In this final chapter of Genesis, my study reminded me of an extremely important principle – the idea that even in the worst of circumstances, God is still at work. The He can bring good out of things even when we can’t see how He could ever do it.
At the end of chapter 49, Jacob had died after giving his blessing to each of his sons. Beginning in chapter 50, it tells of the embalming of Jacob’s body and the preparations made for his burial. Jacob had made his sons promise to take his body and bury it along side his forefathers, Abraham and Isaac. It took a full 40 days for the embalming process, and the whole nation of Egypt mourned for Jacob for 70 days. Then, with Pharaoh’s permission, a large group of people headed toward Canaan in order to bury Jacob. They stopped near the Jordan river, and Joseph held another 7 day period of mourning. Then they buried him “in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, which Abraham had bought as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite, along with the field,” and headed back to Egypt. After their father had died, Joseph’s brothers again realized that Joseph could easily take vengeance on them for the wrong they had done to him, and they feared for their lives. But Joseph reassured them that he truly believed that God had used his troubles for the good of all around him. He said to them “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” (v. 19-21). Then chapter 50 and the entire book of Genesis closes by telling of the death of Joseph. On his death bed, he reminded his brothers of the promise God had made to give them the land of Canaan, and he made them promise to take his bones back there when they returned. Then Joseph died at 110 years old.
Although there are a lot of great lessons to be learned from this – especially a huge lesson in forgiveness that my own study took me through – the thing that stood out to me was something that I had already been through several chapters before this. Back in chapter 45, when Joseph had revealed himself to his brothers, he had told them “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:5). I wrote a post on that day about how Joseph had a better attitude than I would have had – I would have wanted revenge, but Joseph remembered that it was God who had caused everything to happen as it had, and he couldn’t be upset about that. Now in chapter 50, the brothers fear once again that Joseph may take revenge on them, but he reassures them, saying that he would be out of place in taking revenge on them, since “God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”
I pray for that kind of conviction and for that kind of faith. How awesome is that, that Joseph can see his difficulties as blessings from God? And not just blessings for him, but also for those around him! It shows wisdom, patience, and a level of self-less-ness that, up to this point, I don’t believe I have seen in another character in Genesis. I praise God for Joseph’s example.
Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” I know that this verse brings up the whole mess with predestination, and I’m not even going to try and touch that topic! But when I read this verse this morning, I couldn’t help but see Joseph. Allow me to elaborate:
- Just as Joseph had said – God had worked what had happened to Joseph into good, into something that accomplished His purpose.
- I posted a couple of days ago (in a discussion of Jacob’s blessing of all his sons) about how Joseph was a type of Christ – a forerunner who was like Jesus in a lot of ways.
- In 1 Chronicles 5:1-2 it says “The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel; so he could not be listed in the genealogical record in accordance with his birthright, and though Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler came from him, the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph).”
These 3 things are exactly what Romans 8:28 is saying! So that verse, to me, is a great reminder of the story of Joseph and his legacy – that we will encounter difficult times, but that we can choose to have the right attitude, and that it’s a lot easier if we remember that God can work magic with bad situations, turning them into something good.