2nd Sunday in Lent “A Wondrous Silence”
March 13, 2022 Genesis 37:12-36; Luke 22:14-30
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
There is an insert in your bulletin outlining the special focus for our Sundays in Lent.
It’s called: ‘A journey with Joseph.’ You’ll also find there a little outline for the message.
Last week we talked about Rachel & Joseph’s birth. Today we jump into Joseph’s early life. Let’s begin with the ‘readers digest condensed version’ of Genesis 37:
Wow. I don’t think anyone would say that the punishment here fit the crime!
Exactly what was Joseph guilty of? What terrible crimes had he committed? +Sure, his father, Jacob (aka Israel), favored him more than his ten brothers, and had given him a coat of many colors. But Joseph had no control over that. +Sure, it might have been wiser to keep his dreams to himself. Yet, Joseph was convinced these were no ordinary dreams;
he wondered what God telling him when he dreamed that his brothers’ sheaves of grain bowed down to his sheaf of grain; and when the sun, moon, & eleven stars were bowing down to him.
Father Jacob rebuked Joseph for speaking that way, and that should have settled the matter. But Joseph’s brothers were not settled. They were probably glad to leave the little pipsqueak at home while they grazed the flocks far away. But then when Joseph was sent out to check on them, they snapped. They would show him what they were dreaming of = punishment! Punishment that didn’t fit the crime. Family counselors call it ‘fraternal jealousy’ or ‘sibling rivalry’; whatever you call it, it spiraled out of control.
We -also- have seen times when sin, evil, & wickedness snowball into some terrible, regrettable avalanche. And what’s worse than homicide? = or in this case ‘fratricide.’ How is it that premeditated murder, in-the-first-degree, is just casually tossed out for discussion? The brothers said: “Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and then we will see what will become of his dreams.” (v 20). At least Reuben is not on-board with this plan, and offers a different plan meant to buy some time so that he could rescue Joseph later.
Even then, Joseph’s brothers find a fate for him almost as bad as death: selling him into slavery for 20 shekels of silver; which is about $50 bucks. And then(!) they proceed to break the heart of their old father by lying to him about the death of his dear Joseph. Even Rueben went along with this wicked deception, maybe because he was threatened by the others.
That’s stone-cold. Could you imagine yourself going along with & living with this horrific secret? These are some ruthless & callous men = to stand there unmoved while their father-Jacob weeps, along with poor mother-Rachel. With a broken heart Jacob says, “I will go to my grave in grief.”
On the one hand, we’d like to spout-off & condemn Joseph’s brothers, and they would deserve it. We’d also like to claim that we would never do such a thing; which I hope is true. On the other hand, we know we should be cautious, and be slow to point an accusing finger
at those guys – lest the Spirit of God make us look in the mirror to show us our own sins.
Have we never participated in group reaction of raw emotion against someone who was just being a jerk, and then had everything escalate & snowball into a major conflict, a fight, & a broken relationship? How is it that -sometimes- the best of friends can become the worst of enemies? How does it happen that some small thing between sisters or brothers explodes into something that prevents them from talking for years & years?
This is what sin does when we feel slighted, disrespected, or treated unfairly. Sin says: I’ll see your snub and raise you an insult. I’ll take your insult and return you a social media storm. You knock me down a notch or two with my friends, & I’ll knock you down with my fists! Escalation is just another weapon in our sin-tool-belt, and we’ve used it. And father-Jacob or mother-Rachel would not be the only parents who have been deceived & disrespected by their callous children, instead of be honored & cherished. With sinners, there is no new sin under the sun. Or do you want to try to convince me that Joseph’s brothers would not fit right into our days or our culture?
The ability of sinners to be wicked & mistreat each other probably does not surprise us much; what may surprise us is …the silence of God. Jacob is the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, whom God chose to be the father of God’s own people with The Gospel Promise.
Jacob has now been given the name ‘Israel’. So, this is the chosen family, even with all their flaws & failures; these were the chosen people of God to bring the Savior into the world. All God’s promises for life & salvation rested on this family. Yet, what does the Lord do to prevent this shameful inner-family conflict? Nothing.
