Monday, November 7, 2016
TheLifeOf Joseph : Genesis 45
Reconciliation. It's a beautiful thing. So beautiful that so few of us do it. Seems like a strange comment, but let me explain.
Up to this point, before reading the chapter today, there has been a looming, groaning animal in their midst. This sin, this act that the brothers did, has literally transformed both parties' lives. For Joseph, his life was never the same again, and through his persistence in believing that the LORD was Sovereign over all, he could repeatedly make statements of trust in the LORD's ability to work all things out (see 45:5).
For the brothers, though, there is a sense that this looming animal has made their lives horrible. Right down to the choices that Judah makes in sleeping with women (see chapter 38). This animal has been roaming through the consciences of both parties for far too long and it is this chapter that kills the ugly beast. Reconciliation finally begins. But why do we wait so long to reconcile? Why does this story (and many like it, including our own) have such a long, agonizing middle section?
Looking back, the brothers could have sought out to find Joseph. They have, unknowingly, found him in Egypt due to the famine, which tells me that if they truly looked for Joseph, they could have found him and, perhaps, saved themselves a lot of grief. Or look at Joseph's life. He knew where his family members were. He could have sought out to find them once he came into power. He could have restored his brothers’ consciences far before all these events transpired. But, as I write these words, I know all too well that the 'what if's...' of life just never seem to be answered. These age-old questions never seem to be answered but loom over us through all our lives and perhaps into eternity, and we are always left not knowing. Yet reconciliation still occurs.
So if there's any answer to these questions it's that it doesn't matter. It's curious, within this beautiful story of reconciliation what is missing. There isn't an apology from the brothers written. We just see Joseph's weeping monologue, and see, finally, the truth coming out and him embracing each of them as brothers once more. When Joseph's brothers, with all that was given to them by Pharaoh and Joseph, return to their father and tell the wonderful news that Joseph is alive, we don't even read of an apology given to their father either (though it is assumed). So, even in the reconciliation, we are still left with unanswered questions. But I think that's the point.
Getting back to my previous statement that reconciliation is so beautiful that so few of us do it - I believe we don't reconcile more simply because it's messy. Sounds like a contradiction to say that we don't reconcile because, in its beauty, it's messy, but it is. We know that within the mess of revealing offenses, there is much beauty, but so few of us want to deal with the 'whole basket'. So few of us reconcile because, frankly, we consciously (or subconsciously) would rather hold on to the offense because it makes us feel good, in a very sick, warped, way.
But please read through this chapter again. (I don't think the YouTube link below does it justice). Note the emotions that are present. Note Joseph's actions: '...wept aloud' (vs. 2), '...he fell upon his brother Benjamin' (vs. 14), and '...kissed all his brothers and wept upon them' (vs. 15). There are a lot of tears here. There's a lot of wailing. The emotions are finally let free. Joseph is finally reconciled to his brothers! Do you sense the 'falling upon' by both Joseph and his brothers? But please don't miss Joseph's words to his brothers:
I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life (vss. 4, 5).
Why could Joseph forgive? Why was there such a sweet reconciliation? Because Joseph saw the LORD's hand in all of it. Note this statement: God sent me before you to preserve life. Joseph could have so easily lost his faith, he could have so easily built resentment towards his brothers because of the circumstances he found himself in (esp. in prison). It's easy for us to say that Joseph comes to this conclusion, as he reveals himself to his brothers, because he's in a position of power over them and sees that the LORD can use him to provide for his family (note, his dreams coming to fruition, see chapter 37). But I do not believe that it is because Joseph is in a position of power that he freely forgives.
Joseph has a very long history of waiting. We cannot do this story justice. I have tried as best as I could to slow down this devotional because I knew that we are an impatient people. If you knew the story of Joseph before beginning this devotional, you perhaps wanted me to speed up these chapters - but I knew I could not. And when we look at our lives, I know we can't speed up our lives either. We must go through the dark tunnels to experience the beauty of Light. This reconciliation is beautiful because it has taken time and has stretched Joseph's faith. The LORD is beautiful because He stretches our faith. And here's the statement of a lifetime: Our struggles are beautiful because they stretch our faith.
"...this reconciliation was possible only because Joseph had suffered and triumphed, and it’s a beautiful picture of what the Lord Jesus Christ did for sinners in His death on the cross and His resurrection. Like Jesus, Joseph went from suffering to glory, from the prison to the throne, and was able to share his wealth and glory with others." (Wiersbe Old Testament Commentary)
Reconciliation is messy because there are two very important aspects to it: Suffering and Triumph. Both need to be present in order for reconciliation to occur. I would wager that the more horrific the suffering, the more beautiful the triumph. We may never be 'reconciled' in the way that we want this side of heaven, but just as we learn from The Hall of the Faithful in Hebrews, there is something better waiting for us (Heb. 11:39, 40).
May we eagerly wait for the Sovereign Hand of God and seek reconciliation on His terms and in His timing.
For a 'visual look' at this scene, please click on the link below: