Fellowship at Cross Creek
The Loudest of All Tears…
Intro… Three possible intros..1) Have you ever cried your guts out? Why? How did you feel afterwards? Did it help to cry? Have you ever been a situation in which you wanted to cry, but couldn’t? Why couldn’t you? Do you want to cry now? Can you find a safe place or person to cry in or with? Why is crying so so important? Why do people cry in the first place? What are tears? Emotions? How do emotions connect with thoughts? What is grief?
2) Have you ever lost a meaningfully important relationship due to some conflict…one that you understood or perhaps you didn’t understand the reason or cause of the breakup? Struggling with a parent, sibling or family member? Why do people have conflict in the first place? Why do conflicts cause people to break apart? In your best case scenario, what would it take to reconcile the broken relationship of friendship? What about offering up a specific, sharp cutting-edged “tomato” prayer for the reconciliation’s presumed essentials?
3) Could the suffering or injustice you recently experienced be a part of God’s greater plan for your or someone’s deliverance? In other words, can or is God using your patient endurance of unjust suffering for a greater purpose, a purpose you can’t even imagine? If so, does knowing that there is or could be a purpose to what you are going through give you hope or make the suffering less painful?
Recently, we began a new unit or section or person of study…the life of Joseph. Essentially, the story of Joseph, is for the most part, our story. Chosen by God for a special purpose, Joseph must first endure much suffering and injustice before arriving at his God-ordained purpose and calling, and what a purpose it will be.
As we read, I want you to continue pondering, your special identity in Christ, and that just because you may be going through difficult days, your suffering…your waiting is NOT in vain. As God’s child…as God’s children, just as with Joseph and his brothers, you…we…all have a purpose in Christ (Romans 8; Eph. 1; 1 Peter 1).
The Bible’s very first word is the Hebrew word Bərēšīṯ, which means “in [the] beginning.” “Genesis” is actually the Greek word for “beginnings” or “origins,” and thus the origin for both the Latin and English transliteration: Genesis.
So what’s our goal? Just to explore. Like an archaeologist exploring ancient ruins, we are going back to the Scripture’s beginnings to do a little Spiritual digging and poking around to see what was God doing before God’s Son was Spiritually conceived in his mother Mary’s womb? What were the world, people and life like from the very beginning?
Summary of Recent Explorations…
• The Creation: The Creator Creates His Creation and its Caretakers (Adam and Eve). Gen. 1-2.
• The Fall: But a Crafty Adversary Emerges, Infecting the Creator’s Caretakers with a Virulent Strain of Deceptive Evil (non-beneficial actions). Gen. 3-4.
• The Flood: The story of the righteous Servant and a devastating Flood. In order to Save his Creation from a self-destructive and merciless evil, the Creator Must radically purge or cleanse his Creation Gen. 5-7.
• Creation’s New Beginning…Gen. 8-11.
• Creation’s New Caretaker: The Creator Raises up, Chooses and Greatly Blesses a righteous and trusting Caretaker named Abraham. Gen. 12-25.
• The Torch of the Creator’s Trusting Caretaking Now Passes to Succeeding Generations (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph…) Gen. 26ff.
Joseph’s Story…Gen. 37-50.
• Jacob’s older sons grow deeply resentful of their favored youngest brother, Joseph. Gen. 37:1ff.
• Joseph’s jealous older brother tell their grieving father, Jacob, that Joseph has been killed by wild animals, when in actuality they have sold Joseph into slavery. Gen. 37:12ff.
• God’s favor accompanies Joseph despite being trafficked as a slave and falsely imprisoned. Gen. 39:1ff.
• Despite correctly interpreting the baker and cupbearer’s dreams while in prison, Joseph’s good deeds, for the moment, go unrewarded. Gen. 40:1ff.
• Joseph is finally delivered from his false imprisonment when the cupbearer recalls how Joseph correctly interpreted his dream and recommends Joseph to Pharaoh in order to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, which Joseph is able to interpret as seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Gen. 41:1ff.
• Pharaoh empowers Joseph to guide Egypt through these next fourteen years. Gen. 41:38ff.
• Due to the famine, Joseph’s brothers, come to Egypt in search of grain. Unknowingly, the Egyptian ruler that they seek to purchase grain from is indeed their younger brother Joseph. Sensing a divine plan, Joseph ensures that his brothers will return to Egypt with their youngest brother Benjamin when he accuses them of being spies and forces them to leave their brother Simeon behind as surety. Gen. 42:1ff.
• When his sons tell him of the bargain that they were forced to accept for their grain, Jacob refuses to risk losing a third son. Gen. 42:19ff.
• Finally, when Joseph’s brothers are able to persuade their father to allow them to return to Egypt to purchase more grain accompanied by their youngest brother, Benjamin, they return to Egypt and are rewarded with a great banquet held in their honor in the presence of the Egyptian ruler whom had originally sold them the grain. Gen. 43:1ff.
• Once again, the brothers have their departure from Egypt momentarily aborted under the false pretenses that one of them has stolen a silver cup. When the missing cup is found in Benjamin’s sack, his older brother Judah now offers himself to serve in Benjamin’s place in order that Benjamin might return home safely to their father. Gen. 44:1ff.
