I feel like the brothers are being taught a lesson by Joseph that Joseph learned at their hands decades ago. The lesson is, “Don’t fear man–even if they have the physical power or the earthly authority to harm you. Instead trust God. Because if He allows it, He will redeem it. He will turn it around and use it for good–if we will surrender it to Him.”
Do you remember this blog post where we talked about Joseph’s last two years in prison? I feel like that time was a major turning point in Joseph’s life. A time when he realized that even though so many horrible things had been done to him and that beginning in his childhood God had given him dreams of the position and authority he would one day have, Joseph finally recognized in those last two years that he couldn’t make it happen–even if it was God’s will. And I believe he realized he had to let go of all the emotions that had built up over the years toward the people who had put him where he was. I believe it was then he learned the valuable lesson he’s now sharing with his brothers–and that we need to learn sooner than later in our life.
When the brothers fall at his feet proclaiming they’re his slaves, Joseph replies–“Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God that I can punish you?”
Joseph has apparently already learned that “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” He realizes that even though he has the position and the authority now to finally repay his brothers for all the horror they caused in his life–he’s not God! And it’s God’s job to repay–not man’s.
The brothers are focused on Joseph’s earthly power. I’m sure he could have had them locked up or executed at a moment’s notice. And the brothers knew that.
But Joseph’s focus was on God and how He had redeemed the situation. And Joseph wanted the brothers to understand that, too.
The next verse, Genesis 50:20, is one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible. It can be such a comfort to us when things don’t go like we think they should. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
Wow! That’s a powerful verse! It can be life-changing. If we let it.
But it’s not easy.
When bad things happen to us, we can either look with our earthly eyes focused on the human aspect. “This person did this horrible thing to me. Now they have ruined my life.”
Or we can look at it through the lens of Genesis 50:20 and acknowledge that–Yes, they harmed me. And, yes, it was on purpose–they intended to harm me. It wasn’t an accident.
I love those two words. They change everything.
But God allowed them to harm me because He can use it for good. He looks at it from a different perspective. He looks at it from the perspective of how He intends to use it to push me further down the path to the good plans He has for me.
Just like He used Joseph’s mistreatment by his brothers to get him to Egypt, to learn the language and culture, to show his integrity to Potiphar, to be falsely accused and thrown in prison, to become known for his spiritual gift of interpreting dreams, to be liked and trusted even in prison, so he would be given Pharaoh’s servants to take care of, so he could interpret their dreams, so two years later he could be called up out of prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, so he could present his plan for saving the country from the famine, so he could be put in charge of the program, so Egypt and Joseph’s family could all be saved from certain death, so the chosen people of God (the nation of Israel) could survive and grow so fast that they soon outnumber the Egyptians (Exodus 1:9) . . . and so on and so on.
I love it that Joseph doesn’t berate his brothers for their lack of trust in him. Instead, he encourages them again not to be afraid of him, and reassures them that he will continue to take care of them and their families. And he spoke kindly to them and comforted them.
Joseph learned that he had a part to play in God’s story. And that anything God allowed in his life, God would use to help him play his part.
What is your part in His Story?
– Our fear of man and what he can do to us is misplaced.
– If God allows it, He has plans to redeem it.
– God’s plans are always for our eventual good.
– Our job is to comfort and encourage our brothers.
– When was the last time I was afraid of a human and what he could do to me?
– How have I seen God redeem bad things that happened to me?
– Why can I believe that God’s plans are for my good?
– Who needs my comfort and encouragement?
Genesis 50:19-21 / Amplified Bible (AMP)
19 And Joseph said to them, Fear not; for am I in the place of God? [Vengeance is His, not mine.]
20 As for you, you thought evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are this day.
21 Now therefore, do not be afraid. I will provide for and support you and your little ones. And he comforted them [imparting cheer, hope, strength] and spoke to their hearts [kindly].