Genesis Series # 8 CHCC: March 18, 2007
The Road to Reconciliation
Last week we ended the sermon with Joseph in Prison. Perhaps you have noticed that the story of Joseph is a story of transitions: From home to pit to prison and finally to a palace. Joseph’s story could make a good TV mini-series.
There’s so much to be learned from this section of Joseph’s life story. Pueblo group emphasis in our study book is on Joseph whose dreams were finally fulfilled. I’m going to focus on the brothers and their long painful road to Reconciliation with Joseph. From the accounts found in Genesis 42 through 45 we learn a lesson about what it often takes to rebuild a broken relationship, and we find this to be true whether it is with God or with each other.
It would have been easy for Joseph to simply send a note to Jacob and the older brothers telling them where he was and instructing them to come to Egypt for food. But Joseph was patient. He knew that sooner or later someone from the family would show up at the Egyptian granaries looking for famine relief. He was hoping not only to see them, but to find out that they had changed from the angry, jealous brothers they had been some 20 years before. He knew that these brothers of his needed to come face to face with what they had done to him when he was just a teen age boy.
1. Reconciliation requires Recognition of Guilt Genesis 42:21
Finally Jacob learned about available grain for sale in Egypt and said to his sons, “ Why do you just keep looking at each other? I have heard there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”
Their father seems to see something strange in the way that they are behaving, for he says “Why do you look at one another?” Jacob seems to see some significance in the way that they kept looking at one another. The fact that they kept looking at each other with guilt instead of taking decisive steps when they heard that their was grain available in Egypt shows that they still were struggling with a sin that is over two decades old. Joseph’s brothers are forced to consider traveling down to Egypt for food. With the famine God gets their attention. God provokes a crisis in their lives.
Sometimes God has to bring the pinch of material want into our lives to cause us to reevaluate our condition and cause us to confess our un-confessed sin. Jesus told a story of a young man who had to be put through just such a circumstance in the story of the Prodigal Son. It was only after the son found himself in very deprived circumstances that he came to his senses and returned home.
Now, to the 10 older brothers, the very word “Egypt” was a grim reminder of they evil they had done to their younger brother years before. They were not anxious for any reminder of that terrible day, or for the possibility of going there and having their sin come back to haunt them in some way.
Upon arrival in Egypt they didn’t recognize Joseph because he looked like an Egyptian, but he immediately recognized them, and remembering his dreams about them, he caused trouble for them by calling them spies. He had them arrested and imprisoned for 3 days telling them to send one brother back to pick up the younger brother, Benjamin, and return with him, Later, however, he changed his plan and bound Simeon telling the others they were free to go home and get their brother and return with him and thus free the brother left behind as a hostage.
(Vs. 21) They said to one another, "Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us."
These words the brothers said to each other reveal what was going on in their hearts. It is likely that this trip to Egypt had opened up old wounds festering in the brothers minds forcing them to face the very thing they may have refused to even talk about with each other prior to this terrifying event.
This is what happens when we have un-confessed guilt, and this account reveals how God often sends a crisis of time or pressure to bring us to admit and face our guilt.
As the brothers are talking this over among themselves, Joseph, speaking to them through an interpreter, hears them admit their guilt and nearly breaks down in front of them. This lets us know that Joseph is not doing any of this out of hatred or desire for revenge, but to test his brothers to see what is in their hearts after so many years of wondering.
He sends them on their way, but instructs his servants to put the silver they had paid for the grain back into the mouth of the sacks. This is another test to see where their hearts are. Will they abandon Simeon and keep the silver for themselves, or return with Benjamin as they promised to do?
Now, I must say that they were slow at rescuing their captive brother. They waited until they had eaten up all the grain, and then both Reuben and Judah promised their father, Jacob, that they would guarantee the safety of little Benjamin, if only he would allow them to return to Egypt with the youngest child to get more grain and rescue Simeon. Because of the silver that mysteriously showed up in their grain sacks, they took all that silver, and enough to purchase more grain, and several gifts (bribes) to give to the mysterious Egyptian holding Simeon hostage.
