My study continued today with the reading and analyzing of Genesis 45. After interacting with his brothers in Egypt for some time now without making himself known to them, in this chapter he cannot stand it any longer, and he just gets up and says “I am Joseph!” His brothers are obviously terrified, because as I have written about already, they know what they did to Joseph was wrong and have experienced a good amount of guilt over it. Joseph explains to them that they have no reason to fear him, because he knows that he was meant to come to Egypt for a greater purpose – he tells them “…God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Genesis 45:7-8). Then after spending some time hugging and weeping with is brothers (hey, there’s nothing wrong with men crying…), and he tells them to go back to Canaan and to bring their father, Jacob, to Egypt so that Joseph can watch over them. They do this – they go back and get Jacob, telling him that Joseph is truly alive and that he holds a place of great honor in Egypt. Jacob celebrates and agrees to go.
My study prompted me to look at Joseph’s attitude in this situation as compared to what my attitude would have probably been. I can’t help but think that if it had been me, I would have had to get a little revenge. My pride wouldn’t allow me to just let things go – I would have definitely wanted a little justice to be served to my brothers. But Joseph didn’t do this. As you saw from his statements in verses 7-8, he saw this whole thing from God’s perspective. God hadn’t abandoned him – He had put Joseph in this position to bring good out of it. And Joseph’s brothers may have sold him as a slave with poor intentions, but it was the will of God and therefore Joseph didn’t feel it necessary to get revenge.
I’m not sure I could do this. I believe (perhaps more head knowledge, and not much heart knowledge) that God can use the difficulties in our lives for many different purposes. As I wrote about in an earlier post when talking about famines, sometimes God uses disasters and difficulties to get our attention, and to show us where we are in the order of things. They serve as a sort of corrective measure that God allows to occur in order to put us in our place. And at other times, such as in the case of Joseph, we may have done absolutely nothing wrong, yet we live through extreme difficulties anyway. Why would God allow these bad things to happen to good people? Well, there’s entire bible studies and books written over that topic, and I’m probably not worthy to tie the laces of the people who wrote those. But I think that Joseph hit the nail on the head when he said that sometimes, God has bigger plans than just what we see in the present. And over time, if we persevere, we will see that God can bring spectacular things to fruition out of what we think are the worst circumstances. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and neither are His was our ways (Isaiah 55:8) – and we would do well to remember that and to adjust our attitudes accordingly.
Something I find even more interesting is how God can use a situation for both judgment and for bringing good upon us. In the case of the famines, one could argue that they were happening because of Joseph’s brothers’ sin and for how they had treated him. The Bible never actually says this, so it is fully speculative, but it is a valid argument all the same. And through this very same situation, God allowed Joseph to arise as an honored man in all of Egypt, which put his family in a position to survive the famine. And on top of this, it takes the Israelites to Egypt, which God has already planned (He told Abraham many years before that his descendants would “be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.” (Genesis 15)). I just think it’s amazing how God can use one situation, or a series of events, for so many different purposes. Only an all-knowing God could do something like that. I stand amazed…