- Reconciled with One Another
- Genesis 37; 42-25
- Lyndol Loyd December 14, 2020
Reconciled: Reconciled with One Another Genesis 37; 42-25
Good morning Church! We’re in our Advent series called “Reconciled”, and we’re thinking at this time of the year about how God was acting in Jesus to reconcile us to him. That’s what we’re about.
Our story today begins with a family in Genesis with 12 brothers, one of whom was named Joseph, NOT Joseph & Mary from the Christmas story in the New Testament, this is a different Joseph hundreds of years before that, and this is how his story starts in Genesis 37:2, “…Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah…and he brought their father a bad report about them.”
Some family background… The dad, Jacob, had sons by his first wife, Leah, by his second wife, Rachel, by Leah’s maidservant, Zilpah, and by Rachel’s maidservant, Bilhah.
The two maidservants, Zilpah and Bilhah, are the lowest-status wives, so their sons are the lowest-status brothers. They would be easy to pick on, and that’s what Joseph does. He gives his father a bad report about them. We’re not told what the bad report was, but apparently, Joseph decides he’s not going to be his brother’s keeper. He’s behaving more like a spy.
V.3 ”Now [Jacob] loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age…” Joseph was the favorite because he was the baby born when his dad was an old man, and Joseph was the firstborn son of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel.
One year, when it was gift-giving time, Jacob got a gift (only one) and gave it to Joseph. It was an ornate robe. One of the old translations calls it a coat of many colors, and it marked Joseph out as the favorite. The text says in V.4, “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.”
Now, Joseph doesn’t help matters any. Joseph has a dream where all of his brothers are like sheaves of wheat in a field, and they symbolically bow down to him, and he does not keep this dream to himself. He gathers his brothers and tells them all about his dream in V.5 “…and when [Joseph] told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.”
There is no indication Joseph had a clue about their pain. V.8 ”His brothers said to him, ‘Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?’ And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.”
Now, he has a second dream. This is a sequel. This time, all of them and also Mom and Dad bow down to Joseph, and he tells them about this dream, too. His brothers were really jealous of him. Could anybody be that clueless?
In the next verse, the brothers are away tending the sheep, and the dad, Jacob, calls his favorite son, Joseph, and says in V.14, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks and bring word back to me.” In other words, “Joseph, I’ll send you off to do more spying, which is what started the bad blood. Could a parent be that blind?
This is an unbelievable story we’re going through. It’s a Christmas story. I promise. They saw him a long way off. How did they recognize Joseph a long way off when they couldn’t see his face yet? He wears the robe. V.19 “‘Here comes that dreamer!’ they said to each other. ‘Come now, let’s kill him…and say that a ferocious animal devoured him.”
One of the brothers, the fourth-born brother named Judah, comes up with an alternative plan. He suggests they sell Joseph into slavery. That way they make a profit and avoid a murder charge. They could dip his clothes into goat’s blood and show the bloody clothes to their dad, Jacob, so Jacob will think an animal killed Joseph, and that’s what they did.
By the way, what article of Joseph’s clothing do you think they dipped in blood? “They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, ‘We found this. Do you recognize this?”
Jacob is convinced that Joseph has been killed, and he goes into mourning, and he refuses to be comforted. They get rid of their brother, but that doesn’t get them what they want. They don’t get their father’s love. The family doesn’t get healed. They get what they asked for but not what they wanted.
Joseph is separated from them for 20 years. He is kidnapped, enslaved. Later he is unjustly framed and put in prison. Two of his fellow prisoners used to work for Pharaoh, and one night they both have troubling dreams, and it seems that his deep suffering has changed Joseph because now Joseph, who was so clueless about his brother’s pain, notices both of these prisoners are sad, and he asks them about it, and he’s able to help them, and as a result, Joseph ends up being brought before Pharaoh, the great Pharaoh of Egypt.
