Many families are repeating the same tragic story of Joseph.
But Joseph’s story does not leave us hopeless. Feeling that there is never the possibility of reconciliation in broken family life. We must remember. God is in the business of reconciliation. (See 2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
However, it is hard to believe that this is a possibility, especially in the case of Joseph’s family with their long laundry list of hurts and offenses listed above. There will seem that there is no hope for Joseph and his family to mend their wounds between one another. Yet along, forgiving a family member for their deception and betrayal. As you read the story of Joseph’s life in the Bible. It would certainly appear, in the way God had written Joseph’s story for us that Joseph would be justified if he chooses not to forgive his family, especially his brothers for all they did and allow to happen to him. For Joseph is the innocent victim in this Kardashians-like family affair. Certainly, God would not hold it against Joseph, if Joseph chose to leave things as they were and moved on without making any efforts to reconcile his family. For the destruction of his family’s life that he personally experienced was the fault of his father and his brothers. Therefore, it is understanding if no healing or mending of wounds takes place in this family, right? It’s just another tragic family situation and life goes on, right?
Well, God does not leave it there. Despite the tragic plight of Joseph due to his own family member’s flaws, destructive, and unrighteous behaviors, Joseph’s story has a beautiful ending that we all can benefit from. An ending that can change any families’ situation if all parties within a family play out their part as did Joseph and his family.
In dealing with my own emotions – feelings of betrayal, plotting, lack of support, jealousy, envy, lies, deception, mistreatment, hurt, etc. I could easily position myself in the same position as Joseph, and justify my emotions, and call it a day. But God has a story He wants all of us, including me to get, in Joseph’s story, which God has been pointing out and dealing with me concerning for almost a week now. Well, to be honest, maybe a few years, but particularly this week.
This will be the ideal place to share a few of the things God has been pointing out to me in my journey of STILL learning to forgive and an attempt to restore relationships when you have been betrayed by members you should be able to trust.
God is the god of reconciliatioN
Reconciliation is a challenging word to pronounce if you are seeing it for the first time. Rec·on·cil·i·a·tion. I still get tongue-tied when pronouncing this word with all those syllables. But yet, when we look up the synonyms of this six-syllable word in the thesaurus, the alternative words are simple terms – peace, truce, understanding, resolution, reunion, agreement, settlement, compromise – to name a few.
For true reconciliation to take place in any situation, there must be peace, truce, understanding, resolution, reunion, agreement, settlement, and compromise displayed on both sides. By the one who causes the offense and the one who was offended. True reconciliation cannot be one-sided. And Joseph, the innocent victim in his family, as well as his brothers, displays the perfect example of what true reconciliation should look like by those who were wrongfully offended and the ones who cause the offense.
So, we need to pick up at Genesis chapter 37, starting at verse 18, where all of Joseph's siblings plot to first murder Joseph, but instead, sold him into slavery to the Ishmaelites. Can you imagine all the different emotions Joseph felt at that moment? To have spent a lifetime of dealing with ill feelings and mistreatment by his siblings, to finally this. Being sold by his brothers for twenty shekels of silver.
We have remembered, at the time of this event in Joseph's life, he was still a teen, not quite a man yet, when his brothers did this reprehensible act toward him. (See Genesis 37:2). Despite the hardship of his life coming up – caused by his siblings, Joseph now was taken away from the only place he knew and love. For the next several years, Joseph will have to endure even more hardships, disappointments, uncertainties, life-threatening situations, hopelessness, etc., due to the unrighteous, deceptive, and lying acts of his brothers.
But God is a God of justice. Not only the truth will eventually come out about Joseph’s brother’s behaviors. But this family will eventually own up to each of their personal mistakes, resulting in forgiveness, and reconciling what seems to be irreconcilable.
