Devotional & Reflection

Week 3, December 2004

Gen 45 :
Pain with a Purpose

By Pang Hee Hung, Katartizo Resources Ltd

v. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. v. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. v. 8 "So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt..."

Can we imagine not seeing our loved ones or family for 22 years?

Many of us will miss our family if we were to go overseas for even a month. And we certainly will miss our family if we have to go overseas for longer periods like a year for studies, business or mission trips.

And yes, Joseph did not see his family for 22 years. He was sold into slavery when he was 17 years old (Gen 37:2). When he was 30, he was promoted to a position second only to Pharaoh in the whole of Egypt (Gen 41:43, 46). In Gen 45, the land had already enjoyed seven good years of bountiful harvest according to Joseph's interpretation. And they were then into the second year of the famine (Gen 45:6). That is, nine years had elapsed since Joseph became the second in command at 30. Altogether 22 years had elapsed since the time he was sold into slavery at 17. Wouldn't Joseph reminisce the times he had with his parents?

As for Joseph's brothers, would they be able to sleep soundly? They could remember how distressed Joseph looked as he pleaded for his life (Gen 42:21). Wouldn't they be pricked by guilty conscience for their deed in selling Joseph into slavery? Some of this is evident in Gen 42:21-22. Wouldn't they wonder what happened to Joseph? Wouldn't they be sad to see their father, Jacob, mourning over the savage "death" of Joseph? (Gen 37:33-35).

And 22 years had gone by.

If there were no famine, the brothers would have continued with their comfortable lifestyle where they were. They would not have gone to Egypt. They would not have found Joseph. Joseph would not have been re-united with his family.

We don't like famines in our lives. We don't like trials and difficult moments in our lives. But sometimes God allows something challenging to happen to precipitate something good. For Joseph, the famine precipitated his coming to terms with his hurts or unforgiveness, if any, and bringing a closure to the stinging incident that happened 22 years ago. It gave Joseph the opportunity to release forgiveness to his brothers. As for the brothers, who were burdened with guilty feelings (Gen 42:21-22), it was an opportunity to receive forgiveness and to receive a release from this weight on them for 22 years. What reconciliation!

Healing and reconciliation do take time – and God knows when is the best time. For Joseph and his brothers, it seemed like they needed 22 years to see the larger picture. When we endure a famine, we may not understand why God allows it. But there is always His larger purpose behind it all. For Joseph and his family, it brought about healing, reconciliation and a re-united family.

What good did selling Joseph into slavery do? Joseph certainly wouldn't have understood why God allowed him to be sold into slavery at 17. Only after 13 years when he was 30 did he realize that God must have had a very good reason for it. And he was blessed with a very powerful position. From this powerful position he could have meted out justice by punishing his brothers for the sin they had committed. But he proffered mercy instead. He thought of serving his people. He understood God had allowed everything to happen so that he can save lives (Gen 45:7). He was to preserve a remnant – to bring about a great deliverance and to fulfill God’s Great Purpose.

1. When we are hurt, how long does it take for us to forgive so that we ourselves can be healed?
2. To what degree does knowing God’s larger purpose help us to endure trials and sufferings?
3. What do we do with the power we have?
4. How can we use our power and authority to serve God?

Great Is Our Suffering,
But Larger Is His Purpose.

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