Sunday, April 20

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

At Quest, we are continuing our series about the relationship between God and people, and what God intends for that relationship to look like. Last week we began the story of Joseph, starting with his being sold into slavery and going as far as his interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh and becoming the second most powerful person in Egypt. This week we looked at the second half of story of Joseph, especially at his interactions with his brothers in Egypt.

This is another extended story. It is told in Genesis chapters 42-47. To summarize the story, Jacob’s family is living in Palestine and is running out of food. Jacob had heard that there was food in Egypt, so he sent all of his sons except Benjamin down to Egypt to buy food. They went to see Joseph to buy the food. Joseph recognized them, but they didn’t know who he was. He questioned them about their family then accused them of being spies. He told them that he wouldn’t believe they were telling the truth unless they brought their remaining brother back to Egypt with them. He had Simeon put into prison to guaranty that they would come back with Benjamin, then he sent them on their way. He also had their gold put back in their sacks. The brothers told Jacob what happened, but he wouldn’t let Benjamin go to Egypt, because he was Jacob’s only other son by Rachel. Finally, when the family was out of grain again, the brothers convinced Jacob to let them take Benjamin back to Egypt so that they could buy more food. Jacob holds a dinner for them, and returns Simeon to them. He gives Benjamin special treatment at the dinner. Again he sells them grain and sends them on their way. Again, he secretly returns their money to them. He also puts his silver chalice in Benjamin’s back. After the brothers are on their way back to Jacob, Joseph sends his servants after them, accusing them of stealing from him. The brothers deny it and say that he kill anyone found to have taken anything and take the rest of them as slaves. The open up the bags and find the chalice in Benjamin’s bag. The rest of the brothers then beg for Benjamin’s life. Finally, Joseph can take it no longer, and he reveals himself to them. He explains everything that has happened, and tells them how God used the circumstances for good. Joseph then has Jacob’s entire family move to Egypt and he settles them in the region of Goshen. There is a lot going on in this story. Here is some of what we talked about:

· Like we talked about last week, Jesus says that the two most important commands are loving God and loving others. We clearly see the love of others in this story. While it is true that Joseph gives his brothers a hard time and makes some things difficult on them, it is also clear that he loves them. Joseph has every reason in the world to be angry with his brothers and to hold a grudge. He could have sent them away without food. He could have charged them whatever he wanted, and essentially impoverished the family. He could just have killed them. But he didn’t. He took care of them while they were in Egypt. He returned their money to them, essentially giving them the grain for free. Once he told them who he was, he moved the entire family to some of the best land in Egypt. He could have taken advantage of them, but he didn’t. He could have gotten even with them, but he didn’t.

· We see God working to protect the people who follow him. Many of Jacob’s descendants are imperfect followers of God. We see them make many mistakes. That said, there is at least some attempt by this family to follow God. God knows that the famine is coming, and he begins to work through circumstances long before that famine starts to make sure that the people he has a relationship with will be protected during the famine. In fact, they are not just protected during the famine, they thrive during it.

· We see true forgiveness in this story. Joseph’s brothers are afraid that once Jacob dies, Joseph will really get even with them. In fact, once Jacob dies, they go so far as to throw themselves before Joseph and say “we are your slaves.” (Genesis 50:15-21) Joseph again reassures them that what they intended to harm him, God intended for good. He tells them that it is God’s job to judge them, not his. And Joseph promises to continue to take care of them and their families. Joseph had every right to be angry, yet what we see here is true forgiveness.

· One of the lessons that Joseph had to learn in life was humility. When he was sold into slavery, the story seems to indicate that he was at least a little arrogant and full of himself. He was the favorite son and let everyone know it. But by the time he becomes the second most important person in Egypt he is very humble. He clearly recognizes that God put him in the position and that it is God who is at work. He doesn’t think that he is something special. Everything is attributed to God. We can see the same thing in the life of Moses. Moses starts out as an arrogant person. He thinks that he can solve the situation of the Israelites by himself, but he ends up having to flee. By the time he has his experience with the Burning Bush, God is able to call him the most humble man in the world. Both Joseph and Moses start off arrogant, but their experiences teach them humility. Once they learn the lesson of humility, God is able to use them to accomplish great things.

Those are the highlights of our discussion about Joseph Next week we will turn to the live of Moses.

No comments: