Plot Twists and Surprise Endings

Journey through Genesis  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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A study of how God worked everything out for good in the end.

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The story so far.

Joseph’s brothers had returned to their father, Jacob, bringing grain and bad news. Simeon had stayed as a prisoner in Egypt, and when they went back to buy more grain they would need to bring their youngest brother, Benjamin. Jacob told his sons that they had bereaved him. Genesis 42:36

The Famine Was Severe

As much as Jacob wanted to keep Benjamin from going to Egypt he did not have any option in the matter. Jacob could either let Benjamin go or starve along with his household. This was not only about him but about his sons and grandchildren, and servants, and animals who were all under his care. At this points the need to survive superseded Jacob’s preferences and his fears. Though in his heart wanted Benjamin to stay, in his mind he understood he must let Benjamin go down to Egypt.
Judah spoke up and offered himself as surety for his brother Benjamin. Genesis 43:9
Place yourself in Jacob’s shoes for a moment. His whole life he loved one woman, Rachel. He was tricked by his uncle and married Leah. But Jacob never loved Leah, though Leah gave him one daughter and six sons. Jacob loved Rachel, who was barren for many years. Finally, Rachel gives birth to a son, Joseph, who Jacob now believes to have been killed. Rachel also gave birth to another boy, Benjamin, and sadly she died (Genesis 35:16-20). How would you have felt if the love of your life had died, and then you lost your favorite son, her firstborn? Now all you have from her, her only living son, must leave for a dangerous trip to a foreign country with a ruler who seems to not like your family. If I was Jacob I would be having a very difficult time. I would be wondering where God was. It was God who called Jacob to return to the land of Canaan. Genesis 31:13 more details on my blog post “Mighty to Save”. Why would God allow all this to happen? Where was God? What about all of God’s promises to protect, provide and be with him? Was this not the land that God was giving him and to his descendants (Genesis 35:9-12)?
Do you ever find yourself facing severe famine and feeling like you are slowly losing all that you love and hold dear? Does your faith hold strong when you feel cursed and abandoned by God?

Facing Your Past

Broken relationships have a way of coming back to hurt you repeatedly. Joseph and his brothers were experiencing this. They suffered while apart and now continued to cause one another to suffer. The Bible tells us that Joseph’s heart yearned for his brother Benjamin (Genesis 43:30) yet he is not ready to allow himself to love and embrace. Joseph longs for reconciliation but he is not ready for it, not yet, he had been through too much. How should he deal with his brothers? I imagine Joseph had given this much thought. It is unclear how much time had elapsed since his brothers had last seen him. We don’t know how long Simeon had been in an Egyptian prison. The brothers meet again. Joseph has the power to punish, torture, enslave, imprison, or even kill his brothers for what they did to him. But would that undo the past? Is that what God was calling him to do? Was that God’s will for his life? What about God’s plans for the lives of his brothers?
Joseph had been extremely mistreated and abused in his lifetime. It would be understandable for him to be bitter, angry, to want revenge, for him to be scarred and have trust issues. But God had been with him. He was alive, he was successful, he had been blessed after all. Would Joseph use his blessings to bless those around him or would he hoard the blessings and use them to make himself more powerful?
With your permission, I would like to imagine a scenario and I invite you to join me in this exercise of our imagination. Imagine Joseph uses his current power and influence to destroy all who had hurt him. He could enslave his brothers. Joseph could throw Potiphar in prison, and have Potiphar’s wife executed. Joseph could send Pharaoh’s cupbearer to prison for a couple of years since he forgot about Joseph in prison for two years (Genesis 40:23-41:1,9-13). Since Joseph had interpreted the dreams and married the daughter of a priest, I imagine it would not have taken much for him to convince the people that God was on his side and that he should be Pharaoh. Joseph could have made a power play and even taken advantage of his food storage to wage economic warfare and essentially dominate the portion of the ancient world that was being affected by the famine.
I know we just imagined this scenario, but I believe this to have been a possible outcome, perhaps even a temptation for Joseph. When you have power and wealth, you can afford to be your true self. You don’t have to be nice, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. When you have all the power and wealth, you only have to forgive and be kind if you want to. At least temporarily speaking (disregarding eternal consequences). Do we continue to behave like Christians when we have the power to be selfish and get away with it? Do we forgive and seek to make peace with those who have wronged us when we could punish those who have hurt us?
Joseph longed for a mended, loving relationship with his brothers, at least with Benjamin for sure. But earlier in his life, his brothers had made that all but impossible. Now, would he give them a second chance?
Had Joseph’s brothers changed? Were they still selfish and jealous? The way Joseph treats them in Genesis 43-44 seems to indicate that he was testing them. Perhaps Joseph was still trying to decide what he would do to them, whether or not he would forgive them.
As the story unfolds we learn that Joseph’s brothers have changed, they honestly want to protect and care for Benjamin. In Genesis 44:16 Judah even confesses that God had found out their iniquity, which is odd since they had not stolen Joseph’s cup unless Judah is talking about their iniquity regarding something else, perhaps regarding the well-being of their missing brother.

Judah’s Speech

Judah then delivers a speech, but not just any speech.
This speech has appropriately been called one of the masterpieces of Hebrew literary composition, one of the finest specimens of natural eloquence in the world. - The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 1
—the speech of Judah in behalf of his young brother Benjamin has been fittingly characterised as “one of the masterpieces of Hebrew composition” (Kalisch), “one of the grandest and fairest to be found in the Old Testament” (Lange), “a more moving oration than ever orator pronounced” (Lawson), “one of the finest specimens of natural eloquence in the world” (Inglis). Without being distinguished by either brilliant imagination or highly poetic diction, “its inimitable charm and excellence consist in the power of psychological truth, easy simplicity, and affecting pathos” (Kalisch)— - The Pulpit Commentary: Genesis
The encounter between Joseph and his brothers has now reached its climactic moment. A personal appeal to the great man is Judah’s last desperate resort. He pours out his heart in what is the longest speech in the Book of Genesis, although it could not have lasted more than five minutes. - The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis
Judah’s speech moves Joseph so deeply that Joseph could no longer hold back his emotions. Sending everyone else out of the room and reveals himself to his brothers. Joseph wept so loud the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it (Genesis 45:2).

The Final Outcome

Ultimately Joseph chooses to forgive his brothers and to mend their broken relationship. He chooses the path of reconciliation. He realizes his brothers had also been suffering, and he decides to put an end to that cycle. Joseph interprets all these events as being used by God in order to ultimately bring about the salvation of many. However, this does not mean that what his brothers did was acceptable in any way. I believe that God could have brought about the same outcome without the lies and betrayal. But God was able to use even the sinful actions of Joseph’s brothers to bring about salvation because Joseph was willing to remain faithful to God and to continue to trust Him even when suffering incredible abuse and unfairness.
There is so much in these last few chapters of Genesis that we could explore, but the year is coming to a close and we have been studying the Book of Genesis for almost 3 years so I will leave a deeper study of these passages for another time. I feel like we must stop and I would like to conclude with the words spoken by Joseph recorded in Genesis 50:20.
But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. - The New King James Version

Takeaway

Joseph recognized that his own brothers wished to do him harm. You must also likewise recognize that people may wish to do you harm. They may persecute and abuse you. But God can take you and still use you to bless others. No one can keep you from being used by God except you. When you choose God, even your worst moments can become a source of strength and blessing for someone else. Your scars and your pain may be what God uses to touch a life that no one else could reach.
Reading Genesis we have learned that God loves plot twists and surprising endings. As I mentioned earlier, it is December, a time when we talk about the birth of Jesus. The earthly life and ministry of Jesus is the clearest and most extreme example of how all the wickedness of this planet and even supernatural beings are unable to thwart God’s plans. As the Apostle Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 1:27
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; The New King James Version

When you feel weak, when you feel beat down, when you feel betrayed, and alone, and abandoned, just remember that God can take you, if you are willing, and use you to save many people alive. People may mean evil against you, but God can turn it around and use it for good.

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