Joseph stands before the brothers who once drove him into exile. He not only forgives them but also affirms God’s gracious initiative shining through their past vicious behavior: “And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. . . . So it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
While Joseph celebrates God’s sovereignty, his brothers retain responsibility for having harmed him. Likewise, the good that God brings about—even through the stupid, sinful things we do—does not exempt us from personal accountability for our hurtful actions. The sure and certain grace of God is not a moral loophole but a gift that gives us courage to face ourselves and those who need us to make humble amends.
Joseph’s anguish surges into the present. He needs desperately to live toward a future with his family, unencumbered by their terrible former behavior. He understands that only God can move him and his relations together in peace. In order to become whole human beings, the brothers need to face, full-on, the ways they wounded Joseph and then receive the love he offers them despite their hateful history.
Which is harder—to stand in Joseph’s shoes, or the brothers’? To forgive the ones who sinned against you, or admit you sinned against another and accept that person’s forgiveness? It’s unavoidable: Christian life entails both forgiving and being forgiven. Joseph’s raw reckoning with his brothers shows us to ourselves as we stand before our God.
Until we acknowledge the depth of the meanness and violence of which we are capable, the grace and forgiveness of Jesus remain theoretical for us. But when God’s love overcomes us, we are mended, our relationships are restored, and we are sent out as messengers of the mercy that has saved us.
Help us come closer to knowing our need for you, O God. Amen.
Joseph has risen to a high position in Egypt, and now his brothers come searching for food in a time of famine. He reveals his true identity and reinterprets their evil intentions as being part of God’s plan. Sometimes we too are granted perspective to see God’s working in difficult times. The psalmist rejoices when God’s people are living in unity, as Joseph and his brothers were after their reunion. In Romans, Paul declares that his people are not rejected by the merciful God, for God’s promises are unchanging. In Matthew, Jesus teaches that God looks on the inside, not the outside. Thus, what you take into your body is less important than what comes from your heart, and God does not favor one ethnic group over another.
Read Genesis 45:1-15. When have you experienced God’s grace in forgiving or being forgiven? How were those needing forgiveness still held responsible for their actions?
Read Psalm 133. How has God called you to live in unity with those different from you? How do you receive God’s abundant blessing through such unity?
Read Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32. How does the eternal mercy of God’s gifts and callings sustain you when it seems like God has rejected God’s people?
Read Matthew 15:10-28. When have you, like the Canaanite woman, felt like you had to insist that Jesus come closer? How did your faith change or grow from this experience?
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