We all have things in our past that are hard – mistakes we’ve made, hurts done to us, etc. As we’ve seen the past couple weeks with Joseph, he too had a difficult past. He was sold into slavery by his very brothers, falsely accused, and thrown into prison. How do you get beyond something like that? There are several things we see in his story that can help us as we deal with things from our past.
In Genesis 42, we read that Joseph’s father, Jacob, tells his sons to go to Egypt to get grain. There was a famine in the land and they needed food. God can use a famine or anything He wants to accomplish His will. The famine that threatened the end of the family was used to save the family. Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt, to the exact station where he was selling grain. You see the hand of providence in it all. What a reminder to look for the providence of God in the difficult circumstances of life. If Jacob had said go to Babylon or Damascus it would not have bothered them. But when he said the word Egypt, it reminded them of what they did to Joseph 20 years before. Is there a word, a place, or a name that bothers you when it’s brought up? Just imagine all the slaves they saw working on the highway as they traveled to Egypt. They saw traveling caravans and slave markets. The worst trip you will ever take is a guilt trip!
As we continue reading, we see that Joseph decides to test his brothers. In verses 16-24 he wants to see if they’ve changed and are now honest men. It was a wise plan to get information. It’s important to note that He did not seek revenge. If he had wanted revenge, he could have had them killed or put in prison for life.
Verse 21 says, “Then they said to one another, ‘We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.’” Because Joseph had not revealed himself to them, they didn’t know that he could understand them. He’d been using an interpreter. When he heard them talking however, “He turned himself away from them and wept” (v. 24). Then, he sent them on their way, filled their sacks, and even gave their money back. Dealing with the past can be emotional! Have you been fighting back the tears? Don’t. Let them go. Crying releases toxins from your body and relieves stress. Bottling up emotions can poison your body and mind. Jesus was a man of sorrows. He wept at the death of His friend. Life is filled with pain and we must weep with those who weep. It is only when sorrow and grief are embraced that we can experience the joy of God healing our hurts. The Christian is always sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
In Genesis 43 we see that Judah has a changed heart. Joseph asked the brothers to bring back Benjamin and Judah tells Jacob he would give himself as surety for him. Remember, it was his idea to sell Joseph into slavery. He is also the one who used his own daughter-in-law, Tamar, and then commanded her to be burned. He pledged his very life for Benjamin. Jacob also has a change of heart and agrees. He tells the brothers to take a list of items with them. This list was what the Ishmaelites were trading in Genesis 37. Again, God is forcing them to remember their sin of when they sold Joseph into slavery. Jacob tells them, “May God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin” (v. 13). What do you do with your past? 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Confess it. Stop carrying around that baggage. Let it go. There is mercy and forgiveness at the cross of Jesus. Have you heard of the law of Double Jeopardy? It is based on the 5th amendment. Once a person is found innocent of a certain crime they can never again be tried for that crime. Once the Holy Spirit convicts you and you confess, God never holds that sin against you again. It all starts with a U-turn. Today can be a turnaround, a turning point, in your life.
“When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, ‘Take these men to my home, and slaughter an animal and make ready; for these men will dine with me at noon’… So they drank and were merry with him” (v. 16, 33). Joseph showed them mercy. It is a picture of the gospel. This is what God has done for us in Christ. Joseph’s brothers were his enemies, but they are being reconciled. James 4:4 says, “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” We were the enemies of God. The sins of our past separated us from God. But Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to reconcile us to God and He invites us to His table. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
What a God we serve! He is greater than any hurt. We can trust Him to fight our battles. He is greater than any sin! We can be forgiven and freed because of Jesus! Our past does not have to define our future!