19–25 March 2017.
The story of Joseph, with its dramas of family betrayal and loss, is one of the most moving stories in the whole Old Testament. Here halfway through the story in Genesis 43, we see so many heart-breaking images. We see Jacob as an old man whose heart has never healed from losing his beloved son Joseph. In Genesis 37:35, Jacob told his family that he refused to be comforted, and that he will go to his grave mourning Joseph. Here in Genesis 43, we see how right Jacob was. He has given up hope in God’s promise, hope in the future, and hope for his own children. We can hear his quiet, helpless voice in v. 14 as he finally gives up: “If I must lose my children, so be it.”
In v. 30 we see another of these heart-breaking images. Joseph had hidden his identity from his brothers, and he had been coldly manipulating them. But seeing his younger brother again, he is now overwhelmed with love. He can no longer control his emotions. This cold ruler runs from the dining hall to his private room where he breaks down and cries.
But we find a third heart-breaking image in vv. 26–28. Joseph’s brothers had returned to Egypt in despair. The family was at the edge of starvation and death. God had promised their father Jacob a great future, but that all seems like empty words now. Jacob is old, the family is falling apart, and the sons have left their homeland to find food – but they know they are likely to be arrested and imprisoned. This is the end.
In v. 26 they come before their disguised brother, and in their deep worry over being arrested they bow down on the ground before him. In v. 28, they do it again. For the brothers, this is the low point of their lives. As they lie there on the ground, maybe they are praying that this Egyptian ruler will be merciful to them. But what they don’t realize is that they are fulfilling God’s words. Remember that Joseph’s dream had said his brothers were going to bow down to him – and now they are. From their point of view they are bowing in fear and despair before a foreign ruler; they don’t see how God is drawing everything together for a wonderful end.
Like Joseph’s brothers, when we are in the middle of disasters we can’t see the big picture either. When we are suffering, everything seems so hopeless. But there in the middle of our despair, God is working to glue back together the broken pieces of our lives. We don’t see it now, but in the end we will look back and see how God worked even through our suffering to bring everything to a good end.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis