Read: Genesis 41:42 – 50:26
The book of Genesis closes with powerful examples of forgiveness and providence. Yet it is also a story that reveals the lingering effects of sin even after forgiveness has been freely granted.
Joseph and his family. In the final chapters of Genesis, a searching spotlight is thrown on the character of Joseph and his brothers. And through it all, God is seen to be working out the purposes of his will. The following aspects are worth exploring.
Discussion themes and questions:
- Character development. Joseph seems to have paid a steep price for the sins of his youth. Yet somehow he allowed God to heal the bitterness of his soul so that he did not allow anger against his brothers to destroy him. Just how that happened is a topic well worth exploring. The other striking feature of Joseph’s story is how he was somehow able to live above his disappointments and potential discouragements.
- Deception for good purpose. When Joseph’s brothers appeared before him, he elected not to reveal himself. Indeed, it seems that he chose to actually mislead his brothers. How could one justify from Scripture such deceptive words and actions? Is it enough to say that the deception had nothing to do with revenge, but was intended to result in blessings for his brothers in the end?
- Forgiveness (Genesis 50:15-18). As the book of Genesis draws to a close, the spotlight falls on the question of forgiveness. While the Bible doesn’t suggest that Joseph was harboring any overt hostility toward his brothers, the brothers themselves reveal something of the mental torture they had gone through since selling their brother to the traveling merchants. Did they fabricate the story about their father’s urgent request for Joseph to forgive his brothers? Telling lies is what one has come to expect of Jacob and his tribe. But, on balance, this incident may be a powerful example of a dictum Ellen White applied to Herod in the face of the terrifying thought that maybe John the Baptist had come back from the dead: “The sinner’s own thoughts are his accusers; and there can be no torture keener than the stings of a guilty conscience, which give him no rest day nor night.” — DA 223
- Providence (Genesis 50:15-21). Joseph’s last words to his brothers are a beautiful example of how God can bring good out of evil. Does the conviction that God can bring something good out the worst of circumstances enable us to live more hopefully and more at peace with ourselves and with others? Here are two striking quotations on that theme, one from George McDonald, the 19th century author who was C. S. Lewis’ inspiration, and one from Paul Tournier, the Swiss psychologist:George MacDonald, “The Bloodhound,” The Curate’s Awakening (Bethany, 1985), 200:
It is so true, as the Book says, that all things work together for our good, even our sins and vices. He takes our sins on himself, and while he drives them out of us with a whip of scorpions, he will yet make them work his good ends. He defeats our sins, makes them prisoners, forces them into the service of good, and chains them like galley slaves to the rowing benches of the gospel ship. He makes them work toward salvation for us.
Paul Tournier (Person Reborn, 80-81), via Philip Yancey (Reaching for an Invisible God, 264):
The most wonderful thing in this world is not the good that we accomplish, but the fact that good can come out of the evil we do. I have been struck, for example, by the numbers of people who have been brought back to God under the influence of a person to whom they had some imperfect attachment…. Our vocation is, I believe, to build good out of evil. For if we try to build good out of good, we are in danger of running out of raw materials.