August 13th, 2012 by Sarah Jackson
One morning last spring I was awakened by a voice declaring, “They’ve bought the lie that their lives are about them.”
I’m not sure if a bizarre dream precipitated this declaration, and I don’t know who “they” were, but I know I was one of them. That voice was talking to me.
As the words reverberated in my heart, memories from the past year came crashing into the quiet of my room.
I saw myself packing up and moving from my community to start a new job a week after a young man slipped a diamond onto my left hand.
I saw the flurry of activities that gained momentum as my wedding drew nearer, and I saw my body incapacitated by chronic illness.
And then I saw rain hit my windshield late one night, my left hand feeling naked without the diamond that once graced it, my heart aching from the grief of a broken engagement.
All of these, my memories, from my life, stuffed in the deepest crevices of my heart, and yet somehow this voice speaking into the silence, telling me they’re not really about me.
And then I thought of Joseph, the colorful coat-wearing dreamer in Genesis, who had more sorrowful memories by the age of 30 than most people in a lifetime.
Memories of traitorous brothers and the aging father left to grieve the loss of a favored son; of false rape accusations hanging thick in the air; of the disappointment flickering in a boss’s eyes; of the long days and dark nights in a jail cell; and of the two years waiting in the dark, forgotten by the man who promised he would remember.
I’ve often heard people praise Joseph for forgiving his brothers and preserving the nation of Egypt through famine. But Joseph’s story isn’t just about Joseph, and it’s not just about the individuals Joseph’s life touched or the people God used him to save.
When Joseph was reunited with his brothers in Pharaoh’s palace he begged them, “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for…God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.”
His words echoed the words God spoke to his childless forefather, Abraham, generations earlier:
“I will make you into a great nation.
I will bless you.
…All nations on earth
will be blessed because of you.”
This ancient promise brought life to Abraham. God blessed him with a son, Isaac, who had a son, Jacob, who had twelve sons, one of whom was named Joseph. God planned on using these sons to bless all the nations on the earth. But he had to sustain them and make them into a great nation first.
Joseph was a seed planted in the womb of one of the most powerful nations in the world, where his small clan grew in safety for centuries. Even when enslaved by Egypt, Abraham’s great great-granddaughters birthed many hearty sons, and Pharaoh grew afraid of this great nation.
Joseph was the linchpin whose life enabled his growing family, when freed from slavery in Egypt, to dispense God’s justice on the Canaanites and occupy the land of this barbaric, blood-spilling nation.
Joseph’s family-turned-nation was great enough, because of their years in Egypt, to settle into Canaan, where they prospered and clung to the promise God made to Abraham. A promise God clarified later when he assured his suffering people he would send a Messiah from the tribe of Joseph’s older brother, Judah; a Savior who would bless all the nations of the world.
Joseph’s story is 11 of 880 pages in my Bible. Eleven pages of a story that’s not finished yet because it points to the story of the Messiah born into Abraham’s family, who still declares hope to the nations:
“I have stripped sin of its power, and sorrow no longer has the last word. I will dignify the prostitutes, homeless, and handicapped, and remove the shame of the adulterer and the guilt of the pious. I will breathe life into the coffin of your selfishness and free you from the prison of your anxiety. I will give you victory over death.
“I will make your blind eyes see stars hanging so bright and low in the sky you’ll think you can grab them, and make your deaf ears hear the thunderous roar of rain on the roof. I will heal your lame legs so you can run so hard your heart wants to burst from the thrill of it. I will give rest to the weary.
“And if you trust me enough to give your life to me, I will use you to bless the nations. I will graft your vaporous story into my eternal story, and I will use your sorrow-turned-to-joy to show the world that my story is Hope. The hope of glory. The certainty of a happy ending.”
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