We have come to the end of our study of Genesis. And chapter 50 may offer us the most robust set of truths we can apply to our lives that we’ve seen thus far in the first book of the Bible.
Pastor Scott kicked things off by noting that we all have the potential for allowing past negative experiences to rob us of a vital, joyful present. We typically react to such negative experiences by building a figurative wall around ourselves to protect us from future harm — it’s our safe zone. And even the idea of venturing outside or past that wall can result in anxiety — so we tend to stay put. But while we may avoid pain as a result, we also risk missing out of wonderful experiences and emotional, mental, and spiritual growth.
And that’s exactly what Joseph’s brothers were experiencing after their father Jacob died:
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So, they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus, he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
The regret of Joseph’s brothers, and Joseph’s loving and forgiving reaction to them is the foundation for a number of principles we can adopt when we find ourselves in similar situations — whether those situations are similar to what Joseph’s brothers were experiencing or similar to what Joseph was experiencing.
#1 — Admit there might be a problem by taking responsibility and not blaming others.
#2 — If possible, go directly to the person or persons you’ve wronged and ask forgiveness.
#3 — Extend compassion to those who ask your forgiveness. Pastor Scott made an important connection between Joseph’s compassion and the compassion that Jesus shows throughout the Gospels — particularly Christ’s message to his disciples after his resurrection that he would send “the comforter” after his ascension into heaven (i.e., the Holy Spirit). How amazing that God’s intention for the Holy Spirit is to be a comforter for us! We certainly need that in our lives, don’t we?
#4 — In verse 18, Joseph’s brothers fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Pastor Scott offered us a valuable insight, saying that when we don’t deal with fears in our lives, they become our masters — our bosses. Instead, let us obey Jesus who over and over commands us to “fear not.” We may sometimes respond that we cannot help the emotion of fear, but so often it comes down a choice on our part — and we must ask the Lord to help us move into our fears and choose to deal with them. And he will!
#5 — In the same way that Joseph tells his brothers, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” we must acknowledge that whatever is causing us to fear in our lives cannot take the place of the Lord. However, over time it very well may control us to the point that’s a kind of god — a kind of idol — that we’re bowing down to. This may be Pastor Scott’s most hard-hitting and important warning for us. For when we see that our fears and anxieties are taking over and controlling what we do on a day-to-day basis, we know they have become “first” in our lives when God should be first in our lives. Let us ask the Lord to get rid of such idols and invite him back to the center of our hearts!
#6 — In verse 20, Joseph told his brothers to not be troubled even though they meant evil toward him many years ago, because the Lord was (and still is) in control — and turned it into something good. Pastor Scott reminded us that “The God Factor” is always our “ticket out” of regret, anxiety, bitterness, and hatred. He’s always on the throne of our lives, working through our decisions, both good and bad, and turning them into goodness in our lives.
#7 — Pastor Scott drew from verse 21 to give us our seventh and final principal: Joseph told his brothers, “So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And then he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Indeed, the three points of action in this verse will keep us going in times of trouble: There’s nothing to fear since God is for us; God will provide for us, and the Lord will bring comfort to our hearts! Let us not be trapped by our pasts and instead move forward — and out of our comfort zones and into the adventurous, joyful lives God has for us