September 17, 2017 Text: Genesis 50:15-21
Dear Friends in Christ,
As human beings we enjoy stories of sweet revenge. My dad tells the story of being on the JV basketball team in a small south central Illinois town in the late 1950’s. The team he was on was pretty good. They would win some games by quite a lot. My dad, his friend and a few other teammates were the bench players. Unfortunately, even in their blowout wins, they would not get a lot of playing time. The coach liked to keep his starters in the game.
During their last game at home that season, they had another game where they were way ahead. With very little time on the clock, the coach started to empty his bench and send the bench players into the game. My dad’s friend took his warm-up off, checked into the scorer’s table, and then proceeded to run not into the game, but straight into the locker room. The coach stood there dumbfounded. He had no idea what was going on. This was the player’s chance to get back at the coach for never getting him into a game. I laugh every time my dad tells this story.
If someone had the right to sweet revenge it would be the main character in our text – Joseph. We will get into his story and see how . . .
“THE LORD CAN TRANSFORM EVIL INTO GOOD”
Our text today is actually the end of a long story about Joseph and his brothers. Joseph was the eleventh of twelve brothers and the most beloved by his father Jacob. Joseph did some things to his brothers they didn’t like so they conspired to kill him and throw him down a pit. The brothers made it look like Joseph had been killed and Jacob grieved for his dead son.
Except, Joseph wasn’t dead. He was sold and served Potiphar. He ended up in prison but interpreted some dreams for Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, and then for Pharaoh. Pharaoh put Joseph in a place of leadership and he controlled the flow of grain during the famine and the years of plenty. This is what brought Joseph’s brothers to him.
With that background then, our text, “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.’” (v. 15)
Do you ever have those thoughts? You want to get back at someone who has wronged you? A co-worker takes credit for your work and it puts you in a bad light with the boss. Later, that same co-worker struggles hopelessly with a project due tomorrow. What do you do?
A fellow student bullies you mercilessly. Later, she’s accused of cheating on a test, but you know she’s innocent. What do you do?
Your sister talks your aging mother into giving her a precious heirloom that she promised you many years ago, and then she sells it. Now your sister needs help with groceries for her family. What do you do?
The music director asks you to sing a solo for Christmas Eve. After practicing for several weeks, he asks his grandson to do it. Months later, with only a week’s notice, the music director wants you to sing several solos for Easter because his grandson backed out. What do you do?
Joseph brothers threw him in a pit, let his father think he was dead, and now they come to him for much needed grain. What will he do? These brothers had lived with guilt and had never had a good talk with Joseph about what they had done to him.
Sometimes instead of talking with our families or friends, we have the idea that past hurts and sins will just go away if we don’t bring them up again. They are not confessed and forgiven, just forgotten…for a while. But if the topic comes up again, the scab is picked and the bleeding starts all over. Even if we cover it up with “That’s okay,” or “don’t worry about it.” The healing never happens.
The brothers make up a story about Jacob to Joseph and how the father wanted Joseph to forgive them. Their contrition is not genuine but a desperate attempt to save themselves.
Do we play this game with a cake or flowers or a trip away? That’s bribery, not repentance and forgiveness. We need to articulate the wrong and be forgiven. Hearing the words of absolution from the Pastor in church, as well as remembering our Baptism and receiving Christ’s body and blood “for the forgiveness of sins,” is hearing the voice of God loud and clear that God has forgiven us through the sacrifice, the cross, of our Savior Jesus.
This is the truth that Joseph knew. He wasn’t in the place of God, but God could bring good out of evil. From a blood-stained cloak and the bottom of a slimy pit to a leader in Egypt with his brother’s future in his hands. He could have gone to the scorer’s table, checked into the game and then kept on running away, leaving his brothers standing there dumbfounded. But He didn’t. Joseph explained that the Lord had a purpose in the brother’s evil. God meant it for good so that this family could be reconciled and many people would be kept alive.
Those who hated and killed Jesus meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, the saving of many souls. The persecution and unjust treatment and the killing and the burial and the emerging from the tomb were all part of God’s greater plan of ultimate good for you and me. Our sins are no more!
Jesus speaks to us today through Joseph. Can we see the good that can come from the evil in our lives? Do you have relationships still hanging in the balance? Through the power of the Holy Spirit make that phone call, write that letter, let go of your anger and be reminded of the precious love the Savior has for you. You have been reconciled to Him and He wants you to be reconciled to others. The Lord can transform evil to good and we were blessed to see it today.