Family Reunion

,

Forgiveness and repentance bring reconciliation and fellowship.

Genesis(102) (Part of the Origins(100) series)
by Marc Webb(74) on May 28, 2023 (Sunday Morning(341))

Forgiveness(15), Surrender(4)

FAMILY REUNION

The following is from a November 29, 2022 article on today.com: A Texas woman who was kidnapped as a baby more than 50 years ago has been reunited with her family members thanks to a home DNA testing kit. Melissa Highsmith was just 22 months old when a babysitter allegedly kidnapped her from her parents’ Fort Worth apartment in August 1971, according to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth. Highsmith's mother, Alta Apantenco, who was working as a waitress at the time, placed an ad in a local newspaper to find childcare for her daughter. After a woman answered the ad, Mrs. Apantenco hired her without meeting her first. The woman allegedly took her daughter and never returned. Alta, and her husband, Jeffrie Highsmith, and her family members spent the next five decades searching for the missing child, even turning to social media in the digital age by creating a Facebook page called “Finding Melissa.” After a recommendation from a genealogist, the family decided to use the home DNA testing kits Ancestry and 23andMe in an effort to track down Melissa. The idea worked: A promising DNA match turned up on 23andMe. Melissa Highsmith's sister Victoria told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth that the DNA matched samples from Melissa Highsmith’s children. Her parents then provided their own DNA samples. Within three weeks, the Highsmiths were reunited with their long-lost daughter, now age 53. “It was like, ‘Boom, boom, boom,’ we found her,” Victoria Highsmith said. “I couldn’t stop crying. I was overjoyed and I’m still walking around in a fog trying to comprehend that my sister is right in front of me and that we found her,” she added. “It’s a Christmas miracle! It’s amazing meeting her. It was like looking into myself; she looks like me, like us. She’s overjoyed to be in our lives.” According to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth, Melissa Highsmith, who grew up believing her name was Melanie, lived most of her life in Fort Worth and had no idea she had been kidnapped. A spokesperson for 23andMe told NBC News that the company had never heard of an account like this one. “There are really no words to describe how incredible this story is. We are so grateful Melissa and her family were able to reunite after such a long period of time, and we wish them all the best in getting to know one another.”

This morning we are going to see another family reunion with a similar theme. It’s been twenty-two years since Joseph’s brothers kidnapped him and sold him into slavery. Their father was shown his bloody robe and thinking he had been killed by a ferocious animal, had no hope of ever seeing him again. Over the past several weeks we have followed the story as Joseph’s brothers arrived in Egypt looking to buy grain during the worldwide famine. They unknowingly encountered their brother, who was now the second-in-command of Egypt. The brothers were put through a series of tests, by God through Joseph, to remind them and convict them of their sin and bring them to repentance. These tests have reminded them of their guilt believing that God was punishing them for what they had done to their brother. Last week, Judah made an impassioned plea to take Benjamin’s place as Joseph’s slave. Judah showed how much he cared for his father, wanting to keep him from having to deal with the loss of another favored son. Judah, as the spokesperson for himself and his brothers, proved that they had changed and were sorry for what they had done to Joseph all those years ago. This morning we will see a family reunited with embracing, kissing and tears made possible because Joseph had forgiven his brothers for what they had done to him and because his brothers had repented of their sin against him. They were able to be reconciled and have true fellowship with each other once again, which brings us to the big idea this morning that Forgiveness and repentance bring reconciliation and fellowship. When we are willing to forgive and repent, we can be reconciled and have true fellowship with other human beings. And when we repent of our sins God forgives us and we can be reconciled and have true fellowship with our heavenly father.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we open your Word today, give us wisdom and insight from your Holy Spirit. Help us to grow in love for you and your Word and in wisdom and knowledge. Give us a heart for all your creation as we navigate our everyday lives on this earth you have placed us on. Help us to fall deeper in love with you as we surrender our lives to you and follow your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are three points this morning. The first is Pardoning Grace found in Genesis 45:1-4 and 14-15. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.

As I already mentioned, Judah makes an impassioned plea on behalf of his father. He refers to him fourteen times in a loving and caring manner at the end of chapter 44. “Simply, Judah so feels for his father that he begs to sacrifice himself for a brother more loved than himself.” (Sternberg). Joseph realizes that what he has hoped for has come true. His brothers have changed. Judah is willing to become a slave to Joseph in Benjamin’s place and they care for their father, not wanting to see him hurt anymore. They have also seemingly treated Benjamin differently than they treated Joseph and there is repentance for what they had done to him. Speiser says, “Joseph’s brothers have passed a critical test which is all the more revealing since they did not know they were being tested.” That’s important, isn’t it? This showed that a true transformation had taken place in his brother’s lives. Once Joseph was convinced of their transformation, he could no longer control his emotions. In order to keep this a private family matter, he commands his Egyptian attendants to leave, and he reveals himself to them. Joseph is so overcome with emotion that he weeps tears of joy and love because he could now be reunited with his family. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians in his household, outside the room, could hear him and the news of his weeping even reached Pharoah’s household.

