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7. Pursuing Reconciliation (Genesis 44:33-45:28)

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“Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father. Joseph was no longer able to control himself before all his attendants, so he cried out, “Make everyone go out from my presence!” No one remained with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. He wept loudly; the Egyptians heard it and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” His brothers could not answer him because they were dumbfounded before him. Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me,” so they came near. Then he said, “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Now, do not be upset and do not be angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life! For these past two years there has been famine in the land and for five more years there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me ahead of you to preserve you on the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now, it is not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me an adviser to Pharaoh, lord over all his household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Now go up to my father quickly and tell him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: “God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not delay! You will live in the land of Goshen, and you will be near me—you, your children, your grandchildren, your flocks, your herds, and everything you have. I will provide you with food there because there will be five more years of famine. Otherwise you would become poor—you, your household, and everyone who belongs to you.”‘ You and my brother Benjamin can certainly see with your own eyes that I really am the one who speaks to you. So tell my father about all my honor in Egypt and about everything you have seen. But bring my father down here quickly!” Then he threw himself on the neck of his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. He kissed all his brothers and wept over them. After this his brothers talked with him. … So they went up from Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. They told him, “Joseph is still alive and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt!” Jacob was stunned, for he did not believe them. But when they related to him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to transport him, their father Jacob’s spirit revived. Then Israel said, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive! I will go and see him before I die.”

Genesis 44:33-45:28 (NET)

How should we pursue reconciliation with others?

Unfortunately, since the fall, humanity has been prone to discord. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, one of the major consequences was discord. The woman would desire to control the husband, and the husband would try to dominate her (Gen 3:16). From this dysfunction came every relational dysfunction: brother would fight against brother, sister against sister, neighbor against neighbor, ethnic group against ethnic group, and nation and against nation. Clearly, we still struggle with discord today. It’s in our families, friendships, workplaces, churches, and nations.

How should we pursue reconciliation—the renewing of relationships with one another? One of the reasons that Christ came and died for our sins was not only to reconcile our relationship with God, but also to reconcile us with others (Eph 2)—no more racism, ethnocentrism, elitism, or caste systems. As Christians, as much as it depends on us, we must seek to live at peace with others (Rom 12:18). Sometimes, reconciliation is not possible if the other side refuses to restore a relationship, but as for us, we must do our best to pursue it.

In this text, Joseph, who was originally sold into slavery by his brothers (Gen 37), had been exalted to governor of Egypt (Gen 41). God had been using him to provide for the world during a world-wide famine. In Genesis 42, this famine caused his own family to come to Egypt for resources. Since Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognize him, he tested their character to see if they had changed. He provided resources for them but kept the second oldest—Simeon—as prisoner, while they went home and brought back Joseph’s youngest brother, Benjamin. Joseph wanted to know if they mistreated him as well. When the brothers returned with Benjamin, he prepared an elaborate feast for them and sent them home with great provisions (Gen 43). However, in Genesis 44, he tested the brothers one more time to see if they had truly changed. Joseph planted a silver cup in Benjamin’s luggage, accused him of stealing it, and was going to enslave him. Would the brothers take the resources and leave Benjamin, like they did twenty-two years previously, when they sold Joseph into slavery? No, they didn’t; they had changed. They offered to be slaves along with Benjamin, and Judah, specifically, offered to take his place while the others went back. Joseph now knew he could trust his brothers, and in Genesis 45, he revealed his true identity to them and began the process of reconciliation—renewing their relationship.

As we study this reunion, we can learn principles about renewing our broken relationships as well—relationships with family members, friends, co-workers, and church members.

Big Question: What principles about pursuing reconciliation can be discerned from Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers?

To Pursue Reconciliation, We Must Pursue Change in Ourselves and Others

“Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.

Genesis 44:33-34

Often, we confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. Forgiveness is actually only a part of the reconciliation process. A wife can forgive an abusive husband, but there is no reconciliation if there is still abuse. In order for their relationship to be renewed, there must be a change in the husband’s character.

