God called Mary-Joseph to a ministry of parenting the Messiah through pregnancy, childhood care, and transition to adulthood. Mary was called as Mother of the Messiah and Joseph to lead the ministry as the earthly father of the Messiah. As overall leader, Joseph received family-care instructions: such as the escape to Egypt, return to Israel several years later, and redirection to Galilee instead of Judea. Their interactions in the events illustrate unity in parenting through honor and support for family leadership. Further, their unity and purpose in parenting showed through annual trips to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover; which provided opportunity for the child to develop community sensitivity, as he mingled and interacted freely with friends and relations during the celebrations and long trek to and from the festival. The study indicates that God calls every husband-wife union to a parenting ministry and provides them family-care instructions: such as seeking unity in parenting through honor and support for family leadership; teaching same to the children through their observation of parents; and exposing the children to community sensitivity by honoring customs and practices important to their people in fulfilling God’s purpose for the community, similar to the Festival of the Passover in the case of Jesus.
This study is the second of two segments on the Mary-Joseph ministry as earthly parents of the Messiah, in continuation of the bible study series on understanding the individual responsibility regarding family leadership. The series is based on bible examples of husband-wife interactions and relationships: including the Shunammite couple; Adam and Eve; Abraham-Sarah; Isaac-Rebekah; and Mary-Joseph, the parents of the Messiah.
To get reconciliation, if a person sins against you and repents, forgive them; if you sin against another, repent and seek forgiveness. Reconciliation endures if founded on repentance and forgiveness but would be meaningless and short-lived if not. As an example, Joseph (the 11th son of Israel) forgave and reconciled with his brothers after he verified that they had repented from sin they committed against him. Their reconciliation paved the way for subsequent growth and prosperity of the nation of Israel.
In this bible study session, we focus on understanding the relationship of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. As we discuss in a previous study, repentance is necessary and sufficient for forgiveness. If a person sins against you and repents, then forgive them. Similarly, if you commit sin, repent and ask for forgiveness from the injured party.
Thus, repentance leads to forgiveness. Also, forgiveness leads to reconciliation. Our discussion in this study focuses on understanding that repentance and forgiveness provide a solid foundation for meaningful and lasting reconciliation and for a bountiful harvest in human interactions and relationships.
We begin with Christ teaching in Matthew 5:23–24 to understand the priority and process of reconciliation in human interactions. Also in the study, we draw an example from the life of Joseph (the 11th son of Israel) regarding his reconciliation with his brothers. We see that Joseph first verified that his brothers had repented from a great sin they committed against him, then he forgave them, and reconciled with them. Their reconciliation cleared the way for the nation of Israel to relocate to Egypt, where they survived the great famine, multiplied, and prospered.
Joseph’s father sent him on an errand to check on his brothers and the flock and report their conditions back to him. However, the errand happened to be God’s call to Joseph to undertake a special mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young nation of Israel to survive a severe famine, prosper, and multiply into a great nation. Neither Joseph nor his father recognized the call at the time. God delivered the message by prompting his father to send him on the fateful errand. Also, we learn that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. The person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.
We continue our study series on parent child relationships focused initially on understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents. In previous sessions, we looked at examples in which the message was clear to the parent. In the Call of Samuel, for example, Eli eventually understood that God wanted to speak to Samuel and instructed him on how to respond. Similarly, each of the examples under Instruction to Parent for Child looked at a clear instruction to a parent to implement something for a child. The current study, in contrast, looks at an example in which the message was delivered as part of normal parent-child interaction with neither the parent nor the child knowing at the time that this was a message from God. We recognize the message today because of the benefit of hindsight based on accounts in the bible.
The example is drawn from the life of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob (also known as Israel). His father sent him on what appeared like an ordinary errand to go and check on his senior brothers tending flock in the field.
However, later events indicate that God used the errand to call Joseph to a mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young family of Israel to survive a severe famine and grow and prosper to become the nation that God promised their ancestors. The example provides opportunity to learn the importance of clarity of parental communication and a child listening to a parent with intent to understand and implement the parent’s information. Furthermore, we learn from Joseph’s interactions with his brothers and other people that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. Also, Joseph’s behavior during the adversity help us understand that such person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.
Personal choices determine the fate of opportunities that God positions for each individual. Make the right choices and develop the opportunity and benefits. Make the wrong choices and you could abandon the opportunity as it is transferred to another person. Christ taught this through the Parable of Talents. Additionally, Joseph’s interactions with his brothers during “the great famine” provide us a real life example.
Forgiveness without repentance could result in an “eating with the devil” relationship, in which one would use a proverbial long spoon in readiness to run away at any appearance of provocation. God can see through your heart to know if you have repented. However, a fellow human being may need a physical manifestation of your repentance to truly forgive.
Joseph Seeks True Forgiveness
Joseph sought and found true forgiveness for his senior brothers. Recall that his brothers met him in Egypt approximately 20 years after they sold him to slavery. He was a powerful man, the administrative head of all Egypt. His brothers did not recognize him. He recognized them but did not reveal himself. Instead, he subjected them to several tests to verify their repentance.
Would you choose vengeance or forgiveness? Joseph’s brothers met with him in Egypt approximately 20 years after they sold him to slavery. As administrative head of Egypt, Joseph was in charge of abundant grain reserves that Egypt accumulated under his management during a seven-year period of abundance. He now presided over grain sales to people that came to Egypt from different parts of the world to buy supplies during a severe world-wide famine.
An opportunity to earn blessing often may be encountered first as a call to be compassionate. For example, when Joseph had compassion on two fellow inmates in Potiphar’s jail, he did not realize that the encounter was an opportunity for him to demonstrate competence that would later propel him from jail to the highest administrative position in Egypt. The two men were Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and chief baker and were held in the same jail with Joseph.
A tragic event in Joseph’s family that nearly claimed his life at a young age challenges us to think about the roles of parents and siblings in managing unequal opportunities among the children of one family; potential problems of polygamous relationships; and God’s willingness to direct our life events, including events that appear tragic, toward his purpose.
In a previous bible study (Banking Blessings through Positive Human Interactions) we learned about God’s promise to bless any person that provides selfless service to benefit others in need. This week we study an example from the wonderful testimony of the life of Joseph, the 11th son of Israel. An act of compassion that Joseph performed to two fellow inmates in jail triggered a sequence of events that culminated in grand blessing for him, the people of Egypt and their neighbors, and Joseph’s family in Canaan.