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Lenten Devotional: Mar. 9

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Today’s texts: Genesis 45:1-15; 1 Corinthians 7:32-40; Mark 6:1-13

Genesis 45:1-15

In Genesis 45, the story of a denouement from a family in pain and in need of a great deliverance takes place.  In the far off land of Egypt, the Hebrew foreigner Joseph, set up by Pharaoh to rule and administrate on his behalf, makes himself known to his brothers, come to Egypt to purchase food in a time of famine.

The father, Jacob, sowed seeds of destruction in his family by loving Joseph [and Benjamin,] born to him by his beloved Rachel in his old age, more than his other sons.  Joseph, as a seventeen-year old teen, had dreams of his own pre-eminence and with naïve arrogance, carelessly “shares” his dreams with his family.  His brothers “hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.” (Gen 37:8).  The brothers’ idea of graciousness towards their boastful younger brother is to get rid of him, not by murder, but by selling Joseph into slavery.

And then they set up the lie: the brothers presents Joseph’s amazing technicolour robe, torn and bloodied, to the doting father.  And Jacob makes the conclusion that he is set up to make: that his favored son has been mauled to death by animals.  Jacob grieves Joseph’s death, refusing to be comforted by his remaining sons and daughters—“No, in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son,” and weeps for the dead son. (Gen 37:35). And so Jacob and his family, bound by deceit and violence, are now locked into silence.  For who dares to uncover the great family secret now?

When I read Genesis 45, where Joseph makes himself known to his brothers in private, but weeps so loudly that the word gets out that these men are Joseph’s brothers, I find that I weep myself.  I can’t help myself.  I am an Asian-North American, from a Chinese culture where one’s “life is closely bound up with the…life” of one’s family.  (see Gen 44:30).  I weep at the familiarity of this story of a family broken by its family secrets, a parent playing favorites, resulting fierce sibling rivalry and jealousy as the children jockey for power and the attention of the parent.  Jacob’s family could might as well be one of many Asian-American immigrant families that I have known, including my own.  I weep over this family who has tasted much Chinese bitterness.  I weep over this family as it reflects the Korean expression “han.”

But another reason I weep when I read Genesis 45 is that it is the story of God’s great deliverance of this broken family.  God’s action of salvation is the most meaningful precisely where the experience of family brokenness goes the deepest.  His brothers may have sold him into slavery, but Joseph provides his brothers with the larger perspective of how God was working his redemption out in the brokenness.

1.  45:5  “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here [Egypt], because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”

2.  45:7  “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

3.  45:8  “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”

The deliverance that God works for this family is not only in saving their lives from death by starvation.  The deliverance God works in this family is to heal the family’s core brokenness—its breakage of relationships, its sorrow, guilt, deceit, violence, and regret.  There is restoration of the family through forgiveness and reconciliation.  The brothers, including Joseph, move from terror and silence with each other to tears and talk.

  • Verse 3:  Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph!  Is my father still living?”  But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
  • Verses 14-15  Then he [Joseph] threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping.  And he kissed his brothers and wept over them.  Afterward his brothers talked with him.

The Lenten season invites us to create time and space, in the 60-day lead-up to Easter, to take in the significance of God’s great deliverance for us in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  In Jesus, the scope of God’s great deliverance embraces the totality of all the families of the earth.  Spend time today, to reflect on and marvel very great salvation through Jesus that we and our families cannot do without.

Donna DongRev. Donna Chun Wah Dong is the national director of multicultural/multiethnic ministries with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada.  A  third-generation Chinese-American born and raised in San Francisco, CA, Donna worked with InterVarsity/USA for 25 years, was ordained for ministry by her sending church, Church Without Walls in Berkeley, CA, and has made Toronto, Ontario her home for the past 8 years. Donna is an unabashed foodie.

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