In our most recent sermon (which you can find here), Pastor Bobby compared the story found in Genesis 42-44 with the children’s song, Ring Around the Roses. The comparison is pretty simple. We have all known the song since childhood but few of us actually understand its symbolism. Ring Around the Roses may actually tell the story of the horrors of the Black Death in the England. See, we all know the song…but how many of us know what it means?
We see something similar is this episode of Joseph’s life. Many folks (including me) could recite this story since they learned in church many years ago. But as of last week, if you had asked me what was really going on I am not sure that I would have had a great answer. But in our sermon this week we learned the simple and profound truth about what is actually going on in the story. (By the way, in a simple blog post such as this one, I just don’t have the time to recount the story. If it has been a while since you have read the Joseph narrative, it may be a good idea to pause right now and read it through.)
Here is the punch-line: At its core, Genesis 42-44 is a retelling of Genesis 37. Except this time, the shoe is on the other foot . Now Joseph is the one in power and his brothers are in fear for their lives. Originally they accused Joseph of being a spy before their father, now he accuses them of spying on Egypt. Originally they threw him in the pit, but now Joseph is the one that takes away their freedom. Originally they changed their plans on Joseph, first saying they would murder him and then selling him into slavery. Now Joseph changes the plans on them when he first tells them 9 will stay and 1 will go free, then actually keeps 1 and allows 9 to go free. When you read it with these eyes on, things begin to connect all the way through the narrative.
But once we understand what is going on, we still have to decipher the intentions of Joseph. The question is about what we are seeing here. Is it revenge, or something else altogether? Rather than revenge Joseph is actually showing grace to his brothers in one way that God shows grace to us. He is leading them to fully acknowledge their sin which is the first step in repentance We see this explicitly in Genesis 42:21. As the brother’s begin to connect the dots they realize that their situation is similar to the plight of their lost brother Joseph and their reaction is total distress.
It may not seem very pleasant when it happens in our lives, but God’s grace abounds when we are actually confronted with our sin. The Scripture says in Romans 2:4 that the kindness of God leads us to repentance. We cannot see His kindness though unless we understand the absolute depths of our sin, and what it deserves. We deserve death and separation, but God gives us life and nearness to himself (Ephesians 2). My hope is that if God is revealing sin in your life you wouldn’t turn your eyes from it, but rather see it for what it is. In seeing its depths, you will also see the depths of God’s grace.