A reflection on Genesis 45:3-11 & 15 and Psalm 37:1-11 & 40-41 for the Seventh Sunday After Epiphany, February 20, 2022.
Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come closer to me.’ And they came closer. He said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither ploughing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.”
…And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
Genesis 45:3-11 & 15 (NRSVA)
Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land,
and delight in abundant prosperity.
…The Lord helps them and rescues them;
he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
Psalm 37:1-11 & 40-41 (NRSVA)
There is something wonderful about this moment in the story of Joseph.
In the absence of his father, Jacob, Joseph finds the courage to ask after the one who, perhaps foolishly, favoured him above gathering before him. It is a vulnerable moment. What if these men still remember the emotions sparked by that glamorous gift?
Yet as Joseph calls them closer to stare into his face – strangely disguised in the style of Egyptian rulers – he reveals not only who he is, but also what he has come to believe about their unforgettable actions.
Their jealousy. The violence. That heartless sale.
Their distress is justified. Jospeh is now significantly more powerful than he was when they last saw him. This is no longer a weak kid brother. Behind Joseph sits the authority of the nation they, as foreigners, recently (and desperately) risked reentering.
Once again there is a power imbalance – but now it is not in their favour. Circumstances have significantly changed!
And so has Joseph’s heart. Let’s face it, he was an irritating, upstart teenager last time this family was together. Now – perhaps as a result of his change of fortune or maybe after all that prison ponder-time – Joseph is much wiser, more powerful, and – of all things – significantly humbler.
All the anger, resentment, and loss seem to have fallen away. They have not, however, left a void. In their place is a profound faith in God. Over time Joseph has come to believe that God used even this tragic and all too personal injustice to bring about good. Read the words on the mouth of this man of faith: ‘God sent me before you to preserve life…God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth…So it was not you who sent me here, but God’.
Such words would be insensitive and tragically offensive were they not coming from the mouth of the very one against whom these injustices were performed.
Only Joseph can say this.
To get here, I suspect, took some time. Such clear sight often comes through a hard-won waiting.
As our Psalm suggests, seeing the hand of God takes ‘trust’, the courage to ‘commit’, and the patience to wait. God’s work is rarely obvious.
So, today, take the psalmists invitation to heart: ‘Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him’.
When has waiting on God produced an unexpected perspective in you?
What are you still waiting on God for?