Monday, April 12, 2021

2021.04.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 50:15–21

Read Genesis 50:15–21

Questions from the Scripture text: Who saw what in Genesis 50:15? What did they say Joseph might feel/think? What did they say that he might do? To whom did they send (Genesis 50:16)? Whom did they say had done what and when? For whom did they say Jacob had given them a special message (Genesis 50:17)? What did they say Jacob had asked him to do? How did Joseph respond to these words? What do the brothers also do in Genesis 50:18? What do they say? What does Joseph tell them not to do in Genesis 50:19? What does he ask them? What had the brothers meant (Genesis 50:20)? Who else meant something? In order to bring about what? What command does he repeat in Genesis 50:21? What promise does he make? What does he continue to do after this promise?

The guilt that can control you. It’s been about 40 years since the brothers sold Joseph into a slavery that was calculated to murder him, but the guilt of it has haunted them all that time. Nineteen years ago, when the vizier of Egypt had imprisoned one of them and demanded that they bring Benjamin back (Genesis 42:19–20), their thoughts and conversation had gone back 21 years further to the cries of Joseph still ringing in their ears two decades earlier (Genesis 42:21), with Reuben still clinging to how it wasn’t his fault (Genesis 42:22).

Now their father has died, and what’s the first thing on their minds? “Perhaps Joseph will hate us and may really pay us back all the evil we did to him” (Genesis 50:15). The brothers are so fearful, in fact, that at first they don’t even come near to him, but opt to send to him by others’ mouths (Genesis 50:16).

What a horrible thing it is to have a guilty conscience! To always be wondering whether people know. To always be worried that payback is coming. To be unable to respond rightly and healthily to situations because you’re focused on navigating the consequences of the sin that hasn’t been dealt with. To live not with the unflappable confidence and joy of a child of the king but the constant insecurity and fear of a criminal on the run.

Let us keep short accounts with men and shorter accounts with God. Come clean! There is absolutely certain welcome for you in Jesus Christ.

The God that can forgive you. One of their great problems here is that they are looking to Joseph for something that can only come from God. They use three different words for what they had done to Joseph: “trespass,” “sin,” and “evil” (Genesis 50:17). The word that they use for “forgive” has the sense of lifting away a burden, and how great is the burden of their guilt!

But that’s exactly why Joseph isn’t able to do what they ask. It’s not only that it isn’t his place. It simply isn’t within his power. They give lip service to God, but they do so not as those who are actually His servants but as part of their current strategy, for they call Him “the God of your father.” 

No wonder Joseph weeps. Surely there are many reasons, including that here after all his efforts at reconciliation, they still quite obviously don’t trust him. It’s a very lonely picture. The messenger standing in front of Joseph. His brothers not even there. Just Joseph and their untrusting words. Weeping, grieving over how his brothers are still neither reconciled to him nor to God.

But the messenger relays back to them the weeping reaction, and now the brothers are willing to come themselves (Genesis 50:18 a). The strategy shifts; they change their tune; they forget about God.” It’s before Joseph that they fall down. It’s Joseph whose servants they call themselves.

Joseph sees that they have a fear that he can’t cure, so he urges them not to be afraid, directing them to the only One who can take away that fear. “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19). Only God can forgive them. Only He has that power. And those who have a forgiving God don’t have the option of refusing to forgive. So, it is not Joseph’s place or prerogative. Of course Joseph will forgive them.

The good that forgiveness guarantees both for yourself and others. When Joseph forgives them, he is doing for them what God has done for him. The reason that all things are working together for good for Joseph is that God has forgiven him his sin; God has called him according to His purpose; God has replaced Joseph’s sinful heart with one that loves Him (Romans 8:28). The God who does this by giving His Son will surely also give Joseph all things (Romans 8:32).

Notice that Joseph doesn’t let his brothers off the hook in Genesis 50:20. Their intentions were evil. Their actions were evil. But God’s intentions were good. And God’s actions were good. And not just for Joseph’s good. 

God has “saved many people alive.” That’s not ultimately a blessing for all of them. There are a large number of Egyptians whose guilt and punishment are worse because they have been against the grace of God that spared them in that famine. But God has done a temporary good to a great multitude here. 

And for some of them, it was a true blessing, because God was bringing them to faith. And for all who would come to faith (including you, I hope, dear reader, if you believe in Christ!), God was saving them through this great providence. For from Judah would come Jesus, Who saves all who believe in Him! Joseph could rest and rejoice in the truth all of his suffering had glorified God Whose goodness was done and shown in it. And Joseph could rest and rejoice in the truth that God was working that suffering together for good for all whom God is saving. 

You too, dear believer, can rejoice over this in your trials. God is in His proper place. God is working His good and will be shown good, as He glorifies Himself by your trial. And He is doing a variety of good to a variety of people through your trial. The good that He is doing you may be just the tip of the iceberg by comparison to the great good that He may be doing to many. Often in our trials, we want to know how they are working together for good for us, but we forget that in God’s wise providence, the good that comes from our trial may end up being primarily for others.

The forgivingness that comes from this good God frees you to forgive others. Finally, we see in Genesis 50:21 how free Joseph’s heart is to forgive. God is in His place. He has not only done Joseph good, but God has also brought Joseph’s heart into line with His own. Not only does he forgive them, and also promise to provide for them, but we can see the display of true forgiveness in his manner with them. He comforts them and speaks (tenderly) to their hearts. This is true forgiveness, and it comes from a heart that has been set free by knowing that God is in His place and has forgiven you!

Who has done you evil? What has God done you in that situation? How can you be sure? How will you respond?

Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH440 “Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Wretched”

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