Why didn’t you tell me?
Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son for many days. All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.
Genesis 37:34-36 (ESV)
Joseph’s brothers have deceived their father Jacob into believing that his favourite son, Joseph, has been killed by a wild animal but in truth they have sold him to a passing trader. Jacob is plunged into an unending grief. God does not intervene and rescue him from his bereavement. Down in Egypt many years pass till finally Joseph is made the Pharaoh’s ruler of Egypt. He then had the power to send a message to Jacob to tell him he is alive, but he didn’t. The famine comes and Jacob’s remaining sons eventually journey to Egypt to buy food and are brought before Joseph. Joseph doesn’t reveal who he is. Another year passes till the brothers return to Egypt and only then does Joseph reveal the truth. On their return, finally, after all those years, Jacob finds out that Joseph is alive after all.
As he journeys down to Egypt to join his son Joseph, Jacob stops at Beersheba to offer sacrifices and God appears to him in a vision. He doesn’t mention the fact that he knew all along that Joseph was alive, nor the years of Joseph’s distress and loss. He simply tells him not to be afraid, he will be with him, he will make a great nation from Jacob and that Joseph will be with him at his death. He offers reassurance and hope, but no explanation.
If we were Jacob, wouldn’t we have been seriously upset with God? Why didn’t you tell me? Why did I have to suffer all this grief all these years when you knew all along that Joseph was alive and you could have told me?
For Jacob, the chaos of having a large family from four women, and his prejudiced favouring of Joseph over the rest of his children, brought a harvest of suffering for him. Jacob, the deceiver, had been deceived by his own family. So sad to say, sometimes it is best that we are given the time to learn the consequences of our decisions.
But on the positive side, through the silence of God and the wisdom given to Joseph, the brothers were confronted with their crime. It brought about repentance and the reconciliation of the family. Jacob’s suffering was for the sake of his family. But it took time and necessitated Jacob remaining ignorant of the truth until the right time came.
Are there times in our lives, usually when things have happened unexpectedly and gone wrong, that we too say, ‘why didn’t you tell me?’ If there are, let this be our prayer –
Father, I know that I am in your safe hands and all things work together for good, however they look, and I put my trust in you.
Study by Hilary Buck
About the writer:
Hilary Buck is an Elder and pastors
Grace Communion in Lewes.
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