What will the relationship be like between Joseph and his brothers now that Jacob’s died? Will Joseph hold a grudge?
Maybe it’s something you’ve experienced. You sin against someone, you apologise, they forgive you, but five or ten years later they change their mind.
Maybe Joseph really isn’t a good man. What they’re calling into question here is the sincerity of their brother and his love for them. So they come up with a plan. The reason that Joseph cries is because this is a lie. This isn’t what Jacob said from his deathbed. Joseph was there at his father’s deathbed. Joseph looks at his brothers thinking to himself “I have never done you evil and now you’re afraid that I will do you harm. You think that I’m like you and I’m not.” This is heart-breaking.
2. You don’t have to be like other people (Gen 50:19-21)
Joseph has a decision as to whether or not he will seek vengeance out of anger or whether he will continue as a man of character who, indeed, is gracious and loving and merciful and compassionate and kind like the God that he serves.
What led to the whole trouble between Joseph and his brothers was a dream he had as a teenage boy, 16, 17 years of age, where his brothers came and fell down at his feet. Now, that’s exactly what happens. They fall at his feet just like the dream in Genesis 37.
Joseph said to them “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?” In saying he’s not in the place of God, Joseph is articulating two important truths.
i. I’m not fit for worship.
Don’t fall down at my feet and worship me. One of the great human problems is that we find celebrities, rock stars, musicians, athletes or, even, pastors, people we respect and we want to aspire to be like them. All of that is idolatry!
ii. I’m not fit to judge you.
Ultimately we can’t exercise final judgement over people because we don’t know their heart. There’s two reasons why God is best suited to judge:
a) God knows everything.
The theologians call it omniscience. God sees everything. He knows everybody’s heart, word, deed. So when God judges, he does so with pinpoint precision accuracy. He’s not like you and me that gets bits and pieces of the story, rush to a conclusion, make a wrong estimation of who’s at fault or who’s innocent.
b) God applies just justice.
It’s just. So everybody gets judged according to their faithfulness or unfaithfulness, according to their goodness and evilness of deeds. Non-Christians get punished according to their evil deeds. Christians get rewarded according to their good deeds. God is absolute just.
3. You can leave a legacy (v20-26)
Verse 20 is one of the most important verses in all of scripture. It gives our understanding of suffering, injustice, evil, pain and hardship.
Joseph is a man who has suffered greatly.
i) We reserve the right to be angry and horrified at evil.
If you believe that people are essentially good, you lose the right to be horrified and angry at evil. Maybe they’re just evil and they meant to do evil and they did evil. Let’s let it be as horrifying as it is.
ii) We also reserve the right to have faith in God as our source of hope.
Joseph brings God into it because he knows that if his brothers are to ever change it’s by them understanding the nature of God.
“But God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
When bad happens, that’s not from God, but God uses bad even for good because God is bigger than evil and bigger than us.
Romans 8:28 says this same thing, that
“In all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good—with those who have been called according to his purpose.”