Friday, July 22, 2011

Coming Out! - Genesis 45:3

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph!  Is my father still alive?”  But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.

Recently a friend sent me an article about writing better emails.  Basically it recommended brevity – no more than five sentences -- if you really want the other person to know your email is important, that you care about his/her time, and that you expect an answer.  It seems Joseph was thinking along the same lines thousands of years earlier.

After he was able to subdue his loud crying, he simply came out with the announcement.  “I am Joseph!”  No need to add all the extra words like, “Joseph, your brother” or “the guy you sold to traders”, etc.  Just the necessary single fact, “I am Joseph!”  Everything now falls into place for the brothers.  Everything is now in the open.  Healing can now occur. Steps can now be taken to correct any wrongs to the extent possible.  Joy and happiness can be restored.  Above all, no need for more pretenses.  The family can be reunited as one again.  The only thing that may stand in the way is fear.

Is there some single fact, some hidden secret, you need to announce to someone or to your family or friends or church?  If so, consider doing it.  Your life and that of others will definitely change – and usually for the better.  For one thing, you’ll be relieved of all the pent up feelings you once held along with your secret.  For another, others may find the forgiveness they need to receive or, for that matter, an opportunity to offer forgiveness to you.

“Is my father still alive?”  Joseph gets right to the point.  There’s no talk about “How do you guys feel about the fact that I am Joseph?  What do you think now about selling me to traders and lying to my dad?  Now, what should I do with you?”   No, none of that.  With his younger brother Benjamin now in his presence, Joseph’s immediate concern turns to the welfare of his father. “Is my dad still alive?”  Often when people estranged from their family are reunited with some of the younger members, their immediate first concern and question seems to be, “is dad (or mom) still alive?”  We have been created in that way.  God built us to care deep down about those that gave us life.

But Joseph did not get an answer to his question.  His brothers were “dismayed at his presence” the Bible says.   The ancient Hebrew word used for ‘dismayed’ is bahal that actually meant ‘amazed’, or ‘frightened’.  Some would even extend it to the meaning of ‘terrified’.  If his brothers felt this way, it was because of the emotions and thoughts they were experiencing – the potential punishment they expected as well as the total shock of being in the presence of the brother they wronged.  Some commentators believe their ‘dismay’ was partially due to some ‘anger’ Joseph was still exhibiting.  I’m not there.  Whatever the cause, they were speechless.

So the question shifts to us.  How do we react when someone ‘comes out’ and reveals a secret of great significance to them and/or to us?  Are we terrified?  Are we so surprised we don’t know what to say?  As we mature in both years as well as our walk with the Lord, we slowly learn to expect anything and not fear its announcement, knowing that God is totally in control of not only the past and the present, but also the future.

Sarah Palin, a former U.S. Vice Presidential Candidate and Governor of Alaska, in her book, Going Rogue, wrote that in a short period of time she gave birth to a son with Downs Syndrome, said ‘good-bye’ to a son going to Iraq with the military, and received the news that her unmarried daughter was pregnant.  She wrote, “It took a while to absorb it.”  And, “Though things would not be easy . . . we knew that with God somehow we could draw good from this change.”  And then she continues,

“In Alaska, we view change a bit differently.  For example, wildfires in the Lower 48 (states) are often treated as natural disasters.  Up here, we often let them burn knowing that from fire-blackened lands new growth will spring.  Often, a searing burn opens dead ground to new light and under the soil long-dormant seeds germinate, covering fields in blankets of a tall, bright pink flower called fireweed.  Here in the Great Land, fireweed grows wild every year.  We mark out our summer as its blossoms open from bottom to top, starting low on the stem around May and popping open higher and higher as the weeks pass until the last bloom on top turns to new seed.  Month by month in the summer of 2008 . . . my life tracked the fireweed’s fuchsia climb.”

Is there a fire that needs to burn in your life so that ‘new ground’ can be exposed and God can germinate new growth?  I love what Charles Stanley says about our unknown future and our fears of tomorrow:

A person may say: “Suppose I don’t get into the college of my choice…”  “Suppose I don’t get the job I want…”  “Suppose the person I love doesn’t love me back…” Friend, the God who is in control of today is also the God who is fully in control of tomorrow.  He has already prepared for what will happen to you!  He has already provided what you will need tomorrow.  He has already anticipated the problems you will face tomorrow and has set into motion everything required to resolve those problems.”

And I like to add, that what amazes me is the realization that God does it all so effortlessly.  Like Sarah Palin and Charles Stanley, we need to accept that God will be with us even when we are to receive some shocking news or change in our lives or when we do not know what the future holds.  Joseph’s brothers were faced with that very thing.

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  1. Anonymous22/7/11 12:39

    I like that you mentioned that there was no more need for pretenses. I agree. I'v had a difficult time finding people who will agree with me when I suggest that when he recognised his brothers, he immediately slipped back into his teenage 'spoiled brat' mentality and started a barage of mind games with them. I think was a form of what we call passive aggression to say the least. For some reason my fellow believers have an almost cultish need to put Joseph on a pedistal because of all he went through. Just a thought.

  2. I do agree there is a possibility that Joseph "slipped back into his teenage 'spoiled brat' mentality and started a barrage of mind games with them" when he first recognized his brothers. That's what all the hiding of their money and the cup was all about, and the holding back of one brother and then wanting to retain Benjamin. But now, all came out and credit for all went to God.

  3. Also, I do agree Anonymous that there is no need to put Joseph on any pedestal. It was all God's doing. He chose to use him and He chose how Joseph would be instrumental in God's plan.