Community Group Study “Genesis: God Meant it for Good”
Read Genesis 50:1-26
Our scripture opens with the death of Jacob and the mourning that surrounds his passing. Earlier in Genesis, Jacob had made Joseph swear to bury him with his fathers in the land of Canaan and Joseph follows through with that request. The memorial events for Jacob were extravagant. Jacob is embalmed, which was a 40 day process. Next, the nation mourned his death for 70 days publicly; to give some context that is around 2/3rds of our shelter in place time to date. Then, Joseph received permission to go and bury Jacob in the land of Canaan. Pharaoh sent along a huge group that included his servants, the elders of the house and the elders of the land of Egypt. Joseph’s family and all the brothers attend leaving behind only their children in the land of Egypt. An outside observe would see this and assume it was a royal procession. The Canaanites observe it and recognize it for how great the lament was, which included seven days of mourning while in Canaan. Finally Jacob is laid to rest with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah and Leah in the cave Abraham purchased as their foothold in the Promised Land.
Like any scenario involving loss and grief we see that Jacob’s death brings a crisis to the brothers. They wonder if Joseph has been just biding his time to get revenge and doubt the reality of the reconciliation and forgiveness we’ve seen develop over the last few chapters of Genesis (Genesis 50:15). The brothers fall back into patterns of their old life. Gathering together, they conspire against Joseph and send him a message saying that Jacob gave them final directives that Joseph ought to forgive them for what they did all those years before. The brothers doubt the reality of their already existing forgiveness so they bargain, conspire and try to secure their own future. This sounds similar to what many followers of Jesus can do in their relationship with God. When tempted or after sinning, instead of confessing and remembering the forgiveness and grace God offers, we can easily bargain, turn inward with guilt or fall back into patterns of our old life. Joseph does not respond with anger, but instead wept (Genesis 50:17). Do the brothers not know how real their already existing forgiveness is? Apparently in times of crisis we can be quick to doubt those things.
Joseph’s response reveals much about God’s character, sovereignty and purpose.
“… You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today.” This is arguably the most famous statement in Genesis and recaps the theme of Joseph’s life and God’s purpose in what his people will face as they will soon be enslaved in Egypt (Exodus), waiting to be delivered for the good of the world. God allowing his people to face evil, so that God can use it for good to bring about salvation for many. So Joseph’s perspective looks back on what happened to him, but also he looks forward with faith in what God will do for his people in the Exodus. But, let’s turn back ot the immediate events of the text. Notice Joseph does not deny the evil of his brothers past action. We cannot and should not excuse evil done to us. However, Joseph also recognizes God’s good purpose in all things including these horrendous events that took place in Genesis 37 and 39-40. Can it be that the same action has two sides to it like a coin? On one side we can rightly call it evil and on the other side we can look and see that God can intend it for good? We all suffer loss and experience things that can only be described as evil against us. Whether those things are “natural” things like disasters, disease and death; or purposeful harm from others like abuse, manipulation, or systemic injustice. This can be difficult for so many of us to understand, especially in the moment of the suffering but God’s providence is an anchor to our hope and our faith. Part of what makes it difficult in the moment is we do not know how it will end, yet we can rest certain that God will be with us to the end.
Genesis 50 closes out with Joseph living out his faith in God’s providence and placing his confidence in God’s future faithfulness. Joseph knows that God will bring his family out of Egypt in the future and he makes his family swear to bring his bones out of Egypt and back into the Promised Land. Why? Because God will take his people through a trial of sorrow, but will deliver them and be with them and bring them back.
God is fully trustworthy and what is meant for evil, God intends for good.
What is mean for evil can be intended by God for good. Joseph went through evil but is delivered to save many lives. God’s people will go through evil as slaves in Egypt but will be delivered and given the Promised land as a place for the watching world to see the blessing of God. Jesus will go through evil as he is crucified for the sins of the world, but God meant it for good so that many could be forgiven and brought into relationship with God. Likewise, we can trust that God will use the evil we experience in this life for our good and the good of those who love him.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read Genesis 50:15-21
Think about a movie you really enjoy. What was your experience when you watched that movie the first time vs when you rewatched it. How does knowing the ending, plot twists and drama effect how you view the film? What would it be like to go through the various trials of life again if you knew how they’d turn out?
Why doesn’t Joseph use this as an opportunity for revenge? How does God’s sovereignty free us from needing to seek revenge? (Read Romans 12:14-21 to help form your thoughts and discussion).
Joseph looked back on the events of his life and states to his brothers “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” Notice the action or event doesn’t change, the only thing that changes is the perspective of its purpose. What gives Joseph confidence to declare that God can mean evil things for good? How should this aspect of God’s character help us in times of suffering?