“And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food. And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.” Gen 42:7-8
There is a stark difference between those who practice forgiveness and those who do not. Those who forgive receive deliverance from their prison and move into a position of blessing. Those who do not practice forgiveness remain in a prison of their own making.
There is also a stark difference between those who practice forgiveness and those who devalue their brothers. Often people devalue their brothers because of what their brother represents. You cannot remove one’s dream by attacking their faith in the Dream giver. Binding the dreamer will not limit a God-given dream.
When you sell your innocence, your hope, and your dreams to Egypt, it will cost you more than a pound of flesh to retrieve what you sold. You will have to pay the selling price plus a ton of interest and a considerable piece of your hide to regain what you squandered. Even after the deal, things might not be exactly the same. The path to reconciliation is painful and arduous.
Beyond forgiveness, healing, and fruitfulness, God wants believers to pursue reconciliation with those who have wronged them. Jesus tells us to go and be reconciled to our brother, but He doesn’t say how (Matt 5:24). This is because the circumstances surrounding alienation vary widely. Generally speaking, reconciliation is seldom possible unless those who cause the separation are willing to acknowledge their sin. Every generalization is a three-legged dog (as is this one), however when one party has seriously devalued another, the guilty party must admit guilt for reconciliation to happen. If both parties have devalued the other, both must purchase a share in the admission of guilt. Reconciliation is a path that both parties must travel.
God’s ultimate goal is reconciliation. The road to reconciliation is forgiveness, wholeness and healing, fruitfulness, reconciliation. Those wronged must travel this path or the dispute will lie under the surface to simmer and eventually erupt again. The guilty must travel a parallel path to reach reconciliation. The path the guilty must travel includes repentance, recognition, restitution or godly works, and finally reconciliation. We will come back to these different yet parallel paths. Let’s begin by looking at the situation of the two alienated parties in this dispute between Joseph and his brothers.
“And the famine was over all the face of the earth: and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.” Gen 41:56-57
At the time the brothers met again, Joseph was blessed and fulfilling God’s plan for his life. God’s goal for Joseph included reconciliation to his brothers and strengthening of the family. Joseph had traveled as far on the road to reconciliation as he could travel alone. The road to reconciliation is forgiveness, wholeness and healing, fruitfulness, and reconciliation. The last leg of the journey would depend on his brothers. What steps had Joseph already taken in this journey?
The first step in this long journey for Joseph was forgiveness. Forgiveness is completely independent of other people. Joseph forgave his brothers even though they didn’t know if he was still alive. Forgiveness is completely independent of our circumstances. Joseph woke up every morning in prison and forgave his brothers again. Forgiveness is completely independent of our feelings. Joseph remained hurt, lonely, confused and many other things, but he forgave and continued to forgive. Forgiveness is not about how we feel, but how we think. Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a decision. And it is a decision that must be repeated over and over and over and over …
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matt 18:21-22
The next phase of the journey for Joseph was that of wholeness and healing. This is something that is administered by God. It is not something we can bring to ourselves.
“And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On bare unto him. And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.” Gen 41:50-51
Only God can administer this “holy amnesia.” It comes as a result of inner healing and wholeness. The inner man suffers wounds that are inflicted as a result of the disappointments in life we suffer. The deepest wounds come when those we love the most hurt us and devalue our dreams. Only God can heal these wounds and He does this when we release the right to be hurt. We must surrender our cherished hurts to God that He can bring healing and wholeness to our inner man.
The next step that Joseph made in the journey toward reconciliation was that of fruitfulness.
“And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Gen 41:52
Ephraim means “doubly fruitful.” Only God can make us fruitful in the land of affliction. But again, God does this as a result of our commitment to His plan for our lives. God blessed Joseph with these two children, yet the children came as a result of Joseph’s surrendering his cherished hurts and his commitment to God’s plan for his life.
Joseph’s fruitfulness caused him to begin to fulfill God’s ultimate plan for his family even without his brothers. God’s plan for Abraham’s offspring was for them to be a blessing to other nations. God would use this family as a bridge to other people and would bless others through Abraham’s family. This was exactly what was happening in Joseph’s life even before reconciliation with his brothers. Not only was Joseph a blessing to the Egyptians, but also Joseph’s ministry blessed other nations.
