The tears would not stop. My heart was so filled with sorrow, it was almost as if I were there in the pit with Joseph. I kept asking God why this was hurting me so!
My day had begun as usual. I awoke early, crawled out of bed, did my usual “feet shuffle walk” until my joints also woke, and made my way into the kitchen. I poured myself a giant mug of coffee and settled in on the sofa to join my Lord in our morning communication. I prayed as usual that He would “open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of His Law.” (Psalm 119:18)
I was reading the familiar story in Genesis of Joseph and his brothers. As the brothers saw Joseph approaching, they were overcome with a deadly sin of which most of us are intimately acquainted—life-draining jealousy.
Their first impulse was to kill Joseph, but Rueben convinced the other brothers not to kill him, but simply throw him into the old cistern. His idea was to rescue Joseph later. Rueben, like many of us, did not want to commit a “big” sin, so he settled for a lesser one. He did not take a courageous stand in the midst of his peers though he clearly knew what they were planning was wrong.
My heart began to break as I received a mental picture of this young man being grabbed by his own brothers and dragged toward the pit. I imagined Joseph crying and pleading with his brothers. He probably called their names from the bottom of the hole and begged them to lift him out. How bewildered he must have been.
The Word tells us that the brothers “sat down to eat their meal.” Their own “flesh and blood” brother was in the bottom of a pit, and they sat down to eat their meal. Unmoved by Joseph’s cries, unmoved by the agony that their father would face when they returned without Joseph, they ate. Sin does that for us. It strips our hearts of compassion. It dilutes our love for others. It says to us, “it’s all about me.”
When the brothers saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, they jumped at the chance to be rid of their guilt. They sold Joseph into slavery, perhaps thinking he would not survive the cruel treatment. What a wonderful solution. They would not have to be burdened with any guilt of their own if they did not murder Joseph with their own hands. Again a lesser sin was chosen. Do we not do the same thing? How often we justify what we do because we prioritize sin.
I know this young man, Joseph, continued to cry. I know his heart raced uncontrollably as he was chained and led away. I know he was terribly afraid. I cried for him.
But the part of the story that made my tears flow uncontrollably was later in the story. The part of the story that made me cry so hard that I even began to ask God why it affected me so deeply occurred years from the day Joseph was sold by his brothers. The part of the story that brought me to brokenness was the reunion. The Word teaches us that a severe famine in Canaan brought the brothers to Egypt looking for food. It was then that Joseph saw his brothers after all those years.
The Word says that Joseph “turned away from them and began to weep,” It says when he saw Benjamin, “he was deeply moved at the sight of his brother, and ran out and looked for a place to weep.” “Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out…he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him.” (Genesis 42:24. 43:30, 45:1-2)
Joseph embraced his brothers and wept tears of love. He forgave them. Not once does the Word say he condemned them.
That morning God allowed me to stand in the room with Joseph and his brothers. I did not understand why this reunion had moved me to the point of tears that literally dripped from my cheeks. I was confused and asked God to explain. I sat there on my sofa for a while, but clarification did not come.
It was only after watching a Christian television program a few days later that I began to embrace the lesson God had for me through Joseph.
I was standing at my vanity, putting on my make-up. I always tune the television to a morning Christian program and listen while I prepare myself for the day. A young woman was giving her testimony, but as I listened to her I became so interested I put down my mascara. I stepped to stand in front of the set. I wanted to see her. I wanted to see the face of the woman that so candidly and without shame told the world the story of her “dark past”. Her life had been such a mess and so sin-filled. I know my mouth must have dropped open as I listened to her reveal all the awfulness of her past. How could she do it? How could she tell the world all those things? And yet there was such sweetness, such innocence about her. It soon dawned on me that her testimony was not about her past, but rather that God “…had redeemed her life from the pit”. (Psalm 103:4)
I was so mesmerized by the things she said, I jotted down her e-mail address at the end of the show. I identified in a lot of ways with this young woman. I was saved as a young child, but drifted so far away from Him. Sin is so enticing and so pretty. It draws us toward it only a little at a time. It doesn’t tell us it is really drawing us downward into its pit. It does not reveal its life-draining disasters. It does not reveal its consequences that smoother the breath from us and those closet to us. Sin leaves wounds and the enemy keeps those wounds open.
I stood with open wounds that day. I stood with guilt that I had carried for years, for decades. I was fervently, earnestly seeking a close relationship with my Heavenly Father, but the guilt of things past kept me from climbing to a higher ground.
I e-mailed that young woman. I asked her how she could so freely reveal her past without shame and so boldly work in God’s Kingdom work. She wasted no time e-mailing me. What she said to me was life changing. What she said to me made me understand my tears when I stood with Joseph and his brothers at their reunion.
She explained that she was free to share her past because it revealed the power of God. She said, “Donna, there is no shame in Christ! What we “do” is not “who” we are. What makes us who we are is whose we are.” She wrote me a two-page letter. It was a revelation for me.
I was brought to brokenness as I stood with Joseph that morning because God wanted me to be free. He wanted me to understand this wonderful phenomenon called forgiveness. Joseph’s brothers had terribly wronged him! The things they did to Joseph were cruel and despicable, but he loved them and wept for joy when they were reunited. He never once condemned them for the past. He forgave them.
I knew what forgiveness was. God revealed my sin, I asked for forgiveness, and I turned from my sin. But I believed the father of lies when he said to me, “You will carry the guilt for the rest of your life. It will keep you so weighted down; you will never climb to a higher plane.”
I now know that I was the “brothers” standing with Joseph that day! I was weeping from the depths of my soul because God wanted me to understand with all my innermost being that I am forgiven. “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) I am free to go! I am not guilty! Jesus bore my shame and my guilt on the cross. I can put my guilt down, walk away, and feel no disgrace. I am no longer on “death row”!
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