Genesis 45:3-11, 15; 50:15-21
INTRODUCTION Joseph's love and kindness toward the brothers who had so miserably mistreated him is a beautiful illustration of Christ's undeserved love for us. It also illustrates the spirit of love and forgiveness which we as God's children are commanded to have for one another and even for our enemies. Too often we try to justify a spirit of unforgiveness by pointing out the unworthiness of those who have wronged us. But Joseph's brothers were certainly not worthy of his kindness to them, and we were not worthy of God's mercy to us in Christ. Lesson outline follows: 1. Consternation, Genesis 45:3. 2. Consolation, Genesis 45:4-7. a. Divine design, 4-5. b. Divine deliverance, 6-7. 3. Commission, Genesis 45:8-11. a. Providential position, 8-9. b. Providential provision, 10-11 4. Communication, Genesis 45:15. 5. Conscience, Genesis 50:15-18. a. Relapsed to remorse, 15-17. b. Resigned to revenge, 18. 6. Comfort, Genesis 50:19-21. NOTES ON THE TEXT: CONSTERNATION, Genesis 45:3. Imagine if you can the consternation of these men when they realized that the kid brother whom they had hated, despised, and sought to kill, and whom they had actually sold into slavery, was now the powerful ruler of the land of Egypt, holding their very lives in the power of his hand! No wonder "they were troubled at his presence" and unable to speak!
CONSOLATION, Genesis 45:4-7. But Joseph hastened to speak words of consolation rather than reproach. His purpose was not to condemn his brothers, but to save them. Compare John 3:17. Divine Design, 4-5. "Come near to me, I pray you." Gracious words were these, when he could have ordered the men led away to execution. But Joseph saw the overruling hand of God in his experiences and desired that his brothers too should learn to recognize divine design in human affairs. Let us not leap to the false conclusion that wickedness can be excused on the ground that God can turn it into good. See Romans 3:5-8. Nevertheless, every expression of divine mercy is an encouragement to hope for additional mercy, so long as we do not become presumptuous. Divine Deliverance, 6-7. God's purposes generally are quite different from the purposes of men under the dominion of sin. Joseph knew that it was God's purpose to use him to save the lives of his family from starvation, and he was carrying out that purpose of divine deliverance.
COMMISSION, Genesis 45:8-11. What is your purpose in life? Do you know who and what you are, where you are going, what you are doing, what for, and why? Joseph realized that he had a commission from God, and faithfully performed it. Providential Position, 8-9. No matter by what means we may have arrived where we are, we are in this position by either the directive or the permissive will of God, and right where we are is the place to serve God. It is true that Joseph at this time was providentially positioned in exalted office with tremendous power, but remember that before he reached this position he had faithfully served God as a slave and in prison. Providential provision, 10-11. So God makes providential provision for His chosen people, in ways and means beyond human understanding. It is indeed humbling to discover that God so often saves and blesses not because of us but in spite of us, not according to any righteousness of ours but simply for His own great name's sake.
COMMUNICATION, Genesis 45:15. After Joseph's expression and demonstration of love, after his words of kindness and promise and after "he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them" -- only "after that his brethren talked with him." Even so, it is only after manifold manifestations of divine love that we find ourselves able to talk with our Lord. "We love him, because he first loved us" [1 John 4:19].
CONSCIENCE, Genesis 50:15-18. Real assurance of forgiveness should relieve the troubled conscience [Hebrews 10:2] and enable us to forget the past while going on to a better future. But Joseph's brothers found it hard to believe that he had really forgiven them, just as many people today are unwilling to believe that when God saves and forgives, it is for ever. Relapsed to Remorse, 15-17. Guilty consciences still plagued the brothers, and after the death of their father Jacob they relapsed to an almost hopeless remorse. Surely, they thought, Joseph had only delayed his vengeance until after his father's death. Lacking the courage at first to face Joseph again, they sent a messenger with a supposed command from Jacob "before he died." When Joseph got that message he wept -- not, I believe, because he believed it, but because his brothers did not believe in his forgiveness. Resigned to Revenge, 18. Fearful again for their very lives, the brothers fell down before Joseph and offered themselves to him to be his slaves.
COMFORT, Genesis 50:19-21. Vengeance, however, was the farthest thing from Joseph's mind. Even if we have fleshly thoughts of vengeance, we shall do well to remember that this is God's business, and that He can handle such matters better than we can. More- over, God had used the evil intentions of men to accomplish His good purposes; and Joseph was not one to complain against the gracious dispensations of God. Rather, he would continue to be a willing instrument of divine mercy; and so he was able to comfort his brothers.
CONCLUSION [ Colossians 3:13]. Yes: we need to be reminded of God's grace in Christ. Certainly people mistreat us sometimes, but not nearly so badly as we mistreated our Savior, our Creator and Redeemer. Yet He forgave us -- praise His name forever! And the greatest praise and honor we can offer Him is simply to be like Him. ===============
[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, November 28, 1975. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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