Pray; read three times (perhaps just twice) and ask questions…
45:1 Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, “Have everyone go out from me.” So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.
Is it Judah’s willingness to give his life in return for his brother Benjamin’s life that so stirs Joseph’s heart? Many years later, have the brothers realized their wrong? The evil that they created many years ago—the selling of the brother into slavery and then their covering up the truth by their father by telling him that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal—now they desperately fight against in Judah’s offering to give his life in place of his younger brother Benjamin? They have moved from causing evil to fighting it via by the sacrificial giving of one of their own lives? Spiritual metamorphosis? Change? Maturity? Growth? And why the initial privacy? His desire for an uninhibited, emotional reconciliation?
2 He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it.
We know he is crying, but about what? What has it got to do with these particular men? Joseph’s privacy creates a sense of mystery, drama and perhaps even later acceptance? Apparently, Joseph lived near Pharaoh? Did Pharaoh hear it? This had to be loud, many years of pent-up grief…I can only imagine…
3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph!
What powerful words…I AM JOSEPH! What a stunning revelation! Joseph might as well be saying, I HAVE ARISEN FROM THE DEAD! I am the dead come back to life. It makes me wonder about that night when the now Jesus walked through a locked door and appeared to his at-first-frightened disciples…I AM JESUS…YAH SAVES!
Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.
The second uninhibited words out of his mouth…”Is my father still alive?”
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.
Closer both physically and relationally. Is this what a resurrected Jesus says to his disciples two thousand years later, and to us, four thousand years later? “Come closer”?
5 Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.
Do not be angry with yourselves for having been sinners…for having committed evil or wrong. God was in charge and I was sent here ahead of you to save you. God used your evil towards me to save us all. God used your crime to save.
6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.
There are still difficult days ahead. Also note: if Joseph was around 17 when he was sold into slavery (Gen. 37:1) and was around 30 when he was released from prison (43:41), and now it has been nine years since he has been ruling Egypt, then it has been roughly twenty-two years since Joseph was sold into slavery. Twenty-two years…amazing….That’s a long time…a long time…
7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.
By his use of the word “remnant,” Joseph gets that something bigger than has been taken place all along. Does he know or understand the everlasting covenant that Yahweh God has made to bless the earth through his father, grandfather and great grandfather’s many descendants? Did his father or grandfather tell the stories as a young boy? When did he get it? When he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and was made a steward over Egypt’s rich granaries?
8 Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
What an amazing realization, revelation, insight and big-picture to grasp? Your selfish insecurity, your sin, your evil, God was using all along to accomplish a much greater, grander plan. This is huge. Huge! And for this thought to be laid out in the 45th chapter of the Bible…I mean almost from the very beginning…that despite man’s evil, God has grander plans of salvation…that God can use man’s evil for a infinitely much greater good…that my suffering can still have a purpose…that suffering is not purposeless…that God is bigger than evil…this is huge…especially as far as human hope goes in the midst of injustice and suffering…Huge!!
And is this what Jesus was doing with both: 1) the giving of his Spirit after his ascension into heaven in order to create his body the church on earth until 2) he returns from heaven to gather his faithful after having prepared vast estates for them in heaven (John 14:1ff)?
9 Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, “God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay.
10 You shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have.
11 There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, and you and your household and all that you have would be impoverished.”‘
12 Behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth which is speaking to you.
Did Joseph and Benjamin, having the same mother and father, closely resemble one another?
13 Now you must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and all that you have seen; and you must hurry and bring my father down here.”
14 Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck.
Both brothers cry…
15 He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.
What a reunion…what a reconciliation…a clearing out of truth…God’s grace and plan trumps all of man’s many evils, misunderstanding and foolishness…I cannot fully wrap my mind around such a magnificent thought…
• When Joseph can no longer contain his emotions, he clears the run of everyone except his brothers. Then he emotionally lets go, revealing his true identity to his astonished brothers.
• He then tells them that his coming to Egypt was by God’s hand so that he can save his family from the harsh famine. Otherwise, with five years of severity left, Jacob’s family would not survive.
• He tells them to return with their father so that they can live in the land of Goshen and be well-provided for.
• He then hugs and weeps with his brother Benjamin and then with the rest of his brothers.
Summary: When he can no longer contain his emotions, Joseph not only reveals himself to his brothers, but warns them of the famine’s severity and their need to return here with their father to live in the shadow of Egypt’s great providence.
Why did God include this event in his record or what would we not know–about God, life, myself, others, etc.–if this story were not in the Bible?
• Emotion, reconciliation, providential purpose in the midst of suffering and provision…all foreshadowing the Messiah’s deliverance of his flock.
