By this point in your life, you may have encountered someone you never want to see, hear from, or speak to ever again. This person may even be a family member, an in-law, or a relative of the person you’re dating. Regardless of who it is, you’re probably stuck with the
C-word B-word jerk person. As author and pastor David Jeremiah said during one sermon, God used Joseph to melt his jealous brothers’ hearts. If you’ve read his bio or seen “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” you know what happens. If you haven’t, this synopsis is a good, quick read and an integral precursor to the sermon notes below.
God’s Method for Melting Hard Hearts
“God’s always up to something,” David Jeremiah said. “He has all kinds of ways to get through to a person’s heart. … While Joseph was being dealt with by God in Egypt, God was also working on the family.”
“[T]o bring the family back together,” Jeremiah said. “More important was getting the family back to God.”
Here are some methods God used:
- Difficulty. “When we’re away from God, he brings difficulty into our lives to get our attention,” Jeremiah said. In the story of Joseph, God used famine. “When the grain was gone, and the food was running low … Jacob said to his sons, ‘Don’t just sit there looking at each other … You must go [to Egypt] and provide for us.'”
- Trust issues. “Jacob harbored distrust toward his other 10 boys concerning the whereabouts of Joseph,” Jeremiah said. “Sometimes he saw the guilt on their face. … The boys must have seen that distrust. When we’re out of fellowship, we look around for the gazes of confidence in friends, but instead we find innuendo, body language, or a question mark. There’s an insecurity that comes from being out of God’s will, so even your friends begin to mistrust you.”
- Conviction. “Joseph in a real sense was repeating for his brothers the last experience they had [experienced] together,” Jeremiah said. “Joseph threw the brothers in prison as they’d thrown him in a pit. Sometimes, God allows that to bring us back to a sensitivity to the very sin to which he wants to bring conviction. There’s a gradual growing of consciousness of the brothers’ sin. Through the difficulty, through the rejection by Joseph, they’re reliving their sin – the experience is bringing the sin to the surface. They are now realizing what they did. That’s the purpose for this entire chapter, to break their hard hearts. To melt them into submission and forgiveness.”
- Solitary confinement. “[Joseph’s brothers are] already away from home and family, walking through a foreign country. They’re under suspicion of being spies, [and] now they’re being separated from other prisoners and left there for three days,” Jeremiah said. “On the third day, Joseph is on the verge of breaking. His compassion is beginning to show. He stands back and eavesdrops as his brothers talk about their sin and their guilt.”
- Exposure of the heart. “As their conviction grows, now they begin to review their sins,” Jeremiah said. “The brothers didn’t have trouble coming up with those sins – they’d done a lot of bad stuff. Joseph was the sin they had in common. … They remember their calloused hearts as they took Joseph out of the pit and sold him into slavery. … Simeon was the next oldest and the ringleader of bad things that go on in the family. Joseph has not one good thing to say about Simeon in his journals.”
- Kindness. “[Joseph] gave them provisions for their journey,” Jeremiah said. “The brothers did not deserve what they got. … The brothers began to tremble [in fear] when they saw the money. They loathe the money in their hands. Blood money. It spoke to their hearts and their just dealings with God. When they got home, they told [their father] what had happened. They still weren’t ready to admit what happened to Joseph though.”
This last point provides two important differences, Jeremiah said:
- There’s a difference between regret and repentance. When you repent, you stop committing the sin(s) you’re sorry for committing.
- There’s a difference between forgetting and forgiving. It’s easy to forgive people while you’re busy with your own life, but when the person is standing in front of you, that’s a different story, Jeremiah said. “It’s not enough to say you forgive. You have to act it out. … Forgiveness forgets.”
Maybe Your Own Heart Needs to Melt. Are You Angry at God for Making You Save Family Members Who Hurt You?
If you’re angry at God for the things he allowed your “brothers” to put you through or you’re bitter at being forced to make amends with them, this Rick Thomas post is worth reading. Alternatively, you may want to remember what stand-up comedian Jim Jeffries said: “[H]ate doesn’t beat hate, it’s never beaten hate, it just makes more hate. This might be the most hippie thing that ever comes out of my mouth, but it’s true. The only thing that can beat hate is love. Now, love doesn’t always beat hate. It doesn’t always beat hate, but it does do something. Now, think about your own personal life. Think about a person who hates you, and you hate them. From now on, just show that person nothing but love. Now, I’m not saying for a second that that person will start loving you. They’ll still probably fucking hate you. But one thing will happen: eventually, everyone will see them as the asshole.”