“And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.” Gen 41:57
Now, the last leg of this journey would depend upon Joseph’s brothers. They had some road to travel on a different level but in the same direction. If they were unwilling to meet Joseph at the destination of reconciliation, God would fulfill His plan through Joseph. We must never forget that God has options. We can choose to be a part of God’s program and be blessed, or we can opt out and die in loneliness and bitterness.
Joseph’s Brothers Journey
“And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.” Gen 42:3
Joseph’s brothers were on a journey down into Egypt for more than corn. This was an appointed journey of reconciliation. God had an appointment of reconciliation for the brothers. They had more distance to cover than the distance from Canaan to Egypt. For the brothers, the path to reconciliation included repentance, recognition, restitution or godly works, and finally reconciliation.
To the casual reader it might appear that Joseph’s journey took longer that the brother’s journey. This is not true because the first step of repentance often includes the ripening of the fruit of sin. For the brothers, the journey to reconciliation included the perceived injury that caused separation in the first place. The brothers were tormented by their own hatred of Joseph long before they sold him into slavery. The guilty often suffer more and longer than those who they hurt. The brothers prison experience began when they allowed their hurts to fester and become hatred. The brothers had lived in spiritual prison since they saw the favoritism their father showed toward Joseph. Their prison became more and more confining as their hatred grew.
The brothers viewed the act of selling Joseph into slavery as the final solution to the problem. The final solution that sin offers is seldom that. You cannot silence a God-given dream by selling out to Egypt. You have a role to play in the divine dream. The side you are on in the blessing equation depends on your relationship to the dreamer and the dream. So many people want to sell their part in God’s plan for what the world has to offer. It is a rotten deal and you will end up paying much more than you gained to buy back into God’s plan.
Let me talk for a moment to those who ridicule others who live for God with all their strength. Don’t you dare sell your brothers down the road because they have the faith to believe God and take Him at His Word. Just because you don’t have what it takes to give it all to the Lord, don’t you sit back and ridicule others who serve God with everything. There are still a few dreamers left. But dreamers and those who step out for God make you uncomfortable. Rather than try to convince them they are wrong, why don’t you look at your own heart? You can sell your stake in God’s plan for a few shekels from the Ishmaelites, but you will not rob my dream. You can attack the dreamer, but you cannot destroy the dream. You can sell your claim in the dream, but it will end up costing you much more than you gained to buy back into God’s plan. Just ask Judah what the road to reconciliation cost him.
Judah lost his two oldest sons and ended up impregnating his own daughter-in-law while she pretended to be a prostitute (Gen 38). Tamar gave birth to twin boys, Pharez and Zarah. Pharez means to break forth violently. Zarah means to sprout. The results of our sin either break forth violently or sprout slowly, but fruit will come. The sowing of wild oats has never resulted in crop failure. Sin always brings forth bitter fruit. As the father-in-law of the mother of his children, Judah was in fact his own father. As the grandfather of his own sons, Judah became the original inspiration for the song, “I’m My Own Grandpa.” This is only one story about what took place after Joseph was sold into slavery, yet I am sure there are many other tragic stories like this.
Repentance for the brothers was a long and bitter road. The maturation of sin involves the rotten fruit of our own evil deeds. Just as surely as the worm turns, we will live to regret despising God’s plan and attacking those who embrace it. Repentance on the part of the guilty corresponds to forgiveness practiced by those injured. Just like forgiveness, repentance is man’s part, or something that man must do. Repentance is not a feeling it is a decision to turn from sin. Repentance includes an admission of guilt. Guilt often involves feelings, but repentance is not the feeling alone. Repentance is admitting guilt and turning from the sin that causes guilt. The world is full of people who feel the burden and regret of guilt but fail to repent of the sin that causes guilt. One cannot repent without acknowledging sin! Perhaps this is why repentance has fallen into disfavor among ministries that refuse to speak out against sin. There can be no reconciliation to God or anyone else without repentance that acknowledges sin.
