Becoming Who We Should Be…
I am inspired by the story of Joseph, son of Jacob, he who was sold into Egypt by his brothers for jealousy’s sake. This was a good boy who received spiritual promptings through dreams, and managed to anger his brothers when he shared them. Clearly Joseph’s dreams came from the Lord, nevertheless sharing them with the rest of his family had the adverse effect of creating animosity and even hatred among those he loved most. Surely the Lord would not have planted these dreams in the mind of a 17-year-old boy for it only to lead him into persecution and many years of hardship, and He did not. Persecution and hardship was simply the path that was needed for Joseph to take in order for him to serve as the instrument in God’s hands to save Joseph’s whole family, both physically, and as it turns out, spiritually.
It was not all harmony and righteous deeds among the house of Jacob, he who would be known as Israel. From his very early years there was jealousy with his own brother that caused many years of separation. Then in marriage there was competition between his wives in the bearing of children and the seeking of favor for Jacob’s eye and affection. This did not seem to be a good start for what would need to be a united house that would bless the whole world with priesthood power and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Misdeeds by several of his sons seem to push this realization of the divine duty of his family further away from the Lord’s promises. When reading the Old Testament accounts involving several of his sons, aside from the capture, contemplated murder and ultimate sale of their own brother into slavery, the sons of Jacob did some very bad things. It must have racked Jacob’s heart with sorrow, anger and confusion to witness the behavior of his own sons. How could this raucous bunch of boys ever band together to lead in righteousness and bless the world? It would be done through the persecution of their younger brother, the suffering of loss by their father, and their own sorrowing unto repentance.
Clearly, at the time of the betrayal of their own brother and the subsequent lies to their father, and for many years after, the sons of Jacob were not prepared for the divine calling as patriarchs of the tribes of Israel. This deed against their brother and father did not seem to in and of itself draw them closer to righteousness. They saw the pain and sorrow of their father, yet they did nothing to right this wrong, until circumstances and many years of grief brought them to the hour when faced with continuing wrongs unrighted was no longer how they would live.
They saw the pain and sorrow of their father, yet they did nothing to right this wrong, until circumstances and many years of grief brought them to the hour when faced with continuing wrongs unrighted was no longer how they would live.
In the meantime Joseph was given the task of making the most of some of the worst circumstances into which one would want to fall. Betrayed and sold into slavery by his brothers, and then sold in Egypt by his cousins the Ishmaelites, he was forced to work as a slave for a leading citizen of Egypt.
He responded well to servitude by working hard and doing his very best, and the Lord blessed him and all of his efforts. As a result he was noticed by his master and placed in charge of Potiphar’s household.
Life seemed to be improving for Joseph, but then his master’s wife set her eye upon him and tried to lead him into adultery. He resisted her and showed fidelity to God and to Potiphar. But Potiphar’s wife would not let Joseph escape from her wicked behaviors, and she falsely accused him, leading Joseph unjustly to the prisons of Egypt.
In prison Joseph was treated harshly, yet again he did the best he could with the circumstances he received. After much hardship, he in time found favor with the prison keeper and was soon serving at his side to keep order amongst the other prisoners. The opportunity to interpret the dreams of two prisoners led him to the seat of Pharaoh where he would provide through the gift of interpretation of dreams the answers to a famine that would soon befall all of Egypt. Pharaoh was wise and inspired and selected Joseph to serve at his side and bring Egypt through what otherwise would have been dark years. Joseph once again used his gifts and the favor of the Lord to bless the lives of those he served, all the while thinking of his father and brothers, and how he longed for word of them, and to return unto them.
After more than twenty years apart from his family much had occurred in Canaan, including the famine which had engulfed Egypt. Jacob and his sons were on the verge of being swallowed up by the very famine that Joseph had predicted in his interpretation and planned for to the salvation of Egypt. Jacob sent ten of his remaining sons to the land of Egypt to buy food. After Joseph was lost in the care of his brothers, Jacob did not trust his sons with the care of Benjamin, Joseph’s younger brother. This stung deeply at the hearts of the sons of Israel as it served as a reminder of what they had done to Joseph. Although Jacob did not know for certain of their deception, he obviously did not trust his other sons, and they knew it.
When they arrived in Egypt Joseph recognized them, however they did not know him, so by inspiration he determined to test them and to see if they had learned and become better men, perhaps to help his house to finally heal. After treating them roughly, accusing them as spies, and verifying that his father and younger brother yet still lived, he imprisoned his brother Simeon, and with ample provisions sent the rest on their way with the verdict that until they returned with their youngest brother Benjamin, to prove their claims, Simeon would remain imprisoned.
They had committed a wrong against their father and brother that just would not resolve. But the Lord had a greater plan.
When they returned home without Simeon, with this story that they needed to take Benjamin back with them to free him, Jacob would hear none of it. He refused to put another one of his sons, children of Rachel his most beloved, into the trust of those who had failed him before. Again, this must have cut deeply, as it should, at his ten sons who had betrayed him before. They had committed a wrong against their father and brother that just would not resolve. But the Lord had a greater plan. It took nearly starving before Jacob would finally yield and allow them to return with Benjamin.
Upon their return with Benjamin, Simeon was restored to them, and then through a carefully executed plan, Benjamin was taken prisoner and the ten brothers were instructed to return home without their brother, their father’s beloved son. That was the final test, the final trial through which they would have to pass to show themselves that they would not do again what they had done to Joseph and their father if they could undo it.
Judah threw himself on the mercy of Joseph. He told Joseph that he could not put his father through the loss of another beloved son, and that he would serve willingly as his slave in his brother’s stead. “Then Judah came near unto him, and said, ‘Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh…. Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father’” (Genesis 44:18, 33-34).
Finally, their own sorrowing had led them unto repentance. They could speak their own wrong and were ready to let it go and to bring their father peace at last. They had become the men that they should have been on the day they sold their brother.
My heart is filled with overwhelming joy as I think about Joseph revealing himself into them, letting them know that all is forgiven, and showing them that this was all in the Lord’s plan to bring salvation to their family, and ultimately the whole family of God. “And Joseph said unto his brethren, ‘Come near to me, I pray you.’ And they came near. And he said, ‘I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life’” (Genesis 45:4-5).
The covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would come to fulfillment through the children of Israel, that all mankind may have access to this same covenant to become joint heirs with our Savior in the kingdom of God. Like Joseph who was ultimately reunited with his father, so may we be reunited with our Father which is in Heaven. “Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while” (Genesis 46:29). So may we be reunited with Heavenly Father.
We as sons and daughters of God, like the sons of Israel, sin and are sinned against, betray and are betrayed, cause sorrow and are sorrowful unto repentance. Our Savior, in all His perfect innocence, like Joseph in his imperfect but good life, suffered all of these things, that we might be saved, even as the house of Israel. Joseph saved his brothers from starvation through his wrongful persecutions, and Jesus Christ saves us all from darkness into perfect light by suffering all things in perfect innocence. May we all see our wrongs, even unto repentance, and become the men and women who we should be, faithful brothers and sisters of a Savior, sons and daughters of the Most High, heirs to Their kingdom. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.