What a cool story…
- Joseph the first born of Rachel
- Favourite son of Jacob
- Coat of many colours…
- Sold into slavery by his jealous, selfish, arrogant, older brothers…
- Potiphar and his wife
- Works his way up in the prison
- The dreams of the cupbearer and the baker
- Pharoah’s dreams
- Joseph becomes the governor of all Egypt
- He is the one responsible for the collection and then the distribution of ffod…
What a story…..The W Andrew told us about…. God has spared Joseph… He has had a plan for Joseph and placed him ‘in a position to save many lives’ as Joseph himself tells us later…. Wow! God looked after him…
Except the story is not over yet….
Joseph may be at the top of the World, but there is still a great wound…. A hole in his heart…A chasm between Joseph and his family….. Let's be clear……No one gets to escape their family, whether it is the pain of broken relationships or the sound teaching and discipline they are running from, ….no matter how far they travel…our family is a part of who we are…
I wonder how Joseph felt about his family….. Had he forgiven them? Did he still love them? Did he perhaps love his father, but hate his brothers?
Where do you even start dealing with your feelings when your brothers sold you into slavery?
There is good news……. There is reconciliation between Joseph and his family….
Ch 42…Ch 43…..Ch44….Ch 45…..that’s a lot of chapters…..
Every word that God has placed in the Bible is God inspired and important…. So then if God spends more time on one topic than another…. This must be even more important…..
But why four chapters? Is reconciliation that important???? Why does it take so long to tell us about their reconciliation? Surely…Joseph recognises them…gives them a big surprise….all hug….brings them to Egypt….done…
Let’s see what we can learn from these four chapters….
Joseph’s family are also hit by the famine….
Jacob sends the brothers down to buy grain…
10 brothers go…just the beloved Benjamin stays at home…
They are presented to Joseph who is in charge of distribution of the grain….
He recognises them ……and pretends to be a stranger….
why does Joseph not tell his brothers immediately about his identity?...why didn't he jump up and say, “its me, its me”?
why does he not just reconcile right here in the beginning?
Why does it take four chapters?
……He is God’s man…why could he not just forgive?…. And should this not be the end of it? Allowing them all to live happily ever after?
In fact he speaks harshly to them….
He accuses them of being spies and threatens their lives…
I wonder how Joseph is feeling at this point… it must have been a big shock to see them…. He seems angry…. Is revenge on his heart? He doesn’t exactly welcome them in……
There is no reason to believe that he is planning yet what will happen over these chapters….. He just seems to be reacting….to the situation
They let slip that Benjamin and Jacob are alive…..
Joseph then throws them in jail for three days…and will only let them out if they send for Benjamin …..
This then gives Joseph three days to understand his feelings and to contemplate his next move…I’m pretty sure that these things dominated his thoughts over the three days…. A wise man thinking about how to deal with an extremely difficult personal problem….
The Bible does not tell us exactly what Joseph thought about…. It must have brought back so much pain…perhaps he had pushed thoughts of his family to the back of his mind and rarely contemplate Canaan…it had been 22 years after all…busy years….successful years……. he had spent more of his life in Egypt than in Canaan…...so many emotions must have pushed up….anger…resentment… revenge… tenderness for his father…. Loneliness….
The brothers must have had a torrid three days too….they were surely fearing for their lives…. Three days in an Egyptian jail might get you to contemplate life a bit…with no thought of Joseph… or did they?
They were brought before Joseph after the time in jail and Joseph overhears them speaking in his native language…..
21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”
22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.”
Interesting here…. The brothers come to see their precarious situation as punishment for selling Joseph… they admit that this was a sin and probably their greatest sin, as it’s the one they all remember….. from 22 years previously…..
For the first time now Joseph reveals some of that pent up emotion…He understands what they are saying and he weeps….. They are admitting to the sin of what they did to Joseph and this impacts him…..
But I am also sure that Joseph sees as we do that the brothers are not necessarily upset about selling him, more perhaps that they are being punished for it…
From here on in, it looks like Joseph formulates a plan of sorts…..
Simeon stays behind as surety that they will return with Benjamin…while the others go home… they cannot return without him…..
It is clear that if nothing else Joseph has a great desire to see his brother Benjamin…
On the way home they open their bags and find the silver they had paid for the grain had been returned…
(again they see this as God punishing them)
Time passes and all the food has been eaten… the brothers have to return to Egypt where poor Simeon is languishing in prison….. After much discussion and many promises Benjamin is sent along with his brothers to meet the governor of Egypt…..
The men return ……and Joseph will now surely reveal himself and they can all be reconciled…..but no…
He has them sent to his own home where he feeds them and while they are lying prostrate before him, he asks about his father and finds out that he is still alive…surely now Joseph will say something?
Surely now he will reveal himself and they can live happily ever after….
They bring Benjamin forward… this must be what Joseph is waiting for? His brothers lying on their faces …humbled before him…..where they belong……and his beloved brother in his home…..
