Sometimes we want justice to be done and we want to take it into our own hands. Justice is good but what does it look like here? God is providing for his people. He knows there will be a seven year famine across the world and he makes sure his people will survive. Joseph has been betrayed and spent 13 years in slavery and prison and another seven in Egypt. Just because God is bringing good things out of this doesn’t mean his brothers aren’t guilty.
It’s been more than 20 years since Joseph’s brothers last saw Joseph. He recognised them but they didn’t recognise him. He had had dreams that his whole family would bow down before him. He sees that this is the fulfilment. Joseph tests them. He puts them in prison. He shows mercy and tells one of them to stay behind. He tells them to prove their innocence. They know they’re guilty. Joseph orders his servants to plant their money in their sacks. They see that this is God’s judgment on their sin for their treatment of Joseph.
Reuben is a bit different. He’d intended to free Joseph. He offers to take responsibility for Benjamin. The promise he makes is foolish at best. Losing two grandchildren for losing a son is hardly retribution. Judah steps up. He had only ever cared about himself. He takes his charge personally. He does it for his family.
Joseph is thrilled at seeing his younger brother and almost can’t hide it any more. He tells his servants to plant his own cup in their sacks. Joseph then tells his steward to go after them. Is God’s justice finally catching up with them? They all claim innocence. Each sack is opened until only Benjamin is left. There’s the cup but they’re all devastated. They all stay to become slaves. They’re not the same as who they were 20 years ago. We shouldn’t judge people by that. They are still guilty. It doesn’t undo what they’ve done in the past.
We don’t want people to get away with things. Joseph shows mercy. God isn’t only the God of justice but of mercy too. None of us are any better than Joseph’s brothers. Justice for us is condemnation. A true Christian shows mercy to others. It’s costly. It opens us up to being hurt or betrayed but it is the example of Jesus. It transforms people. Joseph is merciful because God has shown mercy to him. We can be merciful to others because Jesus been merciful to us.