Family reunions have been a part of my life since … well, since I became part of the family. For all my growing up years, the Briscoe family reunion (Mississippi chapter) took place annually on the second Sunday afternoon in July. I have a 1954 family photo showing my mother—very pregnant with me—in attendance at that year’s family reunion. Since Dad was part of a large family, some years would see nearly a hundred people gather on a sultry summer afternoon for a potluck lunch, good conversations, games (especially for the kids), and reminiscences. Even neighbors and friends dropped by to say hello and reconnect with family members who had moved to distant places and had not been able to attend the reunion for several years.
For various reasons, the numbers of family members in attendance each year steadily declined as I grew older. There were the inevitable deaths of older family members. And younger families (including my own) simply had fewer children. But there was sometimes a darker reason for the decline that attendees talked about only in whispered conversations. Maybe two siblings (or uncles, or cousins) had suffered a serious falling out during the year. Feelings were hurt; relationships were broken. The result: entire family groups would skip the reunion that year. Some never returned.
Similarly, the reunion of Joseph and his brothers in Egypt could have gone very badly. None of them—least of all Joseph—had forgotten the bitter feelings and ill treatment that sent Joseph to Egypt in the first place. Now he was in a position of near absolute authority over them. Imagine the waves of shock and terror that washed over the brothers when Joseph revealed his identity to them!
Instead of tragedy and further brokenness, we can see three signs in Genesis 45:1-15 that the family reunion of Joseph and his brothers would end well.
First, the family reunion is going well when family members are delighted to be reunited. Joseph wept tears of joy when he was reunited with his brothers (45:2). He urged them not to be grieved or angry with themselves over what they had done to him in the past (45:5). The family had been separated for too long. Joseph further urged his brothers to return quickly to their homeland and bring Jacob and the rest of the extended family to Egypt as well. The famine would continue across the area, so it was all the more important for family members to renew their bonds as a family.
Second, the family reunion is going well when old wounds are forgiven and consigned to the past. Joseph did not utter the words I forgive you in this instance, but his actions communicated as much. Later, after their father’s death, the brothers panicked again for fear that Joseph was secretly holding a grudge against them. They approached Joseph and asked for his forgiveness (50:17). Joseph “comforted them and spoke kindly to them” (50:21).
Third, the family reunion is going well when family members recognize that God’s presence and purposes are what defines them as a people. Joseph had come to recognize this reality sooner than his brothers, but he reminded them of it. He told them, “God sent me ahead of you [to Egypt] to preserve life” (45:5). He explained further, “God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance” (45:7). Later, he reminded his brothers, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people” (50:20).
Joseph had come to realize that his life’s story—replete with both suffering and success—and indeed his entire family’s story was a chapter in a greater divine story. God’s story is the gospel story, the good news that God is constantly working (sometimes behind the scenes) in and through His believing people to bring salvation to a lost world. That gospel story culminated in the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. The death and resurrection of Christ changed everything, not only for Joseph’s family but also for my family and for every family that believes. We have the promise in Christ that one day the greatest family reunion ever imagined will meet at the heavenly marriage supper of the Lamb (see Rev. 19:6-10).
Brothers and sisters, I look forward to seeing you there!
David Briscoe is a content editor at Lifeway for Explore the Bible resources.