This devotion was written by Will McDavid:

“For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father.” Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. (Genesis 44:34-45:1, NRSV)

A quick recap: after the hated and abandoned brother Joseph bizarrely finds favor with Pharaoh and assumes charge of all Egypt’s grain supply, his brothers are forced in hard times to go to Egypt and beg to buy grain from Joseph, whom they don’t even recognize. In an act which can only seem vindictive, Joseph orders his brothers to bring back the family’s youngest son, Joseph’s brother Benjamin, before they get any grain. Joseph then frames Benjamin for a crime he doesn’t commit (sound familiar?) and orders him to be held in slavery. It’s like Joseph is testing them to see if they’ve learned their lesson.

Joseph’s long-standing resentment against his brothers begins to fade when one of them stands in for Benjamin, offering enslavement in his place so that their father will not undergo so much grief. Seeing himself in his younger brother Benjamin, Joseph is touched by this act of mercy so much that he begins sobbing. He hugs his brothers in turn, simultaneously making himself known and forgiving each of them.

Reconciliation and forgiveness usually work this way. It’s not a determination to forgive someone that heals longstanding grudges, nor is it an apology, in and of itself. The source of forgiveness is love, pure and simple, and once we feel we’ve received it, forgiveness happens naturally—like Joseph, we can no longer help ourselves.

Joseph feels love because he sees himself in his little brother—the youngest, the favorite, just as Joseph had once been. He sees the weakest of the family and loves him. Not only do the other brothers refuse to sell Benjamin, but also one of them goes so far as to give up his life to allow Benjamin to go unpunished for the “theft.”

Loving us and seeing the sorrow of the Father, Jesus chooses in love to be the stand-in in every situation in our lives, willing to become a slave and take our punishment in every area where we are condemned. This substitution means forgiveness—all of the brothers, including their father, are reconciled and invited as Joseph’s personal guests. The power of the stand-in for the condemned is the powerful agent of restoration in human relationships—and how much more in our standing with God!