Joseph understood this reality. He had forgiven his brothers many years ago—maybe right after they sold him into slavery. His forgiveness is clearly seen in the naming of his firstborn, Manasseh, which means “to forget” (Gen 41:51). God had caused him to forget the pain in his household. However, though he had forgiven the brothers, reconciliation wasn’t possible if they had not changed their abusive and selfish character. That’s why Joseph tested them. Throughout the tests, he showed them great love—he gave them abundant resources without charging them—but he still tested their character, nonetheless.

Many actually hinder their relationships from ever experiencing true reconciliation by not properly recognizing the evil committed. Sometimes, they brush off gossip, lies, cheating, or even theft, by saying things like, “It’s not a big deal!”, “Kids will be kids!”, “Guys will be guys!” or “Girls will be girls!” However, sin is a big deal—it drives a wedge between relationships and hinders true fellowship. Certainly, we should forgive and return good for evil, but without recognizing evil and asking people to turn from it, there is no true reconciliation. It just becomes pacification of sin or a treaty at best.

Let’s consider the difference between Joseph’s reaction to his brothers’ sins and David’s reaction to his own children’s sins (2 Sam 13-19). When David’s son, Amnon, raped David’s daughter, David did nothing. This caused David’s other son, Absalom, to kill Amnon and then flee from the family. Eventually, Absalom was restored to the kingdom, but David never disciplined him or communicated with him—he just left him alone. Then, eventually, Absalom tried to kill David and take over the kingdom. By never dealing with any of the sons’ sins, there never was any reconciliation in his family, only pacification. Possibly, David never disciplined his children because he remembered his own sins—he had previously committed adultery and murder, and perhaps he believed it was impossible for him to be a righteous judge. Whatever the reasons, eventually the unresolved conflicts blew up in David’s face.

As seen with David, because of flaws in our own character, we tend to tolerate various sins and unhealthy relationships. This happens in dating relationships, marriages, parent-child relationships, workplaces, and friendships. When sin or wrong views about ourselves persist (for example, believing that we’re not worth anything because of past failures, or that nobody will ever love us), we tend to tolerate things that should not be tolerated. Therefore, in order for there to be reconciliation, we may need to develop our character first.

Pursuing a character change in others means pointing out sin in an appropriate manner, being patient when they fail, and ultimately trusting God to bring the change. When trying to help others turn away from sin in order to have reconciliation, the process often isn’t easy. Conquering sin is a difficult task—some sins reappear for years, even when a person has right intentions. We don’t change people; God does. However, we do have a role in the process. In talking about how people change, Paul said that he and Apollos planted and watered, but God made the seed grow (1 Cor 3:6). Therefore, like farmers, we patiently plant and water, and trust God to bring the increase in his time.

True reconciliation begins when both parties have repented of their sins. It begins when the gossip stops gossiping, the wife stops criticizing, the husband stops using harsh words, and the offended party stops holding a grudge. In order for there to be true reconciliation, righteous character is needed on both sides—the innocent party and guilty one. Here in this narrative, the brothers had changed, and therefore, true reconciliation could be pursued. Character change in us and others is necessary for true reconciliation.

Application Question: Why is pursuing a change in character needed to have reconciliation between people? What happens when one side is not willing to change? How should that affect our pursuit of reconciliation?

To Pursue Reconciliation, We Must Focus on God’s Sovereignty instead of Others’ Failures

Joseph was no longer able to control himself before all his attendants, so he cried out, “Make everyone go out from my presence!” No one remained with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. He wept loudly; the Egyptians heard it and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” His brothers could not answer him because they were dumbfounded before him. Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me,” so they came near. Then he said, “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Now, do not be upset and do not be angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life! For these past two years there has been famine in the land and for five more years there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me ahead of you to preserve you on the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now, it is not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me an adviser to Pharaoh, lord over all his household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Now go up to my father quickly and tell him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: “God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not delay!

