The brothers, who at first were so powerful and also ruthless towards Joseph, are now powerless at his feet. As soon as he sees them, he begins the work that is needed to put their hearts in the right attitude to him. It is as with the Lord Jesus Who, in the consciousness of His dominion over all things, is about to wash the feet of the disciples (Jn 13:3-53[Jesus], knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God,4*got up from supper, and *laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.5Then He *poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.).
Instead of putting his foot on them while they are kneeling before him – as they did with him – the wise Joseph treats them in love. At first his attitude does not look much like love (cf. Mk 7:24-3024Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know [of it]; yet He could not escape notice.25But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet.26Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.27And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”28But she answered and *said to Him, “Yes, Lord, [but] even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.”29And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”30And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.). Yet he deals in love with them. He has learned to accept everything from the hand of God (cf. Gen 45:77God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.). Then there are no feelings of revenge. He sees them, knows them, and loves them.
He wants to see if they have changed inwardly, whether they are not just kneeling for the sake of the benefit. He is tough, but not to take revenge. This is not difficult for him in his position, but Joseph is not like that. He is still morally far above them. Nor does he go to the opposite, by very generously forgetting everything that has been done to him. This does not really serve the brothers.
In the future God will also act in this way with Israel. He will not reveal Himself directly to them when they are in trouble. In the book of Psalms, we read that the remnant says that God is hiding Himself or His face (Psa 10:11Why do You stand afar off, O LORD?
Why do You hide [Yourself] in times of trouble?
; 13:1b1For the choir director. A Psalm of David.
How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
; 88:1414O LORD, why do You reject my soul?
[Why] do You hide Your face from me?
; 89:4646How long, O LORD?
Will You hide Yourself forever?
Will Your wrath burn like fire?
). God is looking in everything for a transformation into His image. He will work that transformation Himself. Then the past must be confessed. This is only possible if they understand what is wrong. Then there will be room for enjoyment of the blessing.
The brothers want to buy grain. They must also learn that there is something that is not for sale: grace. In their defense, they mention their honesty. While saying this, they do not realize that they are facing him who can prove the opposite. All that is needed for this is to name them his name. He doesn’t, because his work with them isn’t finished yet, it’s only just started. They must also learn that they have not shown much of their honesty in their dealings with Joseph and deceiving their father.
Many people boast of their honesty or piety or compassion, but they do not realize that they are guilty of the death of the Son of God. The brothers say of Joseph: “One is no longer alive” (verse 1313But they said, “Your servants are twelve brothers [in all], the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no longer alive.”). As for them, Joseph disappeared for good.