Genesis 50 (50 Days – Day 50)



If I can share personally here at the end of our journey through Genesis, I have been amazed at the roller-coaster of emotion I have been through during this time. It was only 50 days, and yet God dealt with me personally in many ways. He challenged my faith and helped me see that I need step out more and meet him where he is. He challenged my convictions and made me realize that I’ve compromised in areas of my life that have affected my character. More than anything though, I have been pointed to his Jesus, and my faith in the fact that God’s plan was to offer his son as a sacrifice for me has grown immeasurably.

In this last chapter, I see Joseph being a sort of type of Christ, however subtly, in his final response to his brother’s treatment of him years before. Jacob, his father, has just died and his brother’s are naturally worried that Joseph’s wrath would finally be made known now that his father is not alive to temper his actions. They make up a lie about Jacob’s last wish being that Joseph would forgive his brothers. Joseph sees right through it, but speaks kindly to them, letting them know that he came to terms with it long ago…

But Joseph 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. – Genesis 50:19-20

Wow, what a response. There are certainly times when we are called to have that kind of perspective about things that happen to us. When tough times come, we inevitably receive a word of encouragement from a Christian brother or sister that reminds us what the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Rome…

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28

I believe that the words above are true, and I’ve seen it play out in my own life. I will go through a trial questioning God as to why it’s happening only to come out on the other side and understand that he had a plan for my good all along. However, in Joseph’s case this verse takes on a very different meaning for me. You see, typically we think of the meaning of this verse to be that God sometimes takes us through valleys in order to bring us to another mountaintop. He allows us to suffer so that we can eventually prosper. What this suggests though is that we expect God to use our suffering in our own lives. Sometimes, though, he might allow for someone to suffer so that someone else can receive the blessing. This is a little harder to swallow as it hardly seems fair, but some of God’s best servants have experienced this first-hand.

While Joseph was eventually elevated to power as a result of his suffering, he acknowledges that God allowed him to go through it for his family’s benefit. God used the event to allow the leaders of the 12 tribes of Jacob to prosper after the famine. In fact the whole nation would be saved, prompting Joseph to view his suffering as necessary to save the lives of many. This makes Joseph like Christ in a way because Christ himself was known as the “suffering servant.” His blood was poured out for all people and his life was offered as a ransom for many. The famous passage written by the prophet Isaiah explains it this way…

And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
-Isaiah 53:11

How does this challenge me? If I am ever called to suffer for the sake of other people and not just myself, I pray that God will find me faithful and that I will be willing to use my life for him in this way. I worry that I might not feel the same way when I’m actually in it, but I know it would be a tremendous honor, and one that is undeserved, to have the opportunity to imitate my Savior in this way.

Genesis 49 (50 Days – Day Forty Nine)


If you were laying on your death-bed, what would be your final words to your family? Would you use the time to simply tell them how much you love each of them? Would you apologize for any hurt you might have caused in the past? I suppose in the end, your message might be different for each of them. For Jacob, while his life was cut short, he had a lengthy time of 17 years or more to say goodbye. Perhaps whatever emotion he may have had was replaced by a sense of urgency because all Jacob can think about is the future. During Jacob’s last few moments on earth, he gives a sort of prophecy for each of his sons. We don’t know if he knew the information beforehand and was waiting for the right moment, but we do know that he accurately predicted the future for all 12 men. Some futures were brilliant and glorious and others not so much. However, one stands out for me above all the rest…Judah.

“Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

Genesis 49:8-10

Out of Judah would spring a mighty nation. King David would come from his seed. This is what is meant by “your brothers will praise you” and “your father’s sons will bow down to you”. In fact, it would mean that their tribes would be united under his banner when David became King. King David would be mighty in battle as well, and his victories would be celebrated and sung for generations. Of course this kingdom, as mighty as it is, would pale in comparison with the king “to whom it belongs shall come”.

