Friday, February 26, 2010
American author Thomas Wolfe once said, “Loneliness is and always has been the central and inevitable experience of every man.”
When we closed our Bibles on Tuesday, Joseph was in shackles, being led away by a group of Midianites to be sold in Egypt. Imagine this scene: Joseph, apparently relatively naive to his brothers' animosity, arrives to find them plotting against him. A struggle ensues, but 10 to 1 are not good odds for Joseph (I am assuming that little Benjamin was not a part of this) and before he even knows what hit him, he finds himself in the bottom of a dry well, bloody and bruised, half-naked. The sound of his brothers' voices from above blur with his desire to sleep. He battles to stay conscious, still dazed and confused by the ambush. Hours pass, he struggles to stand so that maybe he could hear the low tones of discussion above, when a sudden celebration breaks out. A rope is dropped into the well and for the first time, Joseph breathes a sigh of relief. The prank was over.
Emerging from the darkness, he finds himself in the midst of strangers who holler commands at him in a foreign language. They bind his hands to a rope which is then attached to the saddle resting on the back of a camel. Joseph tries to call to his brothers, who not only refuse to make eye contact with him, but have turned their backs and are walking away, arm in arm, heads cocked in laughter. Tears fill Joseph's eyes as he realizes he is being abandoned. One of his older brothers pauses and turns. Joseph looks at his face for a sign of compassion but all he gets are eyes filled with satisfaction.
The rope yanks at his arms and he is thrust forward to follow the caravan. As he tries to get his bearings, he sees others walking, heads low, bound by the same future as himself. His ribs ache from the beating but the captivity does not graciously allow him to care for his wounds. He has no choice. In one fell swoop, he went from master to slave. Unable to defend himself, unable to communicate or heal, he begins his journey to Egypt.
Heartbreaking, don't you think? Completely abandoned, Joseph had every reason to feel lonely.
This morning my mind was drawn to my savior, Jesus Christ. People have often said that Joseph was a type of Christ and that many of his experiences were Christ-like. This story is definitely a parallel, as Christ was abandoned by his disciples and led away to be beaten and broken before His crucifixion. But there is one huge difference. Joseph was never alone. God was always with him. As we are going to study over the next few weeks, Joseph walked by faith and was blessed by God beyond comprehension. He set his mind on the things above, and God made His presence in Joseph's life perfectly clear.
Jesus, on the other hand, truly experienced loneliness in a way that Joseph never did. He was completely and totally separated from the Father. And the amazing thing is - He knew what He was in for when He agreed to become sin for His children. He knew this meant complete separation from God. True, utter loneliness is separation from God, and Jesus willingly endured it so that we would never have to experience true, utter loneliness.
Unfortunately, there are many who will experience this. In hell. For eternity. Heartbreaking, don't you think?
As I reread this post, I feel I need to apologize that it was a bit of a downer. We are leaving Joseph in a very difficult place...all alone. We are seeing Christ on the cross, bearing our guilt and shame, separated from His Father...all alone. And we see so many in this world, lost in their sin, choosing to rebel against God and heading to a destiny of true, utter loneliness..all alone.
But don't miss the outcome of these stories. Joseph may have been in the eye of a very long storm, but he was not alone. God's continued presence turns this master/slave into the second in command of Egypt. And we can rejoice in the cross because Jesus is not in hell today, bearing our sin, but He has OVERCOME and sits at the right hand of His Father, interceding on our behalf, fully glorified, fully alive and fully victorious!
As for those who are running full speed toward hell, let these images burn in our hearts a desire to share the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone we meet, because contrary to what Thomas Wolfe thinks, loneliness does not have to be the central and inevitable experience of all men.