ReaD Genesis 42:1-17
Introduction: Genesis 42 is a significant turning point within Joseph’s narrative. But buckle up, the story only becomes more personal and emotional as old wounds are revisited and familial character is tested. By Genesis 42, most commentators note that Joseph has been estranged from his family for nearly 20 years. Abandoned in that dark pit at the youthful age of 17, Joseph has ridden the roller-coaster of ups and downs, a two-decade long journey that now finds Joseph released from prison and presently seated as the “vice-president” of the nation of Egypt.
The nations of Canaan and Egypt are both two years into an impending seven-year drought. Joseph’s brothers have been sent by their father, Jacob, down into Egypt in the hopes of securing food for their family. In an unexpected and undetected turn-of-events, Joseph’s brothers find themselves bowing at the feet of the local governor (this is a fulfilment of Joseph’s dreams from Genesis 37), who unbeknownst to them is actually their brother Joseph! Joseph immediately recognizes his brothers – and yet because of his Egyptian attire and the 20 years that have passed, the brothers don’t recognize Joseph. This presents a unique opportunity for Joseph to learn more about the character of his brothers. Have two decades changed them at all? Or are they still the same old crew who sold their own flesh and blood into slavery?
Chapters 42-45 take the reader along an emotional journey of familial repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. While Joseph is waiting, watching, and learning, his brothers are waiting, worrying, and wondering. Yet through it all God had a plan. As Duguid and Harmon write, “Long before they [the brothers] realized their guilt, God had already put everything in place to save their lives. Most amazing of all, their salvation hinged on God using their worst sin to accomplish his saving purposes. The betrayal of the best-loved son of their father, which led to his enslavement, suffering, humiliation, and unjust imprisonment, became the means by which God raised him to a position of power and influence for the saving of many lives.” These chapters lead us to a much later chapter where God’s plan of salvation would hinge upon another Beloved Son whose unjust suffering and death would be grounds for the saving of many lives. Do you see it? The gospel is being prefigured and anticipated long before the arrival of Jesus within the lives of men like Joseph and his brothers. Like Joseph before him, Jesus suffered so that others could live – even if those others were and are his undeserving brothers, even you and me.
Reflection: Take personal inventory of your life, heart, and spiritual journey. Use these prompts as a way to prepare for group discussions or for personal times of prayer.
1. How would you characterize the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation?
2. Are there people in your life that you need to forgive? Are there relationships in your life where reconciliation might be a possibility? How do you navigate next steps? Or are you avoiding them? Why or why not?
1. What about the sermon stood out or impacted you the most? Do you have any follow-up questions about the sermon?
2. Read Genesis 42:18-23, paying close attention to the conversation between the brothers in verses 21-23. It would appear that a conviction over their sinful choices was beginning to percolate within their hearts. This is often the first step in relational forgiveness – between friends as well as between us and God. In order for relational pain to be healed, there has to be a real recognition of what caused the pain in the first place. Discuss these verses and this principle.
3. Take a moment to re-read the Duguid and Harmon quote from the introduction. Their insight can assist us in seeing the “story behind the story.” Discuss and interact with the transformative dynamics packed within this quote as well as Joseph’s larger story.
4. Missional Living: A story was once told of a Christian who worked within a high-powered law-firm. In their negotiations with other clients and other firms, no one in this man’s firm was ever allowed to admit they were wrong, that they in fact might be at fault within a given conflict. Then one day this man decided to say it: “I’m sorry, I dropped the ball on this task, will you forgive me.” To everyone’s surprise, forgiveness was contagious, and around the room people dropped their guard and began admitting (instead of accusing) when they had made a mistake. Forgiveness changed things. Where in your personal, familial, or even corporate life might you be able to be witness to the power of forgiveness and / or reconciliation?
Apply: What could it look like for you to live out the power provided within the gospel? How do you take what you’ve learned and apply it to your life? Don’t move on until you’ve asked the Lord to transfer what you’ve studies from your head to your heart. Consider breaking into smaller groups in order to personalize the discussion.