Thursday, December 15, 2011

Genesis 50:15-20

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. (Genesis 50:15-17)

With their father gone, the brothers panicked! They thought, “Oh my gosh! We’re in for it now! With Dad out of the way, Joseph is sure to take revenge!” A guilty conscience can sometimes cause us to do crazy things - if we don’t actually repent! The brothers appeared to make up the story about what Jacob told them to say to Joseph. I believe Jacob actually understood who Joseph was and knew his integrity. He knew that Joseph was not holding a grudge against his brothers. Therefore, I don’t believe he ever said these words to his other sons.

But when the brothers brought this story to Joseph, it showed Joseph that they really didn’t get him - and it brought him to tears. They had been with him through the years of famine. Not only had they been beneficiaries of his kindness and care, they had witnessed how Joseph did business in Egypt. They saw what he had done to save the people of Egypt. They witnessed the respect that the Egyptians had for Joseph. They should have known who he was. Have you ever been there - where someone completely misunderstands your intentions, because they apparently don’t believe your motives are good and genuine? I have! It hurts and it is so frustrating!

Note, however, that with this story, came the line, “Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” Are they acknowledging their sins? I believe so. But they have still missed the message of forgiveness. Did they bring God into it just to manipulate Joseph? I don’t know... but Joseph jumps on that to make his point. When they throw themselves at his feet seeking mercy he makes his most important speech to them EVER, and he speaks one of the great truths of the Bible:

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen 50:19-20)

Now, notice that Joseph did not minimize what they had done. He did not let them off the hook. He affirmed that their intentions were evil. They had actually plotted to kill him - but settled for selling him into slavery. There is NOTHING good about that. But Joseph, even though completely abandoned and betrayed, could find God at work in it all. He saw how God had turned around something vile and used it to save His chosen people, through whom would come the Savior of the world. God had a plan and it would not be thwarted. He had promised to bless the seed of Abraham, and He actually used the evil act of Joseph’s brothers to keep that promise.

When Joseph was down in that well, then making the lonely journey with a caravan to Egypt, then up on a market stand being purchased like chattel, working as a servant, completely separated from his father, falsely accused, and languishing in prison forgotten, he learned that God was all he needed. He turned to God for everything and learned that God was faithful.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good...” Oh, that we would learn this truth deep down in our hearts! Whatever wrongs come our way, whatever intentional hurts others cause us, whatever tragic events come into our lives - ALL of it God will use for good - for His glory and for our eternal benefit! I believe all of us have experienced this truth at some point. Maybe you have been abandoned by someone - a friend, a spouse, or even a parent - and looking back you can see how God used something so painful and awful to make you more fit for His kingdom. Maybe someone at work betrayed you and you saw God turn that around to a blessing. I would LOVE it if you would share that with us all!

God LOVES to turn the tables on evil! The ultimate picture of that was the Crucifixion. Satan had plotted to get rid of this Savior one way or another - and there He was dying a humiliating painful death on a cross! But God received that sacrifice once for all and raised Jesus from the dead, securing our salvation! The victory was the LORD’s!

We have more to chew on in this passage. In the meantime, please take a minute to share with us all how God has turned around evil in your life and used it for good!


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