“He wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?’” (Gen. 45:2-3a).
Though Joseph endured many low points in his life (Gen. 37:28; 39:20; 40:9–23), God used the betrayal of his brothers to get Joseph administrative experience in Potiphar’s house, and He used the Egyptian prison to get Joseph into Egypt’s highest court, preparing him to lead the empire safely through a great famine (chap. 41). Painful and circuitous was the path on which the Lord’s hand of providence took Joseph, but the loss of his many-colored coat led finally to Jacob’s favorite son wearing the Egyptian colors of authority.
Mercifully, God included in His plan for Joseph the salvation of those brothers who had done what would have been — apart from divine, empowering grace — an unforgiveable act. Clearly, Joseph wanted his relationship with them to be restored from the moment they came to Egypt in search of food. We see this in his demanding that Benjamin be brought before him and then in his weeping as a result of the overwhelming joy and love he felt toward them (chap. 42–43). Engaging in an elaborate plan to put the fear of God into his brothers and to discern whether they still hated their father’s favorite son, Joseph finally saw their repentance for all the sins they had committed against him (chap. 44). This set the stage for Joseph to reveal himself dramatically to his brothers in one of the most ironic episodes of all history — the man whom the brothers had tried to kill ended up being their savior (chap. 45).
Few things are lovelier than reconciliation, and Joseph’s restoration to his brothers was so incredible that even the strongest king in the world rejoiced to see it (45:16). This reconciliation was possible because the brothers were repentant and because Joseph was willing to pardon them, which is instructive for us. On a human level, when someone sins grievously against us or we sin grievously against another, forgiveness can be extended. But forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation, which requires genuine repentance accompanied by a willingness to do what it takes to make things right. The offending party cannot expect the offended to pretend nothing has happened, but the offended party must accept reconciliation when humble repentance is evident. As we respond to repentance with reconciliation, we imitate God, who in Christ “was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor. 5:19).
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
We often long for things to be “just as they were before [fill in the blank] happened” in our relationships with other people. If we are the main offending party, however, we cannot realistically expect this to happen if our tendency is to sweep the offense under the rug without making an effort to make things right. At the same time, we cannot hold the sins of others against them if they show genuine repentance.