Genesis Day 69: When You Are Left
There comes a time in every life, when you are the one left—the oldest generation.
We might get to this point in our lives via different avenues, but sooner or later, you understand that you’re the oldest generation.
And look, it is not a bad thing.
However, it does lead to a different perspective. It’s not completely new, because the sum of all your life and family experiences are still at work, but there’s a new twist.
For me, it came after both my parents went to be with the Lord. Dad first, then mom. When dad passed it was the end of an era, but mom was still active. My sisters and brothers had been actively involved in helping them in this final season of their lives. All of us were lending all sorts of support. But their mere presence provided a common focal point for our family—and with that common focal point, some consistent and common expectations with regard to how we treated one another.
Then it happened. They “breathed their last and were gathered to their people” (49:33).
And it was a good thing. They had lived their lives well, fought the good fight, kept the faith—and now they are enjoying God for eternity in heaven.
Yet back on earth, there was the new perspective I mentioned a moment ago. My brother and sisters and I each had our own demands with our own families, so being “family” in the larger sense took on a new twist. There was no more common focal point, and so, what then of those common expectations?
Why bring it up? Because as we read Genesis 50, it is easy to be critical of Joseph’s brothers. They are gripped with fear about what Joseph might do, now that their father has passed into life immortal. In verses 15-17 we read a story that appears to be concocted about Jacob commanding Joseph to forgive.
How do you process this moment? At first I was critical. I went back and rifled through the earlier chapters looking to see if they ever asked for forgiveness. I could not find it. That of course led me to judge them. Then I stopped.
There is this dynamic that is at work in all our lives. I referred to it as a common focal point.
Consider where you work. You and your co-workers have a common aim, or goal. Well-run companies ensure people share the goal. Or, take for example, a sports team. They too, when they are on their game, shrink the individual goals to accomplish the team goals. The list of common focal points could go on.
In families, the focal point is often staying together as a family—even if that means enduring wrongs committed against us by other family members. And that focal point is often created by that last generation.
Here in Genesis, the new last-generation seeks out Joseph. First through a messenger, and then they make a personal appearance. Joseph’s reaction is a lesson for us.
Joseph sees his life in the hands of God—he has a completely different focal point. One that is much higher up.
How do I know his focal point is higher up? Joseph spells out two reasons.
First, he notes that what earthly brothers intended for evil, his heavenly Father used for good. He is focused on God.
Second, as he is about to be gathered to his ancestors, a very interesting phrase comes out of his mouth: “God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” (50:24)
Joseph, who has been segregated off in Egypt, has remembered the BIG family story. That God will bless the nations of the world through Abraham’s offspring—and now, as he looks back over his life—he sees God’s hand clearly.
This family line could have been snuffed out by famine. Yet years earlier, Joseph endured hardship, at the hands of his brothers, so that he would be positioned to save them. They would have died in the desert, along with all the others, had Joseph not been left for dead.
Joseph, who might have behaved very differently (being one of the last-ones) reveals that he does not see himself in the role of last-one. No, he sees himself as part of the ongoing story of God blessing the world. Joseph draws a straight line between God’s plan and his life.