Genesis 41:46-57 NRSV
Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went through all the land of Egypt. During the seven plenteous years the earth produced abundantly. He gathered up all the food of the seven years when there was plenty in the land of Egypt, and stored up food in the cities; he stored up in every city the food from the fields around it. So Joseph stored up grain in such abundance – like the sand of the sea – that he stopped measuring it; it was beyond measure.
Before the years of famine came, Joseph had two sons, whom Asenath, daughter of Potiphar, priest of On, bore to him. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The second he named Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.”
The seven years of plenty that prevailed in the land of Egypt came to an end; and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in every country, but throughout the land of Egypt there was bread. When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do.” And since the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the world came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine became severe throughout the world.
Joseph was a merciful man. But he had no reason to be. During his childhood Joseph was ridiculed by his jealous brothers. As a teenager, he was sold into slavery in Egypt. While a slave, his master’s wife wrongly accused him of improper behavior and he was imprisoned. His God-given ability to interpret dreams came to the Pharaoh’s attention. Having explained the Pharaoh’s dreams as God’s revelation of the coming of seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, Joseph was appointed the overseer for preparations.
For thirteen years Joseph was a slave, then a prisoner, and at age thirty, he was an official of the Pharaoh authorized to gather and store volumes of food in readiness for the famine. When it came, Joseph had the power to provide grain or to withhold it. But he opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, to people from other countries, and also to his own brothers from Canaan. He was in a position to punish those who had mistreated him, but he was compassionate.
During all of Joseph’s hardships, the writer of Genesis references Joseph’s faith in God. In the naming of his sons, Joseph attributes to God his forgetting (and forgiving) of all his past tribulations in Egypt and with his family, and his thankfulness to God for his success and prosperity.
This remarkable story teaches us to cultivate a heart of mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. Joseph’s trust in the God of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham taught to him as a child had sustained him though all the miserable years and enabled him as an adult to be merciful to others in their hour of need.
Gracious God, we thank you for your many mercies, especially in providing your son, Jesus, to bear in our place the punishment for our sins. During these days of Lent, but all our days, increase our faith and trust in you and keep us mindful of being merciful and of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Like Joseph, help us to have compassion and to forgive and forget those in the past who have wronged us. In Jesus’ name, we ask. Amen.