Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Joseph Struggled

              I am reading the story of Joseph in my Chronological Bible Study, and today, I read about Joseph’s brothers who came from their father’s (Jacob) home to buy grain from the Egyptians. Joseph was in charge of all Egypt at this time, second in command to Pharaoh himself. Joseph had been away from his father and his father’s house for 21 years now. His brothers and his father thought he was dead. But, God had a plan. I saw a couple of things in my reading of Joseph. I have read this story before, taught it to the kids at church, and even watched the movie, but today, I saw a different side of Joseph, which reminded me of the Sovereign rule of God over my life, and the struggles I have because I do not submit to it.
                I will start in Genesis 42:6. “Now Joseph was governor over the land; and it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before with their faces to the earth.” Here is Joseph, ruler over all Egypt’s possessions, and here come his brothers, seeking to buy food. There was a great famine in the earth, and Egypt was the only ones prepared for it. Do you remember back in Chapter 37 when Joseph had a dream; he dreamed his brothers would bow before him? Here, we begin to see the fulfillment of God’s word in Joseph’s life.
                Next we see Joseph’s reaction to his brothers. “Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them and spoke roughly to them.” (Verse 7) He sees his brothers coming to him, and I saw an anger arise in Joseph. He had come to accept his life the way it was, had come to see that his life in Egypt was not all that bad. He was married, with children, and living a life he was okay with. Joseph had accepted his lot in life and thought he had moved on, past the hurt that his brother’s had caused him. But God had a different plan for Joseph. God does not desire for us to “accept life”, He desires us to live our lives free from regret and unforgiveness, He desires more for us. Verse 8 and 9 tell us that Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. And then Joseph remembers his dreams, the dreams that were now unfolding before him.
                God’s will happens- no matter how we try to stop it. We must come to a place of humility where we no longer struggle and strive against the will of God, but come to a place where we acknowledge the Sovereignty of God in our lives, and find the peace He offers. Joseph began to have an inward struggle- he saw his brothers, and all the past came rushing back to him. The hurt they caused him, the being torn from his father, his younger brother and his home- all because they were jealous of him. Joseph was faced with a dilemma, because despite all that had happened, after 21 years he was glad to see his family again. I am sure that Joseph missed his home, and his father. 21 years is a long time. How many times have we in our own personal lives, thought that we have finally put the past behind us, only to have it come rushing back to us, making us stare it in the face? When it happens, we realize that putting the past behind us does not necessarily mean that we have forgiven, true forgiveness always brings restoration, and the hurt is gone- putting the past behind us only covers the hurt, allowing it to still be there, we just try to not think about it. True forgiveness will lead us to forget the hurt as well as forgive the hurt.
                In the next few chapters we see the struggle Joseph is going through. We see in Chapter 43 that Joseph wept. He wanted to forgive his brothers; for his weeping and sorrow of heart is clearly seen. Not only is Joseph now struggling with forgiving his brothers, but he also is struggling with the will of God in his life. Standing before Joseph are his brothers, bowing to the ground, just as God had said they would. Joseph begins to struggle with the fact that God has predestined and preordained Joseph to go through these past 21 years without his father, his family or his home land. He is beginning to see God in the midst of all that he has suffered. The slavery he was sold into at Potipher’s house, the false accusation from Potipher’s wife, being thrown into prison, and now, the famine that has swept across the nation. Joseph is beginning to see that God was in control the whole time. It is hard for all of us, I believe, when we are faced with hurt, trials, suffering, pain and despair to see the hand of God moving in our lives.
                Romans 8:28 tells us that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Joseph is beginning to realize that what has happened to him, God had preordained. And Joseph begins to see that forgiveness is what God is asking of him. God will use all the hurts, trials, sufferings and sorrows of our lives to bring about good, to bring us to a place of forgiveness and blessing. God does not want us to struggle against His will, but to submit to His Sovereign control over our lives. Yes, people are going to use and abuse us, we are going to be hurt, we will pass through the fire, but God promises that “no weapon formed against us shall prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17)
                God’s will over our lives will always require us to forgive, just as God was asking Joseph to forgive. But the first step in true forgiveness is realizing that you have experienced this pain for a reason. Instead of accepting what is dealt to us, burying the hurt and “moving on”, God wants us to experience the joy of restoration. Joseph had a huge struggle within him- he saw the hand of God moving throughout his life, he finally understood why he had to go through all that he did, and little by little, with every tear that fell from his face, he began to surrender to the Sovereign God, who was working it all out for his good, as well as his father and brother’s good.
                Chapter 45 tells us that Joseph showed himself to his brothers, and they were reunited in peace and in a complete covering of forgiveness. Joseph was no longer a slave to Egypt, but he was finally free to be a Hebrew again, in the presence of his family, and freed from the hurt and the pain that was inflicted upon him. Joseph becomes a changed man after these events. True forgiveness will change us, we will become more aware of the Sovereign rule God has over our lives, and we will be able to accept it, receive it and rejoice in it, just as Joseph did.
                “And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by great deliverance. So now, it was not you who sent me here, but God…” Genesis 45:8. What man intends for harm, God intends for good. No matter where you are at, no matter what you have experienced in your life, look up to the Lord and see His Sovereign hand in it all. Joseph struggled with the will of God in his life, but he, just like us, had to come to a place of humble submission, and through that submission, he was able to let go of the past, forgive his brothers and rejoice in the grace of God. May we all be able to do the same. Amen.