And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them.
As readers we get great satisfaction from the story in Genesis 45, as the confusion and fear of Joseph’s brothers is resolved in a joyous revelation. But if we think of this story in the whole context of Genesis, we notice how unusual this story is. Something changes here: a cycle gets broken.
From the beginning, sin pulled apart Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, and then Jacob’s sons. Of all of them, Joseph had the best case for revenge, and he rejected it. When we see such a dramatic example of love overcoming pride and anger, we know God must be involved. And yet, curiously, it seems that God has little visibility in this chapter.
That conclusion would be too hasty. We saw in chapters 39 and 41 how Joseph functions in some way as a stand-in for God. The slow, patient way in which he revealed himself to his brothers makes for a great story, but should also teach us something about God Himself. We also see how Joseph prefigures Jesus Christ. Through him, salvation comes to his family, Egypt, and the rest of the world. Through him, forgiveness and healing is extended to those who have betrayed him.
The noted early Christian Gregory of Nazianus noted that God’s preferred pedagogy is often to “reveal Himself gradually.” Joseph’s revelation to his brothers mirrors God’s way with us. Only when the desperation of his brothers reached its height could they see the effects of their sin (Gen. 44:33–34). Only after the darkness of chapters 42 through 44 could Joseph see and make his great declaration: God intended all of these tragic events for good (50:21).
Apply the Word
All of us have moments of despair, times when we feel that God has abandoned us. Such times call for us to strengthen our sight that our faith might grow stronger. Today, reflect on those times when God, though He could not be seen, was really right behind you all along. Then take the time to give Him thanks and praise for His care for you.