Genesis 45:1-9

After Judah pleaded to take Benjamin’s place (Gen 44:33-34), Joseph breaks down (45:1-2). He couldn’t hide his identity any longer. He screamed at his servants to leave the room, and then began to weep. You can imagine what was going through the brothers’ minds. They had been accused of stealing by the governor of Egypt, and now the governor had screamed at his servants to leave and was crying. Surely, they must have been afraid of what was about to happen. Then, out of nowhere, the Egyptian governor spoke to them in Hebrew. Up to this time, the governor had always used an interpreter to speak to them, but now it was revealed that not only did he speak in Hebrew, he said, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” Initially, they probably could not believe what they were hearing; they must have questioned: “What is going on? How does he know Hebrew and our dead brother’s name?” Then Joseph motioned for them to come closer, so they could look at him and consider his face, eyes, and other features. Then Joseph gave them more convincing evidence when he revealed further information that he could not have known if he were not who he said he was. He declared, “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt” (45:4). Although shocked, afraid, and ashamed, they began to believe his story. Joseph quickly comforted them by saying, “Now, do not be upset and do not be angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life!” (45:5). Joseph aimed to comfort them with God’s ultimate purpose through their evil act—to preserve lives.

Interpretation Question: In what ways does Scripture teach God’s sovereignty over every event, including evil works, such as the brothers selling Joseph into slavery?

From verse 5 to 9, Joseph mentions God’s name four times. This was classic Joseph: When he met with the baker and the cupbearer, he said, “Doesn’t the interpretation of dreams belong to God?” (Gen 40:8 paraphrase). When he met with Pharaoh, he said, “I cannot interpret your dreams, but God can” (Gen 41:16 paraphrase). Even when Joseph sent the brothers back home the first time, he said to them, “I fear God” (Gen 42:18). Joseph was a man who saw God in everything. It was who he was. He couldn’t hide it—not even in a pagan world that worshiped different gods, not even when confronting his brothers who sold him into slavery twenty-two years before.

However, this is the part that we must understand if we are going to seek reconciliation with others. Like Joseph, we must have a strong theology of God’s sovereignty. Scripture doesn’t teach that God is a clock maker who simply winds up the earth, and lets it run on its own. Scripture teaches that God is intimately involved with everything that happens on earth. Colossians 1:17 says this about Christ, “He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him.” God holds all things together. Scripture further describes God’s sovereign control over all things:

  • God is in control of random events like the rolling of the dice. Proverbs 16:33 says, “The dice are thrown into the lap, but their every decision is from the Lord.”
  • God is in control of disasters. Amos 3:6 says, “If an alarm sounds in a city, do people not fear? If disaster overtakes a city, is the Lord not responsible?”
  • God is in control of kings. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord like channels of water; he turns it wherever he wants.” He hardens Pharaoh’s heart and softens it, as he wills.
  • God is in control of evil and temptation. First Corinthians 10:13 says:

No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Trial can be translated “temptation.” God will not allow believers to be tempted beyond what they can bear. That means he is in control. Satan is not running free; he is on a leash, as God sets his boundaries. As with Job’s trials and temptations, Satan can only do what God gives him permission to do (Job 1, 2).

  • God is in control of the number of every person’s days. In Psalm 139:16, David said, “…All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence.”

In fact, Ephesians 1:11 says, God “accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.” Nothing happens on this earth apart from God’s counsel. This is a marvelous fact. Certainly, it creates mental difficulties for us. How can this be, especially when we consider evil? Scripture teaches that though we as creatures make “free decisions,” including evil ones, God is in control of them in such a way that he can rightly be called the first cause behind all events. Pharaoh hardened his heart, but God ultimately was the sovereign who did it (Ex 4:21, 8:32, Prov 21:1). Birds feed themselves, but as Christ said, God feeds them (Matt 6:26). Disasters happen because of many causes, but Amos says God is the ultimate cause (Amos 3:6). God can be called the first cause of everything. However, the paradox in Scripture is that God can rightly be called the first cause of all events, including evil ones like hardening Pharaoh’s heart, but God cannot be blamed for the evil actions creatures commit. James 1:13-14 says: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires.”

