Joseph and Brothers “Fare Well”

We’ve come a long way with Joseph—14 chapters and 40-some years so far, with a homegoing or two now in view. So, dear friends, let us remember some insights into hope that his life has illuminated for us.

God can free us of bitterness. Our legacy can be one of forgiving and giving.

We can become hardened and embittered by life, instead of allowing hardships to render us soft and humble. This need not be; we can choose our response to difficult times and circumstances.

Joseph’s brothers misconstrued the true nature of grace or forgiveness. Their fears brought him to tears, again. His heart broken, Joseph reassured them that only God holds us to account for sin and redeems sin for good. But Joseph does more than extend forgiveness, as from God. Reflecting God’s grace, Joseph vowed to care for his brothers (50:19–21). Joseph had every reason to be bitter for what they had done to him decades before; instead, he forgives.

While God is the one who ultimately forgives, we can seek his help to appreciate and appropriate that gift as we forgive others: a parent his child, a wife her husband, and victims their perpetrators. Before it’s too late, let’s go and do likewise.

As we trust God, he providentially orchestrates events for good outcomes.

Joseph rose from the prison of despair to the pinnacle of power, by both human and divine agency. Events that seemed arbitrary and worrisome served a larger redemptive purpose. Likewise, we don’t know what the future holds for us, especially in the COVID-19 era—but we know who holds the future! Hence, we trust God for good and delight whenever evil is transformed (50:20).

Some things are better caught than taught.

Things like family reconciliation, resilient faith, and public integrity. In Joseph, his brothers catch on that being vulnerable allows for intimacy or “into-me-see.” When Joseph lived less than transparently for years as Prime Minister of Egypt, the brothers did not catch on. But as soon as he “came out” to his brothers, in tears, good things began to happen. Scripture does not tell us much about the ensuing years of Joseph and his brothers, but we do see them enjoying family relationships. Letting them see the real Joseph, they caught the character behind the act—that was a game-changer.

It’s good to remember that others are encouraged when they see how we handle the things that break our hearts. Others can catch onto the One we most care about—that is, Jesus—as we let the things that break God’s heart break ours.

From Joseph we learn that humility and trust can grow out of adversity or crisis.

Joseph served with humility, produced by severe testing and twists of fate. Likewise, the crises of our day are testing us as never before. These surely are times that try our souls.

None of us is Atlas. We cannot shoulder alone the burden of deciding how best to proceed from on-again, off-again shutdowns, through phased-in recovery, to a “New Normal.” We dare not underestimate the length and severity of the crises we face. Yet, as does Joseph, we can trust God and hope to not just survive, but thrive—coming out the other side stronger, together.

Finally, we can all hope to finish well and thus please God.

It’s not about us, but about God’s purposes. To finish the race set before us brings joy to our hearts and God’s. Joseph affirms the sovereign purposes of God that were fulfilled in and through his life. “I [Joseph] am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land [Egypt] to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (50:24).

Epilogue. The life of Joseph has provided many expressions of hope, even a book of hope. As Joseph thrived in crisis mode, so can we. Through great loss, he persevered in hope, overcame, and reconnected.

Through COVID-19, we learn to trust God’s character, claim his promises, and keep our word to others. As we embrace the new thing our God of Promise is doing—in reopening our churches and the economy—we can engage others as never before.

May God bless you and keep you and make his face shine upon you during this COVID-19 crisis, giving you resilient hope in economic loss and family separation.


Dietrich Gruen