We come to the end of the Joseph story with the family reconciled, brought safely through the famine and living in Egypt in favourable circumstances. In the last section of the story we hear of the death and burial of Jacob and what this means for the brothers’ relationships with each other.
Forgiveness and Uncertainty
As well as the obvious feelings of grief at losing their father, we are told that Joseph’s brothers were made uncertain and insecure by their father’s passing. They had been reconciled to Joseph, but a lot of the conversation at the time of the reconciliation had been around their father, and the relationship that Jacob and Joseph had was a particularly special one. From the point of view of the brothers, it might have been possible that Joseph was willing to get along with them for the sake of their father, but now Jacob was gone there would no longer be this restraint and perhaps he would take his revenge for what they had done to him.
This insecurity led the brothers to send Joseph a message expressing Jacob’s wishes that Joseph forgive them. This likely was not actually from Jacob (or he would have told Joseph directly) but it shows the insecurity they felt about things. Joseph however was moved to tears. He had no plans to harm his brothers and the reconciliation was real. He had genuinely forgiven them for what they had done to him and it was not just a show for Jacob’s sake.
Navigating relationships with other people can be tricky, especially when those relationships include past wrongs and a need for forgiveness. The example of Joseph shows us a lot about what genuine forgiveness looks like, and this is something we can be challenged to extend to those who have wronged us.
God’s Sovereign Hand
In his response to his brothers, Joseph says the classic words that sum up the big theme of the whole story. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” He does not deny human responsibility and the devastating effects that sin can have, but through it all he sees the hand of God working out his good purposes. Through all the twists and turns of life, God is at work. We may not always see at the time exactly how God is working (and there are many moments in the Joseph story where it would not have been at all clear what God was doing) but when we come to the end of the story we will see how God has turned all the ups and downs for good.
As the brothers approach Joseph, we even see them fall down before him, once more fulfilling the dream that Joseph had at the start of the story. God is at work declaring the end from the beginning and bringing all of his promises and purposes to pass.
Joseph uses this truth to reassure his brothers. Twice he says to them “do not fear”. Because of how he has seen God work, Joseph is no threat to his brothers and will not try to usurp God’s place and judge them but rather will look after them and their children. God’s sovereign goodness is the antidote to human fear and worry.
Understanding the things that happen to us in life can be difficult, and we may not always know this side of eternity why things happen to us. The Joseph story does not answer this question but it does give the helpful reminder that no matter what may happen to us because of tough circumstance or human sin, God is with us through it all and can bring God out of even the darkest things.
The very end of the story is the death of Joseph. Joseph lived to a grand old age of 110, and 93 of those years were spent in Egypt! Though Joseph had lived such a long time in Egypt, he never saw it as home. As he prepared for his own death he asked that his bones be prepared because he believed the promise of God about the land that he would give to Abraham’s descendants. He knew that a day would come when the people were brought out of Egypt and taken to this land. This story is the focus of the book of Exodus.
The day that Joseph saw was 400 years in the future yet it affected the way he thought, live and died. Just like Joseph, we have promises from God about the future and we know these promises find their yes and amen in Jesus. Because of him we can be sure they will come to pass and allow our lives to be shaped by them.
The life of the Christian should be a future focussed one where we allow the promises of eternity to have a bearing on the way we live in the present. We have a great hope to look towards, and just like Egypt was not Joseph’s true home so this world is not our home.
How Does It Point to Jesus?
The cross is the ultimate example of God working everything for good. Though sinful people with murderous intent put Christ to death, God used even the biggest of sins to bring about the ultimate good, the destruction of death and the salvation of many.