Evil is the fault of creatures; however, God is still in control. Again, this is a paradox—two seemingly contradicting statements. Nevertheless, Scripture teaches this because we need to accept both realities. (1) It would be an error to think of God as being evil or delighting in it. Scripture does not teach this. Thinking this way would only lead us to discouragement and hopelessness. (2) Likewise, the alternative is just as bad. If God is not in control, then many dire circumstances in life are hopeless, as well. Why pray if God is not in control? Scripture teaches that God is not evil, that he doesn’t directly commit evil, nor does he delight in it, but he is in control of it. This is important for our hearts to accept: Dictators and wicked presidents are not in control! Terrorist are not in control! Our boss is not in control! Our family is not in control! God is!

The sovereignty of God over evil is always taught in Scripture to give comfort to believers. God is in control of evil and, therefore, can use it for good (Rom 8:28). For Job, it was this reality that allowed him to navigate the loss of riches, children, and health. He said, “The Lord gives, and he takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 paraphrase). It’s not that Job didn’t recognize the accountability of evil men or Satan who hurt him; he just saw God in control of them. And since God was using those evil works for his good, he could bless the name of the Lord for them. It gave him a tremendous comfort. And this was true of Joseph: he said that the brothers sold him into Egypt (45:4) but also said God sent him so he could eventually save them (45:5). At the end of Genesis, he reaffirms this truth to the brothers when they thought that Joseph would enslave them after Jacob’s death. He said:

As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day. So now, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your little children.” Then he consoled them and spoke kindly to them.

Genesis 50:20-21

In this, we learn the reason why many believers are constantly in discord with others and unwilling to seek reconciliation: Instead of accepting that God is in control, they focus all their thoughts and energies on secondary causes—family, friends, co-workers, or the government, for example. They forget that God holds the temperature gauge on any trials and that people or chance circumstances are not in control of their future—God is. The brothers tried to hurt Joseph, but that was all part of God’s eternal plan. God even gave Joseph a vision to help him have hope while experiencing the evil. Before the brothers enslaved him, Joseph saw the eleven brothers eventually bowing down before him (Gen 37:5-8). God was in control of their evil act. Certainly, the greatest way we see this reality is in the cross—predestined even before time, carried out by wicked men, but intended for our eternal good. Acts 2:38 says this about Christ, “this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles.” Therefore, if we are going to seek reconciliation, we must focus on God’s control of evil acts and people, instead of the evil acts and people themselves. This doesn’t remove people’s guilt or the real pain we experience, but it should give us hope, regardless.

God Uses Evil to Enable Us to Help Others

Our God is using evil acts and failures, our own and others, for our eternal good (Rom 8:28)—maybe to teach us patience, to trust God more, to love the unlovable as he does, to help us read our Bibles and pray more, or any other host of reasons. However, just as with Joseph and Jesus, we too can trust that God ultimately uses our worst circumstances to help us to better help others. This is what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:3-6:

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow toward us, so also our comfort through Christ overflows to you. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort that you experience in your patient endurance of the same sufferings that we also suffer.

God uses trials and difficulties in our lives for the purpose of changing us and enabling us to help others in a greater capacity. In the trial, we learn empathy—to hurt with others who are suffering. We learn comfort and hope that we can offer the hurting. Without these lessons, which are formed in the fire, we won’t be able to be like our Savior. God uses ‘bad’ to enable us minister to others—to comfort, strengthen, and equip them. Therefore, like Joseph, if we are going to seek reconciliation, we must focus on surrendering to the sovereignty of God over any trial we are in, be it a conflict at work, church, or at home.

On whom or what is your focus: the secondary causes or the first cause—our sovereign God who works all things for our good? Your focus will affect how you go through trials, and it will affect your ability to forgive others, even as it did with Joseph. The one who focuses on the evil of others will find it hard to forgive and seek reconciliation. Their unforgiveness might actually keep them from God’s purpose—to use that evil to bring about something great in their lives.

