"Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, ‘Have everyone leave my presence!" So there was no one with Joseph when made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and the house of Pharaoh heard about it.” Genesis 45:1-2 (NIV)
Joseph’s story is one of the most gut-wrenching stories in the Bible. Because it is taught so often in children’s church, we sometimes forget how horrible his circumstances were. As a young boy, just 17, Joseph was thrown into a deep pit by his older brothers. I’m sure it was dark, cold, probably filled with bugs and snakes. He probably hurt his legs or bumped his head during the fall. And as he sat there in the dark, confused and alone, he could probably hear his brothers standing at the top discussing what to do with him. One suggests killing him, one suggests leaving him there to die… how he must have felt completely worthless, unloved, and devastated. Then he hears them decide to sell him into slavery. Immediately, he was ripped away from his family and everything he’s ever known, and was thrown into the slave market. He was surrounded by complete strangers who poked and prodded him, judging his slave-worthiness like cattle at an auction. He knew no one. He was then chosen to live as a slave in Potiphar’s house but his circumstances didn’t improve. The slave master’s wife continually offered herself sexually to David, but he refused her. So in her humiliation and anger, she accused Joseph of raping her. Joseph was then thrown into the King’s jail and, for a time, forgotten.
Oh how unjust it was! Joseph didn’t deserve all that was happening to him, it wasn’t fair! If anyone had a right to grow bitter, if anyone had a right to live a life of anger, it was Joseph. Joseph didn’t do anything wrong, he didn’t ask for these horrible things to happen to him. He was a good boy; he loved God deeply and followed His laws. Yet, through all the tragedy, Joseph remained tender. And despite a horrifying series of events, God brought Joseph to Egypt and established him second in command over the land. (I know, big jump from the bottom of a pit). God put him in a position of great authority and wealth. To me, he would have been completely justified to bring down the hammer on his brothers when they arrived in Egypt that day! After all, look what they did to him. But Joseph did something that was most unexpected. His tender heart could bear the burden no longer and he wept with his brothers. In verse 5 he told them,
“And now, do not be grieved and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (NIV)
What? And then in verse 15 it says he,
“…kissed all his brothers and wept over them, and after that his brothers talked with him.”
Again, what?? I don’t get it. How is it that Joseph was able to forgive so easily, to have tenderness towards his brothers, to ease their burden of guilt and shame so quickly?
Joseph had a proper perspective. He knew who his enemy was and he knew where his joy came from. His enemy wasn’t his brothers, it was Satan. And his joy wasn’t in revenge, it was in the Lord. Joseph could have gone through his trials with a negative perspective – “I can’t believe my brothers would do this! Why don’t they love me? God is supposed to love me and protect me, yet here I am in this hell!” – and his heart would have grown bitter and angry. The outcome would have been completely different. But because he was able to have a proper perspective and maintain a heart of tenderness, God used him in one of the greatest love stories ever told. A wonderful example to us of forgiveness and love, despite the circumstances.
When I look at Joseph’s life, I can’t help but see how my original response to my husband’s sin was anything but tender. When I thought about what he did, I grew bitter and angry because I did not have a proper perspective. My husband is not my enemy, Satan is. And my joy does not come from my husband’s sorrow, but rather the presence of God in our relationship. You see, it was ultimately pride that fueled my reactions to his sin -- How could he do this to ME? Why doesn’t he love ME? He needs to prove himself to ME -- me, me, me! It was all about me. That’s an improper perspective, even a sinful one. Has God not been slow to give me judgment for my sins? Why, then, was I so quick to throw my husband’s sin in his face? Because I allowed my tenderness to fade and bitterness to grow.
I have learned a lesson in tenderness from Joseph. I want to have a tender heart towards my husband. One that says “I love you. Despite what you did. Don’t grieve or be angry over the past. God took this situation and used it to bring transformation and greater intimacy to our marriage. I thank God for you.” What a difference tenderness makes! When I was able to forgive my husband and see him as Christ sees him, my tenderness grew. My bitterness has been replaced with unspeakable joy to be married to my husband. It’s amazing!
I think Joseph understood what the author meant in Lamentations 3:22-23,
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (NIV)
No matter how others sinned against him, he was not consumed with grief, bitterness, anger, depression, or vengeance. No. Each morning he awoke – whether in a pit, as a slave, or in jail -- to God’s great love, compassion, and faithfulness. That is enough to keep a proper perspective.
Walking in Freedom,
Tags: joseph ""genesis 45:1-15"" forgiveness bitterness tenderness healing marriage
comments powered by Disqus