Series on Genesis, II God's Family, K The Pacification of the Family, Text:45:1-48:22, Title:Reconciliation.

Introduction

The family of God in Genesis is the recipient of God's grace. As such he is at peace with them. But they are not at peace with one another. There is a necessary relationship between the two things. There needs to be a reconciliation at the human level. In fact this tension always exists in the Bible and in our experience. It would have been so easy for Joseph to hold the persecution of the past against his brothers. It would have been easy for Jacob to hold on to his disappointments and resentments. All too often this is exactly what we do. So today as we look at the reconciliation of the family let us draw from it important reminders of the essential steps in making peace.

I Perspective

In chapter 44 we saw perhaps the cruelest son of Jacob, Judah offering himself in Benjamin's place as a hostage in order to protect his aged father's feelings. At this point Joseph's heart melted and he made himself known to his brethren. Obviously this was his intent, but he can restrain himself no longer in the presence of Judah's concern. He is overwhelmed and weeps loudly. The important thing here is Joseph's perspective, It was not you who sent me here but God. Let us explore the significance of this. Whenever we are wronged or hurt, if we focus on ourselves and on the injury, we are not going to be motivated to forgive. The more we think about the circumstances, the angrier we become. But if we get the larger picture that even our trials are part of God's plan, then we can forgive. Seeing our individual personal situations as part of God's overall plan takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them where they belong on the glory of God and Jesus’ sacrifice for us. David Augsburger writes about the difficulty of forgiveness. “It costs to forgive...stated psychologically, forgiveness takes place when the person who was offended and justly angered by the offender bears his own anger, and lets the other go free. Anger cannot be ignored, denied, or forgotten without doing treachery in hidden ways. It must be dealt with responsibly, honestly, in a decisive act of the will. Either the injured and justifiably angry person vents his feelings on the other in retaliation—(that is an attempt at achieving justice as accuser, judge, and hangman all in one)—or the injured person may choose to accept his angry feelings, bear the burden of them personally, find release through confession and prayer and set the other person free.This is forgiveness.” Earnest Gordon wrote about a “Miracle on the River Kwai.” There was a WW II movie, “The Bridge on the River Kwai” about Scottish soldiers forced by their Japanese captors to work on a jungle railroad.  Gordon writes, “They had degenerated to barbarous behavior, but one afternoon something happened. a shovel was missing. The officer in charge became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. when nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot. It was obvious the officer meant what he had said. Then, finally, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. When it was over, the survivors picked up the bloody corpse and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. indeed, there had been a miscount at the first check point. The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others!… The incident had a profound effect.… The men began to treat each other like brothers. When the victorious allies swept in, the survivors, human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors … (and instead of attacking their captors) insisted: ‘no more hatred. No more killing now what we need is forgiveness.’” Sacrificial love has transforming power. It changes our perspective.

II Practice

it is not enough however to view our circumstances unselfishly, we need to do something about it as did Joseph and Judah. Rabbi David A. Nelson tells the story of two brothers who went to their rabbi to settle a longstanding feud. The rabbi got the two to reconcile their differences and shake hands. As they were about to leave, he asked each one to make a wish for the other in honor of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah. The first brother turned to the other and said, “I wish you what you wish me.” At that, the second brother threw up his hands and said, “See, Rabbi, he’s starting up again!” We need to work at reconciliation. Forgiveness requires not only embracing an idea but embracing a person. Joseph throws his arms around Benjamin and kisses all his brothers. This forgiveness is patterned after God's according to I John 4:10, This is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. The incarnation is God touching us. In fact when God’s Son assumed a human nature, Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we have a high priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Max Lucado writes, “Jungle aviation and radio service, a department of Wycliffe Bible Translators went 25 years without a fatal accident, on April 7, 1972, a Piper Aztec lost its right engine and crashed in Papua New Guinea, killing all seven persons aboard. The Aztec had just had a 100 hour inspection. The chief mechanic was stunned. Reviewing in his mind each step in inspecting that engine, he suddenly remembered that he had been interrupted while tightening a fuel line and had never returned to finish the job! That faulty connection had allowed raw fuel to spray out and catch fire while the Aztec was in flight. The mechanic’s guilt for the deaths crushed him. He did not know what to do. The other mechanics tried to help him, as did his own family. But then when the family of Doug Hunt, the dead pilot, was preparing to return to their home in New Zealand, the mechanic knew he had to see them, talk with them and beg their forgiveness. He could barely get out the words as he sobbed in their presence. “That hand there,” he said, looking at his right hand, “took Doug’s life.” Glennis Hunt, Doug’s widow, embraced him. “Glennis sat by me and held the hand that took her husband’s life,” he later wrote, “ and another Jaars pilot sat on my other side with a demonstration of love, comfort, and forgiveness. that was the most significant first step in the healing process.” Love is defined in a unilateral way. It does not depend upon the other person, but upon us. Joseph's forgiveness leads to further reconciliation within the family of God. it was necessary for the sons of Jacob to be reconciled to their father. If you go back to Chapter 42 you will see the pride of Joseph's brothers when they first came to Egypt bringing silver to buy grain, but then their consciences are stricken after they are sent away and Simeon is kept as a hostage and in 42:24-28 we read, He (Joseph) turned away from them and began to weep, but then turned back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes. Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man's silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left. At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack. “My silver has been returned,” he said to his brothers. “Here it is in my sack.” And note especially their response, Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?” They believed they were being punished. They return home to Canaan, and preparing to go back to Egypt and to bring their younger brother, they take double the amount of silver. The whole picture is one of Joseph overcoming their legalistic attitude and teaching them the grace of God. They want to pay for their deliverance, but Joseph is waiting to give it to them. So the end result in Chapter 45:27 and 28 is that they tell their father everything that Joseph said to them - which implies a full reconciliation. And Jacob’s response is, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” And so, other blessings follow

