While I was often a mischievous boy, I was rarely rebellious or overtly disobedient. On a few, memorable occasions, however, my mother uttered the phrase much feared by children of my generation — “go sit on your bed and wait until your Father gets home.” Now my father was not overly harsh in his discipline, but he was certainly firm. A season of “biblical chastisement” from him was nothing to be considered lightly. The hours of silent reflection awaiting his ever-punctual arrival at 5:15 pm ranged the gamut of guilty emotions; fear of punishment, rationalization of wrongdoing, grief over future lost privileges and then true sorrow for sin and disappointment with myself.
The must crushing part of my dad’s discipline was not the sting of the swat or the stern discussion about the seriousness of sin, but it was the lines of unspoken, but not unexpressed, disappointment etched in his face. Only now, as a father myself, do I realize that some of that disappointment was no doubt with himself and not in my actions alone, but no child can grasp that. The comfort that I had in the midst of the approaching storm was that my father loved me. Even as a boy, I grasped that though in discipline he seemed to be an enemy for a moment, he was a beloved enemy – bringing me by sorrow of body to sorrow of soul and thus to repentance and forgiveness.
The scripture paints of this picture of our Heavenly Father, who because of our sin is for a time our “beloved enemy.” Romans 2:4 reminds us that it is the “kindness of God that leads to repentance” and Hebrews 12:5-6 which exhorts us,
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
As the story of Jacob unfolds into the story of Joseph in the closing chapters of the book of Genesis, we see a pretty sorry portrayal of the lives and character of Joseph’s brothers. They are violent, deceptive, contentious, spiteful, unbelievably disrespectful to their father, despisers of the covenant like their uncle, Esau, sexually immoral, just to name a few of their characteristics. Their attempted murder of Joseph is only thwarted by some lingering vestigial conscience in Reuben and Judah and by the providential arrival of a caravan of slave traders. For over twenty years, while Joseph languishes in slavery and prison in Egypt, they remain at home, never speaking of or dealing with their guilt toward their brother, their father and most of all toward God.
But God has not forgotten. Just as he was a beloved enemy of their Father at Peniel, so God is slowly working to bring them to repentance through a remarkable reunion with Joseph who has now risen to great power and position in Egypt. Does the Lord seem to be a threat or an enemy in your life? Perhaps in His kindness, He is leading you to repentance and cleansing from some sin that has held power for far too long in your life. Maybe, just maybe, He is a beloved enemy whose woundings are to be trusted.
Join us this Lord’s Day, May 13, as we examine the continuing story of Joseph as his brothers appear before him to find food in the famine and find something much more powerful and needful. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.