Who Benefits From My Redemption?

God has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Genesis 45:8

In my opinion, this is an overlooked part of Joseph’s story. It’s easy to get caught up with how Joseph felt on the other side of imprisonment. We imagine him being reunited with his brothers, and mostly, with his father. We might never think about how Pharaoh benefitted from crossing paths with Joseph, that Joseph’s influence over Pharaoh was fatherly.

To be a father is to be able to advise, to take care of, or administrate. The day Joseph was dragged into Pharaoh’s court, Pharaoh gained a confidant; someone without an agenda, a priceless gift for a ruler. Never knowing who to trust and never allowing one too close, kings and pharaohs lived lonely lives. Instead ~

  • Pharaoh became acquainted with someone who walked with God.
  • He met a man who was willing to tell the truth and put himself at risk when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream.
  • He met a man who came out of a prison environment with a gentle spirit.
  • He met a man who had no trace of anger or revenge-seeking.
  • He met a man who possessed wisdom so unique that his ideas could only be attributed to his God.
  • He met a man who was not power hungry.

All of Egypt was saved from famine because God brought Joseph to Egypt. His redemption from imprisonment to power saved more than just the Jewish people. So widespread was his influence that even Egypt was able to preserve its people through the drought.

My redemption never stays in close circles. People close to me watch and God’s power is on full display. His glory falls on those intimate with me but also to my acquaintances. You and I become ‘fatherly’ or ‘motherly’ to those who’ve never trusted before, to those who have waited to see something beautiful displayed in a world that is savagely broken in two. When I give up on God before a stunning breakthrough, I deny myself, and everyone around me, from seeing God’s kingdom come to earth.

I wait on You, God. My hope is not in vain. Your glory, waiting to be revealed, is just out of sight. Give me spiritual grit to see this through. Amen

Stumbling Blocks and God’s Sovereignty

So it was not you who sent me here, but God. Genesis 45:8

Really? Joseph believes that God sent him to Egypt? I thought it was the sins of his brothers that sent him there and God just made good out of it. Such is the stumbling block of God’s sovereignty.

One of the most disturbing messages I heard when I was wrestling with the sovereignty of God was from John Piper.  He said, “Who crucified Jesus? God did!” Admittedly, it took a good year for me to make peace with a God who gives free will, knows ahead of time the choices of sinful humanity, and weaves a glorious plan of pain and redemption into the life of every child.

But here’s the thing. If I’ve never trusted God with my story and pressed in close over time to see redemption, the truth of His sovereignty will be a stumbling block to me. This sad reality characterizes most of the church. We are deeply angry with God for what He did not prevent.

But because His suffering had meaning, ours can too, when we realize that we can go through horrendous experiences with the same purpose He had, trusting, and then magnifying the worth of the Father.  Christianity is a wildfire when spread by the hot winds of adversity.  I will miss it if I’m eaten away with the anger of injustice.

Today, someone watches a loved one wither away with cancer.  The loss will either cripple them or cause them to more fully embrace the joy that life is eternal.  Today, a parent’s heart breaks over the path of a rebellious child.  They will be tempted to disown their own son or daughter, or they will choose to explore the truth of their own past rebellion against God.  They will trace, once again, his never-ending supply of loving-kindness and mercy.

With each cross comes a choice.  Meaningless suffering or the opportunity to find the heart and purposes of God in our tears.  Joseph discovered the latter. Oh, the sweetness when it’s framed in the comfort of God’s sovereignty and the power of His redemption.

There is not one thing I have experienced, or ever will experience, that can be called a meaningless tragedy.  Be lifted high over my life and as I look up, let others follow my lead and see Your glory.  Amen

Revenge and Vindication?

And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. Genesis 45:5

Under what conditions would we say to the one who betrayed us, “Don’t be upset with yourself because you hurt me. God’s wonderful plan eclipsed all of it.” Oftentimes, we can see some good that God has brought out of betrayal, but we still want the one who inflicted harm to live with regret!

For many years, I didn’t really understand what it meant when God promises that all things will work together for my good. My good is supposed to be synonymous with His good. I have been called according to His purpose. Joseph wasn’t brought to power to compensate for the pain he suffered. The story wasn’t so much about him but about God’s plan to save His people. Joseph was privileged to play a part in God’s redemptive story.

I am considering the largest wounds of my life. God has definitely worked things together for good but the ‘good’ wasn’t revenge and vindication.  God brought about a larger plan of redemption.  I was to learn more from Jesus about His own suffering and how grace carried Him through to the cross.  From that place, I am to strengthen the church.  I am to bring wisdom to the next generation in my family so they can secure their spiritual calling. These are some of the possibilities that comprise ‘being called according to His purpose’.