III Prosperity

Prosperity follows true reconciliation. That is, the blessings God has given to Joseph now become the heritage of his family. God is here preserving his people through Joseph. After the family has come to Egypt and Joseph is reunited with his father he begins to use his influence to provide for a settlement of the family in Egypt 47:11 and 12, So Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed.  Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their children. In fact Joseph opens the wealth of Egypt to the family of God. It is this same wealth that Moses despised later, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. But now God will bless his people in Egypt as he promised. This idea of blessing is a covenant provision because the promise to Abraham is that his seed will bless all nations. Being God's people carries with it the promise of blessing and even though as Jacob says 47:9 his pilgrimage has been short and hard yet in the end, as always, there is blessing. It is the prosperity of the soul. The National Institute for Health care Research is quoted in the Inter varsity Press book “To Forgive is Human: Putting Your Past in the Past.” It tells us people who forgive: benefit from better immune functioning and lower blood pressure; have better mental health than people who do not forgive; feel better physically; have lower amounts of anger and fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression; maintain more satisfying and long-lasting relationships. It is this concept of blessing that enables the family of God to bless others. Twice we are told in Chapter 47 that Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Hebrews 7:7 says, Without any doubt the less is blessed of the better. Even the provision God made for the Egyptians through the wisdom he gave to Joseph was the result of God's people being in their midst. The world will be blessed by the presence of God's people. This nation has been blessed by the presence of God's people, but there is no doubt that the blessing is connected to the reconciliation of the family of God. We are a city set on a hill.

IV Progress

One event in this section of Scripture points out that along with prosperity there is progress. In addition to the prosperity and multiplication of Jacob’s descendants in Egypt. Jacob adopts Joseph's two sons into his family as his own and they are given an inheritance along with the other sons of Jacob in Chapter 48. This still works out numerically since the tribe of Levi did not have a direct inheritance in the land but lived among the other tribes. Thus Levi gets no inheritance and Joseph gets no inheritance but his sons Ephraim and Manasseh do, so that the number of tribes remains at 12. The record of this is found in chapter 48. Joseph had married the daughter of an Egyptian priest. His sons were of mixed blood. Yet Jacob takes them as his own. As Arthur Pink says, “How unlikely that these two Egyptian princes should forsake Egypt, the land of their birth and migrate to Canaan! How unlikely that they should become the fathers of tribes and would actually be the preeminent tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel.” Ultimately Joseph's sons remind us that all that came out of Egypt were not blood descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In fact there is in this, already, a recognition that God's people will come from every tribe and nation. In the New Testament we call this missions. But the worldwide progress of the gospel, like the prosperity of the Church are related to the peace and purity of the church. Reconciliation is the heart of the gospel and it must be played out before a dying world. As Paul Harvey would say, here is the rest of the story. Joseph’s second son was named Ephraim, or fruitful, because he said, God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering, but his first son was named Manasseh which means forgetting, because God has made me forget all my trouble.