After about 13 years in prison and living a life as a slave, eventually, with God’s guidance, Joseph is recognized by Egypt's ruler, Pharaoh, who promotes Joseph over his house and makes Joseph the second most powerful man in Egypt under Pharaoh (Genesis 41:38-46). Within Joseph's first several years, he prepared Egypt for hard times that were about to hit the world based on a warning dream God had given Pharaoh that Joseph was privileged to interpret (Genesis 41:1-49). And just as God showed him in a dream, the entire world experienced a famine. The food shortage was so bad that it began to affect neighboring cities and countries, which forced Joseph’s brothers to go out to Egypt, in search of food for their family.
Now, of course, Joseph’s brothers had no idea what has become of their brother Joseph. But time has done something to all of them.
Upon arriving in Egypt to purchase food, Joseph’s brothers find themselves standing and bowing themselves before Joseph. For Joseph is now the ruler of Egypt (Genesis 42:5-6). Now, we must stop right there for a second to reflect. Because remember, just a few years earlier, Joseph shared two dreams he had with his brothers (Genesis 37:5-11). In one of the dreams, he described that his sheaf rose and stood erect, and his brothers’ sheaves gathered around his and bowed down to his sheaf. While in his second dream the sun, moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to Joseph.
Now, at a very young age, Joseph was showing signs that he had a special gift of receiving special and significant dreams from God. But instead of his older brothers acknowledging this special gift in Joseph. Encouraging and supporting Joseph to grow in this special gift of his. They hated Joseph even more and their jealousy grew more so because of Joseph's special abilities.
But now, Joseph’s brothers find themselves actually living out, fulfilling the dream that Joseph had some years earlier. All eleven of his brothers are now standing before him bowing down to Joseph because of his authority and power as ruler in Egypt.
Will they recognize one another? And how will they respond? How will Joseph respond? Resentful? Will he use his power and authority to retaliate?
Initially, Joseph’s brother did not recognize Joseph. But Joseph recognized them. And when he recognized his brothers, he initially had two reactions or what we like to call today – triggers. His first natural reaction was angry. The Scriptures said, “when Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but he disguised himself to them and spoke to them harshly (Genesis 42:7). Then he remembered the two dreams he had and shared with his brothers a few years earlier. And then Joseph accused them of being spies (Genesis 42:9-20).
In the back and forth debate between Joseph and his brothers who still did not recognize him, his brothers refer to themselves as “honest men” as they were trying to prove to Joseph they were not spies (Genesis 42:11). I can only imagine how much more resentful Joseph must have felt to hear his brothers used that phrase, “honest men,” to describe themselves. For this certainly have not been the case in the way they all have dealt with their brother Joseph.
As you read this story, especially if this is your first time reading it. You have to wonder, what will Joseph do to his brothers? Will he get revenge? Will he sell them all into slavery? What will he do?
At some point, Joseph must have wanted to know if his brothers were the same or have they changed? Had they really become honest men as they were claiming? Well, one thing was for sure. Joseph feared God and he did not want to do anything contrary to what God expected of him, no matter how he felt about his brothers at this point (Genesis 42:18). So, he decided to test his brothers’ honesty by giving ten of his brothers a task to complete, while one brother remained in Egypt in prison until the other brothers returned with his youngest brother Benjamin, whom Joseph had never met.
Throughout this conversation with his brothers, who still did not recognize Joseph, it was taking an emotional toll on him. Although he put up a good front before them. At some point, his strained interaction with his brothers became too emotionally heavy that Joseph had to step away for a moment to cry (Genesis 42:24).
This is how it can be for those God is using in an effort to reconcile family relations. In order to try to repair what is broken among family members. Often time, God would choose to use the person who was not at fault – the victim in a family situation to be His long ranger to fix what they did not break. And that can be very taxing and vexing on that individual. Because you are having to deal with people who
The individual that God decides to use to mend and reconcile a family have to deal with the above, along with with people's attitudes, biases, prejudices, distorted perspective, personal brokenness, and unwilling spirits.
