Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – James 4:10
“4 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. … 14 And he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him.” (Genesis 45:4, 14-15)
Often when I write about this passage or reference it in a sermon, I am primarily focused on the theological aspect of God’s “big picture” plan that was in the background of all the events surrounding the lives of Joseph and his brothers. God allowed all the bad things to happen to Joseph so that he could eventually become the prime minister of Egypt and deliver his family from a terrible famine that would have destroyed them back in Canaan.
However, as I get older, I am thinking more about the human side of the story. Joseph’s brothers had wronged him greatly when they had sold him into slavery, but that was a long time ago. I am almost positive that as the years had gone by and his brothers had all witnessed the grief that their betrayal caused their father Jacob, they probably deeply regretted their decision.
Joseph also, though he was the one that was wronged, probably initially wrestled with bitterness towards his family and had feelings of revenge. He probably thought about ways that he could get even with his brothers. In the very least, he probably was anticipating the day when he could expose their sin and gloat about how he had been right and they were wrong.
As the years went by, however, I believe Joseph and his brothers all had deep regrets about the rift in the family relationship and if a way was made, they were all probably willing to heal the old wounds. Sometimes, as we look back on this story we tend to demonize the brothers and deify Joseph, but they were all just human beings, and I believe that the greatest part of this story for all of those involved was that a twenty year break in the family relationship was finally being healed. The family was being reconciled.
Are there all kinds of deep theological truths here regarding forgiveness, justification, and God’s sovereignty? Certainly. But don’t miss the human part of this. No true believer takes pleasure in being at odds with members of his or her family. For twenty years Joseph was dead to his brothers and for much of that time Joseph probably wished his brothers would die, but eventually, they all wanted this disastrous falling-out to come to an end. We are really not told in the text, but I wonder what the family gatherings were like in their remaining years. I bet they went fishing together. I am almost sure they didn’t let the little irritations and petty jealousies of life bother them as much as they did when they were young. They were a family again, and family is everything. At least it is to me.
Posted in Devotions by Phil Erickson with 5 comments.