In the lands all around ...
... .children looked to their parents with empty stomachs and asked, “Mommy, what is there to eat?” and there was nothing but stale old crumbs.
It all happened just as Joseph said it would.
But there was food in Egypt, they had so much left over from the seven good years. But then even the cupboards in Egypt began to run bare.
And so the people cried out to Pharaoh for food.
And thanks to Joseph, and God’s plan, Pharaoh had an answer.
“Go to Joseph, and do everything he says!”
So Joseph opened his storehouses. He sold grain to anyone who came to him, and there was enough for all.
The word quickly spread that there was food in Egypt, and soon hungry people from lands far and near were coming to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph.
The word even spread to the land of Canaan, to the home of Jacob and his family.
“There’s nothing to eat!”
Simeon, one of Joseph’s brothers, said one day, looking into an empty cupboard with a pain in his stomach.
“Why are you looking at me?” his father Jacob said to him, “Can I make any food appear? But I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Why are you brothers just standing around looking at each other like a bunch of dummies? Go there and buy us some food before we starve to death!”
And so the ten brothers of Joseph threw their empty packs over their donkeys' backs and went down to the land of Egypt to buy grain. But Jacob wouldn’t let their youngest brother Benjamin go. He had already lost one young son (or so he thought), his heart couldn't take the pain of losing another.
When the ten brothers arrived in Egypt, they asked “Where do we go to buy grain?”
“You must go to the Governor,” they were told.
And so they appeared before the throne of the mighty Governor of Egypt, and bowed their faces to the ground before him.
Of course, the mighty Governor of Egypt was really their little brother Joseph. But they could hardly have recognized him. The last time they saw him, he was just a twerpy little kid. Or that’s how he seemed to them anyway. Now they bowed before a fearsome and powerful man, the second most powerful man in all the world.
My, how things can change!
Besides, this man spoke the language of the Egyptians, and they had to have one of his slaves tell them what he was saying.
But Joseph recognized his brothers the moment he saw them.
And when he saw them bowed before him, all at once he remembered the dreams he had all those years ago. He remembered how he dreamed of gathering wheat, and how his bundle of wheat stood up, and the bundles of wheat of his brothers bowed down to his.
He remembered how he dreamed even the sun, the moon and the stars bowed before him.
And now it was all coming true. Here his brothers were, bowing before him just like he dreamed!
And then he remembered how much his brothers had teased him when he told them about his dreams. He remembered how his brothers laughed at him.
Look who was laughing now!
But Joseph wasn’t laughing. Instead he rose up from his throne and glared down at the ten brothers bowing before him.
“Where do you come from?” he demanded, pretending not to know them at all.
“Please, Sir, we are but ten brothers from the land of Canaan. We have come to buy food,” they answered, their knees trembling beneath them.
“YOU ARE SPIES!” Joseph roared.
“No! No, my lord!” they pleaded, “We are your humble servants. We were twelve brothers from the land of Canaan. Our youngest brother is home with his father, and another is dead.”
“I don’t believe you! Bring me your youngest brother, and then I will know you speak the truth!” And then, to show them just how mighty and powerful he was, Joseph had his brothers taken off to prison (just they way he had been carried off to prison all those years ago).
After three days, he came back to them. “I am a man who fears God and so I always try to do what is right. I will spare your lives under one condition. If you are honest men, let one of you stay behind. The rest of you take the grain I will sell you back to your starving families. But bring me back your youngest brother so I may know that you are not lying. Otherwise, you will die.”
And so the ten brothers whispered one to another, “Surely now God is punishing us for the evil thing we did when we did away with our brother Joseph. He begged for his life, and we did not listen. Now we know what it is like. The same thing is happening to us!”
Now the sandal was on the other foot!
“I told you so!” Reuben said. “I told you not to hurt the boy. At last the time has come to pay for the evil thing we did.”
That’s how it is. You might think you are getting away with the bad things you do - even just the little ones - but they always come back to you sometime.
The time always comes when a price has to paid for all the wrong things we do, one way or another.
Now, the ten brothers were speaking to each other in their own language. They didn’t know that Joseph understood every word they said. And everything they said brought back a flood of memories, how he missed his family, how much he loved his brothers, even though they treated him so badly. And so he had to leave the room.
And when he was out of sight of his brothers, this mighty man broke down and cried.
When he was finally able to get himself together again, he went back to his brothers. He chose Simeon to stay behind, and he had him bound up in chains for them all to see.
Then he ordered his servants to fill his brothers' packs with all the grain they needed, and to give them food for the long journey home.
And then he ordered his servants to put his brothers’ money back in their packs. And so with their donkeys loaded down with grain, the brothers set off for home again.
That evening they stopped to make camp. They built a campfire and were settling in for the night when Levi opened one of his sacks of grain to feed his donkey.
There he found a big surprise.
“Brothers!” he cried out, “Here is my money! I swear I didn't know it was there - but the Governor of Egypt will say that I stole it. Now we will all surely die!”
Yep. They were in big trouble now.