Because of this prophecy, the symbol for the tribe of Judah became a lion. Not as a lion who is enraged, but as one who is aware of his power and authority and therefore lies down without fear. The great theologian Matthew Henry wrote this about these verses…

The lion is the king of beasts, the terror of the forest when he roars; when he seizes his prey, none can resist him; when he goes up from the prey, none dare pursue him to revenge it. By this it is foretold that the tribe of Judah should become very formidable, and should not only obtain great victories, but should peaceably and quietly enjoy what was obtained by those victories—that they should make war, not for the sake of war, but for the sake of peace. Judah is compared, not to a lion rampant, always tearing, always raging, always ranging; but to a lion couchant, enjoying the satisfaction of his power and success, without creating vexation to others: this is to be truly great.

-Matthew Henry

Of course, this passage is also very prophetic. It’s not about Judah, but about his seed. Even though his time would not come for over a thousand years, this passage is referring to the Messiah. This is why Micah writes about his origins…

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
 – Micah 5:2

Not only did the Messiah come from the tribe of Judah, but Jesus was given the title that had become symbolic of the tribe. As John beheld the throne of God, he saw a scroll in his right hand, and an angel asked who was worthy to open it. No one was found worthy, and John wept, until one the elders pointed him to Jesus…

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” – Revelation 5:5

What I love most about this title given to Jesus is which two books it is referenced in. The entire Bible is a collection of 66 books, but it is meant to be one volume and that has never been more apparent than here. The entire volume points to one person – Jesus, the Lion of Judah –  and his title, which found it’s origins in the first book of the Bible (Genesis), was fulfilled and given in the last book (Revelation). Like bookends to a great story, Jesus is presented as this mighty lion, who is destined to bring peace into the world.

Genesis 48 (50 Days – Day Forty Eight)


I used to attend a church that played a lot of what I’d call “gospel” music. These songs were backed by a great band. Good drums, a bass guitar thumping out a beat, a piano, an electric guitar and of course, an organ, which was played amazingly by the pastor’s wife. One of my favorite songs to sing there was “The Enemy’s Camp”. The main lyrics of the song were “I went to the enemy’s camp and I took back what he stole from me.”

The song is a reference to a story found in 1 Samuel 30, where the city of Ziklag is attacked and plundered by the Amalekites. David was marching a small army of his men to the city, but was too late to stop the attack. The Amalekites carried off all the women and children as well as many valuables from the city. David asks God whether or not he should pursue the Amalekites, given the fact that he is incredibly outnumbered and they are surely some distance away by now and his men haven’t eaten. God affirms to David that he should pursue them, which he then does. He defeats everyone of them and brings back the spoils. Not one Amalekite got away and every single soul was brought back to the city.

The story is an epic one no doubt, but the impact of the song has been far greater for me. Others might wax eloquent on the means by which David received his instruction or the generosity he shows in the end in the sharing of the spoils. For me however, it’s all about the idea behind the song: when the enemy takes something from us, we redeem it. We don’t just move on. We reclaim it for the kingdom.

This thought has different applications for many people. I’ve certainly used it in music. I grew up in really traditional, fundamental circles. These were the kind of churches and institutions that would chastise the kind of music that I would listen to. I remember one message in particular in Bible school talking about the “noise of war” that was in the camp when Moses descended from Mount Sinai, and how this noise was akin to today’s contemporary Christian music.

This same thought existed when we first planted Lakeside Church and the point was brought up that our music shouldn’t sound like the world’s music. My rebuttal to that was that it’s the other way around. I believe all music belongs to God. No poet is more inspired than the one who sings about the ultimate lover and the ultimate creator. I believe in this regard, that we are to take back God’s music from the world. We are to reclaim it for his glory. I would suggest that almost anything bad can be redeemed by man to be used for the glory of God.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with the story of Joseph, it was been inspired by Jacob’s last words to Joseph…

I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites. – Genesis 48:22

In other versions you might read that Joseph was given a “ridge” or a “portion” of land, but it was not so unspecified. In fact, the actual word that is used is “shekem” or “shechem”. This was the very land where Levi and Simeon tricked the men of the city into circumcising themselves and then attacked and killed them all in retribution for the rape of their sister, Dinah. Jacob was furious at them for this. It was wrong, and now he owned a piece of land that was attained in a sinful manner. This plagued Jacob for the rest of his life. However, he makes it right in the end by giving it to Joseph. He sees in Joseph a Godly man – one who will bring honor to what has been dishonorable for so long. He gives the land to Joseph, and in doing so, challenges him to reclaim for God what has been tainted by sin.

