2.35 Joseph as Peacemaker
The great achievement of Joseph was his ability to transcend his personal history and look at life from God's perspective.
"And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you" (Gen 45:5).
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Gen 50:20).
This insight was not the result of a divine revelation or a dream. It was the outcome of his recent reflections, starting on the day he looked out from his throne and saw his brothers bowing to him. He remembered his dreams of long ago (Gen 42:9). He knew that God had always been present with him in Egypt, that God was responsible for raising him up to the right hand of Pharaoh. But until his brothers stood before him, he did not know God's purpose for doing so. In refusing to take vengeance on them, indeed in giving them gifts to take back to Canaan (Gen 45:22), he showed himself the true custodian of the Promise of God, the keeper of the Covenant. For it was never God's plan that the blessing rest upon one man, it was a corporate endowment, a family treasure. It was given to one to share with all.
Joseph went beyond kind words and gifts. He wiped away their guilt: he embraced the brothers and kissed them (Gen 45:14-15). This is a true reconciler, a man who out of personal pain brings forth not bitterness but mercy. But he remained a practical administrator as well. As his brothers prepared to go back to Canaan bearing his invitation to Jacob to come to Egypt, he warned them, "Don't quarrel on the way!" (Gen 45:24). How well he knew them and remembered his family environment!
Joseph is a model for racial reconciliation. First of all, there is a choice to be made. Peacemaking is always a choice, and there are always strong reasons to decline it. Joseph did not have to reveal himself to his brothers. He could have treated them generously yet keep them at arm's length, selling them grain anonymously and sending them on their way. Second, he did not mouth platitudes. There was a long process of hiding and revealing, of reliving the past and weeping over the lost years. Joseph gave rein to his emotions and his bad memories. Third, he pressed beyond personal history and pain to seek a redemptive meaning for his experiences. This gave him a basis for extending forgiveness to those who wronged him. Fourth, he extended them mercy in word and deed. He did not shun them, but built new relationships with them:
"So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them (Gen 50:21).