Joseph was ready to fulfill his destiny and God was ready to restore to Joseph all that was stolen from him during what the world saw as a famine. The Bible says that the famine was so severe all the countries came to buy grain from Joseph.
Life Lesson: The world can be in a famine but the children of God can be established in a place of blessing. This principle is very important for uncertain times like these. When God’s people have the hope that even in the darkest pit the Lord is there and in due time will raise us up, we can thrive as others struggle to survive.
The famine began to severely affect Jacob’s family which led him to send Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to buy grain. This led them to bow before Joseph, making a 20 year old dream come true. Joseph, now 37 years old, is not recognized by his brothers. He no longer looked like the spoiled teenager they had sold into slavery. It is interesting to note, although, that Joseph recognized them immediately. This would have been his time for revenge, but Joseph chose instead to put them through a series of questions and tests to see if their hearts, like his, had been changed through the years. When he found that they had also changed, he wept. Joseph no longer felt the need for revenge. He had already forgiven them which opened up a place in his heart to love them again. Joseph puts a plan in place to bring his father and his entire household to the safety and provision of Egypt. (Gen. 42-44)
Joseph reveals to his brothers who he is and tells them “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.” (Gen. 45:5) “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Gen. 45:8) Joseph has a bigger perspective. He sees that everything that has happened to him has been sifted through the hands of God and was used to prepare him for his destiny. This is a man who has totally forgiven His brothers and put his life in God’s hands. This will result in his family being restored to him.
Life Lesson: Although restoration is always God’s plan for us, we do need to use wisdom before we trust someone who has chosen to hurt us in the past. If their heart has not changed, trusting them will cause us even more grief. Ask the Lord for spiritual discernment as to whether a renewed relationship is His will for you or not. There are times when it is best to be cautious so further harm does not come to you and your family. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to stay in a harmful relationship.
Joseph, assured by the Lord, sends his brothers to get Jacob and the rest of the family and bring them to Egypt. The Lord then prepares Jacob by telling him that He will turn this family of 70 people into a great nation. Jacob packs up all his family and possessions and moves to Egypt where Joseph can provide for them during the famine years. Seventeen years later as Jacob prepares to die he asks that he be buried in the family plot in the Promised Land. He also prophesies that there will come a time when they will all be taken back to that land. (Gen. 45-49)
Joseph and his brothers take Jacob’s body back to the land to be buried with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah. The brothers, worried about what Joseph might do to them now that their dad was dead, beg Joseph to forgive them for what they did to him. (It is interesting that scripture doesn’t say if they had asked for forgiveness before or if this is the first time.) Joseph wept as he was so hurt to think that after living with him 17 years they still couldn’t tell that he had sincerely forgiven them. I think that this shows how difficult forgiveness is for us. These brothers must have found it difficult to forgive others (and themselves) so they were afraid to believe that Joseph could really let what they had done to him be forgiven. They expected now, that Jacob, their protection, was gone, Joseph would exact revenge. (Gen. 50)
Life Lesson: Sometimes it is hard to accept that the Lord has forgiven us for all the things we have done. It is important to learn to forgive ourselves as well as others. Putting ourselves in the place of trying to exact penance for our past is denying the grace of God and Jesus’ work on the cross. Let yourself be forgiven completely by both God and yourself.
Joseph, who had worked so hard to come to the grace and peace of total forgiveness tried once again to explain how he felt when he said, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?” (Gen. 50:20) Joseph had learned that vengeance is God’s (Deut. 32:35, Rom. 12:19) and he could not complete what God called him to do with unforgiveness in his heart. He understood the concept Jesus taught where he said, “forgive and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37) When he had forgiven he was released from prison. When we forgive we are released from a prison of our own making.
He also had learned that, by looking at life with a thankful heart and a reliance on God to bring about our best, he could live a life of hope and fulfillment as he waited on God’s restoration. Looking at Joseph’s life gives us hope in Jer. 29:11 “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, “’Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” The Lord had a plan for Joseph’s life and as Joseph continued to believe in the dream, God gave him the strength and wisdom he needed to walk through the tough times. May we learn to do this also.