The next step toward reconciliation for the brothers would be recognizing how their sin affected Joseph and others. This is a very painful path. Just as God must administer inner healing to the wounded, God must administer holy understanding to those who have wronged others. We have a hard time understanding the depth of hurt that our sinfulness causes in other people. Let me illustrate this. In the psalm of repentance – Psalm 51 – David mentioned sin by four different names.
- Transgression – Going against the known laws of God.
- Iniquity – Perverseness in nature; to be bent or crooked.
- Sin – To miss the mark.
- Bloodguiltiness – The result our sin has on other human beings.
We usually “get” the first three but skip over the last. We have a hard time coming to understand the result our sin has on other people. We seem to think that when we repent, God should just wave His magic wand, and everything will be like it was before we sinned. Tell that to Urijah, who David had killed; tell that to Bath-Sheba, who David committed adultery with; tell that to David’s other wives and children; tell that to the nation that saw their king step into moral failure.
The next step for the brothers on the path to reconciliation would be restitution or godly works. While we can never make it up to those we’ve wronged or “make it right,” the path to reconciliation often includes a sincere effort to acknowledge other’s suffering due to our sin. When our actions have caused great suffering in others, it is not enough to simply mumble under our breath, “sorry.” That will not make it right. We must acknowledge how our actions have caused their suffering. We must validate their feelings with our sympathy. We must express our sorrow for their suffering. As John the Baptist said, we must “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matt 3:8). Without this vital step, many injured feel that their hurts are not validated and the path to total reconciliation is hindered.
Why Didn’t Joseph Reveal Himself?
Have you ever wondered why Joseph didn’t reveal himself to his brothers immediately? The honest answer to this question flies in the face of those who believe in reconciliation without repentance. Joseph wanted to know that his brothers were sincerely sorry for what they did to him. Joseph wanted to know that his brothers understood the suffering their actions had caused him to endure. Joseph wanted to see that his brothers had changed and were trying to make things right.
These three things are necessary for full reconciliation:
When Joseph was sure that his brothers had traveled the path of reconciliation including these three steps, then he revealed himself. The reconciliation that took place is recorded in Genesis 45. A Genesis 45 experience does not happen because two parties get together, shrug their shoulders, and mumble under their breath, “sorry.” Full reconciliation is a journey that both parties must make and arrive at the same destination together.
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” 2 Cor 5:18-19
Reconciliation does not come cheaply. Our sin had caused a separation between us and God. Our actions brought great grief to our Creator and separated us from His presence. It would be an insult and slap in the face for us to simply step up, bow our heads, and mumble “sorry.” No, reconciliation would cost both of us something!
For God, the price of reconciliation was steep. It meant the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. The great gulf created by our sin caused God to limit Himself in a body of flesh. The Creator God robbed Himself in flesh to become like us. He left the splendor of heaven to walk on earth. He entered a tight place, a “prison experience;” limited by His own decision to be reconciled to sinful man. Even in His suffering, He chose to forgive. He suffered and died on a Roman cross.
But the bars of the grave could not hold Him. He came forth with the keys in His hand. Forever fruitful; forever victorious; forever alive! He stands today at the end of the path of reconciliation. He waits for you.
Will you travel the path of reconciliation? Will you show Him that you understand the gravity of your sin? Will you make the decision to forsake the lifestyle and practices that brought about this separation? Will you acknowledge the anguish that your actions caused the Savior? Will you bring forth fruit that demonstrates your desire to become one with Him?
He has made a way for you to travel the path of reconciliation. It is the New Testament plan of salvation.
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38
Every one of you mentally affirmed the truth of my words about how the guilty must acknowledge the suffering their actions cause in others. You affirmed that because you have suffered due to the actions of others. Will you deny that this truth applies to your reconciliation to God? Will you travel the path to reconciliation today? Will you repent of your sins and be baptized in His name? Will you seek for the gift of and seal of reconciliation, the Holy Ghost baptism?
“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” 2 Cor. 5:20