Genesis 45:1-7: Seeing God in the details.
“Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, ‘Make 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 ploughing 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.” NIV
Joseph’s brothers must have been ‘’terrified’’ (3). They had thought their sibling was dead, but now here he was, this rather strange and scary Egyptian ruler, talking to them in their own language. At least, he had been frightening and slightly unpredictable at times. But now they saw deep emotion overflowing from him, like a huge waterfall, and they felt his love wanting to enfold them (2,4).
But Joseph’s compassion did not let them off the hook (5a). He didn’t whitewash over their sin, but he pointed to the higher reality that God was at work in the bad stuff that took him to Egypt. This did not condone the wrong, but it helps when you can see God’s Sovereign Hand in the details.
Joseph saw two parts to God’s purpose. In the short term this was ‘’to save lives’’ (5); but in the long term it was ‘’to preserve…a remnant’’ (7) – a remnant of Abraham’s descendants who, during their time in Egypt, would grow into a great nation (Exodus 1:6,7).
In Timothy Keller’s book, ‘Walking with God through pain and suffering’, he says that during Joseph’s years in Egypt he must have often prayed prayers which seemed to go unanswered. However, God was not ‘missing in action’. He was hidden, but He was in control. If Joseph had not been taken to Egypt, numerous people would have died; his own family would have been wiped out by starvation. Furthermore, his family would have been a spiritual disaster: Joseph himself would possibly have been corrupted by his arrogance and pride, and his brothers would have destroyed each other in their anger. Jacob would have self-destructed with his ‘idolatrous’ and ‘addictive’ love for his youngest sons. I think Keller makes good points. It was sin that dumped young Joseph in Egypt, but God had a great purpose in him being there. It was bigger than even Joseph could see at the time.