"Does God Have A Plan for Our Lives?" Bible Study on Genesis 45:1-15
August 12, 2020, 1:00 PM

Dear Members & Friends:

I invite you to read the following passage from Genesis 45:1-15 (Common English Bible).

Joseph could no longer control himself in front of all his attendants, so he declared, “Everyone, leave now!” So no one stayed with him when he revealed his identity to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians and Pharaoh’s household heard him. Joseph said to his brothers, “I’m Joseph! Is my father really still alive?” His brothers couldn’t respond because they were terrified before him.

Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me,” and they moved closer. He said, “I’m your brother Joseph! The one you sold to Egypt. Now, don’t be upset and don’t be angry with yourselves that you sold me here. Actually, God sent me before you to save lives. We’ve already had two years of famine in the land, and there are five years left without planting or harvesting. God sent me before you to make sure you’d survive and to rescue your lives in this amazing way. You didn’t send me here; it was God who made me a father to Pharaoh, master of his entire household, and ruler of the whole land of Egypt.

“Hurry! Go back to your father. Tell him this is what your son Joseph says: ‘God has made me master of all of Egypt. Come down to me. Don’t delay. 10 You may live in the land of Goshen, so you will be near me, your children, your grandchildren, your flocks, your herds, and everyone with you. 11 I will support you there, so you, your household, and everyone with you won’t starve, since the famine will still last five years.’ 12 You and my brother Benjamin have seen with your own eyes that I’m speaking to you. 13 Tell my father about my power in Egypt and about everything you’ve seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 He threw his arms around his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his shoulder. 15 He kissed all of his brothers and wept, embracing them. After that, his brothers were finally able to talk to him.

This is the moving climax of a long and drawn out story.  Perhaps you remember Joseph's story from your Sunday School days or maybe even from seeing a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  Joseph's brothers, who had sold him into slavery several chapters ago, have just finished a rousing speech.  As Genesis 45 opens, Joseph is unable to keep the secret any longer.  He reveals to his brothers that he is the one they beat and abused.  Their actions set off a long set of plot twists that eventually led to Joseph being Pharaoh's deputy.

It's really quite a touching scene, bringing the narrative full circle.  The brothers find themselves the recipients of Joseph's mercy, even as they showed none.  Through a convoluted twist of fate, they are actually receiving much needed help from Joseph.  The land is in the midst of a long famine, and Joseph has the power to give them food.  Joseph, in fact, does much more, invitiing them to live nearby so that he can support them.

Where once they were bitterly jealous of Joseph, now they are grateful.  Where they once abused him, he hugs them and shows mercy.  Joseph does not seem to have any malice towards them, even after they did not recognize him.  "Don't be angry with yourselves," he tells them, "God sent me before you to make sure you'd survive" (Genesis 45:5-7).

There is a strong element of justice in this story that cannot be ignored.  Joseph began his saga by telling his brothers that they would one day bow before him.  The brothers mocked him, beat him, and even considered killing him before selling him into slavery.  They would never bow before their youngest brother -- doing so would mean that they would lose their status and pride.

In spite of all that, Joseph not only survived, but actually fulfilled his own prophecy.  Here, his brothers stand before him.  Joseph is more powerful than they could have ever imagined, and yet it is a power that benefits them.  Rather than punish his family, Joseph has saved them.

While Joseph is quick to not cast blame upon his brothers, eliminating the possibility of a grudge, he is also quick to give credit.  It was not their actions that sent Joseph to Egypt, he informs them, but the hand of God that wanted them to survive, too.

The line sets up a couple of interesting questions.  If it was God who brought Joesph to Egypt, does that automatically pardon the brothers for their terrible misdeeds?  And does this story prove that everything really does happen for a reason, that God has some sort of master plan?

Joseph's statement points in a different direction.  First, Joseph reminds his brothers (and the readers) that while they are forgiven, they receive no credit for Joseph's fortunate fate.  What Joseph explicitly does not do is to thank this brothers.  Joseph absolves them of their sins, but he does not spin them into a positive action.  As it turns out, beating up their brother and selling him into slavery is wrong, no matter what the outcome of the story.

Second, Joseph's answer does indicate that God has a plan.  This is not a secret to anyone who reads scripture, where God's plan of redemption for the world is spelled out over and over again.  What Joseph avoids saying, though, is that everything happens for a reason.  At the outset of the story, Joseph knew that God had a plan for him -- the ending is no surprise.  What Joseph seems to say in this passage, instead, is that God's plan came to pass in spite of the sin and pain that sought to interrupt it.

As it turns out, God is more powerful than our sins, able to overcome them and redeem them so that God's plan is able to come to pass.  But, they are decidedly not a part of God's plan.  God gets what God wants, despite our interference along the way.  We should never be so bold as to claim that our actions were part of the plan, or that our sins were necessary evils along the way.  Rather, they were just something that God redeemed along the way.

If we fast-forward to the last chapter of Genesis, we hear Jospeh say to his brothers,  "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" (Genesis 50:20) - English Standard Version).

So we see that "God is good.  All the time.  All the time.  God is good."

May goodness and mercy pursue you all the days of your life.

Blessings,

Pastor Greg Rupright



Comments

08-13-2020 at 3:20 PM
Cell Pat
Thanks for the reminder of this story and itsmebsage for us all!
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