Beautiful Frustration

by Rev. Nick Chambers

Jumping into Genesis 45 feels like dropping in at someone else’s family reunion right around the point when everyone has “drank freely” (43:34) enough to start a tearful trek into the past. We are left to catch up. This passion has patiently waited over the twenty years that have passed since Joseph’s brothers jumped him, threw him in a pit, sold him into slavery, and lied to their father that he was dead. Joseph is known for his dreams and interpretations of dreams, but I wonder how he slept those long years. 

In quiet of the night, in the cold of his cell, does his imagination wander home? Does he feel the warmth of his father’s embrace? Did he rehearse fiery tirades against his brothers until the bitter satisfaction of vengeance lulls him into a sweet slumber? After all, it is a comfort to have someone to blame. 

But now he no longer sleeps in a cell. He reclines in a palace, second in command over all of Egypt. But is the burden of power enough to relieve the burden of bitterness? In the light of vindication, do his dreams fade? Or do they sharpen? When the day of his dreams comes, Jospeh’s brothers find him sitting at the right hand of a god. The scenario could not be better set for a gratifying conclusion. Jospeh is poised in power and his brothers come up for their comeuppance. But when the deceive moment comes, it seems the decades have left his heart torn between suspicion and hope.

And at the first glimpse of a brother's remorse, the dams collapse, and what flows is not the venom of vengeance but tears of love. His brothers’ sight is still obscured, but Joseph suddenly sees the slender thread that led them to this moment. His insight interprets this waking dream as a divine work . What has moved his life along was not the promise of gratification but the patience of God. Any bitterness collected over the decades is dissolved in the sea of God’s mercy which is vast enough not only for the sins and debts of friends and family, but of the most bitter enemies. We are left beholding a beautiful frustration of our small sense of “justice.” This is not some heroic feat of forgiveness. It is the impossible mercy of the God we left for dead. Joseph shows us Jesus and teaches us what it means to be merciful as our Father is merciful.