There are far too many Josephs in many families who are trying to carry the weight of mending their families within a family who thinks of nobody but themselves and their own little corner while pointing their finger across the room at another family member for a problem they too often created themselves one way or another. As you read this Biblical account, this could be Joseph’s mentality, as well as yours. This possibly was Joseph's disposition toward his family. But Joseph and his brothers did something interesting that is a great lesson for all of us.
Joseph’s family restoreD
At this point, Joseph had his brother Simeon in prison. Their father Jacob refuses to allow the other 10 sons to return with their youngest brother Benjamin to Egypt to retrieve Simeon. I can only imagine the emotional roller coaster ride Joseph must have felt about it all and not knowing what to really expect from his brothers, and what he might really want from them after all they did to him.
However, the famine in the land had gotten so severe that Jacob, their father, eventually had no choice but to send his 10 sons back along with the youngest Benjamin, in order to retrieve more food for the entire family. Upon their arrival in Egypt, the 10 sons of Jacob and the youngest, Benjamin, Joseph's mother’s son, all stood and bowed before him. This interaction for Joseph was too emotional that again, he had to find a private place to hide so he could weep privately. But still, Joseph was unsure whether his brothers have really changed from the treacherous men he knew them as before. So, Joseph kept testing them to see if they were any true changes in his brothers. (See Genesis chapters 42 through 44). And there was one consistent evidence that kept coming up concerning Joseph’s brothers that were evident to Joseph.
So, they acknowledge their part, their wrong that they all did to their brother unjustly. They were guilty for their lies, their deceptions, their hatred, their murmuring, their jealously, etc. And in this instance, they finally owned up to it by saying, “… we are guilty concerning our brother….” When Joseph heard those words from his brother, - the admission of their guilt through an interpreter (Genesis 42:21). Can you imagine the emotional impact that had on Joseph to hear his brothers admit they were wrong, and they should have not done the things they did to him? The Scriptures said, upon Joseph overhearing this, he wept and there had to be some feeling of vindication with those tears as well (Genesis 42:24). For a sincere acknowledgment of wrongdoing, followed by an apology is the beginning of true reconciliation in any situation.
Judah, even said to Joseph, upon their return to Egypt with Benjamin, “… what can we say… how can we justify ourselves…. God has found out the iniquity of your servants….
What a transformation! They were no longer trying to hide behind lies, cover up, or deceit. They were being honest about their past and the present accusations against them. They were not covering up for one another, but they were being transparent, honest, and protective of one another in a righteous way. They have truly learned from their mistakes and their bad dealings with their brother Joseph. They have grieved over what they had done to him and truly wanted to repent and make their wrong a right if there was a way to do so. They saw and understood the damage their unjust behavior had caused Joseph and their entire family. They all were guilty, and they wanted to come clean and make their wrongs right.
It seems now, Jacob’s sons were finally being accountable for one another. Looking out for one another. Protecting one another. Putting one’s life on the line for the other. Something they were not willing to do when coming up with Joseph who they envy at that time.
What were the results? Joseph finally fell before all his brothers and wept. He revealed his true identity to them all. His brothers at first were shocked by this revelation. But Joseph, the victim of his brothers’ hatred and jealousy, called all his brothers closer and told them to not grieve, or be angry with themselves any longer because of what all they had done to him. For Joseph says God’s hand was in it all - for God had something greater He needed to accomplish through Joseph for the sake of the survival of their family. In order to bring them all to this day. Not only a day where their entire family can be restored. But Joseph needed to go ahead of his family into Egypt in order to prepare a place for his family and to be positioned by God so that his entire household can be spared in this hour from one of the greatest famines that ever hit the land. Joseph and his family were reconciled, restored, and saved all in the same year at the hands of God, the Restorer, and Reconciler of families. (Compare to 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
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God's word is for the edification, exhortation, and consolation; for teaching, reproving, correcting, and training so that every Christian is equipped for the work of service, to build up the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:3; 2 Timothy 3:16; Ephesians 4:12).