Release the Past

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Repress and Rehearse
Scripture tells us that the root of bitterness is like this poisonous weed that chokes the Holy Spirit inside of you. When we are hurt by others, we repress it, we rehearse it, but we also can resort to retaliating against it. Joseph started to do this with his brothers, and he was in every position to. We are not likely in a position like Joseph, where we can throw people in prison or have them executed. But we have our own ways of retaliating. We recruit opponents by trying to turn other people against the person who hurt us, or we retaliate with social isolation where we turn a cold shoulder to the person. We retaliate by being constantly critical or by constantly reminding them of the offense they have committed. Think about if this is how Jesus treated us and was constantly critical or always reminding us of these things up in our past, but yet, we end up doing this to one another.  Our last option in response to our hurt is what Joseph does – we release it. You release freely and you let it go. This doesn't mean that the healing will be immediate. It doesn't mean that what happened in the past is no big deal. It doesn't mean that you're making excuses for that person. It doesn't mean that you refuse to press charges if a crime has been committed. It doesn't mean that abuse should be tolerated. Releasing it doesn't diminish or reduce the seriousness of the offense, but you are releasing your bitterness and your anger to God's sovereignty for his will to unfold in your life. You can't keep holding onto things from your past. You can find freedom when you decide to release your right to retaliate. You're releasing what you are owed and recognizing that you're not going to live in those feelings anymore. The reason that's possible is because Jesus and what Jesus has done for us by delivering us from sin and shame. Because of his reconciliating us to God, we have within us the grace needed to be reconciled with one another. Reflection/Discussion Question: What is God calling you to release today?
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Motivation for Reconciliation
Earlier in the book of Genesis, we read the story of another complicated brother relationship. It’s the story of Joseph's father and uncle – Jacob and Esau. Jacob had cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright and out of his father's blessing. After Jacob cheats his brother out of these things, he flees for his life. The decades come and go, and these brothers have nothing to do with each other. But eventually, Jacob is forced to meet back up with his brother that he had hurt and greatly disrespected. Genesis 33:3-4 says, “He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.”   Joseph had more than likely heard about his uncle Esau and was probably shocked to see his dad to humble himself and bow down before this uncle as he did. But then, he sees his uncle running towards his dad and they embrace. Now, all these years later, Joseph is with his brothers who betrayed and hurt him, and he has to decide how he's going to handle what's been done to him. Joseph is able to experience deliverance because he understood the sovereignty and the unfolding will of God. This is what allows him to extend to this kind of forgiveness because he recognizes that God can work all things together for good. God can take anything that happens and he can mold that together for his unfolding will in your life. Joseph offers his brothers forgiveness, even though they didn't ask for it. You don't have to wait on somebody to say they're sorry in order for you to extend forgiveness; that's not a precondition to you offering forgiveness. Reflection/Discussion Question: When in your life have you seen or heard an example of reconciliation that has inspired you to forgive someone in your life?
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Presence of Tears
Joseph certainly would have had a lot of emotions come to the surface upon seeing his brothers; emotions that he had tried to repress for almost twenty years. However, when he saw his little brother Benjamin, his only full brother, he could no longer contain his feelings and they came flooding out. Genesis 43:30 says, “Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.” Joseph was not just going to shed a few tears. He was looking for a place to break down.  Later, when Benjamin is set up to look like a thief and sentenced to die, Judah steps up and says to take his life instead. Now, Judah is the brother who spoke up when Joseph was thrown into the pit and suggested that they sell him into slavery to make some money. The same brother who said to sell Joseph into slavery, is now the same brother 20 years later who says to take his life for Benjamin’s. Then we read in 45, verses 1-2, “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's overcome with emotion. Think about who he is: He is the second most powerful man in the world. He is a man who has spent most of his life as a slave and imprisoned. He has learned to compartmentalize his emotions, but in this moment, it's just too much. He can't do it. This is the third time in the story we read of Joseph crying. When deliverance is taking place, tears are often present. Tears can be an indication of supernatural deliverance that is taking place in your life or in the life of someone else.  Reflection/Discussion Question: When have you experienced tears as an indication of deliverance in your life or the life of someone you know?
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Deliverance From Mistakes
When Joseph accuses his brothers of being spies and consequently throwing them into prison, they think that God's will is to punish them for what they did 20 years earlier by selling their brother into slavery. Genesis 42:21-24 states, “They said to one another, ‘Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.’ Reuben replied, ‘Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.’ They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter. He turned away from them and began to weep.” As much as Joseph wanted to believe he was over what had happened to him and as much as he wanted to think that he had put the past behind him, his tears tell a different story. Twenty years later, the tears are just right there because he hasn’t actually released the hurt and resentment from the past.  After being released from prison, Joseph’s brothers return home but shortly have to return again to purchase more food. This time they bring Benjamin along per Joseph’s request, despite the fear and hesitation from their father, Jacob. Upon returning to Egypt and seeing Joseph, the brothers all bowed before him. This is a fulfillment of the dream Joseph had when he was 17. Joseph was seeing, even more clearly, that nothing that had happened in his life was a surprise to God. Nothing that had happened to him caught God off guard. Joseph and his brothers were suffering, in different ways, because of what had happened in the past; Joseph was struggling with hurt and bitterness, and his brothers were struggling with guilt and shame. However, everything had worked together for God’s plan to be accomplished so that Joseph and his brothers could be brought together in this moment of reconciliation.  Reflection/Discussion Questions: Is there a situation in your life where you deeply relate to Joseph? What is a different situation where you can relate more to his brothers?