Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Genesis 50:15-21

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

You might know the story of how Joseph's brothers had sold him into slavery when Joseph was a teenager. Many events occurred prior to this treacherous act and many events unfolded after it, but Genesis chapters 39-41 reveal how the Lord remained with Joseph and caused him to prosper in Egypt (cf. Gen. 39:2-3; 39:21-23; 41:39-40).

Some years later, Joseph's brothers came to Egypt during a famine to ask for food. Although they did not recognize Joseph, he recognized them. Genesis 45:1-15 records how Joseph forgives his siblings for their mistreatment of him.

It is with that background that we arrive to Genesis 50. Sadly, Jacob has now died. Consequently, the brothers concoct a story that their father pleaded on his deathbed for Joseph not to exact revenge on his brothers. In other words, they did not believe that Joseph had ever truly forgiven them.

Seventeen years had passed since Genesis 45. During all that time they feared their crime against Joseph was too great. This anxious spirit zapped them of the joy they could have known with their father and their brother if they had rested in the freedom of Joseph's forgiveness rather than let fear enslave them.

Richard Hoefler tells of a little boy visiting his grandparents while trying to learn how to use his first slingshot. Out in the woods, the boy grew frustrated by his inability to hit a target. 

Walking back to his grandparents farm, he spotted his grandmother's duck. The boy took aim and actually hit the duck with a stone. To his dismay, the duck fell over dead. 

In a panic, the boy hid the carcass of his grandmother's duck in the woodpile, only to find his little sister Sally watching. Although she witnessed everything that happened, she said nothing at the time.

Later, after lunch, Grandma said, "Sally, help me wash the dishes."

Sally responded, "Johnny told me he wanted to do that today." Then she whispered in her brother's ear, "Remember the duck."

Johnny did all the dishes.

That afternoon, Grandpa asked if Johnny and Sally wanted to go fishing. Grandma interjected that she needed Sally to help make dinner, but Sally just grinned and explained that Johnny said he preferred to assist with dinner. 

"Remember the duck," she whispered again. So Johnny stayed home while Sally went fishing.

After several days of doing both his and Sally's chores, Johnny finally broke. He went to his grandmother and confessed to killing her duck. Hugging her grandson, Grandma said, "I know, Johnny. I saw everything from the kitchen window. Because I love you, I already forgave you, but I was wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you."

Just as Johnny let himself be enslaved by Sally, many people become enslaved by the father of lies. Satan whispers in your ear, "Remember the duck." Therefore, like Joseph's brothers, you live in constant fear that God could never forgive you of some past sin. This anxious spirit zaps you of the joy that you should experience with your Heavenly Father and with Christ your Brother.

The story of Joseph and his brothers at the end of Genesis reveals the important lesson of our need to live in the freedom of forgiveness instead of the bondage to fear (cf. Isa. 38:17; Mic. 7:19; Heb. 8:12, 10:17). 

Notice how Joseph weeps because his brothers are afraid of him (Gen. 50:17). He lets them know that their fears are groundless, recalling what he had said the first time he disclosed his identity to them (cf. Gen. 45:5-11). "What he promised to them before his father arrived in Egypt he now reaffirms after he has gone. In these two passages we have expressed the key idea that informs the whole Joseph story, that through sinful men God works out His saving purposes" (Gordon J. Wenham).

Indeed, what Joseph's brothers intended for evil, God purposed for good (Gen. 50:20). Joseph recognized how the Lord used the events of his life to bring physical deliverance for his people, and he freely forgave his brothers. 

What humanity intended for evil at Calvary, God purposed for the greatest good. Christ paid the price that sin owed (a debt we could never repay on our own) in order to bring spiritual deliverance for His people, and now He stands ready to freely forgive.

Read John 8:34-36, and live in your freedom!


TAKE TIME TO RESPOND:

What sin from your life do you have trouble surrendering to the Lord in belief that He has truly forgiven you of it:

_____________________________________________________.


TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from Best Devotional Commentary - "I submit the example of the greatest evil in all history producing the greatest good imaginable. I refer to the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is parallel to the story of Joseph, because Joseph prefigured Christ in nearly every way. ... He was the favored of His Father, but He became a slave (and later rose to the highest position of power) in order to seek us out and save us. Most significant, He was hated by His brethren, the very ones the Father was using Him to save. He was innocent of any wrongdoing (cf. Isa. 53:7). Yet we hated Him. Against Him cruel and evil men poured out wrath. He was unjustly arrested, unjustly tried, unjustly convicted. Then He was killed without mercy. Never in the entire history of the world has greater evil been done - for this was an extreme of evil practiced against One who was not only innocent of crimes but was also actually sinless. 
     Yet from this greatest of all evils - evils that parallel but infinitely exceed the abuse inflicted on Joseph - God brought forth the greatest possible good: the salvation of a vast company of people" (Boice). 
     I will add here that Joseph's forgiveness of his brother's evil committed against him models Christ's forgiveness of us. "Father, forgive them," He cried out from the cross (Luke 22:34). Should we, then, not also freely forgive even the evils that are committed against us and then to let people know that they can live in the freedom of our forgiveness?!?! 

from Best Academic Commentary - "Most traditional commentators who hold that the Testament of Jacob is integral to the narrative argue that, since Jacob makes no clear reference to his sons' treatment of Joseph, he cannot have known what they had done to him. Therefore they suggest that this plea is, in Sternberg's words, a 'desperate fabrication.'" (Wenham).

from Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - "The sovereign plan of God, designed to save many people alive, in some way incorporated the evil of the brothers and used it as the means of bringing about the good. On the basis of his confidence in the ways of the Lord, Joseph was able to comfort his brothers and relieve their fears. 
     Relationships among God's people may sometimes be tense, especially when ... leadership changes hands. But believers can use this to demonstrate God's sovereign design, even through human failures. They may do so through forgiveness and kindness" (Ross).