COLUMN: The healing power of moving on

Published 6:40 pm Monday, September 18, 2023

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If any of us thought for long, we would at least come up with a short-list of villains in the Bible. There are some characters that we just can’t let off the hook. 

We don’t have a soft place for King Saul because he tried to kill our beloved David in his blinding insecurity. We might be tempted to growl at the mention of any Pharoah, because we know they wouldn’t let the children of Israel go. We’ll snarl at the mention of a Pharisee or Scribe. Certainly Judas has his place, maybe atop that list of flawed characters. 

In Genesis 50: 15-21, Joseph’s brothers are also on our list of villains. The whole group of them. Seems like there’s not a good one in the bunch, save little Benjamin. If we skip to the end of the story, we know Joseph made his peace with them. 

A few weeks ago, we visited an earlier part of this story in Genesis. Joseph received his brothers into Egypt as they asked for rations during the famine. Eventually, he revealed his identity to them, and begged them to move there to be with him.

Now, in Genesis Chapter 50, something important has happened. The patriarch of the family, Jacob, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, has died. He has spoken to his boys and instructed them in where and how he should be buried.

These brothers are convinced that you get repaid for what you have done, good or bad. Grace was not even a familiar concept for ancient Hebrews, much less an option they thought of.

Quite simply, now that their father was dead they became nervous that they were in mortal danger. The second most powerful man in all of Egypt had taken them in. They knew they had done him so wrongly when he was a child.

Have you ever done something that stuck with you? Perhaps the act you committed, maybe even a season of unfortunate choices. Or, that thing you said that you couldn’t take back? It could even be simply a bad moment of judgment made by you, when otherwise you were a good person. No matter how many years pass, it won’t go away.

They knew what they had done. The cover-up continued.

Now, Joseph had reintroduced himself to them. But he had also acknowledged their evil in granting his forgiveness. In their guilt, there was no way they could trust Joseph. Maybe he was simply waiting Jacob out. Now that their father wouldn’t be around to see, they feared he would exact his revenge. That’s our backdrop today. 

I love the honesty that we see in this text. But, I can’t celebrate that until we acknowledge the deceit that also appears to be continuing. Liars lie and thieves steal. Cheaters cheat and sometimes the tiger just can’t seem to change her stripes, as the cliché goes. 

There’s another saying that I think is funny, but that also has a little truth in it. “Just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” Well, Joseph’s brothers are noticeably paranoid. Much as we want the years to have changed them, and much as we want Joseph’s gift of grace to have touched them, we want to give them a second chance. I think we probably should. 

But they go out and prove why they’re on our biblical villains list. Here they go, hatching another deceitful plan. 

We just can’t fully know the evil or good that may evolve from life’s events, can we. However, the most powerful part of our story is just now arriving at least for me. 

Joseph says something honest here that could be profound for us. He tells them, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.”

In other words, he makes a choice here that I hope I would make. But can’t be sure I would. His vision, though, is what I take away with me from this text. He is able to see, to separate, what they did out of their own free choice from what God eventually made of it despite their evil. 

In doing so Joseph is also able to tap into the healing power of moving on. Because God is at work.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.