So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. 24 Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? His blood would just give us a guilty conscience. 27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother – our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed. 28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt. (Gen 37:23-28, NLT)
I just love what Judah says! “Joseph is family, so let’s not kill him – it will only make us feel bad. Instead, let’s do the decent thing and sell him.” Some families really know how to look after each other, eh? Caring just comes naturally! The best thing is that Joseph wouldn’t have been able to phone home, or go on Facebook to tell them that he was missing them, because that would have made them feel bad too, perhaps!
I’m sure that none of us has been sold into slavery, but I’m also sure that we have all had a dirty done to us. Some of us will have suffered at the hands of brothers, sisters or parents; some at the hands of husband, wife or partner, some by friends, some by strangers. We carry the scars and the pain. Often that pain is so great that it changes us, changes our lives, changes our whole direction. We often become slaves to the consequences, perhaps just in the way we behave, the way we relate to others. Sometimes we become slaves to drugs or drink, just to hide the pain, or to hide from it.
Joseph’s life went from bad to worse. In his new life away from home, he started as a slave, but then he became a forgotten prisoner. After some years, things started to get better and he rose to fame and power, but he still missed home, still missed his dad. Then his time came. The brothers came to Egypt looking for food. He had the food – in fact he was in total control of it. He had allÂ theÂ brothers in the palm of his hand…
Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. 2 Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.
3 “I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. 4 “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. 5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. 6 This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh – the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt. (Gen 45:1-8, NLT)
Do you notice something here? Joseph doesn’t lash out and give them the hammering they were due. Instead, he breaks down and cries. But there is something far more important.
Joseph doesn’t forgive them!
No forgiveness? Why?
Joseph doesn’t forgive them because he doesn’t feel that they hurt him. He sees God’s hand in it all. He realises that if he hadn’t been sold by his brothers, then he wouldn’t have gone to Egypt, would not be in the position he is now in. He wouldn’t have been able to help his family.
When my first marriage ended, I wished that I had never got married in the first place. But that thought lasted for about two seconds – till I realised that, if that had been the case, my son and daughter would never have been born. Not a consequence I wanted!
This morning I got a text from a young Christian which reads,
Something came to me this morning in a very powerful way. I was conversing with the Lord, when suddenly a thought came into my mind unexpectedly about my life. I now believe that I had to live the life I have so far in order to carry out God’s plan!
Amazing, eh? This young man has just heard from God in a powerful, amazing way. He has just learned what Joseph knew!
I’ve said it before, God never wastes a hurt.
But he will use them.
Instead of living in the past, in the pain, in the regrets, have a look for God’s hand. It’s a hand that leads, teaches and provides.
Perhaps then you will see that you don’t need to get even. Perhaps you will see that you don’t even need to forgive.