It would be difficult for me to give a general statement of practical advice on this. It’s much easier to speak of it anecdotally, but in the interest of trying, I would say that when we so readily avoid the things that have a bad history, we miss out on the opportunity to see God redeem it. Furthermore, if we are more than conquerors, why are so afraid to engage the enemy? Why would we not in boldness stand in the face of what the enemy has taken and declare “it is no longer yours!”?

Remember Braveheart? I love when William Wallace attacks a specific English outpost and allows for a few to survive to bring a message back to the enemy…

“Go back to England, and tell them there that Scotland’s daughters and her sons are yours no more.”
-William Wallace

Perhaps the hardest part is identifying what the enemy has taken, so let’s start with the easy (as in the easy to identify) stuff. Whatever the enemy has taken from you personally…your joy, your self-worth, your courage, your power, your identity, etc…reclaim it today. Tell the enemy that your life is his no more. Reclaim it for the glory of God and experience the power of redemption.

Genesis 47 (50 Days – Day Forty Seven)

There is an interesting story of social welfare that is told in Genesis 47. As the famine continues to rage on for years in the land of Egypt, everyone comes to Joseph for help.

One year when they come pleading for food, their argument is that they have no money left. Joseph’s response is that they should exchange their livestock for food, which they do and their families are fed.

The next year, having no livestock, they come to Joseph and ask again. This time, they have an idea of their own. They will offer to Joseph the only thing that they have left…their land.

You might think, “How enraged they must feel about Joseph!” The idea that we would come to one of our leaders and say to them “I have no food, please help” and their response is “what are you going to give me in return” sounds reprehensible to us.


In our country we like to believe that the little guy has a chance. That’s good. I think the attitude of picking ourselves up by our bootstraps is what has made America great today. However, it is simply not how the Bible describes a great society. For many of us, the Bible challenges us in a way that makes us uncomfortable when it comes to how a society or an economy should be run.

What we find in the Old Testament, is that the most revered societies, such as the one that Joseph was in charge of, there is no redistribution of wealth. There are the “haves” and the “have nots”. The best case scenario is that the “haves” recognize their responsibility to the “have nots” and work out an arrangement to provide for them. If in that provision their wealth increases (such is the case with Joseph in this chapter), it is taken with the purpose of enhancing the governments ability to provide for the people.

Now, I am not going to waste a whole chapter of God’s word talking about politics. Rather, I gave that background so that I could put the response of the people in the proper context.

When the people come to Joseph the first time and Joseph asks for their livestock in exchange for food, I’m sure they weren’t expecting that. I’m sure they didn’t know what to expect. What I find interesting is how they respond to the offer. Obviously they accept it, but we find that they consider it appropriate on some level. Perhaps this response was formed over time as they considered their plight, but nevertheless, when they come the next year, they are so convinced of it’s validity that they approach Joseph with an attitude of humble gratitude and even servitude.

Their thought process must have been that “we wouldn’t have any food if not for this man. Therefore, we owe him our lives in service.” So they come to him with their requests and in exchange offer to become his servants.

I wonder if we approach God in the same way. I wonder if we feel the need to. When we come to God in prayer, do we feel entitled to his blessing because we’re so focused on how much he loves us that we just feel it’s what he wants to do anyway? After all, when you love someone, you want to give them everything, right? God loves me, therefore he wants to give me everything and I should let him, right?

We’re so focused on his love for us that we often forget how much we don’t deserve it. We don’t deserve it. To truly appreciate that, you’d have to live in a society where you actually felt like the wealthy people deserved to have all the money and you don’t. Make no mistake, God has everything and is entitled to it.

The point of all of this is not that God requires anything from us. He doesn’t. The point is that the people, in spite of the fact that they had nothing left to offer, found a way to offer something to Joseph…that of their entire lives in service to him.

The question is simple. When you approach the throne of God today, what do you have to offer him?

