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God's Steadfast Intention for Good -- Genesis 45:1-15 (Tenth Sunday After Pentecost)




It couldn’t get much worse for Joseph’s brothers. They are a family of farmers in the midst of a drought and a famine. They’ve run out of food; their families are starving; and they have come to Egypt to beg. And if all that wasn’t bad enough – here’s what they don’t know at the beginning of this morning’s Scripture: The one person who can help them – the one person whose generosity they most need – that one person turns out to be – their brother Joseph – the brother they kidnapped, the brother they threw in a pit, the brother they tried to kill.


Joseph – the brother they sold into slavery. That Joseph.


Their past has finally caught up with them. Everything that the brothers have intended, everything that they have done, has finally brought them to this moment.


The jig is up.


The chickens have come home to roost.


It is time to pay the piper.


And Joseph reveals who he is to his brothers. He sends everyone else out of the room, so it is just Joseph and his brothers. And then he begins weeping uncontrollably – unhinged – scary – and he tells them, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into slavery.” And here they stand before the most powerful man in Egypt. The brothers who tried to kill Joseph, now at his mercy. Their whole story comes into this present, decisive moment.


And it’s not a pretty story. From the start of the story, the brothers have never really liked Joseph. He is – by far – their father’s favorite. He is the favorite son of his father’s favorite wife. So much so that their father Jacob gives Joseph a very fancy coat – we may know it from the old King James translation as a “coat of many colors.” More modern translations call it an elaborate coat, or a coat with long sleeves. It is a coat of privilege. It is a coat that sets Joseph apart – above his brothers. And they despise him for that.


And then Joseph has a few dreams. In the dreams, Joseph is a cornstalk that grows bigger and stronger than his brother’s cornstalks. Joseph is a star that shines brighter than his brother’s stars. And in Joseph’s dreams, his brothers bow down to him. And he lets them know that. And they despise him for that.


So much so that they plot and plan to do him in. The brothers are out working in the field one day, and they see Joseph coming towards them – not working – in his fancy coat. And they say to each other, “Enough. That’s it. Let’s kill him.” So they grab Joseph, beat him, and throw him in a pit – and then they take a break for lunch. What do we do now? They haven’t really thought this through. All they know is that they want Joseph gone. And just about that time, some Ishmaelites ride by, and the brothers get an idea. They will sell their brother – that takes care of their problem (no more Joseph), and they’ll make a profit. (And maybe they’ll even feel a little less guilty