Not sure what he is singing about but Paul Simon’s lyrics in Call Me Al declare: “I want a photo-opportunity. I want a shot at redemption. Don’t want to wind up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard.” Can’t tell you when someone will take your picture or how to avoid the fate of a dead ‘toon, but a “shot at redemption?” That is more than possible.
In Joseph’s story so far, we see a man that has had his ups and downs… who is now on a roll. He has always been a source of blessing to those around him, and now he is a blessing to the whole world. He is in charge of a massive food bank with the desperate from all the surrounding nations at his door.
A few years ago I was leading a Bible study on Joseph and we came to this morning’s passage. One of the Bible study participants asked an interesting question: After Joseph became Second in Command of Egypt… why didn’t he go seek out his family in the land of Canaan. Why indeed? I didn’t have an adequate answer… I had never thought about it I guess. One would expect that Joseph would have at least paid a call on them… to promote reconciliation or to enact revenge. And yet at least 7 or 8 years pass without even a postcard sent back to the family… why?
After looking into it, I think we are provided a clue to the answer during the years of Joseph’s prosperity.
Genesis 41:50-52 – Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.  Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”  The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
Two sons were born to Joseph and as he called them to supper it reminded him of two things: Forget the Past…. Focus on the Prosperous Present. Excellent Strategy… only one problem… it was doomed to failure.
- Avoiding the Past Doesn’t Keep It From Knocking On Your Door.
Jacob hears that there is grain in Egypt and sends his sons to buy some… “before [they] all starve to death.” And so they went. Now that morning Joseph got up to get ready for work and as he headed out he might have caught sight of his first born and said: “Good Morning my son that reminds me to forget my past and the treacherous brothers I grew up with. Have a great day at school. Love ya, bye.”
Was he ever in for a surprise at the Job site. There are his brothers, that he has spent years trying to forget… kneeling before him. Verse six says: “They bowed low before him, with their faces to the ground.”
Now Joseph recognized them instantly, but pretends to be a stranger. This day was the day that God had appointed to Joseph to begin to deal with his past.
I’m not sure when that day will come for some of you. It has to be God’s timing. But usually the past eventually comes knocking. How you deal with it could change your life.
- Avoiding the Past Can Keep You From the Blessings of Confession and Guilt.
Genesis 42:21-24 – They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us.”  Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.”  They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.  He turned away from them and began to weep, …
Two groups both need the blessings that dealing with the past can bring.
For the brothers the occasion spawns a confession of their sins of almost a decade ago. Notice how fresh the event was in their minds: Their ears still ring with the sounds of Joseph’s bleeding. Reuben says: I told you not to SIN against the boy.
Rueben calls it what it is… not a misunderstanding… or a business opportunity they couldn’t pass up… or a punishment that Joseph had coming… it was a sin against him. Joseph tells his brothers that he thinks they are spies. He tells them to bring back their younger brother to prove they were who they said they were. He keeps Simeon in prison for insurance that they will do just that. Joseph is testing his brothers repentance here in a very hard way.
But while Joseph’s brothers needed to confess, Joseph, himself, needed to grieve. Did you catch that? As the brothers bring up that dark day… that day that had filled Joseph’s nights with terror… Joseph’s eyes began to fill up with tears. He’s reliving the moment… And he’s coming to grips with his loss.
3. Another reason to resist avoiding the past is that it can keep you at odds with God.
Genesis 42:27-28 – At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack.  “My silver has been returned,” he said to his brothers. “Here it is in my sack.” Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?”
This is an unusual thing.
Say you just paid someone for cleaning your gutters with your last $50. An hour later you look in your wallet and your $50 is back. Now you KNOW you paid the worker. You mentally can see the $50 leaving your hand and entering his. So how would you interpret this new $50. “Hallelujah! It’s a miracle. Get the kids we’re going to Long Horn’s.”
That should have been the reaction of the brothers, but it wasn’t. Why?
Quick: Draw a mental picture of God.
What do you see in your mind’s eye? A Mean Overbearing Ogre or a Happy Loving Father? Now I’m not asking you what your theology teaches you He is… or even what you believe Him to be… what does your heart feel about Him? Guilt has twisted the brother’s view of their God.
Papa Jacob isn’t much better. When the brothers return home and tell him what has happened he declares: “Everything is against me!”
What is your heart’s cry today? Guess what? With God you have a shot at redemption. “If God is for us, who could be against us!” (Romans 8:31) God could be bringing up your past today so that he can take those ugly things… that happened to you or that you have done to another… and turn them into a glorious future!
What do you do when the past comes calling? Know that you have a shot at redeeming that past. If you are in the place of Joseph’s brothers… you own up to it and repent of it. If you are in the position of Joseph… you face the pain and forgive.
God longs to heal your deepest wounds. Would that today be when your healing process begins.
Do you have a hurt from the past that God seems to be bring up again and again in your life? Isn’t it time to face it with Him?