Joseph, a man of the Spirit

Genesis 50

According to the Egyptian practice, Joseph had his father embalmed (50:2) and the Egyptians wept for him for 70 days (50:3). Not only Joseph but even Jacob had become very close to the people they needed to reach with the good news of peace with God and peace with people. Joseph asked Pharaoh for permission to fulfil Jacob’s request to be buried at Machpelah (50:5). Jacob remained humble before Pharaoh his whole life. He never abused from his power or trust that Pharaoh had placed in him. He never tried to create his own kingdom apart from Pharaoh. Someone else would have said: Look, Pharaoh, God told me to bury my father in Machpelah, so I’ll be away for two months and you take care of your own business, farewell. Joseph always treated Pharaoh with the deepest respect as authority placed by God over him. Pharaoh trusted Joseph fully and agreed (50:5). He did not see Joseph as a would-be runaway slave. Pharaoh respected Joseph and his father deeply. What you sow is what you reap. The Egyptian leadership went with Joseph and his family (50:7), not to control him but to show respect. That was a costly affair. Calculate the salaries of the highest paid people in the country and the work that was not done during these well-paid holidays.

This funeral with the impressive Egyptian delegation was rather an evangelistic compaign showing that, due to a man guided by and obedient to the Spirit, Egyptians and Israelites could live in peace together and they could die in peace together. If they could, the Hittites, Philistines and Canaanites (50:11) could also join. This was God’s plan. Unfortunately, people thought otherwise. What is our position?

Now that Jacob was dead, Joseph’s brothers feared that he had not truly forgiven and would freely turn against them to take revenge (50:15). Yes, there are people who smile, are friendly and greet you, as long as the pastor is watching. As soon as he turns around the corner, they jump on you and tear you apart, hopefully most often with words, but with words sharper than knives.

Joseph was not like that. He really had forgiven. When forgiveness is complete, the past is not wiped out from the memory, but the memory is healed. No pain, no regrets, no desire for revenge accompanies the memory any longer. Complete forgiveness means complete healing, complete restoration of the peace relationship.

Finally, Joseph’s brothers had reached the point to ask for forgiveness, recognizing truly the evil they had done. Joseph wept. Their evil had been really evil. Joseph had suffered a lot. Just like that, forgiving all the harm, all the suffering. Joseph had good reasons to weep. But probably the tears were most inspired by tears of joy because finally they had changed. Finally, they had understood God’s heart, finally that had given room to the Spirit, the liberating power of reconciliation by the Spirit. Tears of pain gave room to tears of joy. Now the work of the Spirit was complete. Now God’s people could really be God’s people. Finally, Joseph’s brothers bowed down before Joseph accepting God’s plan, accepting the authority that God had given to Joseph over them (50:18). They rebellion against God’s plan had come to an end. Reconciliation allowed to live the peace relationship while respecting everyone’s God-given functions.

Fear of judgement is the natural consequence of doing wrong. Actually, it helps and is intended to change in order to discontinue to do wrong and to start doing what is right. Joseph leaves vengeance to the Lord (50:19; Rom 12:19). Our task is to make peace (Rom 12:18). Joseph has to forgive, whether his brothers had changed or not. If they have changed truly, they also escape God’s judgment. Forgiveness is not to downplay the evil, but to understand it, to name it and then to decide not to punish it (50:20). It is also to take into perspective God’s purpose and what God has done with the evil that people have done (50:20). Kind words are the result of true forgiveness (50:21). Joseph was the one who had suffered injustice, yet he was the one that comforted those that needed to comfort him. The Holy Spirit had already comforted Joseph. He was full of comfort for them. It is just like Paul, who was imprisoned in Rome and then writes a letter to comfort those that were free but full of despair, while Paul was full of hope, joy, comfort and peace of the Spirit. When the Spirit of God, and not the circumstances, determine our emotional life, only God’s being visible in us, can be the result (Phil 1:25-26). The Spirit of softness spoke through Joseph to his brothers (50:21). Softness is a part of peace. Joseph was a communicator of peace to his brothers. By his being, by his life, by his attitude, by this forgiveness, by his love, by being an extension of the Spirit towards his brothers.

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