Read Genesis 37:1-11; Genesis 37:18-35
A few weeks ago, I bought more milk than I usually do. We used about a quart, and because I didn't want it to sour, I placed the remainder in three-quart jars. Safe in the freezer for whenever it would be needed. So, this week when I wanted to make a new dessert, I took one of the containers out to thaw. A few hours later, I walked over to pour out the milk that had already liquefied. When I took the jar in my hands, it shattered. Onto the plate fell big pieces of glass and tiny shards, some of which stuck into the part of the milk that was still frozen. Oh, those little shards are sharp; so, we cleaned up the mess, throwing both broken jar and milk away, being careful not to get cut in the process.
This little incident played out in my mind when I heard about the murder of Dr. Mark Hausknecht, a loved Houston cardiologist. The police have a warrant out for Joseph James Pappas' arrest. The suspect's mother died on the operating table more than 20 years ago, and the surgeon back then was Dr. Hausknecht. The police believe that Pappas carried a grudge against the Houston doctor, who was shot as he was riding his bicycle to work. Such a time of sorrow and loss for the physician's family, as well as his patients and colleagues. If Mr. Pappas has indeed carried bitterness for twenty years, we have truly seen the brokenness that can occur and spill over into many lives, including his own. The shards have ripped into many lives and caused many deep wounds. No wonder the Bible warns us to get rid of all bitterness and wrath, Ephesians 4:31. If allowed to fester, who can know if or when the circumstances or pressures of life might erupt, resulting in the wounding of many people.
In today's scripture reading from Genesis 37:1-4, we watch as circumstances unfold in Joseph's family and how his brothers react to them. The shards of bitterness infected their hearts, and we have a front row seat to the pain that resulted. Perhaps Jacob could have dealt with his sons in a more impartial way, but he didn't do that. Joseph's brothers, all grown men had a choice to make, and they chose bitterness against their younger brother. The first shard that came out toward Joseph dealt with the way his brothers spoke with him. They didn't have a friendly word to say to him, Genesis 37:4. As time went on, Joseph related his dreams to his brothers. Once again, it could be noted that Joseph didn't use wisdom when he spoke about dreams that pictured his brothers as his servants. Yet, his brothers had a choice to make after hearing what Joseph said. Sadly, they chose to store up the shards of jealousy and hatred. Then it was crunch time, Genesis 37:18-35. Would these men throw away their shards or would they wield them and tear apart lives, including their own? Sadly, they chose the latter.
Can you imagine? They sold their own brother into slavery. They had no idea what shards he would face because of their actions. Because of their choices each step of the way, pain was also inflicted upon their Father. Joseph wasn't coming home for dinner, and they concocted a scenario as to why. What a deep well they had to dig, and their own father almost drowned. They let their father believe that his favored son was dead. He lived under the weight of their duplicity for more than two decades. Oh, the pain their bitterness spilled out upon the family, and their own lives were greatly affected by it too. We are told that they lived with their guilt gnawing at them, and even after being reconciled with Joseph, they still feared that he would take revenge against them. Oh, if only they had refused the shard of bitterness when it first tried to embed itself into their lives. We know the end of this story and how the Lord took all of the painful circumstances and carried out His will through them, bringing honor to His Name, Genesis 50:20. Yet, we also know that the brothers' motives were evil, Genesis 50:20, and they acted out of their own free will.
Here is the challenge for us. When we notice a shard of bitterness anger, jealousy or divisiveness trying to take root in our lives, by God's grace and with His help, we must not let it remain. We need to remember how it can cut and injure, much more than a shard of glass. It may be that we have truly suffered a great wrong. Please know that God understands our pain. He has seen our tears, Psalm 56:8. Yet, holding anything within and not releasing it to the Lord, can result in harm to others, brokenness in our own lives and present a distorted picture of the Lord Who loves us, Matthew 5:43-45. We can make the choice to trust that God's plan for our lives cannot be thwarted by the unkind or unfair actions of others, and we can remember that He has promised that retribution belongs to Him, and He will repay, Romans 12:19. Then by His grace and with His enabling we will be free to act kindly towards those who have not treated us well, Romans 12:20-21; Matthew 5:46-47.