A reflection on Genesis 45:1-15, the Old Testament lesson for August 14, 2011 according to the Revised Common Lectionary. A reflection on the Gospel lesson for the same day can be found here.
“And now, do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life…God sent me here before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth…So it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
The last time that Joseph laid eyes on his brothers, they had just beaten him to a bloody pulp, thrown him into a pit, and then sold him off as a slave to some passing Ishmaelites. Now, Joseph is the most important person in all of Egypt, save for Pharaoh himself.
He could crush his brothers. He could torture them. He could really teach them a lesson.
Instead, he tells them not to worry, it wasn’t them who did all that to him, it was God sending him to Egypt.
What faith it takes to utter such words. I’m not sure I could muster it.
Joseph is able to look upon the hardest days of his life and see the hand of God working for himself and all of God’s people. He’s able to look upon the awful experience of being forsaken by family, sold as a slave, and subsequently exploited and plunged into jail – as God moving mightily to save His people and all the people of that corner of the world from famine.
Personally, my first thought would have been to ask God, “Wasn’t there an easier way?” Couldn’t we have just postponed the famine? Or, have Joseph send his resume to Pharaoh after he had his troubling dreams?
Did it really take all of that?
Any yet, what the story of Joseph exemplifies is the notion that God does not promise to take away all possibility of pain and discomfort–but rather God promises to be with us through it all. God promises to make great things happen, but not all great things come easily.
Some great things come in a manger. Some great things happen after hasty trips to Egypt. Some terribly wonderful things happen on an old rugged cross.
Our culture always seems to highlight the quick, the easy, the painless. Just pop this pill. Just exercise 10 minutes a day. Just eat grapefruit–lots of grapefruit. Just go to this particular school. Just apply on this website. Just like us on Facebook.
But, the biblical view of life is that God doesn’t always look for the path of least resistance. Sometimes God asks us to walk through fiery furnaces or bear a cross.
But, on the other side of the valley of the shadow of death we are always presented with the reality that God had never left us. And life is now able to bloom, in the most beautiful and holiest of ways.