Music & the Spoken Word: Lessons about mercy from Joseph in Egypt

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This has been previously broadcast and will be given again on Jan. 9, 2022.

A story from ancient times provides a poignant example of how mercy and justice intersect in our lives and our relationships. A young man named Joseph was hated and mistreated by his brothers. They even contemplated killing him but finally settled on selling him into slavery. For some 20 years, Joseph toiled in Egypt, far from his home and family, with plenty of time to think about what his brothers had done to him. 

Then, through a strange and miraculous series of events, Joseph became a ruler in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. A famine had driven Joseph’s starving brothers to Egypt to ask for food, and Joseph had the authority to grant or deny their request. They didn’t recognize him, and their lives were in his hands. It would have seemed just, perhaps, for Joseph to allow them to starve or maybe even sell them into slavery.  

But that isn’t what Joseph did. Instead, after verifying their sincerity and integrity, Joseph revealed himself to his startled brothers and invited the whole family to join him in the abundance in Egypt. His brothers certainly didn’t deserve it, but this act of mercy and grace blessed the family for generations to come. 

Justice and mercy often seem to be at odds, and most of us tend to lean toward one or the other. When we’ve been wronged, we like to see justice served. When we’ve done wrong, we hope for mercy. Can the two ever be reconciled? Can justice prevail without sacrificing mercy? Can mercy be extended without robbing justice? 

Thankfully, we can count on a God who is both perfectly just and perfectly merciful. He loves His children but also corrects them. He sets high standards, marking a strait and narrow path, but He also provides a way back for all who wander off that path. God’s mercy is just, and His justice is merciful. 

Perhaps we could remember that perfect model as we consider how we view justice and extend mercy. Finding the right balance takes time and practice. We’ll make mistakes, of course. But as we do, a loving and fair God will offer each of us a perfect measure of mercy and justice. 

Tuning in …

The “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL radio 1160AM/102.7FM, KSL.comBYUtv, BYUradio, Dish and DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Ch. 143), thetabernaclechoir.orgYouTube and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. MST on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at

See the Church News’ archive of ‘Spoken Word’ messages