Joseph is overcome with emotion and has to run out of the room….but this is not the moment….he does not tell them who he is….What is he waiting for?...What is Joseph’s plan?
Joseph has their packs stuffed with grain and he sends them on their way….except …..he has had his own silver cup put in Benjamin’s sack…..what is he up to? He loves Benjamin…why would he do that?
He sends his men after the brothers and they catch up with them a little down the road….they are accused of stealing the cup….the brothers all agree that if the cup is found then the person responsible will die and the rest will be slaves…. They search the sacks and find the cup...of course… in Benjamin’s bag….
And then we have the following passage…
14 Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him. 15 Joseph said to them, “What is this you have done? Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?”
16 “What can we say to my lord?” Judah replied. “What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves—we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.”
17 But Joseph said, “Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.”
18 Then Judah went up to him and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, let me speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself. 19 My lord asked his servants, ‘Do you have a father or a brother?’ 20 And we answered, ‘We have an aged father, and there is a young son born to him in his old age. His brother is dead, and he is the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.’
21 “Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me so I can see him for myself.’ 22 And we said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father; if he leaves him, his father will die.’ 23 But you told your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.’ 24 When we went back to your servant my father, we told him what my lord had said.
25 “Then our father said, ‘Go back and buy a little more food.’ 26 But we said, ‘We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother is with us will we go. We cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’
27 “Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. 28 One of them went away from me, and I said, “He has surely been torn to pieces.” And I have not seen him since. 29 If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in misery.’
30 “So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father, and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, 31 sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. 32 Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!’
33 “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. 34 How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.”
This is what Joseph has been looking for…..
45 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
The brothers are reconciled and the relationship is restored…..
It is tempting to think that Joseph was just power hungry and arrogantly playing with his brothers like a cat does with a mouse… a powerful man enjoying the anguish of his evil brothers.….that he wanted them to be crushed to satisfy his own pain…….but no….. Joseph was taking them through a process of reconciliation so that his relationship with his family was restored….
From here the family are sent for and they spend a few hundred years enjoying the fat of the land in Egypt and growing into a formidable group of people called the Israelites…..
What is the point of this story? ……..Why four chapters?
What Joseph, being as wise as he was, (guided by God) seems to have understood (and what God wants us to know) is that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing…..
Joseph may have forgiven his brothers before they even came to Egypt….who knows?..... After all their betrayal had led to great fame and fortune for Joseph…Even if not then, he definitely did forgive at some point early in the story…. But forgiveness is different from reconciliation....
Forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you. ………It is to not count someone’s sin against them …..Joseph's brothers deserved to rot in jail……he demonstrates forgiveness by sending them home with grain and their silver…. Not punishing them for their sin against him…. But they weren't reconciled….
As difficult as forgiveness is, it is a decision we make….. In fact as Christians we are commanded to forgive…we have a responsibility to forgive…
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
Reconciliation though is something else… Reconciliation involves restoring broken relationships, it is making the relationship whole again…..no more animosity…no more distrust…. Complete Wholeness…as if there was no break down in the relationship….. For this to happen It takes two sides to respond…
There is a beautiful picture of a restored relationship between Joseph’s father Jacob and his brother Esau …..Jacob had stolen Esau’s birthright and had to run away to avoid being killed….. When he returns many years later we have Genesis 33:1-4
Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. 2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.
4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept
Joseph as young as he was had seen reconciliation in action…..
Unlike forgiveness……Reconciliation is not just a decision to be made, but a process…. A process which Joseph in his wisdom explores and executes….
What was Joseph waiting for ?...Why did he only reveal himself when he did?
In any broken relationship we have the one who offended and the one who was wronged.
Where forgiveness is dependent on the person who was wronged forgiving the guilty party …. Reconciliation depends on the attitude of the offender as well…
looking at this story as an example…
1. It seems that Reconciliation can only occur when the guilty party admits any wrongdoing…the person who has offended must confess their sin… they must own up to and recognise that their actions were wrong….
My brother and I cannot be reconciled unless I agree that what I did to sever the relationship was not right and that it caused the problem…this is the first step of reconciliation….
What makes it more difficult is that my brother can forgive me……. but I actually have to confess my sin against him before we can reconcile…..
2. But it’s even more than this because Joseph heard his brothers admit to their sin early on…..yet.. He did not reveal himself and they weren’t reconciled ………yet….
What was he waiting for?
When Judah gives his impassioned speech pleading for mercy…. He shows two things that Joseph has been waiting for…..he demonstrates a love for his father and his brother Benjamin… the brothers aren’t the same selfish, arrogant, violent men they were… they could have left and gone on with their lives, but they pleaded for Benjamin and put themselves at risk….for the sake of their father’s favourite son….they now seem quite comfortable with the idea of a favorite son….and don’t hold it against him….
This showed a changed heart… men… men who were completely humbled and were clearly sorry for what they had done to their brother Joseph and refused to be responsible for the death of a second brother…..
