Seventeen years old. Daddy’s boy. Privileged. Pampered. Spoiled.
Scandal. Sold. Foreign country. Strange culture. Slavery. Forced labor. Homesick longings. Brokenhearted.
Adjustment. Newfound favor. Rising strength. Blossoming wisdom. Scandalous offer. Slander. Conspiracy theory. Corruption.
Incarceration. Confusion. Discouragement. Silence.
Conditioning. Adjustment. Change. Newfound favor. Rising strength. Blossoming wisdom.
Hand of God. Opportunity. Great exposure. Supernatural guidance. Heaven’s favor. Breakthrough. Promotion. Divine assignment. High-ranking official. Powerful. Influential. Thirty-nine years old.
We just took an abbreviated trip through twenty-two years of Joseph’s life as outlined in Genesis 37 & 39-41. Joseph’s life was a nail-biter, a story fully deserving a big screen production. The many traumatic events of his life were so complex that only God could have orchestrated such a story. This man’s amazing life has delivered a vast collection of wisdom into my spiritual library. How I celebrate the many courageous souls who allowed the hand of God to masterfully etch inspiration into their storyline! If heaven had a photo gallery, images of their courage would surely adorn the pages.
Chapter 42 of Joseph’s life brought another unexpected turn of events. Ten guests appeared in his court. Having lived away from his family for more years than he lived with them, Joseph suddenly came face to face with his brothers – the men who betrayed him so many years earlier. Joseph’s brothers did not recognize him, however. But why would they? A thirty-nine-year old man looks very different than a seventeen-year-old boy. Take into account the transformation into the Egyptian world and it’s completely understandable that Joseph’s brothers had no idea who the powerful man was they stood before. Joseph, on the other hand, recognized his siblings immediately.
Lets take some time to linger in these frozen moments.
No doubt Joseph was jarred by the sudden appearance of his perpetrators as they bowed before him. Scripture doesn’t hide his emotional responses in the subsequent chapters. Can you imagine the self-control Joseph required to keep his identity hidden? I wonder if in
those moments he had flashbacks of painful memories when he was taken from his homeland into a foreign country. Could he hear the angry voices of his brothers over the echoes of his own pleading? Could he feel his heart race as he gazed upon a powerful abductor named Egypt? Did the loneliness and fear he endured rise to the surface of his heart?
Pain has an incredible memory, doesn’t it? Lenses once clear and precise become tinted and distorted through hard circumstances that alter our emotional frame. Who would blame Joseph for retaliating over a heinous crime that landed his innocent feet on abrasive soil? If the pain of the past was still alive in Joseph’s heart, if the lens he viewed the world through was skewed, his conduct would surely prove it.
In those defining moments the past came face to face with the present. Joseph could easily have delivered a well-deserved punishment. But he didn’t. Listen to the words of a healed man.
“I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here.” Genesis 45:4-5a
And then further proof of a heart fully restored:
Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21 NKJV
This man of God beautifully displayed grace and a powerful example for all who have been mistreated by life and others. He exemplified the way to step out of pain and into inspiration.
What a beautiful demonstration of a heart reconciled before God. Joseph would not have been able to utter those words had it not been for God’s miraculous healing process. How critically important it is to be healed of painful circumstances so that we can effectively and freely serve the Lord. How critically important it is to be healed so that we love others as we love ourselves.
Now here is a sobering thought to finish out today’s reading. Can you imagine if Joseph gave in to the temptation of licking his wounds and retaliated instead? Because Joseph chose righteousness by reconciling the pain in his heart he was divinely chosen to help spare the entire Jewish lineage.
There is not a soul on this earth that isn’t called to answer to the past. Either we will choose righteousness or we will carry our pain. While our decision may not affect an entire nation, it will surely impact our eternal standing. May we choose wisely as Joseph did.