Have you ever been to a family reunion? If so, what were your feelings heading into it? Where you excited, anxious, unsure of what might happen?
Unfortunately, reunions are not always something we look forward to. Perhaps the time apart from one another plays a role in that lack of comfort? If we haven’t seen each other or spoken to one another in some time, we can easily grow apart from family members. When we no longer know them, it can be difficult to connect as we once did. It might be more difficult than we’d like to admit to “pick up the pieces” and begin again.
While I’m unsure, there is a part of me that believes family reunions became popular because Americans slowly became comfortable with moving away for school and jobs. That inevitability meant some of us grew apart from one another and needed a reason to reconnect.
It would be nice if the reasons listed above were the motivations behind Joseph and his brothers reuniting in Egypt. Unfortunately, their reunion wasn’t one that either side planned. It was brought upon them by God’s Divine Will.
While we may point to providence (God working behind the scenes) and suspect their reunion to be a mere convenience, I believe that conclusion would be a mistake. This “chance” encounter has all the makings of a Divinely-orchestrated event set in motion by God Himself. He had too much to accomplish, too much at stake, and acted accordingly.
Notice how this part of the story began in Genesis 41:56-57:
The famine was over all the face of the earth, and Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians. And the famine became severe in the land of Egypt. So all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands.
The famine Pharaoh’s dream predicted didn’t just engulf Egypt, it spread throughout all the lands of the Ancient Near East. Much like the natural disasters of our day, when an area was devestated then, the surrounding areas felt that pain as well. Like a cup of spilled water, the devestation spread across the path of least resistance. That devestation leads Joseph’s family into making the only choice they could in Genesis 42:1-5:
When Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” And he said, “Indeed I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down to that place and buy for us there, that we may live and not die.” So Joseph’s ten brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, “Lest some calamity befall him.” And the sons of Israel went to buy grain among those who journeyed, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.
If we stop right now and examine the circumstances, a great sense of irony should befall us. How could it not? The brother they threw away would now be their savior. How ironic? They believed he was useless, a sore spot in the path to their father’s affection, a dreamer and a gloater, unworthy of grace and compassion. Now, they must go to him unknowingly and ask for help. Hollywood movies don’t write stories that ironic. They couldn’t sell them as true or even reasonable, yet here is God, setting the pieces in place for a reunion like none other.
We could examine all the details and explore the moments, but it seems more poignant to explore Joseph’s big reveal in Genesis 45. As a primer to that moment, let’s just briefly see what happens:
- The brothers go to Egypt and are accused of being spies by Joseph who recongizes them without their knowledge. Simeon stays as a down payment after Joseph commands them to bring Benjamin to Egypt. He can barely contain himself and weeps at their regret (Genesis 42:1-24).
- They are sent home with grain and their money to retrieve Benjamin. There father is reluctant but eventually grants Joseph’s request. Upon arriving in Egypt, they go to Joseph and recieve a warm welcome from him (Genesis 42:25-43).
- Joseph sends them on their way but has a servant hide his cup in Benjamin’s bag. It all seems to be a test to see their response. Judah intercedes on Benjamin’s behalf, willing to trade places as a slave in Joseph’s house to free his younger brother (Genesis 44).
Following that exhange, one in which he sees how much his brothers have changed, Joseph reveals himself to them. In the moment of revelation, his brothers don’t know what to do. Could it be true? Could the brother they threw away be the one standing before them with power and authority? Joseph reassured them in 45:5:
Do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
That he could forgive them, embrace them, and want to share a life with them is beyond most of us. Forgiveness is one thing, this is something else entirely. A family was broken apart, then reunited by the one who suffered the most. That doesn’t happen in our world. Those who are hurt like Joseph find opportunities to hurt back, not forgive. They strike out at their adversaries and enact revenge. He did none of that. Perhaps, it was his faith in God that allowed forgiveness to flow, instead of anger. That statement, “God sent me before you,” speaks to contentment, not hatred. Joseph saw the big picture behind everything, even the callous disdian his brothers once used to justify his treatment.
This family reunion may be the weirdest in all of Scripture, but it isn’t without precedent. Joseph’s father faced the same type of moment after he returned home to face his brother Esau in Genesis 33. They made up as well despite Jacob’s expectations. I wonder if that moment was something Joseph knew about and was thinking about that as he forgave his brothers?
Whatever was going through his head, this much we know to be true. We should not give up on our family. They may change for the better. Sometimes, distance and time are good things that bring our priorities back in line. They work to bring us back together with someone we never thought possible.
Perhaps, those earthly reunions will set the stage for something even greater. Perhaps, they’re a glimpse at heaven, the greatest reunion any of us will ever experience. On that day, when we join millions of other disciples, we’ll be reunited with God for all of eternity.
That a wonderful moment could come out of something so vile is a testament to endurance and forgivenss. If the life of Joseph teaches us anything its this – don’t give up. Life is not over on your worst day, it’s just getting started. God has a plan and there is work to be done.
Maybe, the reunion your heart desires is coming soon. Maybe it’ll happen when you least expect it.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.