I love the opening scene of this account when Jacob says to his sons, "Why do you look at each other?" I picture him resembling the curmudgeonly Miracle Max character played by Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride as he lambasts his sons for their inertia in the face of circumstances that require action. The modern translation would be, “What are you doing just sitting around looking at each other? Do something!”
With some prodding from their dad, they go to Egypt to buy grain during the famine and encounter their brother Joseph, only they don't recognize him. After all, it's been twenty years and he's not a teenager anymore, but a grown man, dressed and clean-shaven as an Egyptian. We can almost feel the anger welling up in Joseph as he speaks to them harshly, remembering all those years he suffered because of them. Initially, he confines them all and says only one will leave to get Benjamin. Then, as his heart softens, he relents and keeps only Simeon as a guarantee of their return.
Why Simeon? Was he the chief bully among the brothers? Did Joseph suspect Simeon to be the ringleader in their scheme to murder him before Reuben intervened? I wonder if Joseph delighted in imagining the horror on their faces when they discovered their money had been returned to them?
The only mention of God is when Joseph says the reason he relented and kept only Simeon was because he feared God. Yet it tells us quite a bit about God. We see God's hand in bringing conviction and compassion to Joseph's heart to ease his initial ultimatum and to provide for his extended family, and even to return their money.
God's sovereignty is seen in the fulfillment of Joseph's childhood vision — his brothers did come and bow before him, just as he’d dreamed. We also see God's grace being extended through Joseph . Just as we are totally undeserving of God's grace, Joseph's brothers are undeserving of the food provided or of his forgiveness for their cruelty, but Joseph provides for their needs generously.
What does this passage tell us about people or about ourselves? We are needy. We come to God begging for grain, and God meets our needs. But He also desires for us to come to a place of confronting the sin in our heart and confessing it, turning away from it, and going another way (more on that tomorrow).
What shall we do differently today in light of these truths? Examine our heart and our life for what needs to be confessed and repented of. Bow down before the Lord and ask Him to provide, not only the grain (physical needs) but the conviction for sin (spiritual needs). Rise up and step forward knowing that He has given all that we need and more.