Genesis 46 (50 Days – Day Forty Six)


I remember sitting at my kitchen table when my wife and I signed up for life insurance. A nice gentleman who came recommended by a friend sat across from us and walked us through everything. It was a good thing to do, and I don’t regret providing that sort of security for my family in the event of tragedy. However, I’ve sat through a couple of those types of sales pitches and I can’t get over how cavalier a salesman can be when suggesting the death of someone. Truly, a tactic that must be a pre-requisite taught by every insurance firm is to at some point in the conversation say something like “if something happens to you, you don’t want your wife to be going through the red tape, you want me to come to your door and hand your wife a big check.”

For some reason this part always catches me off-guard. I guess it’s because I’ve recognized that they all seem to not-so-subtly glorify the potential “largeness” of that check. They never talk about just handing over a check. They talk about handing over a (insert your favorite large size adjective here) check. Is that supposed to impress me? Am I really supposed to start thinking about the possibilities or even opportunities that could be afforded my family as a consolation for my passing?

As I’m still young, healthy and have people who love me, I don’t enjoy the thought of dying. I too quickly dismiss Paul’s arguments in Philippians 1 for why longs for death as the mere ramblings of one who doesn’t have a family. I don’t share his ideas of “it’s better for them if I stick around”. It is of course, but I want to experience their future here on earth as well. I suppose it really comes down to the fact that I’m so naive about the awesomeness of eternity with God that I just don’t know any better.

It is for these reasons that I simply can’t empathize or even sympathize with an old person’s desire to “die in peace”. Jacob makes reference to it twice here. In fact, he even dreams about it…

And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” – Genesis 46:2-4

The idea that this motivates Jacob to get a move on more than suggests that he wants to depart from this life, but doesn’t feel he can go in peace unless he sees for himself that Joseph lives. To a point, this emotion is echoed in the life of Simeon who desired to see the Messiah before he died. Later on, when Jacob does finally meets Joseph, some of the first words out of his mouth are “now that I know you’re alive, let me die.”

I doubt I’ll understand these words for a while, but I have watched others who could. I’ve watched friends die of cancer in the most undignified fashion. I have heard of poverty so great that it makes me question whether or not the children would have been better off if they hadn’t been born. I know this world is broken and for some, no amount of familial love will ever outweigh the hardship of their lives. In these times, I marvel at the words that the apostle Paul quoted from the book of Isaiah…

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”
– 1 Corinthians 2:9

I trust this to mean that I haven’t seen it because my eyes couldn’t even take it in. I haven’t heard it because there are waves of sound too beautiful for my ears. Of course, I couldn’t imagine it because my heart couldn’t contain the love that must be evident in the creation of heaven. I believe the sight alone would overwhelm a heart that truly understands that God made it for them.

I was once told that the best thing a Christian could do to keep his heart set on God is to meditate about the reality of heaven for a half-hour every day. This kind of focus puts everything into that “Kingdom” perspective that we as Christians are so quick to admonish each other with.

I don’t want to die, but I want to be desperate for what awaits me on the other side. While others are searching for something that makes life worth living, I am searching for that which makes this life worth leaving.

Genesis 45 (50 Days – Day Forty Five)


In this chapter we find Joseph finally making peace with his brothers. It is a terribly emotional scene, full of tears and embraces. Verse 15 tells us that after Joseph reveals who he is and spends time kissing them and weeping with them, his brothers “talked with him awhile”. I’m sure that was a long conversation, full of admissions of guilt, repentance and the acknowledgment that it has been way too long. Finally, when the baggage is completely unpacked, they become brothers again and there’s a lot of catching up to do. Joseph hears about the wives, sons and daughters of each one, about who is the better farmer or hunter, and what the old town looks like today. It is a joyous occasion and one that wouldn’t be possible without the power of forgiveness.

I have to admit as I read this that it became more real to me than ever before. Of course, as we get older and grow in knowledge of God’s Word, different passages that we haven’t read in a while take on a whole new life. Perhaps for me, it is simply because I have brothers who live far away and every time we get together it is a joyous occasion. We truly celebrate what it means to be husbands and fathers and what it takes to lead in our homes. We affirm each other’s success and admire how each other has grown. All of these emotions are so accessible in this story and I can only imagine how Joseph has longed for this moment…how he has dreamed about it, and how he probably never thought it would ever be possible.