Martin Luther calls this ‘a wondrous silence’ ==not ‘wonderful’, but ‘it makes us wonder.’ Luther writes: ‘God lets it happen. He remains quietly still; as if sleeping, or deaf … It seems God has no compassion at all, He acts as if He doesn’t even know poor Joseph. The protecting angels are also silent as this family treasure is snatched away to a foreign land & forgotten. What is God doing here with His chosen ones? …What is this, that He forsakes …them so miserably?’ (see Luther’s Family Devotions for Every Day in the Church Year, 1996)
So, why does God allow this to happen? It would be such a small thing for God to intervene. Why is He silent? And why didn’t Jacob perceive the risk in sending Joseph alone up to Shechem to find his brothers? Surely he had heard his sons’ complaints & hatred. And was Joseph a little ‘dull’ that he didn’t notice his brother’s angry reaction over his fancy coat & insulting dreams? When he didn’t find the brothers at Shechem he could’ve turned around & gone back home.
Except for that stranger = who asked Joseph what he was looking for, and just happened to know that the brothers had moved the flocks to Dothan. If not for that stranger, Joseph wouldn’t have found his ten brothers. …in which case, /he never would have been sold into slavery, /& never would have ended up in Egypt, /never would have saved his family from the famine. There would have been no oppression under Pharaoh, /and no plagues, /no Passover, /& no mighty exodus with Moses. It almost seems like the entire history of our salvation hinges on that stranger at Shechem. It might even make us wonder if that man was a random stranger at all.
But the larger point is: God lets it all happen; He lets the tragedies and triumphs unfold without really saying a word. There is silence; but it is a wondrous silence. Everything is not ‘wonderful’, but it causes us to wonder, or marvel. This silent God is our Lord, and our God.
St. Paul would’ve had Joseph in mind when he wrote to the Romans & said, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom 15:4). Joseph teaches hope. Joseph teaches us how to receive the silence of God in trusting faith.
In our times of need, or confusion & doubt, we’ve wondered, ‘Where is God?’ In our times of injury, sickness, or sorrow we cry out & we don’t hear Him. When we can’t get away from temptation, or when conflict escalates and sin spirals out of control, where is God? That’s what Joseph would be wondering as one minute he’s in a pit & saying ‘ha, ha, very funny guys – the jokes over’, and the next minute he’s forced to go with the Ishmaelites.
And suddenly he is without father, mother, home & family. Where’s God when things are unfair?
This was written for our instruction, to build in us endurance; it’s written to give us courage so that we will have hope. We are taught about Joseph because he is a ‘type’ of Jesus. And when the Scripture brings us to Jesus, we receive true comfort for body & soul.
As Joseph is thrown into the pit, and sold into slavery, and hauled into Egypt, Martin Luther talks about it this way: ‘Joseph is dead and buried. He has his Good Friday. …Jacob His father also dies in sorrow, but they are both raised again later by the power of God, who can even make the dead alive. The heart of the believer must yet live and rise again even if ten strong men bury him.’
We can feel bad for Joseph & what he went thru; but we wouldn’t want to trade places with him. His punishment is unfair & unjust; and he could see no one to rescue & deliver him. There is only a wondrous silence. It’s like the silence of Good Friday. Remember -earlier- when the Father’s voice thundered out of the heavens at Jesus’ baptism & said,
‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’ Jesus remembered. But there was no voice as He hung there on the cross that dark day; just silence. Silence over our sin.
So there is Jesus fulfilling the thoughts of young Joseph: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). Biblically speaking, Jesus is also a Son of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob. He is our Brother.
His punishment of crucifixion does not fit the crime = He was completely innocent; but it fits our crimes. That means that His punishment is fratricide in-the-first- degree.
We killed him; He died for the crimes of all His human brothers & sisters.
And because He did, we will not have to. Because of God’s wondrous silence toward Jesus on Good Friday, the Spirit of God speaks to us the gospel = the good news of full forgiveness for all of our sins. Because God remained silent for that crucifixion event,
it means that we are hearing His promise to never be forgotten, or forsaken. We have been saved! We are redeemed, baptized with His name, & we remain in the family of God.
God knows us = His people; He tracks us & directs us; our times & our days are in His strong hands.
Joseph reminds us that the faithful will sometimes face the silence of God. But that does not mean hope is gone; God cannot ignore His people who have His promise. In both word and in example, the Scriptures teach us: be still & remember that He is our strong God.
There are times He seems quiet while our life unravels. But He is always at work for us behind the scenes. His wondrous silence, and our faithful waiting, is bringing us closer & closer to the heavenly glory that is coming. Joseph reminds us that thru all the silent times, on that promise we can rest assured!