In order for reconciliation to happen…the offender needs to confess, but they also need a change of heart… they need to ‘repent’…. Too often people have confessed in order to paper over a problem …to avoid negative consequences…..but they are sure to offend again because their hearts have not changed….
When we are truly sorry, we live differently… there has to be change inside…. for reconciliation to happen…Judah demonstrated this….
3. Then in verse 33 Judah says “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.
This is very important in the process….
A change of heart for sure,,, but more than that… he is offering restitution…. He is putting his own life on the line in place of his brothers…why? Because he is aware that they wouldn’t be in this situation if it was not for their sin…. And he is offering to pay the price required….
When someone is happy to make restitution for the wrongs they have committed… then they are genuine in their appeal for reconciliation…..
At this point reconciliation is possible….. Admitting fault(confessing)….a change in heart(repentance)....restitution(a price)....
Would a very loving person have reconciled at the sight of his brother or maybe after the confession? Maybe after the repentance?
Should a good loving person not just love…forgive and reconcile with everyone who has sinned against them?
This may shock you…. But NO
Sure we should forgive everyone…but this does not lead to reconciliation…..it does not fix the problem on its own…distrust, abuse and dysfunction will keep returning to this relationship….
Of course we are called to be good Christians:
16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This is exactly how we should live….but reconciling with those who have offended….this requires a process..
A few weeks ago I was due to meet with a set of parents who had been rude to one of my staff members and I was ready to give them a piece of my mind…..
Then God arranged that my morning reading would be in 2 Corinthians 5 where it reads like this…
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We promptly changed tack and spent the time patching up the relationship the best way we could and for now we are all happy….. But I misunderstood the passage at the time…..thinking I was reconciling… but that was not true we were following Romans 12 and ‘living peaceably with all’...’not taking vengeance’ which is fine …..and correct….but it was not reconciling….there will be other incidents…
In my hasty morning reading, I also misread who the reconciliation in this passage is between….. This has nothing to do with reconciliation between you and me…. This is about reconciliation between man and God…. This is imploring us to be ambassadors for Christ…. That we would be agents of the reconciliation between man and God….. THIS MAKES THE understanding of Joseph and the process of reconciliation very important to us….. God’s making his appeal through us…. We had better understand what it is we are facilitating…..
Man has sinned against God in a most grievous way…… this has broken the relationship between man and God……There is nothing more important than RECONCILIATION between man and God…… not my prosperity, not my happiness, not my rights….not me being right….Reconciliation has eternal consequences……
Can a loving God forgive? YES…. does this reconcile us? NO
We have just seen that reconciliation is different to forgiveness…….
1. Reconciliation does require forgiveness though…as a first step….
1 John 2:2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
John 3:16 For God so loved the World that he gave….
This part of the reconciliation process has been dealt with…. Jesus has died for our sin….for the sin of the World…of anyone who wishes to be reconciled to God…….done….( I would suggest that Joseph had forgiven his brothers some time before reconciliation)
2. Next comes confession of sin:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
UNless we acknowledge that we are sinners we cannot access forgiveness…. We cannot be reconciled…. This is a difficult thing for many people and their pathway to reconciliation stops right there….. They are happy to believe in God…. but accepting their sin is a stumbling block……
We make a big mistake as ambassadors of Christ if we don’t confront people with their sin…with our sin…. We want to fill our churches and make everyone happy and comfortable…. There is nothing comfortable about the process of reconciliation…..ask Joseph’s brothers……ask Jesus…….we have to come face to face with our sin and its consequences….
3. Next comes repentance….
We learned at Sunday School that repentance is to make a U turn…. To travel in the other direction…. A change of heart…
How do we know that someone has had a change of heart? For us it is only by observing their actions… Joseph needed proof of his brother’s changed hearts….
God is different… he can see right into our hearts to see if we have truly repented…. He knows better than we do…
The beauty of this is that our reconciliation with God is instant on our genuine repentance…. We don’t have to prove anything to him….
Everyone else will be able to see if my repentance was real in the passage of time by observing my life…. But God knows immediately…..
4. What about restitution? The price must be paid…..
Thank you Lord!!!!….the price has already been paid. Restitution has been made in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ…. Jesus hung on the cross in our place….. We deserved death and He took it for us….
We have been given a job of great responsibility… to be Christ's ambassadors as we pass on the message of reconciliation…the whole message….
Does everyone want reconciliation? No……
Not in our relationships here amongst men ….many people are not reconciled because our sin prevents it….there is pride and selfishness and a love of sin that gets in the way…
and millions don’t want to be reconciled with God,(for pretty much the same reasons) but it is our duty to ‘make his appeal’.... To tell people that He wants to be reconciled to them….
There is one final step of reconciliation. This is a message for another day…. This is the purpose and consequence of reconciliation….…. The family went to Egypt and fulfilled God’s plan……
God has plans for our reconciliation too…..only time shows us how we have followed through….