There’s a programme on ITV called Long Lost Family. As the title suggests, it seeks to bring together family members who have been separated for many years. I think it’s an old formula that many of us will have seen before. As I was researching today’s post I read the Wikipedia article on the show and under the reception section it reads;
“Michael Deacon of The Daily Telegraph gave the show a mixed review stating ‘the presenters seemed to be trying slightly too hard to squeeze tears out of their interviewees’. Deacon also stated ‘I wonder what the producers would do if the two people they brought together, instead of embracing joyfully, launched into a furious rally of accusations and blame. Perhaps I’ll tune in next week to see whether it happens.’”
I imagine there is very little danger of an episode descending into accusations and blame; it just isn’t what the show is about. There was very little danger of the brothers saying very much to Joseph in today’s reading. They were equally stunned and terrified. Joseph on the other hand, could have said plenty.
The whole Joseph narrative is beautifully written, you can almost hear the jaws drop as Joseph reveals his identity. The brothers must have been in a state of shock and at least three things must have dawned on them fairly soon;
- The lies were over. They had lied for years, right up until a few minutes earlier they had stuck to their story but now the truth was there for all to see. What would Jacob say? And more pressingly, what would Joseph do?
- The dreams were true after all. They had hated Joseph’s dreams and it was one of the reasons they had hated Joseph (37:19). They had thought them stamped them out forever (37:20), how could they ever bow down to Joseph if he was living in another country as a slave? But the dreams had come true; they had already bowed down to Joseph several times. There could be no doubt now, no grey areas, Joseph had been right and they had been totally wrong all along.
- They were in Joseph’s hands. They were completely powerless and Joseph was one of the most powerful men in the world. The man they had hated and treated so cruelly had the power to do with them whatever he desired
Joseph had all of the cards; it was just a question of how to play them. In his darkest times, he must have imagined this moment and played it out in his head. Was he tempted judge them? Surely a little gloating wouldn’t go amiss? The truth was plain to see so why not rub it in a little?
The fact that Joseph didn’t do what we would expect or even behave as most of us would in his position, is the very thing that makes this story so wonderful. It’s also the thing that makes the account fit in so well with the whole story of the Bible or what we sometimes refer to as ‘Redemption History’. Where there could have been judgement there was forgiveness. Instead of gloating there was grace. Instead of harsh words there were tears of joy and an appreciation that God had allowed his trials to bring life to his brothers.
In the previous chapter we saw a faint picture of Christ in Judah’s offer to take the place of Benjamin but here in Joseph the picture is in high definition. There are too many parallels between Joseph and Jesus to list here in the time we have. Just like Joseph’s brothers, we are guilty before God and just like them we can receive grace and forgiveness. Jesus has suffered so that we can live and not die and be invited to be with him. When we approach him, one who could justly condemn us, there are tears of joy.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Guilty, helpless, lost were we;
Spotless Lamb of God was he:
Full atonement-can it be?
Alleluia! What a Saviour! (Man of Sorrows – Philip Bliss)