Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Joseph: The suffering saviour

He noticed that they didn't react. Perhaps they hadn't heard him. Perhaps his tears made his words unintelligible. “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt,” he said again, doing his best to hold his voice steady.

This time his brothers quickly exchanged looks with one to the other. He could tell from their faces that they were shocked. And terrified. So he went on, “But do no be grieved or angry with yourselves. God has sent me ahead of you to preserve life. So it wasn't you who sent me here, but God!”

Then he ran to Benjamin, threw his arms around his brother's neck, and wept. They stood there for some time, holding each other, weeping. Then, one by one, he hugged, kissed, and wept with each of his other brothers.

Those brothers had questions, of course. What had happened to him after they sold him to the Midianite traders? How did he rise to such a position of honour and power? How had he been able to prepare Egypt for such a devastating famine? They talked for many hours as he retraced the strange path that had brought him to this moment.

Then Joseph's mind went to his father, the man who believed him to be dead. He ordered them, “You shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt and of all you have seen. Hurry, and bring my father down here.”

After the death of their father, Joseph's brothers fear that he will finally extract his revenge. They tell him, “Before our Father died, he said `Tell Joseph that he must forgive your sin and the evil you have done against him.'” Again, Joseph's brothers bring him to tears.

Joseph assures his brothers that they need not fear because he recognizes God's hand in all that has transpired. He tells them, “While you meant it for evil, God meant it for good. He has used this situation to save many lives!” Their betrayal, being sold as a slave, the years in prison, were all part of God's plan. They were the means by which he would rise to be the most powerful man in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh, and God would use him to save the nation –and his family-- from the drought, starvation, and death. God raised him from the pit to the palace, from grime to glory, and from a slave to a saviour.

The cross is yet further evidence that God can bring blessing out of man's wickedness. The rulers of Jesus day —Jew and Gentile, spiritual and secular— all wanted to be rid of him, so he was taken and crucified. Yet this great evil was turned on its head. While the rulers meant it for evil, God used it for good. God used the cross to bring salvation to the world. The Son who had died is alive. The Son who was made low is now seated on the throne. Let us tell the Father of His glory and of all that we have seen.

(Genesis 45)