"Joseph made known to his brethren", painted by F.Hartwich, Berlin : Published by F.Suber, 1840-1890 LC-USCZ4-4800, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Perhaps Joseph Will Hate Us ?
| by Moshe Morrison |
It had been an intense period of nearly three months since the death of the patriarch Jacob. Even the Egyptians wept for him 70 days, so great was their respect for the father of their savior Joseph. The first 40 days were taken up with the process of embalming. While this was not an Israelite practice, it was necessary to preserve Jacob's body until he came to his final resting place in the land God had promised to him.
When the days of weeping were over, Joseph, his brothers, their households (except for small children), the servants of Pharoah, and the elders of Egypt made the arduous journey along with horsemen and chariots and a great company to the land of Canaan. Once in the Land they observed another 7 days of mourning. Then, in the cave of Machpelah in Hebron, along side of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Leah, the body of Israel was lovingly placed by his sons. All then returned to Egypt.
When caught up in the waves of emotion in the midst of the flood of critical upheavals in life, the normal processes of thought and reason are often suspended. Jacob was 147 years old. He had been the heart and soul of his family for over 100 years. While the knowledge that death comes to all was clear to his children, it was now a stark actuality to face. He was now gone from them. The all-encompassing blur of activities that followed his death had ended, and they now needed to proceed with their lives in this new reality. Suddenly everything looked different.
It had been nearly 40 years since they had sold Joseph into slavery. Seventeen years had passed since he had revealed himself to them, forgiving them for what they had done, entreating them to come and live near him in Egypt, and promising to care for them. Yet in the aftermath of Jacob's death, their minds were inundated with frightening thoughts. "What if Joseph should bear a grudge against us? What if he should decide to pay us back for the evil we did to him, now that our father is gone? Perhaps Joseph will hate us."
The seventeen years in which Joseph had demonstrated love and purity of heart for God and his family were swept away from his guilt-ridden brothers in a storm of doubt and fear.
Panic set in. They sent off a message to Joseph, ostensibly from their departed father, requesting Joseph's forgiveness for the wrong his brothers committed. And Joseph wept. What a grievous thing. It was like a knife in his heart. How could they believe that the past 17 years were all a lie? Every act of kindness, every gracious provision, every smile and fraternal hug was reinterpreted as a ploy masking a vengeful heart just waiting to strike as soon as it was possible. It is a wonder that Joseph himself did not die of a broken heart at that point. Yet by the grace of God he spoke kindly and comforted them, assuring them that God Himself had orchestrated all that had occurred in order to bring life and not death. He reaffirmed his love and commitment to them and their families.
As I look at this story of my ancestors and marvel at their unbelief I realize that we are not so different from them. How easy it is to travel down life's road receiving the blessings of our loving heavenly Father unperturbed, until we are suddenly faced with a crisis or challenge that is outside our status quo. It is shocking how quickly we can doubt the goodness of God. Being far from perfect, we are conscious of our sins and failures. When difficult things happen we are motivated to examine our hearts, and this is not wrong. But when God says we are forgiven and cleansed and loved, how can we believe He is not being honest with us, our proof being the crisis we are currently facing? Are we not also breaking His heart and causing Him to weep?
This is the challenge for every believer. Will we believe in the promises and walk in the love of the Lord, when it's dark and when it's light? Will we still believe that the sun is shining when we can not see it? When it is very, very dark will we resist the lie that there never was a sun? Can we continue to live and build in expectation that at any moment it will yet again break out from behind the clouds?
Joseph lived another 53 years after the death of his father. At the age of 110 he was ready to die, and yet the promise of God to return the sons of Israel to the land of their inheritance had not been fulfilled. In fact, it seemed even less likely to happen. His family was entrenched in Egypt. Life was easy. He was still the savior of Egypt, loved and honored by the people. There was no real motivation for Israel's sons to return since they were well taken care of. Joseph lived to see his great grandchildren born in Egypt. Why continue to believe that God would honor His word on this? Perhaps the burial of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Land was enough and God had not really meant to do anything beyond that. Maybe there was a change of plans. This also was a crisis situation that could call into question the faithfulness of God.
Yet Joseph was not shaken by the outward appearance. His confession was, "I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you, and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." (Genesis 50:24 NAS) He made his brothers swear that when (not "if") it happened, they would carry his bones with them and bury him in the land of their inheritance. And so they did. In Hebrews 11:13, we read of those who "died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance." (NAS) Verse 22 specifically singles out Joseph's faith on this matter.
In the unfolding of the plans and purposes of God in our lives and in the nation of Israel (as well as all the nations) there are many twists and turns and unexpected obstacles. We see the rising tide of hatred in the world, the astonishing levels of blindness that grip the hearts and minds of men, and the mad rush to embrace all that is contrary to what is righteous and holy. As a result we are tempted to question whether or not God will really accomplish what He says He will. But He most assuredly will. The nations may be in an upheaval, the peoples may devise vain things, and the rulers of the earth may take a stand against the Lord and His Messiah (Psalm 2), but the Word of the Lord will stand forever while all else crumbles. Let us not be shaken but take our stand with our faithful God in confident expectation of the fulfillment of His promises.
|Let us know what you think - why not comment to this article:|