Wednesday, June 14, 2017

[Awkward] Family Reunions - Genesis 45

Ever been to an awkward family reunion?  You know the kind.  Aunt Bertha hates cousin Bernice because thirty years ago Bernice dated Bubba, even though she knew that Aunt Bertha's daughter Bonita was sweet on her?  The family has not-so-neatly divided into sides on this pointless argument, and they all sit on opposite sides of the buffet table glaring at each other and gloating if they get the better piece of fried chicken?

Family reunions: Hatfield vs. McCoy edition.  Always an adventure.

Joseph and his brothers had a pretty epic awkward family reunion...  Picture it: Egypt, a whole bunch of years B.C.  You are standing there being the big shot ruler, when suddenly your brothers walk in.  The very same brothers that dumped you in a pit and left you for dead after selling you into slavery.  Just a LITTLE more awkward that Bertha, Bonita, and Bubba...  But we've already overcome the anger and bitterness.  Now there is the hard part: reconciliation.

Joseph has had years to accept what has happened to him.  He has come to understand that it is ultimately for his own good.  He has also come to understand that perhaps his brothers have changed, because they are thinking more about the welfare of their father and their youngest brother than they are about their own welfare.


It still can't be completely easy to have this moment.  To come together, rewinding the years and facing all that has been lost and gained in the process.  Knowing that God has allowed all this for His purpose, and seeing those responsible in front of you.  For the brothers, having come to understand the depth of the evil you perpetrated, and seeing the victim standing before you, forgiving.  How hard is that?  I can't imagine, but then I can.

Only God can reconcile that.  Only He can bring that kind of mercy into a heart. Only He can help a guilty soul bear the shame.  I am reminded of Corrie ten Boom, who forgave the guard from her concentration camp, and in that moment felt all of the hate and the forgiveness collide.  In a world where "tolerance" has become defined as "agree with me NOW or else", we need that divine acceptance now more than ever.

When Joseph says, these words, I can only imagine their impact across the millennia:  "I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt.But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.[a] So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser[b] to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt."

He first says, "Come closer."  Oh, the power of those words.  And then he says, "Don't be angry with yourselves."  Only one has truly embraced divine forgiveness can ask a guilty person to forgive themselves...Joseph embraced the fact that God had truly kept his promise: his brothers had bowed down to him.  Joseph also had to embrace that the suffering he had experienced was part of that promise.

This blog post may not make sense to anyone but me, but in my heart, it sings.  God was "in the waiting" of every part of this story, and he turned an awkward family reunion into a restoration and reconciliation.  That's what I pray for my world today.

Our praise team learned this song last weekend.  It's my new favorite, because it has been so true of God's promises to me.

Bethel - "Take Courage"

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Genesis 44 . The Circle Comes Full

After a bit of a break to try to get boxes moved and enough "stuff" settled to keep my sanity, I'm back on my morning routine...although at the moment, it's a bit more of a mid-morning routine.  Early mornings have never really been my thing, but I'm not done trying on that score yet either.  :)

**Special Public Service Announcement from my 15 year old daughter who SHOULD be doing the dishes, and is NOW on her way to do said dishes:*** Note:  Genesis 44 does not actually say what she purports it to say, but some of it is true.  Just not the "perfection" part.  😜

"Genesis 44 also shows that Noelle is the best person in the world. She is just so amazing. There's no one like her, she just makes everyone so happy and she's so talented; no one can measure up to the perfection of her perfection."

Genesis 44 shows a reunion of brothers, even though Israel's sons don't know that they have now come face to face with the brother they betrayed.  It has to be a compelling moments for Joseph, thought, sitting there looking at his brothers, knowing who they are, and knowing that they have no idea who he might be.

He's observing, looking back through the years to his growing up experience.  He's watching, and I can only imagine the kaleidoscope of emotions that is flowing over him in this moment.  Probably anger, frustration, joy, grief...a whole bunch of complicated stuff.  And as he watches, I can't help but imagine that there is a question in his mind:  Have they changed, or are these the same men who left me to die in a pit and sold my life off for nothing?  Out of jealousy?

Judah answers that question for Joseph when he speaks in verse 33: “So please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers."  The man who once stood by and allowed his brother to be sold away without a thought now is willing to take the place of another brother.  No doubt Joseph had gotten beyond some of his anger and bitterness - otherwise he would not have survived - but this had to be a big moment for him.  Know that as God had been positioning him, He had also been changing those who hurt him.

That is a lesson we can all apply to our lives.  People hurt us.  They damage us.  They do things that aren't right, and they aren't fair.  By reasonable standards, they don't deserve forgiveness.  But we are commanded to forgive.  Why?  Because it's what He requires.  But why does He require it?  Because He knows it is the only way that we can truly move forward and grow within ourselves.

I'm so thankful that God has brought me through some ugly times.  I am equally thankful that I can look at people who have caused me pain and see that He is working on them too.  I pray that everyone can have more Joseph moments, because those moments are what bring understanding to us in dark moments of time.