THE KEY TO JOSEPH’S COMEBACK. . .
I found it in the last chapter of Genesis, vs. 17-21:
17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”‘ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
18 Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?
20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
21 “So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
I’ve really been thinking about this one. Joseph didn’t know Romans 8:28. As far as I know, Romulus and Remus had not yet been “adopted by the wolves,” and as ancient as the city of Rome is, it had not yet begun to occupy the seven hills. All the things Joseph knew, he discovered in the middle of the storms. The real impact of what he was being taught probably didn’t dawn upon him until afterwards when he had tme to reflect. As I write and ponder and pray, it seems I need to know this truth more than anyone I know. Even if it turned out not to be true, I think it makes for a better quality of life to trust God like a little child trusts his father than if I were to give in to doubt. I’ll let you know what the outcome of this present, extended crisis is for us. May have to wait until we get to heaven the way things look right now. But I choose to trust God. It is a deliberate act of the will. Even if I don’t always see “deliverance” in this life, I KNOW God could have done so at any time, and I’ll keep trusting Him and His wisdom even when I cannot confidently say that truth has yet been actualized in my own personal life. Yet. Joseph made it. He passed all the tests, any one of which could have defeated a lesser man. And I didn’t hear him complaining or whining. His attitude must have impressed his superiors and his peers . . . and it certainly seems that God liked what He saw.
The immediate context is Genesis 50:15-21. The idea that struck me so forcefully is contained in just a couple of succinct sentences contained in 19-21. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful, profound, and hopeful sentences ever uttered in any language! It shows me that Joseph has made a complete “comeback.” Now, at last, he begins to understand what has happened, why it happened. He discovered this truth AFTER he’d weathered several storms. Of cyclonic proportions! Storms which would have swamped and destroyed anyone and everyone tested this way . . . except for the fact which Joseph discovered and stated. Don’t miss it below.
He didn’t have a clue at the time. But you do. Because he’s “been there, done that” and discovered a wise loving God at work, you can benefit from his experience and his example! We can trust the Father’s heart, even when we don’t know His plans. In one of the darkest moments during the Protestant Reformation, it looked as if everything that could go wrong was going wrong. At that time, questioning to be sure, Martin Luther is reported to have said: “I do not know the way He leads. But well do I know my Guide!” That’s how Joseph felt.
When you’re reading a really interesting story, do you ever run ahead to see what the outcome will be?
I confess to having done that on occasions. This was one of them. Over the years I’d read the entire story of Joseph’s life several times before, but gave in to the temptation again to be sure what the outcome would be.
The air has been heavy around Joseph. As I read of his struggles, and deal with some of my own, I almost felt as if I needed to catch my breath and wished I could give him some relief. It seemed to me that he’d had one large, crushing blow after another dealt to him. One boulder and then another rolled right over him. During that time, I reminded myself that my original clearly stated purpose for these “studies” was to provide hope, encouragement, reason to continue. But for what seems to be a long, long time, we’ve been dealing with one disappointing problem for Joseph after another. I thought he could use some relief and wished I could have told him what he taught me looking at his story from this side of history. I also didn’t want you to hold your breath till you’re blue in your face and fall out wondering, worrying, hoping for a good outcome, or at least some end to the pain.
As I searched for the outcome, the “restoration” and perhaps his return, something Joseph said later emerged like a bright ray of hope. It seemed to me to rise like a Mount Everest from a desert and towering high over the plains. When the circumstances in that region of the world turned the tables on Joseph’s brothers, he at first played a bit of “cat and mouse” with them. You can hardly blame him, can you? He ‘messed with their minds’ for a while until they had their minds and their guilty consciences tied in knots. Then he pulled the coup de gras and pulled off his mask: “Hey, guys. It’s me! Joseph! I’m alive and well in Egypt and have the power of life and death.”
