They loaded their donkeys with their grain, and departed. When one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money at the top of the sack. He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in my sack!” At this they lost heart and turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”
When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, “The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly to us, and charged us with spying on the land. But we said to him, ‘We are honest men, we are not spies. We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in the land of Canaan.’ Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way. Bring your youngest brother to me, and I shall know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will release your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’”
As they were emptying their sacks, there in each one’s sack was his bag of money. When they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. And their father Jacob said to them, “I am the one you have bereaved of children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has happened to me!” Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”
We may be familiar with people who feel persecuted in life or dream, only to discover that it is God who is actually wrestling to bless them.
In this story, Joseph’s brothers have carried the yoke of their sin against Joseph for very long. I was particularly struck by the fact that they were fearful after finding the coins in their bags. Why is it not seen as a favour or blessing? Could it be that they are haunted by shadows from their past? The fact that they were also given provisions for their journey shows that Joseph meant to bless them rather than trapping them.
More generally, I wonder whether a similar paranoia can occur in our dealings with God? Could God’s attempt to bless unrepentant sinners come across as persecution or traps? Unresolved conflicts in our lives could potentially have the same effect, pushing us even to wrestle with God and people who are just trying to bless us. This perhaps highlights the importance of repentance, so that one can better receive love. Can we genuinely give others the benefit of the doubt until we can give it to ourselves? Unconfessed sins have the potential to damage our self-esteem, making us believe that we are undeserving of any favour. They can also make us blind to God’s good plans. It is very sad that one can also drag innocent people (like poor, old Jacob) in that contagious paranoia, taking the shape of a vicious cycle.
Sadly we are surrounded by people who struggle to receive love and favours even from God, who is always much more gracious than we can fathom.
Gracious God, Give us the humility to confess our sins to those we have wounded, the audacity to believe that you can forgive what looks unforgivable, and the blessed assurance to accept that you always wish us well Amen
The Rev’d Bachelard Kaze, Minister of Heanor and Eastwood URCs