Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jacob's Mourning

The human heart has great capacity. Like a mighty cargo ship it can carry a massive load of bitter cargo or it can carry a great load of love.

Eleven brothers were so full of envy, jealousy and hatred for their younger but more beloved brother Joseph that their ship sat low below the waterline. A world of frustration and hate culminated in an unthinkable act of murderous intent.

In Genesis chapter 37 we have the shocking details of the crime against this young man. Reuben, one of Joseph's older brothers, kept the rest from shedding his blood, but the optional plan was equally as sinister. They sold Joseph as a slave to Midianite merchants. These merciless traders in human flesh must have resembled aliens from the bar scene in the movie “Star Wars”. To them Joseph the young, handsome dreamer was little more than fresh meat, deeply discounted.

The plot thickens with details added into the mixture. There must have been a perverse sense of pleasure in the brothers’ hearts as they imagined what they would tell their father, Jacob. Their words were few; all they needed to do was hand the torn robe, golden strands caked with goat blood, to the old man. His vivid and guilt-laced imagination did the rest. The brothers’ cruelty snaps shut like a lock as they watch a man break before their eyes. They have dropped truth into a pit that day--kicking, screaming, and crying for mercy. Once you've done the unthinkable, it’s easy to do it again.

Now here’s what arrested my attention today. Genesis 37:34-35 says, "Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. ‘No,’ he said, ‘in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son.’ So his father wept for him."

Grief is always a unique reaction to the pain of loss. No two people will react exactly alike at shocking, tragic news. Jacob refused to be comforted. Instead he declared something that he fully intended to live out until he died. I understand Jacob’s reaction more now than ever, and it makes me concerned about the declarations I have made. Have I left room for God to take my heart in a different direction? Have I allowed my grief to become the defining moment of my life?

With Bible in hand I find myself wanting to comfort Jacob. I want to yell so he can hear me through the ages--you don't have to sorrow like you do. You see, I read the book and I know your son lives. He’s in another place, doing other things. He’ll be alright by the time this story ends, and actually he’ll be better than alright; he will rule and reign. Jacob, you don't have to surrender to grief, though I sure understand why you do.

We humans are limited in our ability to bring comfort. There is, however, another source of comfort, and it is God. He alone knows where our loved ones reside. He’s not the Midianite traders who carried them away, but He is sovereign over all. My beloved one, currently separated from me, is in another place, going another way, and will one day rule and reign. I don’t understand God's ways, but I can nonetheless accept His comfort. I can choose to accept His promise that we will meet again, and the reunion will be more spectacular than that of Joseph, his brothers and his grieving father, Jacob. After all he went through, can you imagine how it felt to hear the words from his son’s lips, "Joseph lives!"

I mourn, but with hope.
Ed Litton


Anonymous said...

This was a very encouraging and inspirational post. You have the ability to encourage even when it seems impossible. When Tammy passed it broke my heart to hear this news and thought of how it would effect you. I prayed, Lord I know he will mourn (it would be impossible to think otherwise) God please give him the ability to mourn with HOPE! I am still praying for you.

Anonymous said...

What do you think, please, of Obadiah Shoher's interpretation of the story? (here: ) He takes the text literally to prove that the brothers played a practical joke on Yosef rather than intended to murder him or sell him into slavery. His argument seems fairly strong to me, but I'd like to hear other opinions.