The miracle of Joseph’s story was not that he was promoted to power in Egypt. It was the stunning work of grace, humility, and wisdom brought about as he waited for redemption. Not visible to human eyes, Joseph and God dialogued, wrestled, communed, and birthed a faith that not only forgave a family of wrongdoing but also made it possible for them to live in the joy of God’s extravagant mercy.

Lord, all over again I offer You my story for the expansion of the kingdom. Amen

When It’s Safe To Show My Heart

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Genesis 45:1-2

Joseph tested his brothers severely. It might have appeared that he had no mercy when he kept Simeon back, then imprisoned him, and gave the remaining brothers the stiff terms of his release. Joseph’s heart was unreadable, safely concealed, until such time as the nature of their hearts would be revealed. Once they showed the agony of true remorse, his heart would be accessible. He would weep so loudly that the sound of it would permeate the grounds of his vast residence.

What is my response to a sincere apology? If I’ve been in a relationship that turned treacherous, one that required that I prudently step back for time, it might have appeared to the other person that my heart was cold. But, in fact, I was praying for us both. I was praying that their hardened heart would eventually soften because of the conviction of the Spirit, and I was also praying that mine would not become hardened because of unforgiveness. The only reason Joseph was able to handle his brothers with such wisdom was because he had many thousands of hours alone with God.  As a Hebrew, he lived as an outsider among the Egyptians. Loneliness was God’s gift in disguise, the perfect training ground for impartial leadership.

Who has offered what appears to be a sincere apology? If God shows me that true remorse is present, will I keep my heart imprisoned in my tower of self-protection? Or, like Joseph, will I be willing to pour out the tears that have been hidden?  Offering my heart is a beautiful response, but only prudent when pride has been put aside.

The story of Joseph offers me wise counsel in matters of the heart. He, like Jesus, had vast emotional capacities. He had many faces as he related to others. There were moments when he would have been called stoic, but underneath was a well of tears that revealed a broken heart.

There’s a time and a season for everything. There’s a time to conceal and a time to reveal. I must be careful that I don’t live a life of concealment; ever protecting a heart that has been hurt one too many times. I also must be careful that I don’t allow anyone, and everyone, access to every thought and emotion. Real maturity is knowing what Jesus would do amid complicated and ever shifting relationships.

Without instruction of whispers from You, I’m chaff in the wind and continual prey. Amen

Generalizations Are Unacceptable

We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’ Genesis 44:22-23

When I want peace badly enough, it’s easy to abandon God’s way to get it. I’ll take shortcuts to protect my pride. I’m much like Joseph’s brothers who wanted to do anything Joseph asked ~ except to go get Benjamin. They knew that if they agreed to do that, the sins of their past would be unearthed.

Joseph modeled the character of God as He required full and honest confession from his brothers. He was like God at that moment because it is a steep requirement for us as well as we go to great lengths to self-preserve our fragile egos. God will not settle for a watered down, generalized, admission of sin.  “Lord, I’ve done some things I regret,” does not suffice. “What specifically have you done,” He asks.Unless I’m humble enough to give a full disclosure, peace will elude me.  Sins are always specific ~ so must be my confessions.  For an unbeliever, eternity is at stake while they play with His terms.

God’s pathway to peace is through the cross. The way is steep – as evidenced by the fact that it cost Jesus His life. He asks for something steep in return. I’m required to face the full extent of my sin, own it, and ask for forgiveness. Prideful excuses abound in my heart but shouldn’t the One I’ve offended be the One who decides what it will require to make peace? God is the only One trustworthy to make this weighty decision. The terms are based on holiness and yet, they are driven by perfect love as well.

When I come on Your terms, it’s good for me.  And surprisingly, it’s healing. Amen

Parents and Children Can Eventually Be Friends

And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ Genesis 44:20

Oh, a child’s painful journey to finally become his parent’s friend. To a child, parents are god-like, by divine intention. It takes a good chunk of adulthood for that child to see a parent’s humanity, to forgive the imperfections, and then to embrace friendship.

And oh, a parent must travel the painful journey to become their child’s friend. True friendship will be impossible without a willingness to adapt from being a parent to a peer. Parents will always see their child as a child, even in their 60’s and 70’s. Humility is necessary if parents want to learn from grown children, to be taught by them.

It took two decades for Judah to talk respectfully of his father and his father’s affections.  Though he had despised his father’s love for Joseph when he was a younger man, his words in today’s scripture are full of admiration, respect, and acceptance for who his father is and who his father loves.

Jaime, my daughter, and I work together in this ministry. Our relationship has evolved over the years. A mother/daughter relationship is wonderful and complicated. We will be the first to admit that. But it can become a work of glory when both are committed to grow amidst the challenges of getting older together. When people learn that we work together, most are surprised. “Really? And you get along?” We laugh but we also understand the question.

What is the secret of true fellowship in a relationship, whether friend or family?  Both must love God more than the other person. Under God’s wings, relationships thrive.

Your work of grace creates relational masterpieces. Amen