Summary: As Joseph reconnects with his brothers, he models for us three steps toward reconciliation: 1) Turn away from revenge. 2) Test for repentance. And 3) Trust in God's sovereignty. Judah's sacrifice reminds us of our Savior Jesus who reconciled us to God.
The Joy of Reconciliation
We are covering the amazing story of the Old Testament character of Joseph in two Sundays. The actual story covers 14 chapters of Genesis. I urge you to read it on your own. It is a fascinating account of the worst kind of betrayal and the most amazing story of reconciliation. Last week we looked at the pain of betrayal: What happens when those you trust let you down, when those closest to you hurt you deeply? How can you survive it? Today we fast forward to the dramatic climax of Joseph’s story. How can one work toward reconciling and finding peace again?
Out of Joseph’s experience, I want to offer you three steps toward reconciliation:
1. Turn away from revenge.
This may seem evident, but it’s not easy. Our natural temptation when hurt deeply is to strike back if we can. We want to hurt the one who hurt us. There is that great verse that says, “Vengeance is mine, sayeth Kerry.” No, that’s not what it says. Vengeance belongs to God and God alone (Romans 12:19, Deuteronomy 32:35).
Joseph’s reconnect with his brothers didn’t happen overnight. The story unfolds over a couple of years’ time and is captured in chapters 42-45 of Genesis. When Joseph first saw his ten older brothers, we can only imagine the mixed emotions he must have felt. That old adage, “Time heals all wounds,” is not really true. Time only helps if, #1 you lose your memory and can’t remember what they did to you, or #2 you work toward forgiveness with God’s help. Otherwise, we’re pretty good at remembering and hanging onto every hurt.
We don’t know the full extent of Joseph’s forgiveness work, but we do get a clue that it’s in process, because he didn’t exact revenge when given the opportunity. When he recognized his brothers, he could have thrown them into a dark Egyptian prison cell and thrown away the key, or even executed them, but instead, he chose to continue the dialogue. Maybe he wanted to use them to reconnect with his youngest brother, Benjamin and his elderly father Jacob. But maybe he also wanted to see if they had changed. We see a clue in his tears. In chapter 42 he overheard the brothers talking in Hebrew, thinking that Joseph couldn’t understand. When he heard their admission of guilt, along with the oldest, Reuben, chastising them for their foolish action in selling off Joseph, he could tell God was working in their lives. And he quickly ran from the room to cry. His broken heart gives us a clue as to his desire for reconciliation over revenge.
Joseph didn’t forgive overnight. Sometimes deep wounds take time to heal. And he didn’t offer quick reconciliation either. Instead, his actions teach us something else on the journey towards reconciliation. We need to turn away from revenge, but we also need to:
2. Test for repentance.
Chapters 42-44 record two years of testing, where Joseph sought to see if his brothers had matured any over the last 22 years. Joseph had grown up. No longer was he this prideful, immature dreamer. He was “father to Pharaoh,” the right-hand advisor of the most powerful man in the world. Perhaps they had changed as well. Maybe they had given up their self-centered anger and pride.