[Joseph said to his brothers,] “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. On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned. The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me. Thus your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they agreed to do so.

Genesis 42:16-20

Black and white photo of a link of chain laid on the floor.This week, the example of Joseph in Genesis 42 has encouraged us to think about our leadership when it is deeply personal, especially when our emotions are stirred up. We have seen how Joseph reacted when encountering his brothers for the first time in decades. His strong emotions led him to treat his brothers more harshly than he would have in ordinary circumstances, deciding to throw all but one of them in prison until Benjamin, their youngest brother, was brought to Egypt. As we saw in yesterday’s devotion, the passing of time enabled Joseph to rethink his decision and choose a wiser, more compassionate course. I suggested that we need to imitate Joseph’s example, especially because so many of us are rushing our decisions owing to the high-pressured demands of leadership.

I’m impressed by the fact that Joseph saw God as deeply relevant to his “secular” leadership as a prince of Egypt. No sacred/secular divide here.

Something more than time helped Joseph to redirect the course of his leadership. Pay close attention to what Joseph said to his brothers after three days, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God; if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned. The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households” (42:16-19). Did you catch that? I’m thinking of the simple but strong phrase, “For I fear God.” Joseph changed his mind because he feared God.

The fact that Joseph said this reveals something about his thought process during the days between his first decision and his second one. It seems clear that in this time Joseph thought about God. He reflected on God’s presence in his life and how God had redeemed so amazingly what Joseph’s brothers had intended for evil. (We’ll see this clearly in Genesis 50:20.) Perhaps Joseph prayed, seeking God’s guidance for his leadership. In the end, because of his reverent respect for God, because he submitted his life and leadership to God, Joseph decided to treat his brothers more reasonably and graciously. He was still going to test them, but he was not going to incarcerate them unnecessarily.

I’m impressed by the fact that Joseph saw God as deeply relevant to his “secular” leadership as a prince of Egypt. No sacred/secular divide here. Because he feared God, Joseph led differently. He led more thoughtfully and graciously. His fear of God made a huge difference.

Moreover, I’m doubly impressed by the fact that, once again, Joseph is willing to speak of God. He is saying, in effect, to all who were present, including his brothers: “Yes, I am the second most powerful person in Egypt. But I submit to the One who is most powerful of all, to God who guides me in my leadership.”

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

How does God affect your leadership?

Do you think it’s appropriate for someone in a position of “secular” leadership, in government or business, to seek God’s wisdom and guidance?

Do you regularly bring the challenges of your work before God in prayer? Why or why not?

PRAYER:

Gracious God, once more we thank you for the example of Joseph. We thank you that in his work as a leader, he feared you. We thank you for the ways you guided Joseph, helping him to lead more wisely and graciously.

Help me, Lord, to be like Joseph. No matter my work, may I bring it before you in prayer. No matter where I am a leader, may I learn to talk with you about my leadership. Help me to submit all that I am and all that I do to you. May my leadership glorify you and contribute to your kingdom work on earth. Amen.