Upon their arrival in Egypt, Joseph arranged a banquet for the brothers. When they arrived at the house they confessed to the steward of the house about the silver they had found in their sacks the morning after they left Egypt.
His reply was puzzling, “It’s all right. Don’t be afraid, Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.” (Obviously, the steward was in on Joseph’s plot)
At the feast, Joseph asked about the condition of their aged father and heard he was still alive and well. Then he saw Benjamin among the brothers and blessed him (then went away to cry for a while). The brothers were astonished that who ever had arranged them around the table had placed them in correct order of their age. Joseph also gave Benjamin portions from his table five times greater than any of the other brothers received.
Once again, secret instructions were given by Joseph, to return each brothers silver into the neck of his grain sack just like before, and servants were also told to put Joseph’s silver cup into Benjamin’s sack. Then, when the brothers left the next morning, the steward was sent to catch the group and tell them of the theft of the silver cup. Naturally the cup was found in the sack of Benjamin and the brothers tore their clothes and returned to the city to speak to the Egyptian and beg his forgiveness. Back at Joseph’s house Judah spoke these words in behalf of his little brother Benjamin.
"Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father."
2. Reconciliation requires Confession of sin and restitution if possible:
Again, we may wonder about this seeming cat and mouse game Joseph played with is brothers, but all of this lets us understand something about the fact that Trust has to be earned. It takes only a moment to break it, but action over time to rebuild it.
I believe that there is often a misconception Christians have about forgiveness. Some wrongly assume that saying your sorry is enough. But the truth is that the victim can often see the difference between a hastily uttered apology and genuine repentance.
There is a difference between forgiveness and Reconciliation. Consider the example of an abuser saying, “you’re a Christian so you must forgive me”, The implication is that the abuser is then free to continue his abuse. But who would be foolish to open themselves up to another round of abuse? A truly restored relationship requires Recognizing and Confessing guilt and real Repentance which may very well include Restitution when possible.
In this situation Joseph had already forgiven them and wanted to reveal to them who he was, but he was being careful to make sure that his little brother Benjamin was not in any danger. All of this intrigue was for the purpose of exploring what had happened to his brother’s hearts after what they had done to him so many years ago. Their response in protecting their little brother showed that a change of heart had indeed occurred in each of them.
2. Reconciliation requires Receiveing Grace (or Restored Relationship) Genesis 45:1-7
1 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, "Have everyone leave my presence!" So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. 3 Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still living?" But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. 4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
From this account we can see that a human relationship can be fully restored, but it takes recognition of guilt and true repentance. Do you need to take steps of confession and repentance with someone you have wronged so you can have a fully restored relationship? Don’t put it off or it will eat at you like cancer. These brothers never had a days peace from the day Joseph landed in the pit till he revealed himself to them in his palace. But once Joseph knew of their changed hearts he dispensed to them the blessing of grace.
. Dr. David Seamands in his book Healing for Damaged Emotions says, “The two primary causes of emotional stress are the failure to receive forgiveness and the failure to forgive.” [Wheaton, ILL: Victor Books, 1989, pp.29-30]
Or as the great philosopher Lucy explained to Charlie Brown at the end of the game explaining why she had lost sight of the baseball and had failed to make the catch. “Sorry I missed that easy fly ball, manager, I thought I had it, but suddenly I remembered all the others I’ve missed, and the past got in my eyes.” Don’t let the past get in your eyes this morning.
Even though the brothers intentions had been evil, God used it as a tool to send Joseph ahead of them in order to preserve them and save their lives. Joseph’s dreams had been real after all, and because God had given those dreams in the first place he would bring them to fruition in amazing ways. Joseph may not have had his act together as a 17 year old, but God elevated him to greatness for the sake of preserving his family and because of his promise to Abraham so many years before.
In our relationship with God the same is true. We are not ready to receive Grace until we Confess our own guilt and Repent. (1 John 1:8-9)
God’s grace is free, but not Cheap! It Cost Jesus his very life! And the grace he bestows upon us is not “easy believism” but a call to commitment and connection with the one who went through agony and death to bring us into God’s family. That is a connection worth what ever it takes to achieve.