Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Do not quarrel on the journey."

Such a great line.

Joseph, who answers only to Pharoah in Egypt, has revealed himself to his long-lost brothers, who sold him into slavery so many years before. He is gracious and kind to them, not taking the opportunity to repay them for their cruelty, but instead seeing God's hand working through the entire story, placing Joseph in Egypt just for the purpose of saving lives when famine struck. All of his struggles now make sense and serve a purpose.

Joseph, holding all the cards in this new relationship, sends his brothers back home to Canaan to bring their father, Jacob, down to Egypt.

As he sees them off, he gives them this parting word: "Do not quarrel on the journey." (Gen. 45:24)

Even after all the years of separation from them, Joseph must have known his brothers well. Unbeknownst to him, they had squabbled over their initial plan to do away with him, and we can only imagine the heated arguments that must have taken place among them in the years of Joseph's absence, as the brothers hid the truth and allowed their father to believe the lie that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.

Besides that particular family history, most of us have experienced the correlation between long road trips and short tempers. Put a few brothers together in close quarters for a few hours on the road, and the chemistry will produce equal parts camaraderie and hostility. Some great laughs, and some even greater fights.

Joseph knew his brothers would be even more likely than ever to stoop to infighting now that their world had been turned upside-down by Joseph's reappearance. He knew the larger purpose had already been fulfilled, namely, saving the family through his position of power in Egypt. He knew the blessing the family was about to receive was too important to mar with petty squabbles over who said what, who did what, and who was right or wrong. In fact, if anyone had some quarreling to do, it would have been Joseph. But, he's the first one to realize maintaining the peace at this pivotal point in family history is more important than hashing out every disagreement.

How many of us have been thrown down into a pit by family? Sold into slavery by siblings? Thought dead by our parents? Bought and put to work as a slave? Been lured sexually by the spouse of our owner? Resisted that temptation, only to be rewarded for it with a trip to prison? Helped fellow inmates, only to be forgotten by them upon their release?

Joseph had every opportunity to have a serious chip on his shoulder. He had been dealt unfairness and injustice. And, it all started with his brothers. Yes, he had risen to prominence in Egypt, and was treated with honor, but the worldly mind would still have held a grudge against his brothers for everything they had done and caused. The worldly mind would have taken advantage of the opportunity to pay the brothers back for the pain they had inflicted.

But, Joseph does not have the worldly mind. Through all these experiences, he has been molded by God for His purposes. He understands the glory of overlooking a transgression. (Proverbs 19:11) He understands that there are times when God develops His children through hardship for greater purposes and more challenging tasks. He understands why he is where he is, and why he had to travel the road that got him there. Rather than feeling anger toward his brothers, he pleads with them not to feel anger toward themselves (Gen. 45:5). His mercy toward them gives him the credibility to tell them not to quarrel.

What about us?

What offenses prompt us to quarrel with our neighbors, our families, our brothers and sisters in Christ? Does it take something serious to upset us enough to quarrel? Or, does it take something surprisingly small, even petty, to motivate us to risk a relationship?

Joseph was willing to let go of far more serious offenses than you and I are likely to have to endure, because the big picture was more important. The famine was overcome. The family was saved. Petty differences just didn't deserve a place at the table.

Are we willing to put the big picture ahead of personal offenses? Satan is overcome. Salvation is here. Do petty differences have a place at our table?

Will we quarrel on the journey to heaven?

1 comment:

Gorgeous Smiles said...

Another good word! BIG OUCH!