Read: Genesis 50:15-21

Throughout the story of God’s people we have been brought from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to Joseph. To get to Genesis 50, we must pass through the preceding chapters, with Joseph proclaiming that his brothers would bow down to him (Genesis 37:7), getting thrown in a pit by them (37:24), being falsely accused of assaulting his master’s wife and being imprisoned (39:20), and, in a reversal of fortune, being raised to power because of his ability to interpret dreams (41:41). Just as in his dreams, his brothers eventually come back to bow down to him (42:6). Joseph’s character changes throughout the story, just as ours does through what we experience. Joseph learned a fundamental lesson through these chapters: It is interesting that in all three successive realms of Joseph’s authority—Potiphar’s house, the prison, and the Egyptian court—he is always second-in-command (Gen 39:6, 23; 41:43). He is never the sole head of any of these places, but always needs to submit to somebody higher than him. And he honors this limitation and need for submission meticulously. Sometimes, as in Potiphar’s house, this helps him to maintain his moral integrity, even though as a result he ends up descending to yet another pit, namely into prison (see Gen 40:15). Sometimes, as in the house of Pharaoh, this is exemplified perhaps more negatively, as he buys up all of the land for Pharaoh, his master (Gen 47:20)—showing that even this positive trait may have its dark side. Nevertheless, it demonstrates something indispensable for anyone who is given grandiose visions. Those who are chosen to lead must learn to submit.

The whole story leads to Genesis 50. Jacob has died, and the brothers are worried that the words Joseph spoke to them in chapter 45 were merely window dressing, and now he will have his revenge (50:15). At each moment the fear, memory, or certainty of a loss—loss of a relationship, a dream for the future, a loved one—is overwhelming. Equally overwhelming is the moment of regaining, the barely hoped for possibility of a new beginning. The simple statement, ‘Joseph wept when they spoke to him’ (50:17), helps us to see the depths of emotion that so often lead us on the path both toward and away from forgiveness. The wounded penitents now fall weeping before Joseph and declare themselves his slaves (50:18). … As I read this verse, I ask, what grace is needed to move from this abusive cycle to the place of true forgiveness? Joseph’s words pave the way: ‘Do not fear’ (50:19,21). Fear has been the obstacle to confession, forgiveness, reconciliation, and freedom. Finally, Joseph can recognize and reveal that he is not in the place of God (50:20). Punishment is not his to mete out. If Joseph has yet failed to acknowledge his own wrongdoings, he points to God’s will and ability to transform evil into good (50:20). God’s plans for good and for life trump the plots of fearful and wounded hearts. God’s grace creates the space for forgiveness that will break the cycle of retaliation and abuse, “setting slaves and prisoners free.”


  1. What is one thing that stood out to you from this week’s message?
  2. What are the challenges that Joseph faced in his life?
  3. How does Joseph’s suffering change him into a different man?
  4. Are there any difficult seasons in your life that God has brought you through?
  5. How have your difficult seasons displayed God’s goodness to other people?
  6. What is required of us for us to forgive those that may have been a part of putting us in a difficult season?

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