Proper 15
Gen. 45:1-15

The pastor was devastated when the church he had served for 12 years rejected him. Ignoring his self-sacrificing service and faithful ministry of the Word, the lay leadership decided it was time for a change. For months afterward, the increasingly bitter minister opened his newspaper to the obituaries every morning. He wanted to see which one of those deacons or their wives God had smitten dead. It did not help when a few of the old saints in the congregation began to appear on those pages instead of the troublemakers.

Joseph also hurt deeply when his brothers plotted to kill him. They threw him in a pit and left him to die. Some of them took him out and sold him as a slave to a passing Midianite caravan on the way to Egypt. In spite of faithful service to his new master there, Joseph found himself falsely accused and locked in prison to languish for years. It hurt, of course, but Joseph overcame his bitterness. How did he do it? And how can you?

I. It helps to see the hand of God in all that happens (Genesis 45:5-8)

Eventually God brought Joseph out of prison and elevated him to be vice regent of all Egypt. Then a famine brought his brothers to Egypt to buy food. When Joseph revealed his identity to them, “they were terrified at his presence” (Genesis 45:1-3). He told them: “Do not be distressed, and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because…God sent me…” (Genesis 45:5). We can forgive and move on when we see that God is ultimately in control. We are God’s chosen, and we are victors – not victims.

II. It matters, too, if you know that God is working purposefully (Genesis 45:5).

We do not always understand the mystery of God’s plan. He does not always share the details with us either in advance or afterwards. In this case, Joseph could see now that all that happened to him was part of God’s plan. “It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…God sent me…to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:5-7). God has a plan for your life, too. Can you see it yet?

III. It makes all the difference to realize that the purpose of God is a benevolent providence (Genesis 50:20).

Eventually their father Jacob died, and they took him back to Hebron for burial. On the way home, Joseph’s brothers, still burdened with guilt, pleaded for clemency. “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 50:20).

When something happens to leave you feeling hurt and rejected, don’t slip into the pit of bitterness. And if you find yourself there, take this rope: “God intended it for good.”

William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) was a hymn writer and poet and well acquainted with heartbreak and disappointment. Though one of 18th century England’s greatest writers, he was often disabled by bouts of depression and loss of touch with reality. You may know him best for one poem.
“God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform; He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm. . . . Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.”

There is a way out of bitterness and despair. It is not to resort to resentment or revenge. It is to embrace the providence of a wise and loving God.

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