Do you ever experience a bittersweet resolution to some issue? After some tragedy or some fight or some miscommunication gone horribly wrong, the dust settles and you come to a place of acceptance and even growth. Yet at the same time, in the back of your mind, you know that everything would have been much better if none of this had ever happened in the first place. That pang of I can’t take this back really sucks.
At this point in the story of Joseph, the second highest ruler of Egypt, the man who had as a teenager been sold into slavery by his blood relatives, the man who was now face to face with those same blood relatives, confronted with the clear and undeniable evidence that they had changed into good men, the phrase “no turning back” couldn’t have been more appropriate. What had been done was written in stone by the many years that had passed. The only option was to move forward, but would Joseph and his brothers move forward together in forgiveness or separately in anger?
Joseph chose forgiveness. Judah’s heartfelt plea could not be ignored. Clearing the room of everyone but his brothers and then bursting into tears, Joseph reveals that he has in fact been alive all this time. Shock, terror, hesitation, realization, relief and surrender wash over the men as the difficult knowledge they have lived with for years changes into a new truth – their brother is alive and rich and thriving!
It takes some coaxing, but soon the brothers are in each other’s arms, crying and explaining and apologizing and forgiving. Joseph insists that the men go home, get their families and belongings, and come to live in Egypt permanently. Pharaoh, in evidence of his high opinion of Joseph, seconds the idea, and both of the rulers give the men carts and food and provisions and supplies for their great trek to Canaan and back.
Arriving in Canaan, the brothers explain to Jacob what truly happened to Joseph. Can you imagine having that kind of bomb dropped on you? In the understatement of the year, the Bible says that “Jacob was stunned” (verse 26). Somehow, without any anger or shouting or heart attacks, Jacob understands the truth. You can practically hear the joy in his voice as he prepares to leave for Egypt, elated to be able to see his beloved son before he dies.
The Treasures Within:
Am I the only one who might have reacted a little bit differently had I been Joseph or Benjamin or Jacob? There seems to be joy and eagerness all around, when it seems that there should at least be some hesitance, some reckoning, some pain over the loss of the last ten or so years. But as far as we can tell from the chapter, Joseph humbly and vocally accepts the trials of the past as planned and directed by God Himself. And Jacob immediately begins praising God upon hearing of the horrifying crime his sons committed. To turn and surrender to God and praise Him instead of questioning or blaming or doubting Him is…not normal. It’s actually kind of weird.
Something Must Be Done! …Right?
The reactions of Joseph and his family are especially strange because that’s not how people act, especially these days. When something bad happens, whether in our world or in our lives, our first instinct is to fight it. We find some government or some business or some person to blame and fight them. We rant and post and yell. We point fingers at each other and oftentimes at God. How could He let this happen? How can we mitigate the damage He’s caused?
All this action is not always bad. Sometimes when bad things happen God puts in us the desire to do something about it because that is His will. But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes all we can do is pray and trust. During all of what Joseph and his family endured over the years, there was nothing that could have been done to stop it or alleviate it. It was God’s will. “Thoughts and prayers” was truly the only option.
This doesn’t sit well with us because when something seems unfair we conclude that it must be corrected. Yet what is bad or wrong or unfair in our eyes just might be good or necessary or deserved in God’s. Sometimes our frantic scrambling to fix something or our bitterness and regret over something that we couldn’t avoid is misplaced. Instead we need to wait on God’s perfect timing or simply rejoice that God has kept us and directed us all this way. This is easier said than done for everyone but God. But if He sees that our hearts are willing, then He will give us this surrender and peace. Don’t believe it? Try Him.
God’s Message To Us:
“I am in control”. This has probably been God’s message before and it will definitely be the message He seeks to give us in future chapters – probably because we’re so self-obsessed it takes frequent repetition for us to get it through our heads. We are not in control. Only God is. That may seem terrifying, especially when things start to happen that we would prefer not to, that we wish with all our might that we could stop. Yet in those moments especially we must accept the fact that we are not in control. And surprise, surprise, this is actually good news. Our tiny, clogged brains and fickle, selfish hearts would do a lot of damage if we were actually the ones in control. The best, most freeing thing we can do for ourselves is accept God’s sovereignty. He knows what He’s doing. And one day, like Joseph and his family, we too will rejoice.
What do you think? What did you think of the reaction of Joseph and his family to all of this? How would you have behaved in this situation? What did God teach you in this chapter?