Wandering Brothers: Joseph’s Story

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February 12, 2014 by Chris French

Today we’re in Genesis 42 with Joseph as his brothers come to Egypt to buy food because the famine is so bad in Canaan. I’m using the Essential 100 Daily Bible Reading Plan to divide up the Bible into readable portions. We will revisit this schedule about every other week in 2014.

Don't try this at home...or anywhere!

Don’t try this at home…or anywhere!

You’ve seen those commercials of people doing extreme things and at the bottom of the screen in small letters it says something like, “Don’t try this at home. These are paid professionals.” There are some parts of Joseph’s story where that disclaimer might be helpful. In Genesis 42 it looks to me like Joseph’s goal is to break his brothers.

Before they ever opened their mouths he “spoke roughly” to them, i.e. he was harsh with them.

He accused them of being spies multiple times, probably sent to find Egypt’s food storehouses so they could raid them later on, which was a common problem.

He questions them about their family, pulling answers from them that they didn’t really want to give (Gen. 43.6-7).

He even throws them in prison for 3 days!

His tactic quickly led to their repentance for their cruelty in ignoring his cries for mercy when they were selling him into slavery (Gen. 42.21), but it’s probably not a pattern we need to emulate to bring those around us to repentance.

A few verses later though you find some helpful hints that help make up a great pattern for helping the people around you repent of the sin they’ve committed.

Give them, and you, some time. Maybe their sin hasn’t hurt you like Joseph’s brothers did him, but if you’re noticing it in some way their sin is hurting you. You need to give yourself some time to heal so you can act with mercy when you confront them. We’re not talking about 20 years here, that’s called a grudge, but Joseph’s 3 days away from them may be a good model. Don’t take too much time though. One of Satan’s favorite tools is to separate us from each other.

Be generous. Joseph reverses his former order that 9 of the brothers would stay in prison while one went to retrieve Benjamin. He even gives them the grain they wanted so they could take it back to their families. If your heart is set on helping the people around you repent you’re going to need to prepare yourself to be generous. This is one of those times when generosity doesn’t have anything to do with money. They’re going to need your time, wisdom and mercy. Be generous with all three!

Show them the consequences of their sin. Guilt is a nasty business and they’ve been carrying around this guilt for the last 20 years! The events since they set foot in Joseph’s presence have brought back to their memories the cruelty they had shown their baby brother so many years earlier. Finally they were coming to terms with the consequences of their sin. Sin has ramifications. As lights it’s our responsibility to help those around us see how sin is hurting them. Make sure you’re not neck deep in that sin yourself (Matthew 7.1-5), and be ready to help carry the burdens casting that sin away will cause for that person (Galatians 6.1-2), but gently show them how sin is disrupting their life.

What other things do we need to consider when helping people repent of sin?

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

– James 5.19-20


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