
Due to the famine in the land, Israel sends his sons into Egypt to buy food. There, they meet Joseph, but don’t recognize him. Joseph then goes about testing his brothers to see if they have repented after all these years.
These are the major lessons we can take away from what ensues.
You Can’t Serve Two Masters
When Jacob’s sons try to purchase grains in Egypt, Joseph accuses them of being spies. He goes on to briefly put them in prison, where he overhears them attributing their ill fortune to the evil they did Joseph years ago.
22 And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.
Reuben blames his brothers for all that happened. If we remember how things went down in Chapter 37, however, we see that Reuben wasn’t as valiant in defending his younger brother as he would like to think.
Reuben wanted to save face with his brothers. That’s why he had them put Joseph in a pit, from which he thought he could rescue Joseph later. Reuben did this rather than simply telling his brothers to release Joseph immediately.
The Lord rightly tells us that we can’t serve two masters. Our efforts will be to no avail if we try to please both God and Man.
True Repentance Involves a Complete Change of Heart
I mention in my commentary for Genesis 38 that Judah’s misdeeds serve as a contrast and prelude to Joseph’s righteous triumphs in Egypt. Now, in Chapter 44, we get to see Judah truly repent of his wayward ways.
Remember that it was Judah’s idea to sell Joseph into slavery. Now, in Chapter 44, we have Judah offering himself as a slave so that Benjamin can freely return to his elderly father in the land of Canaan.
This turnaround in behavior marks the spiritual turning to God that indicates real repentance. In our lives, how do we know when we’ve truly repented? It’s when we’re placed in the same situation and are now willing ready to do the exact opposite of what we did before.
God Blesses Us Through Adversity
When Joseph was first sold into slavery, maybe he thought poorly of his lot in life. I think most people would in that situation. Back then, he probably didn’t imagine the immense blessings that awaited him in Pharaoh’s court.
Now, Joseph sees that God was with him through the toughest times. The adversity was hard–but it was God’s will to bring about something great for Joseph and his family.
5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.
7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.
(Genesis 45: 5-8).
Before we start murmuring when faced with a trial, let’s consider that God is in control of everything and lets’s things happen for a reason. Instead of fighting against the grain, let’s look for ways to turn adversity to our advantage.
God Doesn’t Tell Us Everything
The Lord molds and refines us by having us walk by faith. Like Joseph, we won’t know there’s a pot of gold waiting for us beyond the storm. We just have to go boldly onward trusting in our Maker.
Jacob learns that lesson in his old age. When he goes up out of Canaan to go live with Joseph in Egypt, God speaks to him.
1 And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beer-sheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.
2 And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.
3 And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:
4 I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.
(Genesis 46: 1-4).
Jacob was a guy who had been in constant communication with God throughout his life. The Lord had even appeared to him.
You might think that God would have spoken to Jacob right after Joseph’s disappearance and told him that he wasn’t dead. Maybe even let him know where to go find him.
But the Lord doesn’t work that way. He’s infinitely wiser than we are. As true disciples of Jesus Christ, we’re to walk by faith. As with Abraham, it’s the perseverance when we don’t understand all things that helps us become who God wants us to be.
We Should Keep Ourselves Separate from the World
When the Israelites enter Egypt, Joseph instructs his father to tell Pharaoh that they’re shepherds bringing their own herds. This way, Pharaoh will give them the land of Goshen, where they can live independently (see Genesis 46: 31-34).
Joseph respects Pharaoh. But he knows Egypt’s pagan culture can have a corrupting influence on his people. So he arranges for the Israelites to live separately. This allows them to preserve their identity, culture, and religion.
Unless we live completely “off the grid,” we’re a part of a larger, pluralistic society made up of many faiths and value systems. While we should be respectful of all, it’s important that we build a distinctly Christian home in which our children’s faith can thrive.
Let’s follow the adage to be in the world, but not of the world.
Joseph’s reunion with his family is a heartwarming story about love and forgiveness. The principles it contains are extremely relevant to us nowadays.
As we strive to serve God single-mindedly, repent completely, walk by faith, and keep ourselves above worldly influences, we draw nearer to our Savior Jesus Christ.