“But Joseph said to his brothers, ‘It is just as I have said to you; you are spies! Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies.’ And he put them all together in prison for three days.” Genesis. 42: 14-17, NRSV
The drought brings together Joseph and his brothers who wanted to kill him when he was younger. They have not seen each other for years. I think it is pretty safe to say that they did not expect to see each other again. Ever.
But the brothers come to Egypt because they are starving due to the drought. Thanks to Joseph, Egypt has stockpiled grain. So the brothers have come to Egypt for grain. And Joseph is the gatekeeper. So, they go to him, directly, face to face, to ask for the grain. They don’t recognize Joseph. They think they are simply dealing with the premier vizier of Egypt. And they are deferential because they really want the grain.
But Joesph recognizes the brothers. He knows exactly who they are. Unimaginable as it is, here they are. And what does he do? After all of that time? His brothers? He stalls. He concocts one scheme after another to string them along without telling them who he is.
Is he just trying to be mean to them? They are afraid because their lives are dependent on Egypt’s grain. I think Joseph stalls because he needs time to think this through. It is such a shock. I think his first reaction, and it is a good one, is to buy some time so he can sort this out. Does he want to reconcile with them? Does he want to let them know who he is? Does he want to harass them and get back at them? He needs time to explore his feelings and consider his actions.
We like things fast in today’s world. We are used to virtually instant responses to things. Read an email, send one back. Read an article or blog on line and weigh in with your opinion right away. Take care of business. Express yourself. Maybe there is something to be said for a more measured approach to things. Sometimes weighty matters need time. We need to sort out our feelings. Explore what we want to do that will be consistent with our faith and values. Our first impulse may not be our best impulse. Taking time with something can help us to make a healthier, more compassionate and loving response.
We don’t have to create machinations like Joseph did. We can simply say, “I need some time to think about that.”
We want to do the right thing. We want to be loving and work for peace. May we take the time to be thoughtful and look for paths that lead us to greater peace and reconciliation. We may not see those paths at first. It may take time for them to emerge. May we apply ourselves to thoughtful, intentional reflection. Amen.