+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +
Text: Genesis 45:5
Theme: Sent Ahead By God
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
It was a family fractured by sin. Jealousy, deceit, anger, and selfishness had characterized the dynamic between Joseph and his brothers. Does it sound familiar? There was little reason for the brothers to be hopeful. And yet when Joseph reveals himself he says, “Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”1 The brothers were at first too crippled with fear to respond. After all they had left him for dead and now he had the power to execute them
Joseph was looking for humility in his brothers but he was not seeking revenge. Had you walked a mile in the shoes of Joseph would you have come to the same destination? Having the upper hand would you have wielded it with such wisdom and humility? The urge to get revenge never helps to facilitate repentance in the person who has wronged us. Forgiving others is not optional; it is a command. “If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”2 These are the words of Jesus. He isn’t saying that the forgiveness He offers is contingent upon ours. His pardon is complete, perfect, and entirely independent of our actions. But an unwillingness to forgive others is a cause to question whether we really believe God has forgiven us. We have no power to forgive if we don’t believe God has forgiven us. When we hold grudges we usually hurt ourselves more than others.
But the crux of the narrative is not that it’s an example of a moral imperative we are bound to follow; that is, because Joseph forgave his brothers we must forgive others. The scope is much larger than that of the dynamic of a restored family. The life of Joseph is one thread woven into a rich tapestry depicting God’s plan of salvation. Joseph believed that God sent him to Egypt so that a remnant of the faithful might be preserved. The actions of God are at the centre of the story. His brothers sold Joseph into slavery but God transferred him to a position of authority. There is a view from below and a view from above. The eyes of faith see in Joseph an image of Christ.
But the blindness of sin can only attribute the events of history to chance or the triumph or defeat of human endeavor. Dear friends, as we seek to honestly assess the shortcomings which characterize the times in which we live we must consider whether we truly believe that God is at work in human affairs. Do we believe that in Christ God has made tangible intervention into our world? Or are we playing religious games and trying to keep up moral appearances? Jesus said, “When a man believes in Me, he does not believe in Me only, but in the One who sent me. When he looks at Me, he sees the One who sent Me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness.”3
Christ sheds light into our darkness. God embraces us in our brokenness. Christ was sent ahead to the cross. He was sent ahead to bear the judgment of God’s righteous wrath against all humanity. He has gone ahead of us as the first one to be resurrected from the dead. The Scripture says, “Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.”4 It says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already.”5
Where there is forgiveness there is freedom. It was a hard-fought freedom secured at the price of Christ’s blood. But we shouldn’t think for a minute this freedom means an effortless existence. The baptismal life is a life of struggle. The Holy Spirit must continually fortify us to resist the temptations that surround us and engage the opportunities before us. Old habits die hard. Like caged animals that crawl back to the safety of what they know even though freed, we have the tendency to crawl back to the ‘safety’ of the law and live under the legalism of self-determination and self-focus.
Dear friends, the gospel changes things. It frees us to see things from God’s perspective. If it doesn’t change things then it’s not the message of Christ crucified, of Christ for us, of Christ the Redeemer and Deliverer, of Christ the wellspring of grace, life and peace that we are trusting in but some fabrication of false hope. Every falsification of the gospel has this trait: It denies to us the certainty of God’s unlimited compassion and the freedom that it brings. It always does so by robbing Christ of His glory in some measure. Only in knowing that “God our Saviour, (who) desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”6 can we have absolute certainty. God reveals His will for us in the work of Christ.
Was it God’s will that Joseph was treated so unfairly and sold into slavery by his brothers? It was certainly God’s will that he became ruler in Egypt. And it was certainly God’s will that through his provision the Israelites would be spared during the famine. It is never God’s will that evil would befall us yet it is always God’s will to accomplish His purposes even in the most difficult of circumstances. He seeks always to draw us closer to Himself. Adversity is often the best occasion for this. The Psalmist cries out to the Lord saying, “I pour out my complaint before Him; before Him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way.”7 It is always God’s will that we know His Son who is the “way and the truth and the life”8
A sincere Christian will always want to know the will of God also for their personal situation. Here we must understand that God molds us to our circumstances. People too often set up a false dichotomy- a right verses wrong, good verses bad choice. Then they agonize about “finding” out what God’s will is so that they don’t make the wrong choice. We must be careful not to confuse our strong desires or fears with God’s will. In fact, Christian freedom often allows us many options that may be equally God-pleasing. We’re better off asking how our opportunity to witness to His name might be affected. Does the change we’re considering- change of career, change of location, change of the way we use our time, talents or treasures, change of perspective- give us greater opportunity to impact people’s spiritual well-being?
Joseph was sent ahead to Egypt to prepare for a seven-year famine. There is never famine in God’s presence. We have the feast of His body and blood. We have the nurture of His word and Spirit. We can have a temporal famine while enjoying a spiritual feast. He restores the fractured human race through Jesus. He promises to resurrect our broken mortal frames. Christ has been sent ahead and He prepares the way for us. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
1 Genesis 45:5 2 Matthew 6:15 3 John 12:44-46
4 Hebrews 9:24 5 John 3:17-18 6 1 Timothy 2:3-4
7 Psalm 142:2-3 8 John 14:6
Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
17 August 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt