15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

As a child, I was often given a penny, or half-penny, to spend on sweets from the ‘penny tray’ at a shop I passed on the way to school. But one day, for some un-remembered reason, I had a larger amount of cash than normal in my pocket. I entrusted this to a friend to go and buy the goodies. When he returned with quite a large stash he told me the shopkeeper had said to him, ‘Make sure you share these.’ Of course I did, and I’m sure I intended to. But I’ve often wondered, did she really say that, or was he just making it up out of enlightened self-interest?!!

Similarly, whenever I read this chapter, I find myself thinking, ‘Did Jacob say what the brothers claimed (16, 17)? Or were they just inventing a script to try to cover their backs? Was it fear talking? I can find no evidence Jacob did utter these words.

Well maybe he did; maybe he didn’t. But I know how easily I can invent scenarios in my mind that bear no correspondence to reality. I do it all too often. At times there is a strong whiff of manure lying over this fertile field of my thoughts. Anxiety can cause vain imaginings. You end up having unreal conversations with people inside your head, and sadly, believing what isn’t true.

Anyway, it’s not surprising Joseph was distressed that they so distrusted him, especially when his intentions towards them were totally gracious.

PRAYER: Lord, your word tells us not to lie, and we know we shouldn’t lie to ourselves either. Please help us in our human weakness. Again and again we ‘jump at shadows.’ Please forgive us for when we misrepresent others to ourselves. Lord have mercy, and empower us to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. May we controlled by wholesome thinking.