Failure

can be glorious.

Genesis 45:1-3 (ESV)

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.

By using a video technique known as “morphing” (like was used at the end of Saving Private Ryan) it’s now possible to make a movie of this scene that conveys the incredible power of the moment. We know from Genesis 42:23 that Joseph has been speaking to his brothers in Egyptian through a translator. That helps conceal his identity; they don’t recognize his voice in Egyptian.

When Joseph loses it he cries, in Egyptian, “Make everyone go out from me,” and everyone who speaks Egyptian leaves, including the translator. Then he looks directly at his brothers and says, in Hebrew, “AhVEE YOsayph! HaODE aBEE chai?” and they recognize his voice. Then they recognize his face.

The shock would have killed anyone with a weak heart. The face of this mysterious Egyptian lord suddenly morphs into the face of Joseph, right before their eyes.

But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.

Ya think? They could barely stand. They were struck dumb, not by his words, but by his face.

This isn’t Joseph’s plan unfolding. That plan just blew up. This is God’s incredible sense of timing on display.


Joseph the Egyptian lord wanted to make his brothers see the light, but he never worked out the details of his plan.

But the one who planned everything from the beginning had worked out details that Joseph couldn’t even imagine. That plan continued to unfold, without missing a beat, when Joseph’s plan collapsed. Joseph was trying to school his brothers but got schooled himself.

Notice how the collapse of Joseph’s plan was the catalyst for the action here. Joseph coming unglued wasn’t just something God could “deal with” or “overcome.” It was the punchline.

Think about that the next time you’re upset with yourself. Yes, we should always try to do the right thing and serve the Lord effectively.

But the key is admitting our mistakes. We’re going to fail plenty, and when we do we need to process our errors and move on.

It’s not the end of the world; it’s a mistake. Figure out the lesson and let it go.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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