Application Question: How do you reconcile God’s sovereignty over all events, including the evil of people and demons? How can Scripture say God is the first cause of evil things like disasters or the hardening of people’s heart and yet not be blamed for evil (cf. Ex 9:12, Prov 21:1, Amos 3:6, Jam 1:13)? Why should God’s sovereignty comfort believers and also help them reconcile with others?

To Pursue Reconciliation, We Must Overcome Evil with Good

Now go up to my father quickly and tell him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: “God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not delay! You will live in the land of Goshen, and you will be near me—you, your children, your grandchildren, your flocks, your herds, and everything you have. I will provide you with food there because there will be five more years of famine. Otherwise you would become poor—you, your household, and everyone who belongs to you.”‘ You and my brother Benjamin can certainly see with your own eyes that I really am the one who speaks to you. So tell my father about all my honor in Egypt and about everything you have seen. But bring my father down here quickly!” Then he threw himself on the neck of his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. He kissed all his brothers and wept over them. After this his brothers talked with him…So the sons of Israel did as he said. Joseph gave them wagons as Pharaoh had instructed, and he gave them provisions for the journey. He gave sets of clothes to each one of them, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five sets of clothes. To his father he sent the following: ten donkeys loaded with the best products of Egypt and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, food, and provisions for his father’s journey.

Genesis 45:9-15, 21-23

After Joseph revealed his identity, he commanded the brothers to tell their father that Joseph was alive, was lord over Egypt, and to come to Egypt quickly. He told them the famine would last for five more years, which would lead them into poverty without Joseph’s help (45:11); therefore, they should move everyone to Egypt. They would be given the fertile land in Goshen. After saying this, Joseph threw himself on Benjamin and they wept together. Then he kissed all the brothers and wept on their necks (45:14-15). Eventually, Pharaoh heard that Joseph’s family was in Egypt, and he also commanded them to move to Egypt (45:17-20). The brothers were given wagons, donkeys, new clothes, and great provisions for the journey.

Now, Joseph showed all this generosity and affection to his family because he loved them, but it also was a way to comfort them and help build their trust. Though they had sold him into slavery twenty-two years ago, Joseph wasn’t going to hold that wicked act against them. He only wanted to bless them.

Similarly, this is one of the ways that we must pursue reconciliation with others, especially those who have hurt us. Romans 12:19-21 says,

Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In general, we should overcome the evil of others by doing good to them. When they are hungry, we should feed them. When they are thirsty, we should give them drink. By doing this, it will prick their hearts and help change them.

When somebody hurts us, our natural reaction is retaliation. However, Scripture says we should leave vengeance to the Lord and instead serve them. With that said, this does not mean we never pursue justice. According to Romans 13:1-7, God has given us authorities for this very reason. Authorities are meant to represent God by rewarding the righteous and punishing wrong-doers. Essentially, Joseph, as the Egyptian governor, had taken that role by testing his brothers.

More important than changing others’ heart attitudes, blessing those who hurt us will change us. Often times it is hard to forgive those who have hurt us, especially emotionally. When painful emotions surface, we must forgive in faith and begin to bless our attackers. Christ said to love our enemies and pray for them (Matt 5:44). In the midst of praying for these people, and at times serving them, God often gives us new hearts. We will often find ourselves experiencing a supernatural love for them, coupled with a passion for their restoration to God. By serving those who hurt us, we not only might be used to overcome the evil in their hearts but also the unlove in our own hearts.

In this passage, Joseph pursued reconciliation by blessing those who hurt him. For the brothers, who were afraid for their lives because of their past evil act, Joseph’s loving actions heaped burning coals on their heads. It further convicted them of their wrong and opened the door for true reconciliation.

Application Question: How does holding grudges and unforgiveness often have more negative effects on us than others (cf. Matt 18:23-35)? In what ways have you experienced overcoming evil with good, specifically when it came to relational discord? How does blessing those who’ve hurt us often change their hearts and our own?

