Being Where You're Supposed to Be
1 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 he made himself known to his brothers.
2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!
5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.
6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping.
7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.
9 Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay.
10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have.
11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’
12 “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you.
13 Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”
14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping.
15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.
THE WORD OF THE LORD.
In 1501, Michelangelo began work on his statue of David. He had to use a block of marble first used by another sculptor. It had flaws. He had, however, to work with the
marble stone given to him. Michelangelo said, “In every block of marble I see a statue… I have only to hew away the rough walls …to reveal it to other eyes as I see it...My hands only free the figure slumbering in the stone.”
The story of Joseph and his family, as told in the ending chapters of Genesis, reveals to us how God, the artist and sculptor, uses the rough blocks of our lives, broken and imperfect, to bring about a masterpiece no one else could see within them. No one, particularly Joseph and his family, could have possible imagined that God, the artist, was using the rough events of their lives to bring about something good. Neither can we see how God could possibly use the events of our lives and our world to bring about something magnificent. Only the eyes of hope can reveal it.
Before we see how this concluding story of Joseph speaks to us today, we need to briefly review its content.
Joseph’s story, the last of the stories in Genesis, is one of family strife. Joseph, the favorite son of his father Jacob, is spoiled. His father shows his favoritism to Joseph by giving him excessive gifts, including an elegant coat. Joseph lords his father’s favoritism over his many brothers. He arrogantly shares with his brothers his dreams that his family will one day bow before him. This sharing of his dreams, only cause his brothers to hate him more. His brothers’ envy and hatred continue to such a point that Joseph’s brothers throw him into a pit, and eventually sell him to a caravan of travelers who take him to Egypt. Away from his family, Joseph overcomes a series of trials and tribulations until by a twist of fate he ascends to a position of power in Egypt. The Pharaoh promotes him in the Egyptian palace, and sets him over all the land in Egypt.
At a time of famine, Joseph’s family comes to Egypt for food. In our story today, Joseph reunites with his brothers. After revealing himself to his family, Joseph weeps for joy over seeing them. Rather than being full of fury and revenge, Joseph forgives them. In the final part, Joseph tells his brothers, “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here. For God sent me before you to preserve life.” Joseph thus acknowledges that God has positioned him to save the lives of others.
Thus, ends the story of Joseph. As Genesis began with God saying in creation that “it is good,’ so Genesis ends in Joseph’s story with God saying that despite all that has happened, all the treachery and deceit, God has made good out of chaos.
Many revelations come to us from this concluding story of Joseph.
One of the most important revelations is that out of the chaos of our lives, God can bring good out of a bad situation. This does not mean everything that happens is the will of God; far from it. People are often too quick to say when a tragedy strikes that it is the will of God. Far from it.
Nevertheless, this story of Joseph reminds us that though God does not will the bad things that happen to us, God can still use those times to bring some good for our lives or others. Nothing can finally thwart God’s plan or will for our lives.
I am reminded of children who were playing where water was running down the hillside. They desperately tried to dam up the water coming down the hill with rocks,
mud, and twigs. However, each time they tried to stop the flow of water down the hill toward the stream below, the water would always find a way around their impediments to reach its final goal.
A second revelation is that despite the bad things we have done, despite the mess our lives become, there is still the possibility of a second chance. God offers us new possibilities.
In the movie “City Slickers” (1991), three middle-aged New Yorkers go on a cattle drive as a form of vacation to get some perspective on their lives. One of the characters, Phil, has lost his wife, his children, his job. After a confrontation with two drunk cowboys, Phil goes into a tent and breaks down. He says to his two friends that he feels he has made a complete waste of his life.
The Billy Crystal character reminds Phil about the times when they would play ball as children. When the ball would get stuck in a tree, for example, they would call it “a do-over.” Crystal tells his friend Phil, his life now is a do-over. He has a clean slate. He can start over.
Life does not always offer us a clean slate. There are, however, opportunities for a do-over. To start again.
When Joseph saw his brothers after a long absence, he saw the chance for the whole family to have a clean slate – to start again, to have a do-over.
Because of this opportunity, Joseph saw not an endless series of tragedies, but a chance to forgive, to let go of resentment, guilt, and anger, and to move on with their lives. They saw the possibility that God had given them to move past their pain.
My feeling is that we all need a second chance. “If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it.” (Richard Ruhr)
A third revelation is that we all have been hurt by life, by our own actions, and by the actions of others.
No one in the story of Joseph is innocent. All have had something done to them or have done something to others. They all have been aged and been made ragged by life. But they were able, by the opportunity God had given to them to be a blessing to one another.
This is what is required of us no matter how things appear to us at the moment. We are both the one who hurts others, and the one who is hurt.
It is exactly because we have been hurt, because we have been wounded, we are enabled to forgive and to be compassionate. Our limitations enable us to understand the limitations of others. We are all wounded healers. But it is because of our wounds we are better able to help and to speak to others.
A fourth and final revelation is that whether you know it or not, despite all that has happened to you, despite all that you have done, God can use you in the place you are today. It is possible you are in the place you are supposed to be.
This passage, this story today, is important for us today because it calls all of us to accountability and responsibility. I invite you to consider how God through this story is a reminder that perhaps you have been put where you are for such a time as this. Now, go and do those things that preserve the lives of the people around you.
Finally this, we live more by hope than we do by sight or knowledge. We hope that life is not random. We hope that life is not without meaning or purpose. But we have no sustainable proof. It is, admittedly, often a challenge for us to perceive what is happening in our lives, around us, or to understand why it is happening.
We live by hope, a hope wrapped in mystery. We do not know all, but we know enough to have hope in something and someone beyond our comprehension.
Hope, you may say, is not much. True. But, people can and do live by hope everyday. We hope the sun will rise tomorrow. We hope for a meal tomorrow. We hope life is more than a series of random moments. We hope that life is more than the years given us. Like Joseph, we trust God even when we cannot understand the events happening to us.
Our hope is that God is indeed “an artist, a magnificent sculptor who can make a masterpiece out of any block of marble or canvas.” No one is too bent or too damaged, no event is too tragic, no decision is so bad, no life is so short that God cannot make meaningful. Because of this, we hope that even our lives can become God’s masterpieces.
(Copyright by Jack Hughes Robinson, 2017. Use only by permission.)