Saturday, January 9, 2010

i will bring you back

I've been reading in Genesis lately and the last few days I've been reading about Joseph. I never really knew the story of Joseph, actually--between never having read it or been taught on it and, no, never having seen Joseph, King of Dreams, I just couldn't have told you anything about him. And so tonight, reading this, once again God and the story of his people blow my mind.

"'I am the God, the God of your father,' he said. 'Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt to be with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes.'" (Genesis 46:3-4)

Let me back up first. Joseph was the youngest son of Jacob (Israel) and when he was seventeen his brothers sold him into slavery. He was brought down to Egypt where he was servant for a while in the house of his master, put in charge of the whole household. But then he was accused (falsely) of rape and thrown in jail, but God was with him and he found favor and was put in charge of everything there too. Some pretty amazing things happen in jail where he interprets dreams and eventually is brought before Pharaoh and is then put in charge of all of Egypt.

All these crazy hard things keep happening to Joseph and at the same time God is with him, people find favor in him wherever he goes. So then there's this huge famine in Egypt and all over--Pharaoh had a dream about this that Joseph interpreted--and Joseph's brothers come out of Canaan to Egypt where there's food stored up and they come before him. But these brothers were gonna kill him, they faked his death and sold him, right? So Joseph hasn't forgiven them at all and he makes them do all this jumping through hoops and sends them back and forth from Egypt to Canaan several times. And his father Jacob thinks that now he's lost both Joseph and Benjamin, his two youngest sons.

Turns out he hasn't. Turns out that even though Joseph is so bitter, he still forgives his brothers and asks that his father and the whole extended family be brought to Egypt to live. Joseph tells his brothers to tell their father, "about all the honor accorded [him] in Egypt and about everything [they] have seen." (Gen. 45:13) And it turns out that all along God was with him, that he was turning everything on its head for good, and that even before Israel went to Egypt, God promised bring them back again.

Now let me tell you, I know about some unforgiveness in the family, and I know about wanting to have something good to show to the Father. And mostly I know about how you look back and you see how God's been working all along through everything. Who would have thought that before the Hebrews went down to Egypt, before they cried out to him, God was saying I will bring you back. That he sent Joseph first to save their lives.

All that brokenness and unforgiveness and we've been that way since the very beginning but our God is a God who works things for good and for hope and for purpose. I think about the way I hang onto things and become bitter, how I hear reconciliation taught and still struggle to let go, and now I think about how all over the place lately God has been showing me that his forgiveness, his love--these things are enough. And then I see Joseph, weeping because he loves his brothers and he's angry and there's all this baggage and hard stuff to deal with and how do you do it?

"Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'Come close to me.' When they had done so, he said, '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, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God..." (Genesis 45:4-8)

For a while now God has been quieting my whys, telling me to be still and know that he is my God and that is enough, and I see him all the way back now, can do nothing but walk forward knowing that he's ahead of me too.

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