Oh, Brother(s)!

Bjorn Burrows, Groups Pastor, South Barrington | April 6, 2023

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. 

Genesis 50:19-21

Oh, Brother! This is a versatile idiom that we can use regularly either to express great emotion, annoyance, excitement, or surprise. In the narrative of Joseph and his brothers, I imagine that this phrase would have applied to many parts of the story. Imagine the context with me: as Joseph’s brothers faked his death and sold him into slavery, he could have said in great disbelief, “Oh, brothers!”

As the story continues, while in Egypt, through divine providence and a series of unlikely events, Joseph ascends to the second highest office in the country. Joseph’s leadership and authority provide direction for Egypt to store food that saves the nation and provides for other nations that are also experiencing famine. This leads to Joseph’s brothers coming to Egypt. Unknown to Joseph’s brothers, they were reunited with him in Egypt and through a series of events, Joseph had the power and opportunity to take revenge on his brothers. However, in the end, Joseph forgave them and revealed his true identity. In great surprise, and with some relief, all of Joseph’s brothers may have exclaimed, “OH, BROTHER!”

I am reminded of this famous quote from the English poet Alexander Pope, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” When someone does us wrong and causes us great pain, it is hard to forgive them. Oh, brother, this can be hard! But God can use evil for good. Joseph’s ability to forgive came with great strength, divine strength even. While we must name the great atrocity of Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery as evil, God used it to elevate Joseph and position him to save nations. There is purpose in pain. Romans 8:28 reads, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  

Let our reliance on God’s strength and our desire to obey His word encourage us to forgive. As we head into Easter, may we remember the example of our King Jesus, who, while nailed to a cross, prayed for the forgiveness of those who put him there.

Next Steps 

  • Reflect on times when God took an awful situation where you were wronged and turned it for your good. Give thanks to your Heavenly Father for that! Journal the lessons that you learned in that situation or during that period of time. 
  • Do a soul check and consider if there are any vestiges of past hurt that you are holding on to. What steps can you take to move in the direction of forgiveness?