Genesis 42:25-38: Goodness and severity.
25 Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, 26 they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left. 27 At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack. 28 ‘My silver has been returned,’ he said to his brothers. ‘Here it is in my sack.’ Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, ‘What is this that God has done to us?’ 29 When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them. They said, 30 ‘The man who is lord over the land spoke harshly to us and treated us as though we were spying on the land. 31 But we said to him, “We are honest men; we are not spies. 32 We were twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in Canaan.”33 ‘Then the man who is lord over the land said to us, “This is how I will know whether you are honest men: leave one of your brothers here with me, and take food for your starving households and go. 34 But bring your youngest brother to me so I will know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will give your brother back to you, and you can trade in the land.”’35 As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened. 36 Their father Jacob said to them, ‘You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!’37 Then Reuben said to his father, ‘You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.’38 But Jacob said, ‘My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my grey head down to the grave in sorrow.’ NIV
‘’Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God’’ (Romans 11:22).
We behold both goodness and severity, kindness and sternness, in Joseph’s treatment of his brothers. How abundantly good he was to them, in providing for them. Many of us will see in our own experiences a reflection of what happened to Joseph’s brothers; we find our ‘’silver’’ back in our sacks. We just can’t out-give God. In fact, we regularly find we are on the receiving end of far more than we gave. If we’re honest, it can be almost frightening at times, to be a recipient of God’s lavish generosity. It’s wonderful, but it also fills you in awe, and you feel so undeserving.
At the same time, Joseph showed ‘tough love’ to his brothers. This reminds me of the words in Hebrews 12 about discipline being an expression of love (Hebrews 12:5,6). The author goes on to write:
‘’No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it’’ (11).
When you eventually experience the ‘’Later on’’, you realise that behind the stern discipline there was always a loving and good heart.
‘Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face’ (From ‘God moves in a mysterious way’ by William Cowper).
PRAYER: ‘So I thank God for the mountains, and I thank Him for the valleys, and I thank Him for the trials He took me through. For if I’d never had a problem, I’d never know that God could solve them; I’d never know what faith in God can do’ (from the song: ‘Through it all…I’ve learned to trust in Jesus…’)