Joseph tells his brothers that he is their long-lost brother. He then asked them if his father was still living. This question showed his compassion toward his brothers. He didn’t want them to feel more guilty about what they had done to him, so he directed their thoughts to their father, not focusing them on himself or what they had done to him. Now this question about his father may seem strange because right before the feast in chapter 43 he had asked if his father was still living, and they answered that he was alive and well. And Joseph knows they never made it back home before being stopped and questioned about the silver cup. But this time he asks about “my father” as opposed to “your father.” He didn’t want to know literally if his father was alive or not because they had already told them he was. He wanted to know all the intimate details about his father that he had missed in the last twenty-two years.

His brothers are stunned by this revelation and are left speechless. They are terrified of him because if this is really their brother that they sold into slavery and if he is really the second-in-command of Egypt, they are terrified that he will have his revenge against them. Their guilt is brought to the surface again. Joseph, seeing the panic in their faces, tells them three things to encourage them. First, he tells them to “come close to him” so they would feel more at ease. This was in the plural meaning all his brothers. They may have been reluctant at first because Egyptians and Hebrews didn’t have close intimate contact, but he needed them to see that he was sincere and that he was one of them. Second, as they came closer to him, he again tells them that he is Joseph, and adds that he is their brother. Third, he qualifies his previous statement that he is “the one you sold into Egypt.” He didn’t do this to make them feel more guilty but to further identify who he was. This would prove who he was because no one else would have that particular information.

Moving down to verses 14 and 15, we see the pardoning grace that Joseph extended to them. He started with his full brother Benjamin. He embraced him and wept over him. And Benjamin reciprocated by embracing him and weeping over Joseph as well. He then kissed all his brothers and wept over them. His weeping showed them this was not a trap and that he held no resentment, bitterness, or grudge toward them. He had already forgiven them, and they didn’t need to feel guilty or be afraid anymore. Lastly, they were able to fellowship together and even speak to one another, which was important. Genesis 37:4 says that his brothers hated him so much that they couldn’t speak a kind word to him. Now that Joseph had forgiven them and they had repented, they could be a family again, being reconciled and enjoying fellowship together. (BIG IDEA).

Our second point this morning is Preserving Grace found in verses 5-8. This is what God’s Word says, “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. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”

Joseph didn’t want his brothers to be distressed, meaning grieved, and he didn’t want them to be angry with themselves for selling him into slavery. There was no reason for them to keep feeling guilty for what they had done to him because God was in control, and it was part of his plan all along. He mentions four times that God was behind the events of his life. In God’s preserving grace he sent Joseph to Egypt ahead of his family to save lives. This was why Joseph was sold into slavery and rose to second-in-command of Egypt. This was why God gave him the knowledge of the seven-year famine and the plan to save Egypt, Canaan and the world from starvation. The famine has been in effect for two years and there will still be five more years of no significant harvesting taking place. Yes, the brothers hated Joseph and sold him into slavery, but God used their hatred to further his plan to preserve a remnant on the earth and save their lives by a great deliverance.

This great deliverance speaks to this present saving and the future saving of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It also speaks of the future coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Joseph’s family, who would become God’s chosen people, were the remnant from the earth, that would deliver the world from death and sin through their descendant, Jesus Christ. Jesus would save lives by a great deliverance by dying on a cross for the sins of the entire world and resurrecting on the third day. This was why God made Joseph father to Pharaoh, meaning he was Pharaoh’s advisor, and made him lord over his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. It was to fulfill his plan and purpose to save the world. It was the sovereignty and providence of God that sent Joseph to Egypt not his brothers. We don’t know exactly when in Joseph’s journey he realized the hand of God in his life but when he did, he was able to extend forgiveness to his brothers for what they had done to him.

Sometimes I believe that we don’t give God enough credit for what he is doing in our lives and in the world. We feel like we are in total control of our lives, and he is not influencing us at all. Now do not get me wrong. We are not puppets to God the puppet-master. We still have free will and can make our own decisions. And we still have a human responsibility for our actions. But I can fully testify that God’s hand has been all over my life from the day of my birth and he has directed my paths even as I have sinned against him. I believe that he still does every single day and wouldn’t want it any other way. I also I think we are fearful and anxious about what is going on in our lives and the world because we feel God doesn’t really care about us. We don’t fully believe that he loves us and wants to be in fellowship and in relationship with us. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Matthew 10:29-31 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

When we realize that God loves us, wants a genuine relationship with us and wants to move in our lives we can truly have fellowship with him and an abundant life on this earth following his will. When we totally surrender our whole lives to him, we will see the events of our lives in a different way and will be able to go through life with hope and peace instead of fear and anxiety. Maybe you struggle for some reason with these concepts this morning that God loves you, cares for you, and wants to be in fellowship and relationship with you. Maybe you struggle with the idea of God’s sovereignty and providence in your life or in the world. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to totally surrender to God, embracing his love and care for me and his sovereignty and providence in my life.

Our third point is Promised Grace found in verses 9-13. This is what God’s Word says, “Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’ “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”

Joseph tells his brothers to hurry to Canaan and bring their father and their families back to Egypt. But he realizes that Jacob may have a few problems with this message from his sons. First, Jacob will probably not want to leave the Promised Land. He did that once before at the urging of his mother after Esau threatened to kill him and he ended up being gone for twenty years. Now that he is again living in the Promised Land that God gave his grandfather Abraham as his inheritance, why would he leave? Canaan is where he is supposed to be. Joseph’s brothers will need to make a compelling argument for Jacob to realize his need to leave Canaan and that God’s hand is in it. They are to tell their father about the honor that God has given Joseph. He is lord of all Egypt and because of that he has a place for them to live. “Part of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:3), especially the promise of a great name, was being fulfilled in Jacob’s son, Joseph, because God had made him lord of all Egypt.” (Gangel & Bramer).

In Goshen, Jacob, his children, his grandchildren, their flocks and herds and all they have can be comfortable and safe. Goshen was the best of the land and was unpopulated because it was reserved for royalty. They would also be able to be near Joseph and would not lack for anything. He promised to provide for them for the remaining five years of famine and he could make this promise because God put him right where he needed to be, right when he needed to be there. They were also to tell their father that if he didn’t come down to Egypt his household and all who belong to him would become destitute. During times of famine families would have to mortgage their lands and even sell themselves and their family into slavery causing them to become destitute. Joseph didn’t want this for his family.

Second, Jacob may not believe them that Joseph was alive. He would probably be a little skeptical. Joseph’s brothers were going to have to do a hard thing. They were going to have to tell their father that Joseph didn’t die but that they had sold him into Egypt. Then they would be able to testify that they had seen him with their own eyes, and had heard him with their own ears. Joseph had sent everyone out in verse one including the interpreter, so he has been speaking Hebrew to his brothers during this whole time. This was evidence that he was truly their brother. Joseph singles out Benjamin because their father would more readily take his word for it, being Joseph’s full brother by the same mother. All of this would be compelling evidence for Jacob to believe that Joseph was still alive. Lastly, Joseph tells them again to tell their father about all the honor, status and power, he has in Egypt and that they have seen this with their own eyes. He finishes with “bring my father down quickly.” This reunion with his brothers has been sweet, especially with Benjamin but now what he really wants is to be reunited with his father. He thought he would never see his father again and Jacob thought he was dead all these years but now a full family reunion can be had, and fellowship can be rekindled because there has been forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation. (BIG IDEA).

Before I close this morning, I want to pass on four principles of forgiveness we can glean from these last couple of chapters. One, forgiveness should be done privately. Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” Second, forgiveness should be given freely and unconditionally. We may ask how can this be done when someone has hurt us or wronged us badly? Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” We must forgive others because we have been forgiven by God. Three, forgiveness seeks correction and restoration of the offender. Too many times restoration never happens because either the offended or the offender doesn’t want it or doesn’t think it’s important. Reconciliation and restoration are what can bring us back into fellowship and relationship. Four, forgiveness must be permanent and not brought up again. It may not be humanly possible to forget the sin perpetrated against us but in order to have true forgiveness and reconciliation, once the offense if repented of and forgiven, you must live and act like you have forgotten it in order to have fellowship with that person.

A father and his teenage son had a stormy relationship. So the son ran away from home. His father began a journey in search of his rebellious son. Finally in Madrid, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in the newspaper. The ad read, “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you, Your father.” The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office eight hundred “Pacos” showed up. They were all seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers. Joseph didn’t require that his brothers make the first move in seeking forgiveness. Even before their repentance Joseph had treated them generously and graciously when he had every right to treat them with bitterness and vengeance. He wanted to be reconciled. Once he knew their hearts were ready, he revealed the truth to them. He held nothing against them but desired to hold them close and to see his father again.

Our families and churches are full of many broken relationships that beg to be mended. But reconciliation requires the conviction that something is wrong, the confession of that wrong, and forgiveness offered and accepted. So what are you prepared to do to repair the broken relationships in your life? Are you willing to take the first step? What is your desire – to be vindicated or to be reconciled? May we be like Joseph, seeking reconciliation. That brings us to our final next step this morning, which is to forgive and seek reconciliation in the broken relationships in my life.

As the praise team comes to lead us in a final song and the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, thank you this opportunity to be in your house with your people learning from your Word. Help us to be willing to surrender our lives to you. Help us to embrace your love and care for us and your sovereignty and providence in our lives. And I pray that we would be willing to forgive other first seeking reconciliation in the broken relationships in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.