Reconciled

Can you name a time in your life where circumstance, decisions, jealousy, malice, or someone’s bad intention left you on the outside of something you cherished? It is hard when that happens. Job changes “for the good of the company” that result in your layoff can be devastating. Family conflicts that end up with your invitation to the table being rescinded can result in pain that lasts a long time. Anytime we are rejected, it just doesn’t feel good.

It is in those moments that we need to heavily rely on God’s word to help us through a myriad of emotions and try to see what God is doing in the midst of our suffering.

Today we are in the part of the Joseph story where he is living in Egypt long after his brothers threw him in a pit and sold him to traders. Many years have passed and God has provided Joseph with a rise to power that puts him in charge of Egypt’s grain stores, which he himself had created. Meanwhile back in Israel, a famine has decimated the land and Joseph’s brothers have fled to Egypt in hopes of finding food.

Genesis 45 (Contemporary English Version)

Yes, I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. Don’t worry or blame yourselves for what you did. God is the one who sent me ahead of you to save lives.

There has already been a famine for two years, and for five more years no one will plow fields or harvest grain. But God sent me on ahead of you to keep your families alive and to save you in this wonderful way. After all, you weren’t really the ones who sent me here—it was God. He made me the highest official in the king’s court and placed me over all Egypt.

This is a profound moment. Even with everything that happened to Joseph…all the hurt, rejection, harm, and estrangement from his family…he is able to claim that God was the agent of everything that happened. It was not the result of his brothers’ actions, nor evil forces, nor jealousy, nor even a consequence of intentional harm. Only God could bring about the miracle that was to happen next and this had been God’s plan all along.

Now hurry back and tell my father that his son Joseph says, “God has made me ruler of Egypt. Come here as quickly as you can. 10 You will live near me in the region of Goshen with your children and grandchildren, as well as with your sheep, goats, cattle, and everything else you own. 11 I will take care of you there during the next five years of famine. But if you don’t come, you and your family and your animals will starve to death.”

And so Joseph, who was thrown away by his insecure brothers, is now able to save not only his family but all of their livestock from starvation. He makes them the incredible offer to come and bring their entire households to Egypt where he will give them all homes and enough food to live.

12 All of you, including my brother Benjamin, can tell by what I have said that I really am Joseph. 13 Tell my father about my great power here in Egypt and about everything you have seen. Hurry and bring him here.

14 Joseph and Benjamin hugged each other and started crying. 15 Joseph was still crying as he kissed each of his other brothers. After this, they started talking with Joseph.

This last part is a touching reminder of the power of FORGIVENESS. When Joseph was able to recognize that God had placed him in Egypt in order to save generations of his family, he was able to let go of his anger and open his heart up to his brothers.

Where is God calling you to open your heart today? Where is he calling you to forgive a grievance that you have harbored for decades? Where can you see God working in your life despite the hardships?

Make today the day. Make that phone call, write that letter, or send that text. God just may be sending you ahead so that you, too, can save your family.

Peaceful Moonrise by Amanda Sprinkle

Sibling Rivalry

I have always loved the Joseph story that appears in the Old Testament. It is the best part of Genesis for me. I love how it weaves in and out of one improbable situation after another. With themes of favoritism, prophecy, sibling rivalry, deceit, lying, cheating, arguing, imprisonment, and (finally) success, it is a veritable storytelling feast.

Today’s passage focuses on three themes: the perils of being braggadocios, the consequences of a family experiencing extreme jealousy, and the power of mob rule.

Joseph is the father’s favorite and was given a beautiful “technicolor dream coat” by his doting dad. He wears it proudly while he brags to his brothers that he has received a dream-vision that says that all the brothers would soon be bowing down to him in obeisance.

Can you imagine how well THAT played with the brothers? If your sibling said the same to you, how would you respond?

Genesis 37 (Contemporary English Version)

14 Joseph’s father said, “Go and find out how your brothers and the sheep are doing. Then come back and let me know.” So he sent him from Hebron Valley.

Joseph left and found his brothers in Dothan. 18 But before he got there, they saw him coming and made plans to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Look, here comes the hero of those dreams! 20 Let’s kill him and throw him into a pit and say that some wild animal ate him. Then we’ll see what happens to those dreams.”

Well, that was predictable! In some ways, Joseph’s lack of humility brought on his brothers’ ire. Joseph forgot that the glory belonged to God. If indeed he was destined to rise to power, it would be God’s doing and not his. By taking credit and lording it over his brothers, he invoked a jealous response…from God. God rarely suffers anyone putting himself on the throne in God’s place.

21 Reuben heard this and tried to protect Joseph from them. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. 22 “Don’t murder him or even harm him. Just throw him into a dry well out here in the desert.” Reuben planned to rescue Joseph later and take him back to his father.

23 When Joseph came to his brothers, they pulled off his fancy coat 24 and threw him into a dry well.

Luckily Reuben steps in and offers a less violent solution, with good intentions to return later and save his brother. But that was not to be….

25 As Joseph’s brothers sat down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with all kinds of spices that they were taking to Egypt. 26 So Judah said, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and hide his body? 27 Let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not harm him. After all, he is our brother.” And the others agreed.

28 When the Midianite merchants came by, Joseph’s brothers took him out of the well, and for twenty pieces of silver they sold him to the Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt.

For twenty pieces of silver they sold their own brother. The story has a pretty good ending, but that won’t come for many chapters yet.

Let’s turn this on its side for a moment and look at it a different way. Do you suppose denominationalism does the same thing? Does the bickering between churches look to the world like a giant sibling rivalry? Can infighting within a denomination feel like the smaller brother is being thrown into a well?

The world is watching. If we claim to be “brothers and sisters in Christ,” we need to reach down the street to our other-denomination neighbor and pray for their ministry just as hard as we pray for our own. We need to rejoice in their growth and not be threatened by it. Within our denominations, we should celebrate our differences and not use them as a sticking point for judgment.

In the body of Christ, there are no divisions. No Greek, nor Jew, nor male nor female, nor Presbyterians nor Catholics nor Methodists, but ALL are one in the body of Christ.

So let’s act like it.

That They May be ONE by Kathy Schumacher