Amidst all of this, I see something that is speaking to me as a leader. While I do believe that we can’t put leaders up on pedestals, I believe that leaders have to hold themselves accountable. We simply have to be the ones to step out in faith first. The way I see Joseph doing this is in how he forgives his brothers. What he essentially says is, “thank you for your apology, but please don’t lose anymore sleep over it. Rather, join me in celebrating because it is obvious that this was a part of God’s plan to bless all of us in a time of great hardship.”

Now, I don’t know if he actually felt like that. I’m inclined to believe that he could have and probably did still have some very real hurt deep inside that was always in danger of bubbling to the surface. However, realizing the great influence inherent in his position, he must have recognized that in order to get beyond it, someone was going to have to make a gesture toward the other. A great gulf, caused by his brother’s actions, still existed between them, and the one who was offended (Joseph) realized that the only chance of true reconciliation with them was for him to step into that space and bridge the gap.

The connection to what Christ did for us in reconciling himself to us is obvious, but perhaps not so obvious is the leadership that is shown in Joseph. It may seem like I’m grasping at straws, but I can’t get over this one verse…

Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.”
-Genesis 45:24

I find that to be so amazing because in the midst of an episode where Joseph could have excused himself from the responsibility of fixing everybody’s lives for one day, he recognizes something in his brothers: they still fight all the time. They still argue and it disrupts their unity. Joseph, recognizing this, realizes that in that moment, he needs to use his new-found influence with them to help them. In fact, I would suggest that a part of the reason for his forgiveness is so that he can earn the right to speak into their lives. By removing the barrier between them, he earns enough leverage to be able to help them with a problem that has gone on for too long. In this moment, Joseph quickly moves from the position of martyr to that of a spiritual father because he is a leader, and leaders always step up. When the going gets tough, leaders always stand in the gap.

I am in awe of this man and am challenged by his behavior. What grace must have been afforded to him and what humility must be in his possession. If I am to ever imagine playing on that kind of level, I have to fully internalize one very central idea: it’s not about me. Guess what? It’s not about you. It’s about God and his glory and we have a part to play in that. Whether you’re a leader or not, God is looking for people to stand in the gap. It’s how healing happens. Jesus modeled it on the cross and said, “if anyone wants to be my disciple, he must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) In short, it’s what followers of Christ do. Freely we have received, and freely we give. Freely we forgive, because freely we have been forgiven.

Genesis 44 (50 Days – Day Forty Four)

The events that occur between Joseph and his brothers are unfolding slowly. For me, attempting to glean some message of inspiration from each chapter feels like I’m trying to squeeze water out of a handful of desert sand. Sometimes that’s how it is with God’s Word. Sometimes, the text is simply less ‘spiritual’ or at the very least, less interesting as is the case with some of the genealogies that we’ve been through. Sometimes, if we’re honest, the problem is with us as we have other things on our mind or we’re just not that into it.

This, if anything, is the point of this journey through Genesis. It is an attempt to show practically that God’s Word never returns void, and that Paul was right when he wrote to Timothy that “all scripture is God-breathed and is profitable”. Sometimes we have to reach for it, as I will be doing with this chapter, but that’s not really a bad thing, is it? If I work hard at trying to get something out of scripture, it will at the very least signal that I WANT to get something out of it, and that’s certainly an appropriate attitude to have when studying God’s Word.

I believe that Joseph is still holding out because he is waiting for that one moment that will just grip his heart to forgive his brothers. He has given them plenty of opportunities and they seem to be showing good character. They haven’t lied to him. They’ve done what he’s asked. When they find silver in their sacks, they go back to him and apologize. They bow down before him in humility. What is he waiting for? I think he’s still torn. He wants to go there…to forgive his brothers, but he’s dwelled on the hurt they caused him for so long that it’s become a cancer in his very soul. Something inside is holding him back like a dam blocking a river’s flow. Whatever capacity he has for love, it has been contained behind this immovable obstacle.