• Emotion…pent up emotion of more than twenty years comes gushing forth. I have seen it repeatedly in life and counseling…what we call a good, cathartic cry. Healing…It builds, reaches a throbbing crescendo and then finally begins to subside. Everybody needs to cry. Why? Because everyone has pent-up heartache, sorrow, grief and loss. Perhaps for a time, it must be restrained, but then there comes that divine moment in which there is no more hiding, no more masks, but rather release…release of my real thoughts and therefore feelings of sorrow, hurt, loss, great, fear, anger, rage. It seems that for the human soul there is a need to match up not only the way I feel with the way I think, but the outward expression of my inward thoughts and feelings. Some call it “closure,” perhaps. It does seem to be a part of the mental or emotional healing process, and without which does live the soul or mind in a kind of incongruent and dysfunctional state…an emotional state that can and does have an affect on the human body as well. By finally allowing himself to release all his twenty-plus years of heartache and sorrow, Joseph is healing, and in fact, Joseph is being allowed a seemingly rare experience—genuine human reconciliation…
• Reconciliation… not only is there a mental, Spiritual and emotional reconciliation taking place within Joseph’s heart and soul, but there is the incredible gift of a relational or familial reconciliation taking place, as well as, reconciliation with perpetrator and victim…the effectual cause of the evil or sin, with the victim or recipient of the evil. And all under the watchful umbrella of God’s providential plan. Most experience some kind of relational fracture in their lives, be it in marriage, or with a parent, sibling, best friend, or even child. Because we are human we want relationship, but because we are human and selfish or self-centered, we will almost always experience a conflict of wills. Sometimes these are overcome; often times, when serious enough, they remain unaddressed, unresolved and therefore non-reconciled for many years, if not a whole lifetime. The tragedy of sinful, human natures—we want relationship, but because of our immaturity, we wreck relationships. If we don’t have the skills to overcome or work through the conflict, we may never experience the joyful fruit of genuine resolution. In this case, Joseph, when presented with the opportunity, does not give into the flesh’s desire to return insult for insult, but rather, seeing the bigger picture, strategically maneuvers for a whole family reconciliation. And at just the right moment, he finally emotionally exposes or makes himself vulnerable to those who had caused him so much pain.
• Providential purpose to our suffering…With Joseph’s confession, it becomes very clear that Joseph had grasped that while his brother’s were acting out of their sinful jealousy, God had been in control all along. God was also allowing humans to act according to their flesh, so that at just the right moment, His secret weapon was ready to be revealed to not only save his family from annihilation, but to preserve the seed for a later, greater expansion and ultimate salvation. Joseph’s story potentially gives every injured, suffering victim on the planet, a purpose to their suffering. I am not just a victim to man’s selfishness, but according to Romans 8:28ff, there is a greater plan for all of us…all of God’s children. When evil, unsympathetically and without conscience, demonstrates just how evil and unjust humans can be, the righteous need not fear fate’s seemingly cruel blow, but rather, expect it, as it was promised, by our Lord in his Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16). We will suffer. It is a part of the plan. But God’s grace is greater. God’s plan is bigger. Therefore, I need NOT lose heart, but rather take heart. I am suffering as my Lord suffered…as others have suffered. Suffering does not have to be emotionally or mentally fatal. There is and will be an emotional reconciliation with our LORD. There is Goshen. There is protection from the harshness of earth’s disorder. And as most military leaders and coaches will tell you, emotion, hope, optimism, confidence is half, if not more than half, the battle. God’s children have hope. Hope despite suffering. Hope despite long suffering. Hope in a much grander, greater plan. Hope in future, albeit delayed, deliverance.
Thanks … Pastoral ministry, a great discussion on Sunday, painful truths coming and being exposed because without which everything is a lie and where lies abound, there is no healing…no real healing…no real cure…no real growth…no reconciliation. In addition, the rains, the green of Springs, the songs of birds…the transition from a cold harsh winter to a probably warm, hot summer. Windows open.
Struggle… Will I be told the truth? I will soon find out. Will there even be a meeting…a true meeting? Am I being played? Deception’s dark shadows. Be merciful God. Be merciful. The stakes are high. A life is at stake. Perhaps a marriage. I don’t assume that this will be over in a fortnight, perhaps not even a fort-year (if this description even exists), but we need your grace, God. We need your grace.
Truth… Emotional release; vulnerable, intimate reconciliation at just the right time, as well as, a clear, unmistakable providential purpose to our patient endurance or suffering which leads to our final deliverance…
Application… Help me to be shrewd, Lord. You just did. This lesson has been rich in its obvious comparisons to Jesus. Got a text from someone else who is doing good work; you just blessed with me a wonderful counseling phone call. Now what’s up next? Everything could be on the line? Okay, maybe NOT everything, but a lot for a lot of valuable people to me. Lord, help me to be as shrewd as Joseph so that any reconciliation of truth, relationships, struggles, dishonesty, deception and pain is REAL AND LASTING. SECURE. GENUINE.
Biggest Struggle at the moment:
How does what happen here relate to you?
What about your kids?
Biggest Struggles (Imagine these or several–put yourself in their shoes–walk through a day with them at school, at home. What might they encounter?)
Now how does what happen here possibly relate/ (Remember this is only to give you a feel or an introductory hook or a reinforcing hook; in there looking, they may come up with something entirely different.)
Remember to have fun, sense the Spirit’s leading and develop a love for these kids.
As always, thanks!
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org).