To Pursue Reconciliation, We Must Forgive Failures and Not Continually Bring Them Up

Then he sent his brothers on their way and they left. He said to them, “As you travel don’t be overcome with fear.” So they went up from Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. They told him, “Joseph is still alive and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt!” Jacob was stunned, for he did not believe them. But when they related to him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to transport him, their father Jacob’s spirit revived. Then Israel said, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive! I will go and see him before I die.”

Genesis 45:24-28

Before Joseph sent the brothers on their way, he said to them, “don’t be overcome with fear” (45:24). However, most versions translate this, “do not quarrel” (NIV, ESV) or “do no argue” (HCSB, CEV). Previously, in Genesis 42:21-22, when Joseph tested the brothers by imprisoning them for three days, they discerned that they were being punished by God for enslaving Joseph. Then Reuben declared how he originally warned them to not hurt the boy. Essentially, he said, “I told you so!” Joseph knew, on the way home, the brothers might start to blame one another again, which would only interfere with the family’s full reconciliation.

A significant hinderance to reconciliation is a tendency to continually bring up past failures. Now, there is a place for that if there has never been any true confession and repentance from the erring party. However, when there has been genuine confession and repentance, and even though a person may fail again, the past should not be continually brought up. This constrains many relationships from ever truly reconciling. The party in error begins to feel as if it’s impossible to reconcile for his or her past mistakes—eventually succumbing to despair, giving up, or reverting back to old ways.

When describing agape love—God’s love—in 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV), Paul said love “keeps no record of wrongs.” Unfortunately, many people are astute historians in this area. They continually bring up past failures, recalling every detail, and throwing them into the face of the other party. Often both sides do this—effectively sabotaging true reconciliation. If we are going to love someone as God calls us to, and experience reconciliation with that person, we must learn to forgive and let go of past failures, especially when there has been confession and repentance.

When there is confession and a genuine commitment to change, we must let go of the past and not continually bring it up. This creates an environment where true change and reconciliation can happen, instead of nurturing on-going quarrels. Sin takes time to root out. We all have had habitual sins that we continually fell back into, which took time to get over. It wasn’t that we were insincere in our fight to conquer those sins; we were just weak in our flesh. Paul had the same struggles: In Romans 7, he declared “the things I would do, I don’t do, and the things I wouldn’t do, I do. Who can save me from this body of sin?” (paraphrase). If we remember our own weaknesses, although they may be different from the weaknesses of those who hurt us, it will help us be more patient with them. Joseph wisely warned his brothers against the temptation to continually bring up the past and fight amongst themselves on their way to Canaan. We must be wise and commit to do the same in our relationships.

When Jacob heard that his son, Joseph, was alive, he was “stunned” (45:26). It can also be translated that Jacob’s heart became “numb” or “faint.” He possibly almost experienced a minor heart attack. However, when he saw the Egyptian clothes the brothers were wearing, the great caravan outside the house, including the Egyptian wagons, he believed. It says Jacob’s “spirit revived” (45:27). Then Jacob said, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive! I will go and see him before I die” (45:28). Jacob was 130 years old when he went down to Egypt (47:9), and he was 147 when he died (47:28). Therefore, Jacob was able to enjoy all his children and grandchildren together for seventeen years. His family had been reconciled. May the Lord reconcile all of our families and friendships as well. Amen!

Application Question: Why is it important to refrain from bringing up the past when seeking reconciliation? When is bringing up the past appropriate? Share a story of how God reconciled a broken relationship of yours. What relationships are you still praying for God to reconcile?

Conclusion

How should we pursue reconciliation? We learn a great deal from Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers after twenty-two years of being estranged.

  1. To Pursue Reconciliation, We Must Pursue Change in Ourselves and Others
  2. To Pursue Reconciliation, We Must Focus on God’s Sovereignty instead of Others’ Failures
  3. To Pursue Reconciliation, We Must Overcome Evil with Good
  4. To Pursue Reconciliation, We Must Forgive Failures and Not Continually Bring Them Up

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

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