Do you remember me? Have you wondered about me, cared if I was dead or alive? Or what I was doing? Have you been able to live, with what you did?
The first thing I need to know is if my father, my precious father is still alive?
Will he know that I am here, safe, his son?
I can see your fear, are you wondering what I will do? If I will seek revenge now that I ave all the power?
But I don’t blame you and you mustn’t blame yourselves. God has worked it all out, through the results of your spite and anger, through my fear and panic of where I was going and what was going to happen to me.
Through being in this place, at this time, I have been able to help, maybe even save people.
Now it is my time to bless.
Even you, however you treated me, are welcome here.
Together we will work it out.
It’s him! Now we are for it.
All those things we did to him, the revenge we wrought on him, the cruelty we poured on him.
We never thought we would see him again, thought he was out of our lives forever,
and now he is in charge
And now, he is the one to save us.
all those dreams, his boasts are coming true. They weren’t dreams after all they were visions, truths, of where we are now.
Will he want his payback? Are we going to suffer for what we did to him?
But no. He is saying that God has worked in it, taken our cruelty and brought Joseph to a good place.
He has the choice and is welcoming us, accepting us, forgiving us,
and offering us a new hope and a new life. Living together with him
Thank you Lord for the forgiveness you offer us.
For meeting us in our place of embarrassment and shame.
For lifting that from us and giving us the offer of a new life and a new hope.
Forgive us for the hurt we have caused to others, as we pray for those people, and seek to live a new way.
Thank you for those who forgive us and are willing to accept us and work with us.
Teach me Lord the way of forgiveness and new life.
The words of this song are beautiful and very apt.
Joseph Tells His Brothers Who He Is
45 Joseph was no longer able to control his feelings in front of his servants, so he ordered them all to leave the room. No one else was with him when Joseph told his brothers who he was. 2 He cried with such loud sobs that the Egyptians heard it, and the news was taken to the king’s palace. 3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But when his brothers heard this, they were so terrified that they could not answer. 4 Then Joseph said to them, “Please come closer.” They did, and he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 Now do not be upset or blame yourselves because you sold me here. It was really God who sent me ahead of you to save people’s lives. 6 This is only the second year of famine in the land; there will be five more years in which there will be neither ploughing nor reaping. 7 God sent me ahead of you to rescue you in this amazing way and to make sure that you and your descendants survive. 8 So it was not really you who sent me here, but God. He has made me the king’s highest official. I am in charge of his whole country; I am the ruler of all Egypt.
9 “Now hurry back to my father and tell him that this is what his son Joseph says: ‘God has made me ruler of all Egypt; come to me without delay. 10 You can live in the region of Goshen, where you can be near me—you, your children, your grandchildren, your sheep, your goats, your cattle, and everything else that you have. 11 If you are in Goshen, I can take care of you. There will still be five years of famine; and I do not want you, your family, and your livestock to starve.’”
12 Joseph continued, “Now all of you, and you too, Benjamin, can see that I am really Joseph. 13 Tell my father how powerful I am here in Egypt and tell him about everything that you have seen. Then hurry and bring him here.”
14 He threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and began to cry; Benjamin also cried as he hugged him. 15 Then, still weeping, he embraced each of his brothers and kissed them. After that, his brothers began to talk with him.
A fair bit of water has passed under the bridge since last weeks reading about Jacob. He has met with Esau at an emotional reunion; there is the shocking incident of rape against Jacob’s daughter and ensuing retribution; Jacob’s escape to Bethel, the building of an altar, God’s further blessing and a reiteration that Jacob’s name would now be Israel, the promise of the land and an entire nation of descendants; the death of Jacob’s beloved Rachel as she gave birth to Benjamin; and the death of Jacob’s father Isaac. Meanwhile Esau had been living in “another land” (Genesis 33-36)
And now we come to the life and times of Jacob’s sons. A collection of brothers and half brothers with four different mothers: Leah, who was not Jacob’s first choice of wife, but a marriage he was tricked into by his father-in-law; Bilhah, Rachel’s slave, who Rachel ‘gave’ to Jacob so that she could have a child for her; Zilpah, Leah’s slave, who she ‘gave’ to Jacob to have children for her; and finally Rachel has her two sons.
Even allowing for a different cultural setting this must have been a melting pot emotions, jealousies and jostling for your place in this family.
Joseph and His Brothers
37 Jacob continued to live in the land of Canaan, where his father had lived, 2 and this is the story of Jacob’s family.
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, took care of the sheep and goats with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s concubines. He brought bad reports to his father about what his brothers were doing.
3 Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons, because he had been born to him when he was old. He made a long robe with full sleeves for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them, they hated their brother so much that they would not speak to him in a friendly manner.
Joseph Is Sold and Taken to Egypt
12 One day when Joseph’s brothers had gone to Shechem to take care of their father’s flock, 13 Jacob said to Joseph, “I want you to go to Shechem, where your brothers are taking care of the flock.”
Joseph answered, “I am ready.”
14 His father told him, “Go and see if your brothers are safe and if the flock is all right; then come back and tell me.” So his father sent him on his way from Hebron Valley.
Joseph arrived at Shechem 15 and was wandering around in the country when a man saw him and asked him, “What are you looking for?”
16 “I am looking for my brothers, who are taking care of their flock,” he answered. “Can you tell me where they are?”
17 The man said, “They have already left. I heard them say that they were going to Dothan.” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.
18 They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted against him and decided to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes that dreamer. 20 Come on now, let’s kill him and throw his body into one of the dry wells. We can say that a wild animal killed him. Then we will see what becomes of his dreams.”