You coulda heard a pin drop! Then they waited for the hammer to drop. Or the guilliotine swishing through the air before slicing their heads off! Or the trapdoor for the gallows to tighten the noose around their necks. While their Dad’s health was failing, Joseph kept his word to care for the entire brood. (Who, keep in mind, were the “pillars” of Judaism, the “founding fathers” of the Jewish nation. We’ll talk about that some more. You may want to think about it. Anytime you feel you’ve failed, or aren’t “worthy,” look what God did with a rag tag bunch of nomads who tried to kill their brother and then “chickened out.” Instead, kind souls they were, they sold him into slavery and told their Dad a cruel monstrous lie to cover their tracks. Read what happened in the 38th chapter when one of the elite “FF” (Founding Fathers) got his daughter-in-law pregnant and was going to have her executed. . . until she produced some souvenirs to show the “father’s” identity! I keep telling myself: This is NOT a story about “saints” and good people searching for God. It is GOD who does the searching, and cleansing, and forgiving, and restoring to value!).
Here’s the idea that blows me away: “You meant it for evil. But God meant it for good.” Read it again. Slowly. Thoughtfully. As you view your life, and the challenges, disappointments, digest that thought! Print it in large letters across your consciousness, and burn it into your sub-conscious mind. Clutch it close to your heart. You will need it, sooner or later.
Joseph didn’t know that statement to be true at the time all this was happening. You and I have the advantage of learning from his experience. And Paul’s experience (Romans 8:28), Jesus’ words and deeds. His mighty victory over sin and death! We have a long history of God bringing His people through harsh situations, accompanying them every step of the way. . . and leading them in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
In my opinion, Joseph has with this pronouncement completed the requirements to become one of “God’s Comeback Kids.” He stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and belted a grand slam! When he crossed “home plate,” I felt like whistling, stamping my feet shouting with joy!! Honestly. My problems seem to be so small by comparison, and his great victory through faith thrills me more than I can say. I’m simply not that eloquent. I never saw a more beautiful expression of faith, and It probably wouldn’t have occurred to me if Joseph hadn’t discovered and displayed the truth in his own experience. I know of no single statement in the Old Testament that speaks more eloquently, more powerfully of hope.
If you’ve been cheated, someone meant to hurt you. Bad. There is evil in this world. Jesus believed in a powerful “Prince of Darkess,” the Devil. Because He did, I do, too. If you have not noticed it yet, or suffered from such, I can promise the day will come when some one, or some thing will be determined to destroy you. Or, someone may have accidentaally injured you, not meaning any harm. Or you (like I) may have done something incredibly stupid with some bad consequences. Never you mind, God had a higher, better purpose in mind and when you get past the dark trials, you’re going to be kinder, stronger, more compassionate than you possibly could have been if you’d never hurt.
Perhaps your doctor just told you that you have an incurable illness and it’s approaching its terminal stage. Someone, or something intends evil for you. You got caught in a downsizing and the company you served faithfully for years doesn’t need your services anymore? Someone, or some force, is working against you. Someone whom you treasured and trusted betrayed you, and it was as deep and painful as if you’d been sliced in two.
May I make a suggestion? Memorize that profound idea. It is a treasure. If you ignore everything I’ve ever said or you’ve ever read, don’t miss this! Write it big and bold in the most prominent place. Keep it where you can reflect on it when hard times come. There will be mysteries that perplex you. Problems which confound you. Disappointments which have been aimed at your heart and intended to harm you fatally. Then, think about this and thank God for Joseph, “GOD’S COMEBACK KID!”
His servant, your friend and fellow student
(For the most part, my study has been confined to the Scripture, various translations, but concentrating on the Bible… not a book ABOUT the Bible. I read some of the things listed here and found them to be thought-provoking and helpful.
The Jewish Study Bible, Tanakh Translation, Oxford University Press, 1985.
On the other side of Joseph’s faithfulness to God is God’s faithfulness to Joseph (The Bible for Everyday Life, by George Carey), Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company)