As a pastor, I’ve been able to witness firsthand lives being changed by the power of Christ. I’ve seen hearts of stone melt like butter from the warmth of the gospel message. If there is one thing that these experiences have taught me it’s that we’re all the same in this regard: we all respond powerfully to a message of self-sacrifice. Nothing impacts the emotions of the human spirit more than witnessing someone offering to take punishment or hardship in the place of someone else so that they won’t have to. It is a story that has been idealized in legends and revered in films like Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, Star Wars, The Matrix and Independence Day, among others. It’s no coincidence that the characters who die in place of others in “The Green Mile” and “Man on Fire” have the initials “J.C.”. It’s in our nature…we are predisposed to respond to a message of sacrifice, like the message of the cross. Jesus said it this way…

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
– John 15:13

So what it is that finally breaks the dam in Joseph’s heart and allows for his emotion to come pouring out like a flood? It’s listening to his brother Judah, begging to be imprisoned in place of his younger brother, Benjamin. Whatever hatred for his brothers might have been rooted in Joseph’s heart, the impact of Judah’s act was simply too great, and that hatred was washed away by overwhelming river of love.

I love that. Joseph’s heart was moved in many ways by the same emotion that has drawn all believers to the gospel message. It’s an emotion only felt by someone who has experienced someone dying for them, being sacrificed in their place. I have experienced that first hand and the love I feel as a result is enough to allow me to forgive thousands of wrongs against me. Thank you, Lord, for taking my place. May I always respond to that act by forgiving others and loving them in spite of what they might have done to me.

Genesis 43 (50 Days – Day Forty Three)

Since this subject has been brought up in previous readings, I thought I would share some thoughts about reconciliation in a more practical way. If you have identified a broken relationship in your life I hope that it would be your desire to reconcile. If so, perhaps you’re wondering how to go about doing it? Of course, apologies need to be made and perhaps you’ve done that. Maybe you’ve smiled and greeted each other warmly at church or the supermarket. Now what? What can you do to bring the reconciliation to some type of crescendo?

I would suggest to you that there is something that you can do that will honor them and give you opportunity for extended fellowship: invite them to a meal in your home.

This is a lost art in my generation. We seemed to have forgotten how to respect this time-honored tradition. For millenniums, a meal at someone’s home was a real event for everyone involved. The best food was made, the best dishes were used and the scope of the evening went far longer than an hour. This is especially true of Jewish culture, but most cultures revere having someone into their home as a way of showing them great servitude. Is there a better place for reconciliation to happen, than over a meal that you have personally prepared and now serve to your guests? Is there a better way to show someone that you are serious about your relationship?

This can have an enormous impact on someone. Imagine a relationship where you hurt someone. Imagine you said something really cutting, and ripped their life apart with your words. You’ve felt guilty ever since, and have lost countless nights of sleep over it. How do you recover from that? Even after apologies are made, and you are once again cordial with each other, what can restore that type of relationship? With the caveat that it may never be the same again, imagine the impact it would have on you if that person then invited you to their home for a meal. Their actions speak louder than their words. They may have accepted your apology months ago, but this…they’re inviting you to come into their home, to be around their kids and to spend an evening together with you in conversation. What an immense gesture that would be.

We’ve lost the art of entertaining. I will admit that most times I would prefer to go out to eat with others, and this is purely a pragmatic choice. I have children and sometimes they act up, so by going out to eat, I can choose the time of our departure more easily. Spending time in a home doesn’t leave that option. It demands a looser schedule, and a lengthier conversation. This can only be good for us, as it causes us to reach beyond what we’re comfortable with and that’s a great way to get to intimacy in a relationship.

As Joseph moves toward reconciliation with his brothers in Genesis 43, we can only speculate about what he’s waiting for. Perhaps he’s still working through his anger, and perhaps he just doesn’t trust them. Whatever the case might be, he tries to overcome his apprehension and decides to take a step of faith and invite them into his home for a meal. At this meal, they ate their fill and drank far into the night. In this atmosphere, everyone just enjoyed each other’s company and this was most likely the catalyst for Joseph to make amends as the goodness of their current fellowship far outweighed the hurt of the past.

