I had a pupil who was not the best behaved. Dear Daniel! He’d get up to all sorts of tricks, and he could lie through the back of his teeth, not a glimmer on his face. He was so good at it, I think he almost convinced himself that he was totally innocent, and the others were just out to get him. But I found one ploy that worked every time. After he’d denied and denied and denied I would ask him, “Did you do it by accident?” And every time he’d reply, “Yes, I really didn’t mean to do it!” Then I’d got him. Once we’d got past the denials, we could get through to the truth, and he would finally admit guilt.
Joseph didn’t really want to know if his brothers were spies, (Genesis 42:8-17) just like I didn’t need to know if Daniel’s misdemeanours had been done by accident. What he wanted to know, was what their hearts were like. Had they been kinder to his brother Benjamin than they had been to him? Were they any more considerate to their father than when they had presented him with the wonderful signature robe, covered in blood? What were their true natures now they were mature men with families of their own? And of course, he desperately wanted to see young Benjamin, and his father.
The brothers had plenty of time, in their three days in prison to show their true colours. How would they choose which one of them had their freedom, but with it the unenviable task of informing their father about the turn of events, and the need to take Benjamin to Egypt if he ever again wanted to see the rest of his sons? It sounds like the team-building course you really wouldn’t want to be sent on!
And there inside of Joseph, beat a heart of love that was desperate that they got it right this time round, putting them through their paces. And I think that the tests he put them through were as much for them to discover their better natures. After all, it’s the true mark of a person what they do when the pressure is on.
A bit like us really. If we are full of self and sin and unpleasantness, then that’s what will come out when we are squeezed. But if we are empty of those things, but full of the Holy Spirit, then that is what people will see when the pressure is on us. You never know when a problem will show up what’s on the inside, and I think sometimes God lets us go through a thing or two in order for us to find out what that looks like. After all, he already knows.