Breaking Point

Genesis 45

The breaking point came when Judah spoke about how it would break their father’s heart when they would return without Benjamin since he had already lost Joseph. Joseph was not able to control himself before all who were standing by. He cried out, “Make every man go out from me (45:1). So no one stood with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And ⌊he wept loudly. It is not bad for a strong man or woman to weep. If you feel as strong as Joseph, weep if it overcomes you. If you feel as strong as Jesus, weep if it overcomes you. If you feel weaker, then don’t retain what needs to be expressed. Well, sometimes the right context is good to consider. Joseph wept when being alone with his brothers. Jesus wept when being with his friends so that the Egyptians heard it and the household of Pharaoh heard it (45:2).

Ok, honestly, if Pharaoh heard it through the thick walls of the palace, Joseph’s God must have been extremely comprehensive for his outburst of emotions. Joseph was powerful. He did not need to hide his emotions because he had authority over the people and the respect even from his boss Pharaoh. His brothers were shocked. How could this be? They could not believe their ears nor their eyes. Their last hour had drawn nigh. Which way would Joseph choose to torture them to death? Now comes the power of forgiveness. Joseph did not plan to harm them in any way. He invited them to draw close to him (45:4), though he was sitting on the throne and people had to keep their respectful distance. Joseph took the initiative, based on forgiveness. During all these years, his brothers were living with this guilt feeling. One stupid mistake, for what? Is it worth it to give room to our anger to do something with consequences for a lifetime or longer? It is better to learn to manage our emotions, to allow the Holy Spirit to control our emotions, to allow the Holy Spirit to transform our emotions.

Judgment day had come for Joseph’s brothers. No, forgiveness was stronger. Complete forgiveness to be restored to a relationship that went beyond restoration. Forgiveness made it possible for Joseph and his brothers to have an intensity of peace relationship that they had never known before.

Before they offer any excuses or explanations, Joseph reassures them not to fall into the trap of sorrow and self pitty. The truth had to be stated. They had sold Joseph as a slave to the Egyptians. The solution was not to look for a camouflage. The solution was to state the truth and then to forgive this evil act. That’s precisely what Joseph did. He suggests an alternative to their potential anger. He offers the right strategy for anger management. Since Joseph’s brothers could not ventilate any aggression against Joseph due to his power, their alternative could have been to turn their anger inside resulting in self-destruction. Joseph’s solution was not to generate any anger at all but to change of thinking. Their thinking should be acceptance of God’s providence. God had not caused them to do evil but God was able to use their evil and turn it into blessing by making Joseph prime minister in Egypt and in a position to save his family (45:5). Thus, instead of anger, they should become thankful to what God was able to do with the harm they had done.

God does not depend on people to realise his plans, but he uses even what people do in their rebellion in order to turn bad into good. Had Joseph’s brothers been kind people, God could have used other means to save Jacob’s family.

7And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.

45:7 evokes an important OT motif. שְׁאֵרִית (sheerit) is the faithful remnant. Those that are on their way to die are saved by God if they place their trust in him. In this context, it is the famine. At other times, it is the exile. The term is used both for the physical and the spiritual world, which are two aspects of the same reality. Joseph’s brothers needed to learn to trust God for their needs and not to try to realise their own reality apart from God.

Joseph displays great maturity in his assessment of the same situation. Anger is one option in this situation. Frustration due to being unhappy with the situation leads the brain to generate aggressivity and to prepare for battle. This anger can be launched to fly towards the other or towards oneself. Joseph in his position is no potential target for his brothers’ anger. Oneself could be an option, but most of Joseph’s brothers are not melancholic enough to make this a successful destruction. Before they were able to reach an acceptable solution to their anger management, Joseph suggested an alternative: not to generate any anger at all but to adopt an attitude of gratefulness. Gratefulness? For what? War is going on, people have been severely wounded. The basis for gratefulness is the new understanding that God is in control. He is able to turn evil into good. The net result is now that Jacob’s family can be saved from the famine and even experience a deeper peace relationship than they had ever experienced before.

If you experience frustration in your life, the question is, how do you manage your emotions together with the Holy Spirit, who is ready to help, to guide and to dominate our thoughts so that we can experience peace? Joseph has the power to invite his family to live in Goshen (25:10), close to his residence and the most fruitful part of Egypt, also close to Canaan. Joseph thinks about his father and wants to see him back quickly (45:9). Joseph knows exactly that the famine will still last for five more years and offers all the provision that Egypt has for the family by God’s providence (45:11). Important was not the evil that his brothers had done. Important was and is what God is able to do with it. His provision, His miracles, and our relational reaction to it, to embrace God’s peace and apply it to those that surround us, that is what matters. The spiritual reality precedes the physical reality. It is first God, the creator, then creation. It is first God’s revelation about who Joseph will become, then what is visible to his brothers’ eyes (45:12).

Pharaoh was able to rejoice with Joseph (45:16). This demonstrates the peace relationship between Pharaoh and Joseph. Joseph can even make the promise to his brothers that they can come and live in Goshen before talking to Pharaoh. This demonstrates the trust relationship that leads Joseph to understand without a doubt what he is in a position to decide in Egypt and what not. Pharaoh directly confirms Joseph’s decision (45:17-18). Pharaoh is so happy with Joseph that he offers the best to Joseph’s family. Pharaoh is thankful. Joseph is the best evangelist that his world has known (45:20). Joseph knows his brothers. He knows up to what extent they had changed or not. He knows that they had not yet become people of peace. This is the reason why he gives them the warning: “Do not quarrel on the way.” (45:24).

According to Paul, one of the crucial tests to know whether someone should be elder in the church is the question, “what do the people in his company say about him?” When Joseph’s brothers come home and tell Jacob the good news, he does not believe and his heart remains sad, frustrated, full of bitterness. The joy of the Holy Spirit has no access to his heart, blocked by unbelief of the good news of God’s wonderful plan that he had already learnt when Joseph was 17 years old. This very same story would be repeated when the women disciples of Jesus would proclaim the good news of the resurrection of Jesus to the apostles and they would not believe and would refuse to rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection.

The very same words can have an extremely negative or an extremely positive effect on people. Depending on whether they believe the words or not. God’s reality is as it is. It does not depend on whether people believe in God’s reality or not. Their belief or disbelief does not change God’s reality, but it makes all the difference regarding their own reality. Joy or sadness, peace or distress is a matter of trusting God or not. When they insisted and told him all the details about the events, Jacob finally believed. The same happen to Jesus’ apostles. Jacob’s spirit revived. He experiences the life-communicating activity of God’s Spirit and the result was joy and peace. He finally made the decision of faith and exclaimed, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” (45:28).

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