Pharaoh had this weird dream with seven fat cows and seven skinny cows. Joseph tells Pharaoh this dream is about the economy, that there will be seven years of economic growth and then seven years of scarcity. He tells the Pharaoh how to use taxation to stabilize the markets. No kidding. I’m not making this up. This is so brilliant.
As a result of this, Joseph is made prime minister of Egypt. The famine continues. Meanwhile, way back home Jacob and his family are starving, and they hear grain is available in Egypt, and Jacob sends his sons to get some, but he keeps one son home, his youngest boy Benjamin who, like Joseph, was born to his favorite wife.
The other brothers are brought before Joseph to beg for food. It has been 22 years since they sold him, and they do not recognize him as their brother. They bow down before him just like the dream.
Joseph recognizes them, but he does not tell them who he is. This is core to the story. He speaks harshly to them. He actually accuses them of being spies, and they tell him, “Your servants are honest men not spies.”
“Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.” Of course, that one no more is Joseph. Joseph says, “Well, if that’s true, go home, bring your little brother back as proof, and I’ll give you what you need and you will live.”
The reader, of course, is going to wonder, “Why didn’t Joseph just tell him who he was? They’re desperate. They’ll do whatever he asks. Does he want to just watch them squirm? Is he getting a little revenge?” The reason is that Joseph doesn’t just want to forgive them. He wants to reconcile with them. He wants to reestablish a relationship, but that will take the demonstration of trust.
Joseph tells them they must leave one brother as collateral with him in Egypt until they go back to get their younger brother. The brothers say to each other in Genesis 42:21, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother [Joseph]. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”
Now, they don’t call him “the dreamer.” They don’t call him “Dad’s favorite.” He is, “Our brother Joseph.” Joseph, unknown to them, begins to see this change that has happened in their hearts over these 22 years.
Joseph turned away from them and began to weep. They go home, and for a long time their dad will not allow them to return because he does not want to lose Benjamin, but the famine is relentless, and eventually in desperation Jacob sends his boys back to Egypt now with Benjamin, his new favorite son.
Joseph arranges a feast. They still don’t know who Joseph is. When the portions are served Benjamin gets five times as much as everyone else. Joseph is watching to see how the brothers will respond.
The brothers leave, and Joseph seems to be extraordinarily generous with them. He says that he’ll send them back home to their dad with all of the grain they need plus all of the money they brought. He’s giving it to them all for free. They’re quite staggered.
Then, he has his servants go after them and bring them back to him in Egypt because he says he’s missing a treasure. He’s missing a cup, a silver cup, a priceless silver cup, his prized possession. All of their belongings are searched, and the cup, the silver cup, is found in Benjamin’s sack. Joseph says, “The rest of the brothers may leave, but Benjamin, the favorite, must stay behind.”
Here are the brothers once more with their younger brother, whom their father loves most, and they can be rid of him. They did it before. This time, they don’t even have to do anything wrong. As far as they know, it’s Benjamin’s fault.
Judah stands up. Judah, whose idea it was to betray and sell Joseph and deceive his father 22 years ago… Judah, whose idea it was to betray and violate his daughter-in-law, Tamar, as we looked at previously… That Judah stands up and makes the most impassioned speech in the entire book of Genesis.
He goes on in Genesis 44:30-31. “…if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow.”
Judah’s words are unspeakably poignant. He says to Joseph… Again, he doesn’t know who Joseph is. He says, “We have an aged father, and there is a young son born to him in his old age. His brother is dead…” That’s Joseph. “…and he is the only one of his mother’s…” That’s Rachel, the favorite wife. “…and he is the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.”
Judah knows now that the path of envy and resentment and hatred and self is the path of death and has caused him to betray all that is good and ruined his life. He has found a way to honor his father with a mixture of good and bad that is his father Jacob.
Then comes the climax of the whole book. Judah says in V. 33, “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy and let the boy return with his brothers.”
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” That’s the question that has haunted Genesis from Cain and Abel and Isaac and Ishmael and Jacob and Esau, and every time, “No.” Finally, for the first time with the full awareness of the consequences, this ancient haunting question is answered, “Yes,” at great cost, and by probably the worst of the brothers (Judah).
