Good Weeping

Genesis 33:1-11
David A. Davis
October 24, 2021
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You remember Joseph. He wore that coat of many colors that his father gave him. Some translations call it a long robe. But there is nothing memorable about a long robe with sleeves. You remember the coat of many colors. You remember Joseph. His brothers all hated him because he was a father’s favorite child. A child of Jacob’s old age. A favorite child born of a favorite wife. You remember Joseph. He was the dreamer. Dreams that he would rule over his brothers. They would bow down to him. Dreams that didn’t go over very well. It’s not just his dreams though. There’s the dreams he interpreted with God’s help. The dream of the cup bearer. The dream of the baker. And, of course, the dream of Pharaoh that Joseph understood to be a dream about a famine in the land. Joseph the dreamer.

You remember Joseph. He was sold into slavery. After his brothers conspired to kill him, after they stripped off that coat they couldn’t stand and threw him in a pit. They sold him for twenty pieces of silver. Then he was sold a second time. This time it was Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, who paid money for Joseph. You may not remember the bible says Joseph was “handsome and good-looking.” That seems a bit redundant though one translation says he was well-built and good looking. Regardless, his good looks got him into some trouble with Potiphar’s wife. After Joseph kept refusing her advances, she grabbed him by his clothes and tried again. He ran like the dickens away but something of his clothing was left behind. Potiphar’s wife then used the clothing against him and Joseph ended up in prison.

But according to the scripture, Joseph prospered in prison. The Lord was with him. The chief jailer took a liking to him. Joseph became a caretaker to everyone else in the prison. So much so that the chief jailer paid no attention to Joseph. The jailer, the baker, and the cup-bearer. Or maybe the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. It was quite the time there in prison for Joseph. But it was Joseph the prisoner who was summoned by Pharaoh. So you have to remember Joseph was a prisoner.

Joseph the favorite child. The dreamer. The interpreter. The slave. The handsome and good-looking man. The prisoner. And at the age of 30, Joseph, by the decree of Pharaoh became the governor of Egypt. Joseph pretty much had control of everything. Joseph was in charge of

gathering and storing food in all the cities in preparation for the famine. Joseph put away more food than could be measured. Yes, Joseph was in charge, was a big wig, and internationally known. As the narrator reports “all the world came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain” Joseph was the man.

Joseph. Joseph. Joseph. Who doesn’t remember Joseph? What’s not to remember about Joseph? He was a rock star. If you are a soccer fan, he was the Lionel Messi of the Book of Genesis. He was the Winston Churchill of Egypt’s war with a famine. He was the Amazon of antiquity getting food to people’s homes when the shelves were empty everywhere. But there was something else about Joseph that you ought to remember, something else you ought not forget. Joseph was a crier. The dreamer on more than once occasion was moved to tears. The slave, the prisoner, the handsome, good-looking one, he wasn’t just a crier, he was weeper. He was real good weeper.

I have told you before I cry at standing ovations, ESPN 30 for 30 episodes, and every time I watch the movie “Rudy” so maybe that’s why I am drawn to Joseph’s tears. It’s Joseph tears that fall as he found himself together again with his brothers. First, it was when he overheard the brothers talking about how they were now paying the price for what they did to Joseph. They were now suffering the anguish that they had caused for Joseph. It was Reuben who said “I told you so”. “Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen.” When he heard that one of his brothers tried to stop the others, Joseph “turned away from them and wept.”

When the sons of Jacob returned to Joseph a second, this time with Benjamin, the youngest of all the brothers, Joseph again shed tears. “When he looked up  and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s youngest son…Joseph hurried out, because he was about to weep.”  According to the text “he went into a private room and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out; and controlling himself” he announced that the prepared feast would begin.

And then, in the part of the story that I offered for your hearing this morning, Judah “steps up”. Judah tries to explain why they were trying to protect the youngest son Benjamin from any harm. Judah tells of his father’s grief over one lost son already; that he could not bare to lose another. Judah pleads with Joseph, telling him his father will surely die if they return without Benjamin. Judah offers himself as a sacrifice so that his father would suffer no more. “please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy, and let the boy go back with his brothers.”

That’s when Joseph really weeps. I mean really weeps. He could no longer control himself the bible says. Though he sent everyone away, he wept so loudly that everyone could hear him. “He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it and the household of Pharoah heard it.” It was as if the entire nation could hear him cry. That’s a loud cry. That’s not a turn your back and shed a few tears. That’s not a go into a private room and then wash off your face kind of cry. That’s a weeping pretty much the whole world could hear. I don’t know about you, but if you have ever had the experience of being able to hear someone weep when you are in another room, or outside the house, or no where near, you can’t forget it. You can’t unhear it. It stays with you forever.

The Book of Genesis doesn’t provide a reason for Joseph’s wail. Hearing about his father Jacob’s tender heart at such an old age? The offer of Judah to trade places with Benjamin, to send himself into slavery so that Jacob would not suffer and the youngest son would be spared?  The realization finally hits him that his father, though very old, is still alive and a reunion with him is possible? The tension of not revealing his true identity to his brothers finally catches up with him? The weight of fifteen years of separation from his family now being lifted? The power of his own opportunity to forgive and his lingering anger and bitterness falling away?  The overwhelming experience of reconciliation, restoration, and healing that words can never do justice? Joseph was not only a good weeper. This was good weeping. With the magnitude of his weeping, the cry heard around the world, the only conclusion for the reader to come to is that it is all of that and more.

Joseph and that moment he could no longer control himself. Maybe that was the moment too, that it struck him way deep inside that there was never a time in his life that God was not with him, that God was not at work in and through him. That through it all, God did not abandon or forsake him. You heard what he said to his brothers at the great reveal. “God sent me before you to preserve life…..God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth….it was not you who sent here but God.” The easier take is to conclude Joseph was dropping all the God language to help assuage the collective conscience of his brothers there before him. The harder take, the harder take, is that somewhere in all those tears, Joseph experienced the promise of God’s presence and purpose in his life and the healing reconciliation that God intends.

Remember Joseph the weeper. The really loud weeper. The one who wept so loud that you could hear it too. Weeping like that you can’t unhear, nor should you unhear it. Because you have to hear that our life in God is one where unity overcomes estrangement, forgiveness heals guilt, and joy conquers despair. You have to hear that God has called us not to a ministry that divides but to a ministry of reconciliation. You have to hear that in Jesus Christ we are called we are not called to become the judgement of God but the righteousness of God. You have to hear over and over about the promise that comes with looking back and knowing deep within that God is always with you. God shall not abandon you. God shall never forsake you. You have to hear that the Risen Lord Jesus shall be with you to the end of the age. You have to hear, you can’t hear it to much, what comes from the prophet Jeremiah, “surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Joseph’s cry. It was a cry that everyone could hear. The world could hear. You and I can hear. You have to stop and listen.  Because it is cry that proclaims the healing reconciliation God intends for you. And when you have one of those moments when you experience, when you know, when you can feel somewhere deep down the promise of God’s presence and purpose in his life and the healing reconciliation that God intends? I can tell you Joseph won’t be the only one in tears.