Thursday, November 3, 2011
The Old Testament stories are so familiar to so many of us. We have heard them told and retold since we were old enough to sit on those little wooden Sunday School chairs. However, the truth is, no matter how familiar a passage of scripture may have become, if we listen closely the Spirit will whisper something new.
The story of Joseph is one of those familiar ones. I reread it the other day and found a few words I had never noticed before. They were tucked into Genesis 45, the moving scene where Joseph finally reveals his identity to his brothers. He has given them ample provisions for the journey back to Canaan - back to a father who doesn't know that the son he thought dead for so many years is still alive.
As he watches them go, Joseph gives them these parting instructions:
"Don't quarrel about this along the way!"
They had just experienced grace and mercy beyond anything they could have imagined. Thinking they would be dealt with in the severest of ways, they found instead love and forgiveness. This brother, whom they had sold into slavery, had not only forgiven them he had saved their lives and the lives of everyone in their families.
Was it possible they would quarrel about it?
I have learned not to judge the lives of others too harshly. The minute I do, I am reminded of my own failures and failings. All too often they are precisely the ones I find so distasteful in others.
How often have I received grace when I deserved condemnation only to turn right around and begin to grumble and complain about something else? Or the times I have been forgiven only to try to justify my part or blame the whole thing on someone else? Or, having received forgiveness, continue to rehash the past with "if onlys."
Surely there were things the brothers could have quarreled about. Joseph knew that it would do no good to argue about past wrongs. It was a time for new beginnings. He had given them that - a full measure of grace and forgiveness.