Year 2 Day 311
Read - Genesis 50v15-21
Message - Scott Woodburn
Sometimes a family has someone who holds everything together. Perhaps it is a mother who keeps peace among her children or maybe it is a brother who always seems to know the right thing to do. But what happens when that person dies? Sadly families can often descend into a war over property or they can drift apart once the family leader has gone.
Joseph’s brothers were worried. Their father had died and now they wondered if Joseph would take his revenge upon them (v15). We had previously seen growth in Joseph’s siblings but now, in light of Israel’s death, they seem to shrink back. They had come to understand their wickedness in how they had previously treated Joseph and now they think that Joseph might show them wickedness in return. Joseph no longer has his father to hold him back so perhaps he’ll now take his revenge?
The brothers decided that a message was to be sent to Joseph saying “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” This message was supposedly from their late father but John Calvin amongst others suggests that they made this up! Surely if the issue had been so important then Israel wouldn’t have left it until after his death?It appears that the brothers are so nervous about the future that they put words into their dead father’s mouth and because they don’t want to face Joseph themselves, they send servants with the message!
No wonder Joseph weeps when he hears this report. After everything that has happened his brothers assume that their brother will act with wickedness. It would seem that they don’t know him at all. To further calm the supposedly wicked and vengeful Joseph, his brothers fall before him and offer themselves as his slaves (v18).
But the brothers had made false assumptions. Joseph had no hunger for revenge. He tells his brothers that they are not to fear because Joseph is not God (v19). The Scriptures are clear, vengeance is to be left to the Lord alone (Deuteronomy 32v35). Joseph understood this important truth and he also understood that God guides our every step with a loving and kind providential hand.
In a beautiful and often quoted verse Joseph says “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (v20) Here is a wonderful summary of the sovereignty of God. The Lord rules over the plans and wicked schemes of men. God’s people can comfort themselves with the knowledge that even if all the armies of hell stood against us, God would overrule and bring good from calamity. As far as Joseph was concerned, the issue with his brothers was finished. He wouldn’t be seeking revenge and he would work towards nothing but their good (v21).
Brothers and sisters, may we learn from this well known passage. We would be fools to think that we will never know hurt in this life. We live in communities, churches and homes where sinful people will act in sinful ways towards us. They will gossip behind our backs. They will assume that our motives are always the worst. They will do all that they can to avoid speaking to us. They may even seek to cause us physical harm. How should we respond? By loving our neighbour even if they refuse to love us in return. By seeking our neighbour’s good even if they don’t seek the same for us. By refusing to take revenge even if the opportunity arises. Vengeance belongs to the Lord and even the plans of the wicked will be used by Him for our good. Therefore praise God and rest in Christ.
Q69 What is forbidden in the sixth commandment? The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.