Now, Joseph knows they have changed. They are not the same men they were before. They have become their brother’s keeper. Now, he’s able not to just let go of resentment but the reconciliation can commence.
Genesis 45:1 “…So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.” His brothers were too stunned to take this in, so he had them gather close to him and told them again, V. 3 “…I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!”
That last phrase strikes me as so human. “In case you’re wondering which brother Joseph I am it was the brother Joseph you sold to Egypt.” Sometimes we use the phrase, “Forgive and forget,” but they’re not the same. In fact, if you forget something you cannot forgive it. Joseph doesn’t forget. He doesn’t live in denial. He doesn’t pretend it didn’t hurt. He doesn’t excuse or rationalize what they did. He brings God into the equation.
- 5 ”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.” This is crucial, because attempts at reconciliation in our world (yours and mine) can be damaging if they are done too quickly or done with somebody who is not genuinely repentant or genuinely trustworthy.
You can decide not to live in a prison of resentment even if they don’t repent, but reconciliation, the rebuilding of a relationship, requires repentance and time and demonstration of trustworthiness, and that’s what happens here after 22 years, and the brothers are healed.
We’re told, “Joseph gave them carts…and he also gave them provisions for their journey. To each of them he gave new clothing…” It doesn’t say what kind of clothing, but my guess is he got them all robes, very colorful robes.
I mentioned this is a Christmas story. Some time later, their dad, Jacob, is dying, and he gives a blessing to all of his sons. The most important blessing did not go to Joseph, the golden boy. The most important blessing did not go to Benjamin, the baby, the other favorite. It went to Judah.
Genesis 49:8-11, ”Judah, your brothers will praise you…your father’s sons will bow down to you.” That wasn’t the dream. “You are a lion’s cub, Judah… The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.”
The scepter, the crown, the kings of Israel will come not from Joseph and not from Benjamin but from Judah. A king one day named David and then a king of another kind who would be called the son of David (that is, Jesus, who will also be called the Lion of Judah) will on Palm Sunday ride into Jerusalem on his donkey, the symbol not of military might but of peace and reconciliation.
Jesus’ robe will be taken from him and washed in blood, and he will say, as his ancestor Judah said before him, “Let the punishment fall on me. Let the cross come to me. I will drink the cup. I am my brother’s keeper,” for God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Through Jesus, you can be reconciled to God, forgiven and accepted and loved in spite of my sin and yours, but this is part of Christmas, too.
I cannot say, “God, I want to accept your gift of reconciliation and acceptance for me, but I don’t want to seek reconciliation with somebody else. I’ll take it from you, but I don’t want to give it to them.”
Church, the way of envy and resentment was tried before, and it always leads to death, so this Christmas where is God calling you to reconcile or at least to seek it? Maybe your brother or your sister or your mom or your dad or your son or your daughter or your ex or somebody at school.
Will it be hard and messy and confusing and maybe take repeated conversations and maybe take 22 years? Maybe. I know this. There is a difficult person in your life, and you actually need them. They’re a part of your growth. If you do not have a difficult person in your life, contact the church, because we keep a list of difficult people, and we will assign one to you.
I want to ask you if you’ll make a commitment that whatever call you have to make or note you have to write you will pursue reconciliation in light of what God through Jesus has done for you.
Then, I want to say a pastoral word because I know many of you have suffered deep hurt. You have maybe an ex who betrayed you or a child who rejected you or a business partner who cheated you or a brother who abused you. You have been betrayed or lied to or lied about and it has been done deliberately and openly and is unacknowledged and unrepented and unconfessed.
I know when Joseph was kidnapped the Bible says God was with Joseph in slavery.The Bible says these amazing words. “God was with Joseph in prison.” Jesus is our Immanuel, God with us, God with you right now.
This is the story of Christmas. This is why Jesus came, to be God with us, reconciling us unto himself and with one another.