Genesis 50.14-26; Mark 9.2-8
When finally the brothers realize that the powerful ruler of Egypt is none other than the brother they sold into slavery years earlier … the brother they hated … the brother mourned by their father, Jacob … now their lives are held in his hand.
They’re scared out of their wits … and who wouldn’t be?
But Joseph remembers his faith … and when the truth comes out, Joseph says to his brothers, What you intended for evil, God intended for good.
When was Genesis written?
Written during the Exile … a terrible time, a time of dislocation and upheaval … Judah’s dreams dashed on the rocks of defeat … the Babylonians tore down the gates and demolished the Holy City … thousands of Judah’s citizens hauled off to Captivity.
The Genesis stories are an attempt to understand …
Why are we here?
What went wrong?
What do we do about it?
Can we learn anything from this?
To understand what Joseph says, it’s helpful to read Psalm 137 … please open your Bibles …
1 By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
3 For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How could we sing the LORD’S song
in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.
7 Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
Down to its foundations!”
8 O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!
The psalmist is consumed with hatred …
The psalmist dreams of Babylon getting it … that some conqueror will come along and beat the snot out of Babylon.
Many years ago, when living in Pittsburg, we went to the zoo, and had a lovely time, and when we returned to our car, it had been broken into … all of my camera equipment stolen.
I remember laying awake at night planning revenge … thinking the darkest thoughts about “getting even,” “getting back” at the creep who had done this.
Ever been there?
Psalm 137 is full of darkness … “getting even,” hoping that Babylon will feel the pain that Judah feels … more than happy to see Babylon’s children brutally killed.
I’m always grateful for Psalm 137 - it’s about as honest as one can get about about vengeance … the dark stuff of our soul … hatred and bitterness.
Psalm 137 is one option for Judah …
But the writers of Genesis realize what we all know to be true - live in the darkness, and the darkness only grows darker … give in to the feelings and thoughts of vengeance, bitterness, hatred - poisons in the soul … they eat us alive … and soon, and very soon, we lose our humanity, we lose our soul, we become our own darkness.
If you will, the writers of Genesis choose to live on the sunny side of the street … while telling the truth about how hard it is.
The Joseph stories make one thing very clear - life can be terribly hard, sometimes impossible … when hope disappears, life collapses …
The story of Joseph is the story of Judah … and a reminder: Don’t give up on God …
Things may be terrible …
But God is at work in all things for good.
What others intend for evil.
God will use for good.
Not even God can stop the evil workings of sin.
Terrible things happen.
Evil has its ways.
Sorrow and suffering.
Tears all day long.
But don’t give up on God.
Choose a better way of living.
Trust God in the morning and trust God in the night.
Trust God in all the in-between places.
What others intend as evil.
God uses for good.
The writers of Genesis appeal to Judah’s better instincts.
Trust God in all things.
What meets the eye may be terrible and sad.
But there’s more to this life than what meets the eye.
Faith reaches above and beyond what we see.
Paul says it well, 2 Corinthians 4:
16So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
The eternal hand of God is at work …
What meets the eye is only part of the story … faith reaches beyond what can be seen to the unseen work of God … the majesty of God’s love … the height and breadth and width and depth of God’s mighty love … that whatever comes our way, there is nothing that can separate us from God’s great love in Christ.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.
Isaiah (40) says it so beautifully to his people in Exile … in the worst of times, in the worst of places, Isaiah says:
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
What meets the eye is one thing … but faith reaches beyond what the eye can see …
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen … (Hebrews 11.1)
The Transfiguration of Jesus … shining light … Moses and Elijah … a stunning moment for the disciples … they don’t know what to do … stammering and stuttering … Peter wants to build little huts on the mountain and stay there …
In that shining moment of light, they see beyond what the eye can see …
Six days before the Transfiguration ... Jesus said to the disciples, It will end badly for me … I’m going to Jerusalem, and there I will suffer many things … they will kill me, bury me, be done with me … and I will rise from the dead on the third day.
Peter objects - he can’t hear the good news; all he can hear is the bad … No, no, no, it won’t end badly; I’ll not let it end this way …
But Jesus has no time for Peter … Get behind me Peter; you sound like the Devil. You haven’t a clue what’s important, what matters. You can only think of yourself.
True enough … when times are tough, it’s hard to think beyond ourselves …
Which is why Jesus gives the disciples six days to think about it … six days to feel the pain and sorrow of what Jesus said, that it will end badly … this is no fairytale life we live … this is not some adventure in the woods … the stakes are high … and sometimes things end badly.
Six days Jesus lets the disciples stew on this …
And when the time is right, up the mountain they go … it only lasts a little while in the glory of the light … it doesn’t take long at all … nor could they stay there … no, they had to walk back down the mountain to the same old stuff, the same old world, and the fate awaiting Jesus.
But in that moment, they saw something …
Choose the light!
Choose faith, hope and love.
Choose grace, mercy and peace.
What meets the eye is one thing, what meets the eye of faith is another.
Amen and Amen!