Jesus spent a lot of his time at a table in someone’s home. When he told Zacchaeus he would come to his home, you can bet that a meal was served. Before entering Jerusalem for his last week, he had a deeply spiritual moment over a meal at Simon’s house with Lazarus, Mary and Martha. His last night on earth centered around a special meal with his disciples. He chose a breakfast of fish and chips to have a “come to Jesus” meeting with Peter. Jesus never missed an opportunity to deepen his relationships and further his influence over a meal in someone’s home.

Who can you invite to your home this week? What relationship do you have that could use that sort of act of kindness? Figure it out and extend the invitation. Then, spend a few days getting ready and really put on a show if you can. Honor them in your home and serve them well. Your faith will deepen, your character will grow and their heart will soften. Most importantly, God will be honored you will have the opportunity to praise him for what he has done.

Genesis 42 (50 Days – Day Forty Two)

At the expense of abandoning some of the obvious ongoing themes in Genesis for one day, I can’t help but to use the opportunity presented in this chapter to talk about forgiveness.

I have a good friend who has as much a reason as anyone to be unforgiving toward his mother. She was physically and verbally abusive to him all of his life, and since his father passed away, she only seems to call when she needs something from him. I personally led this friend to a relationship with Christ. This was a journey that took two years, and along the way we had to unpack a lot of stuff from his past. At the top of the pile, was the issue with his mother. I remember him asking me once, “what does the Bible say about forgiveness? Do I really have to forgive her for everything she’s done to me? Because, I don’t know that I’m ready to do that.”

Let’s start by answering the question. What does the Bible say about forgiveness? Here’s some references that point to basic principles outlined in scripture…

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

…as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. – Colossians 3:13

If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:15

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. – Matthew 18:21-22

These verses, and many others like them can be summarized like this: the Bible commands us to forgive others without limits, because God has forgiven us without limit. If you’ve been wronged by someone, no matter how badly, there is simply no room in scripture for us to withhold forgiveness, as it is a clear statement of our feelings toward how God has forgiven us. For the Christian, forgiveness is a “Pay it Forward” type of concept, and is in fact one of the only areas where we should rightfully feel condemnation for not practicing it. The reason I say this is that the sin of un-forgiveness is not a weakness of the flesh, but rather an unwillingness of the spirit and a hardness of heart.

This brings us back to Joseph, who in this chapter comes face-t0-face with his brothers who ruined his life years earlier because of their jealousy. Let’s be honest, what they did to him was probably worst than anything that’s been done to most of us. Surely if anyone had reason to withhold forgiveness it was Joseph.

Of course, Joseph does forgive his brothers in the end, but not without a little bit of drama as a prelude. You might think that Joseph’s actions are not forgiving at first, and that perhaps he was struggling with finding room in his heart to overlook the offenses committed against him. However, I see something more nuanced than that.

As a pastor, it always feels slightly irresponsible to present anything in the Bible as nuanced. We have such a built-in reverence for black and white authority and Scripture is certainly that. However, when we discuss forgiveness, we ought not to do so without admitting that wisdom has it’s place in reconciliation as well. What I mean to say is that I believe there is a difference between forgiveness and offering someone a second chance. Certainly there are times when forgiveness is accompanied by second chances, but they aren’t inextricably linked.

For example, let’s imagine a couple with two kids. The husband is physically and verbally abusive to both the wife and the kids. One day one of the kids winds up seriously injured and the wife finally has had enough. She leaves him for the safety of her children as much as her own. Some time later, the husband turns his life around. Actually, let’s go one step further and say that the husband finds Christ and significantly turns his life around. He comes back to his wife and in the most sincere way possible, humbly apologizes for his behavior and tearfully asks for her forgiveness.

Now, if the wife is a believer, I would suggest that she needs to forgive the husband, as she is certainly not perfect herself and has been forgiven of much by God. However, I still grant her the right to decide whether or not it is a good idea to reconcile based on the circumstances. She could be putting her children at risk, and it may be more appropriate to forgive the past, with some wise caution being reserved for the future.