21 Reuben heard them and tried to save Joseph. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. 22 “Just throw him into this well in the wilderness, but don’t hurt him.” He said this, planning to save him from them and send him back to his father. 23 When Joseph came up to his brothers, they ripped off his long robe with full sleeves. 24 Then they took him and threw him into the well, which was dry.
25 While they were eating, they suddenly saw a group of Ishmaelites traveling from Gilead to Egypt. Their camels were loaded with spices and resins. 26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother and covering up the murder? 27 Let’s sell him to these Ishmaelites. Then we won’t have to hurt him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed, 28 and when some Midianite traders came by, the brothers pulled Joseph out of the well and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
What was Jacob doing? It is parenting 101 that you do not have favourites, and certainly no child or it’s siblings should have the feeling that one is more special than any others. Yet that seems to be the feeling that they all understand – and so inevitably that brings trouble. Was Jacob still playing out his childhood experiences of when he had been his mother’s favourite and his brother was his father’s favourite? Had he learned nothing of the life-time damage such blatant favouritism can cause?
Joseph bring back reports to his father of his brothers misdemeanours. Telling tales? Stirring? Naivety? Trying to cement his place as his father’s number one? Or genuinely thinking he was doing the right thing because they were doing the wrong thing and his father should know? Most likely a combination – we will never know. But that was how it was. At times that is how families play out.
But Jacob makes a show of his favouritism of Joseph the presentation of the infamous coat.
That for his brothers was the final straw. They could no longer bear Joseph.
Jacob sends Joseph out to check on his brothers and the flock, and even as they see him coming, they decide he has to go. Perhaps they thought he was coming to take back more tales of what they had got wrong, or perhaps their jealousies just overwhelmed them. The plot to kill him and say he has been killed by a wild animal forms in their minds, and a plan is made. Reuben is the lone voice, petitioning for his survival – though even he is content to leave him in a well in the wilderness, where one would assume he would be unlikely to survive.
The arrival of a camel train on it’s way to Egypt turns their minds to a different solution though – and the opportunity to make some money. They appear to have a realisation that this is actually their brother, so maybe they can get him out of their lives, and out of their fathers spotlight, via different means.
Joseph is gone from their lives and they have twenty pieces of silver.
(I’ve never noticed before the echo of the pieces of silver… Joseph is out of his brothers lives for twenty pieces of silver, Jesus was out of the lives of the Chief Priests for thirty (Mtt 26:14-16) )
This is a tale of the mess some humans can get themselves in to. One action leads to another, which escalates out of control. An error made in one generation is perpetuated in the next, with similar awful consequences. God is seemingly absent in this whole sorry story. Yet…
Not wishing to give away the rest of the story, the events of this passage eventually lead to Joseph being in the right place at the right time and able to do a lot of good (though ultimately that becomes a problem!) Not that Joseph’s brothers were in the right or did the correct thing, but that sometimes circumstances that humans make a mess of can ultimately work out. God was not in the jealousies and the plotting, but he was still able to work in the result.
This story is part of the Old Testament cycle of something going wrong, God stepping in and doing something amazing, the people go ‘Oh wow God, you’re awesome!’, then they forget about him and do what they want, it goes wrong – and so it goes on. God is constantly doing powerful, wonderful things; and people quickly forget and try and make things happen their way.
It is so easy to get caught up in cycles of behaviour. For our actions to come from how we are feeling and not what we know, deep down, is the correct way; to react from our pain, confusion and anger, whether temporary or long nurtured. None of us is exempt or faultless.
My overwhelming reaction to this story, which is so familiar it is hard to get a handle on, is of confession and prayer.
Forgive me Lord for the times I get things very wrong. When I go my way, do my thing and expect you to bless it; rather than seeking your way and doing that.
Forgive me my stupidity, the actions I take that have bad effects on others, the times I let my anger, jealousy or frustration rule my head, my heart and my actions.
Forgive me when I perpetuate the errors of the past, when I fail to see the cycle, or refuse to break it.
Heal me Lord from the scars that make me react badly and make wrong choices. Free me from how I think and lead me to what you think.
22 That same night Jacob got up, took his two wives, his two concubines, and his eleven children, and crossed the Jabbok River. 23 After he had sent them across, he also sent across all that he owned, 24 but he stayed behind, alone.
Then a man came and wrestled with him until just before daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he was not winning the struggle, he hit Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint. 26 The man said, “Let me go; daylight is coming.”
“I won’t, unless you bless me,” Jacob answered.
27 “What is your name?” the man asked.
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with men, and you have won; so your name will be Israel.”
29 Jacob said, “Now tell me your name.”
But he answered, “Why do you want to know my name?” Then he blessed Jacob.
30 Jacob said, “I have seen God face-to-face, and I am still alive”; so he named the place Peniel. 31 The sun rose as Jacob was leaving Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.
Wrestling, still grappling, trying to gain the upper hand.
Searching, seeking, longing, to be.
Still yearning for that blessing, not the stolen one, but God’s blessing on me and my life.
And now you come, I am marked, forever, by our struggle; from now on I am changed.
You call me by a new name, a new purpose a new me.
I have met God, we have struggled, I am renewed and I am alive.
Struggling, I wrestle with you Lord.
I search and I seek, I long for you to touch me, to change me to make me new, in you.
Bless me Lord I pray. Bless each one of us. Meet us in our struggle, touch us, renew us and may we know we are alive in you.
This is such a beautiful hymn. It means so much to me of being able to trace God’s rainbow through the rain and the God whose love never lets us go, whatever the struggle. And this is a beautiful rendition of it: