As we mourn the loss of a loved one before, during and after the funeral, we catch ourselves evaluating our own lives along with the relationships we have in our lives. Some regret what has transpired is the sum total of our lives and feel remorse. Some of us lament over words said and behaviors done that fractured relationships in the past. Some of us wonder why we only get together to enjoy each other’s company only at funerals or weddings? But here we are, gathered to bury the person we knew in common and loved deeply. Some of us just mourn the loss and are not thinking of anything else. But one thing is certain, it seems, relationships are tested in our time of mourning.
After the funeral, the testing heats up. When the stuff of a person’s whole life is divided among the relatives, relationships are tested once more. “Who gets what” takes precedence. Selfishness rears its ugly head and breeds contempt among the relatives left behind. Some people even go to court over the stuff left behind. Yes, relationships are tested to be sure.
There is a moment in mourning of Jacob (Israel) by the brothers that especially touches my heart. I feel for Joseph in this moment. In their loss, the brothers who sold Joseph years ago are evaluating their lives’ past sins—again. Fear and unsettledness sweep into their thoughts, realizing they will no longer have their father to protect them. Joseph is the newly assigned patriarch of the family. Will their current relationship change with Joseph? He is so powerful. They assume that Joseph may turn on them and take revenge at last for the sins of their youth upon him.
When they approached Joseph with their fears, what does he do? Joseph weeps. Why does he weep? I think it breaks his heart that the brothers, even though he totally forgave them, are asking for pardon once more from fearful hearts. I don’t think they have forgiven themselves. I pretty sure the brothers are not realizing what God has done in and through Joseph for their good! The brothers still don’t get it! What they don’t get is that GOD was in control the whole time. It was God that made a bad situation for Joseph be a great situation for God’s people.
Friends, we can almost hear Joseph heave a great sigh after the weeping as he explains to the brothers, one more time, who God is and what He has done for all of them—God’s chosen people.
Genesis 50, The Message
Joseph threw himself on his father, wept over him, and kissed him.
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2-3 Joseph then instructed the physicians in his employ to embalm his father. The physicians embalmed Israel. The embalming took forty days, the period required for embalming. There was public mourning by the Egyptians for seventy days.
4-5 When the period of mourning was completed, Joseph petitioned Pharaoh’s court: “If you have reason to think kindly of me, present Pharaoh with my request: My father made me swear, saying, ‘I am ready to die. Bury me in the grave plot that I prepared for myself in the land of Canaan.’ Please give me leave to go up and bury my father. Then I’ll come back.”
6 Pharaoh said, “Certainly. Go and bury your father as he made you promise under oath.”
7-9 So Joseph left to bury his father. And all the high-ranking officials from Pharaoh’s court went with him, all the dignitaries of Egypt, joining Joseph’s family—his brothers and his father’s family. Their children and flocks and herds were left in Goshen. Chariots and horsemen accompanied them. It was a huge funeral procession.
10 Arriving at the Atad Threshing Floor just across the Jordan River, they stopped for a period of mourning, letting their grief out in loud and lengthy lament. For seven days, Joseph engaged in these funeral rites for his father.
11 When the Canaanites who lived in that area saw the grief being poured out at the Atad Threshing Floor, they said, “Look how deeply the Egyptians are mourning.” That is how the site at the Jordan got the name Abel Mizraim (Egyptian Lament).
12-13 Jacob’s sons continued to carry out his instructions to the letter. They took him on into Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah facing Mamre, the field that Abraham had bought as a burial plot from Ephron the Hittite.
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14-15 After burying his father, Joseph went back to Egypt. All his brothers who had come with him to bury his father returned with him. After the funeral, Joseph’s brothers talked among themselves: “What if Joseph is carrying a grudge and decides to pay us back for all the wrong we did him?”
16-17 So they sent Joseph a message, “Before his death, your father gave this command: Tell Joseph, ‘Forgive your brothers’ sin—all that wrongdoing. They did treat you very badly.’ Will you do it? Will you forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God?”
When Joseph received their message, he wept.
18 Then the brothers went in person to him, threw themselves on the ground before him and said, “We’ll be your slaves.”
19-21 Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid. Do I act for God? Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children.” He reassured them, speaking with them heart-to-heart.
22-23 Joseph continued to live in Egypt with his father’s family. Joseph lived 110 years. He lived to see Ephraim’s sons into the third generation. The sons of Makir, Manasseh’s son, were also recognized as Joseph’s.
24 At the end, Joseph said to his brothers, “I am ready to die. God will most certainly pay you a visit and take you out of this land and back to the land he so solemnly promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel promise under oath, “When God makes his visitation, make sure you take my bones with you as you leave here.”
26 Joseph died at the age of 110 years. They embalmed him and placed him in a coffin in Egypt.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
This story reminds me of the time Jesus wept. Could this “not getting it” be why Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus? Think with me for a moment. Remember when the women lamented, “If you would have been here this would not have happened.”? Ouch. Can we hear the sigh of Jesus expelled as he weeps when they don’t get it—get Him? God is sovereign over all, in all and in control of all. Bad things happen, life happens, whether we caused it or not, but God has never left the building (of our lives!). God is in control. God is still with us. God forgives our repented sins—and forgets—to be remembered no more! God has power—even over death!
But relationships between Mary and Martha with Jesus were tested. Let’s take a quick look at what Jesus said and did as the sisters deeply mourned over their brother’s death.
“When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them.
They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”
Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” (John 11:33-44, NLT)
Joseph retold the brothers who still didn’t believe and “get it” that his forgiveness was complete—even in mourning, difficult circumstances, and trying times—done! ALL done because of what God did in and through Joseph. “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children.” He reassured them, speaking with them heart-to-heart.”
Jesus, who is part of God and is God, also knew Joseph in his moment of people not getting it. Friends, our God is so patient with us! God doesn’t miss anything. He knows our hearts. So, the same questions are asked by God through His Holy Spirit to us when we are mourning, depressed, thinking all is lost.
“Don’t you see?”
“Don’t you see how I turn life around from bad to good?”
“Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”
Jesus’ prayer says it all…“Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” –Jesus
Just believe, repent and be saved from all that holds us back. No more questions—just believe! Even when we don’t understand—believe. Faith is our victory!
Lord,“UNWRAP” the fear, unrest, anger, envy, bitterness, grudges, that bind us. Let us then go, walk out of that grave to dance, sing, tell God’s story of redemption while living life in Jesus Name, for God’s glory. Yes