What we see here with Joseph is a bit of a test. I believe that more than anything Joseph wants to reconcile. However, the level to which they will be able to reconcile will greatly depend on if his brothers have changed their ways. If he takes the lid off and reveals who he truly is then his brothers may act differently out of fear. He wants to know how they act when he’s not in the room. Make sense?

It’s a fine line to walk as this kind of discernment can easily manifest itself inappropriately. If we approach possible reconciliation with “I’ll forgive you but I’ll never forget” or “let’s put you on trial to see how you do” then we won’t have a chance. On the other hand, I also believe that unless biblical forgiveness allows for this type of discernment, there may be some people that we never even try to forgive as there is simply to much risk involved.

We need more forgiveness, not less. We need to take chances on relationships that have been broken and need to be restored. The slate isn’t wiped clean in the sense that we forget what they’re capable of, but rather we no longer bring up their past offenses. This is the type of forgiveness that Joseph offers…one that is willing to forgive people of the worst kind of injustice, while being tempered by a wisdom that comes from experience.

With all of that said, I hope it wasn’t too pragmatic to be personally challenging. Who is it that you need to forgive? Isn’t it time that you set that burden down? Hasn’t it ruined your life enough? When we refuse to forgive, we are the ones who suffer, not the people who wronged us. We carry that chip on our shoulder. We get furious at the sight of the person and loathe any success they have. We allow their misdeeds to ruin our ability to enjoy life on any given day while we fixate on their awfulness. When this happens, not only have they hurt us in the past, but now we allow them to continually hurt us in the future. Let’s turn the tables and allow their misdeeds to give us something positive – a personal experience of something beautiful, of forgiving the way we ourselves have been forgiven.

Genesis 41 (50 Days – Day Forty One)

One day God found such favor in his servant, Solomon, that he came to him with an amazing offer. He offered to give to Solomon anything he wanted. He could have all the riches of the earth. He could have rule over all the nations. He could have any woman he wanted. Instead, Solomon asked simply for wisdom, so that he could govern God’s people effectively.

I heard a pastor once telling a personal story about how God had used that story in his life. This pastor had been faithful to God for a long time, and felt released to ask God for one thing, the way that Solomon did. He shared how he asked for a loving marriage, and has never regretted it.

Since that time, I’ve wondered what it would be like to have God give me that opportunity. If God could find me so faithful that I felt released to ask him for one thing, what would I ask for? What would you ask for? Perhaps my answer will change over time, but for the last year, the answer has been the same: influence. I would ask God to increase my influence with people. It would be an incredible burden and responsibility to be gifted with great influence, and my fear is that I would squander it. For that reason, I don’t really want it right now, but I want to become the kind of man that would use it exclusively for the glory of God.

It is with this in mind, that I read the account of Joseph’s rise to power in Genesis 41. He came through hardship and unjust treatment only to be given an opportunity at greatness in front of Pharaoh himself. Pharaoh asks him to interpret his dreams which his wisest of counselors could not do. Joseph has one chance to make a good impression and you’d think that he would want to make sure that he looked good in the eyes of Pharaoh. Most of us would see this as an opportunity to feign humility while in reality extolling our own virtues, in order that we could win favor with the King. Perhaps this is where Joseph gives us the best lesson of all: Always give credit to God.

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” – Genesis 41:15-16

It was a big risk to be that cheeky with Pharaoh. Knowing the situation, my response might have sounded like “Sure I’ll give it a try. Whatcha got?” Joseph’s response however is the ideal mix of faith (that without question God would provide the interpretation) and humility (in that Joseph would really just be the messenger).

This story reminds me of how much I have to learn if I want to be trusted with that level of influence. As much as I hate to admit it, I am still full of pride. I hate even writing it, as if it’s a secret that no one would have known if I didn’t open my big mouth. Pride is the enemy of influence. Let me correct that, Pride is the enemy of good influence, as it can only push it’s own agenda and has no room for God’s plans if they contradict each other. My prayer today scares me so badly that I feel I must write it or I will never honestly ask for it. My prayer is that God will do whatever he needs to do to humble me so that I can be emptied of myself and filled up with him.