God Speaks and He Lives

“Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.”
Genesis 41:45

I just finished watching the animated film, “Joseph: King of Dreams”.  I have read the story of Joseph a dozen times, and each has revealed new and deeper understanding, and new lessons.

God spoke to Joseph through his dreams, and through them Joseph ultimately gained great power and great responsibility.  God’s glory spoke loud and clear to Pharoah and the people of Egypt through Joseph’s integrity and spirit.  Through him, God saved Joseph’s family as well as the whole country (later to be used for an even greater purpose).  In response to God’s glory, Pharoah gave Joseph a new name: Zapheneth-Paneah (“God speaks and he lives”).

My eyes water every time I reach the point in the story where Joseph is overcome with the joy in revealing himself to his brothers instead of making them suffer anymore for their past sins.  The reunification of this broken family through Joseph’s unconditional love and forgiveness is amazing.

But this time it was different.  Watching the story unfold—rather than reading it—when I already knew the ending, was more emotional than I expected.  Though the animation is not exemplary, there is enough emotion visible in the characters’ faces—as well as rather good voice-acting—to grab my heart.  And while my eyes immediately began to well just as I could see Joseph was about to reveal himself to his brothers, I was not at all anticipating the onrush of emotion that swept over me when he actually did.

Grateful for being alone while viewing it, my tears burst into physical sobs as I found myself weeping uncontrollably with the joy I believed these men felt in that moment (my eyes tear now as I try to relate this here).  Never before have I been so overwhelmed with the understanding of God’s love and his greater purpose.

Never before, in the history of mankind, could anyone be more justified in holding a grudge of hatred, vengeance, and malice.  They didn’t just try to kill him, they ruined his life, took everything away, and humiliated him by selling him as a slave.  Who would do that?

But again, while those hurting emotions were present, they were overpowered and overcome by the love of God.  Joseph’s understanding of God’s vision and plans for him were greater than Joseph could have ever imagined on his own, and he understood very well that had things not happened exactly as they had—his brothers’ sins especially—he would not have had the opportunity to save his family & entire household from destruction.

As a result, Joseph could see only forgiveness, because he was filled with gratitude.  How could he hold a grudge against those who served God’s purpose?

Joseph forgave his brothers, not for what they’d done, but in spite of what they had done.  If they deserved anything, they deserved death.   But “love overcomes a multitude of sins”, and he forgave them anyway.

And I am forgiven, in spite of all I’ve done.  I do not deserve forgiveness or freedom.  If I deserve anything, I deserve death.  But God forgave me anyway, and that’s why I cried so hard today.

Joseph’s story can be read in its entirety in Genesis 37-50. There is also a great live-action version available called “Joseph,” with Ben Kingsley and Martin Landau.  Look for it on DVD.

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