Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for May 19

Here’s the Explore the Bible Sunday School lesson commentary for May 19, written by Ben Stubblefield, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile.

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for May 19

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By Dr. Ben Stubblefield
Visiting assistant professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

RECONCILE?

Genesis 45:1–15

I knew church work would come with all kinds of triumphs and trials. But I did not expect to do the most counseling with folks on the issue of forgiveness. I was probably naive. Now that I’m older, I certainly understand why. Human relationships are combustible.

We are filled with potential for misunderstanding, stubbornness, vengeance and bitterness. We’re prone to it and yet don’t want it. We cause the dissolution of friendships but hate that we do. We feel justified in our bitterness but want to be at peace.

Why and how can we move past the turmoil that so often drives wedges among our friends and family?

As we get closer to the end of the Joseph narrative, the saga includes one of the most incredible moments of forgiveness and provides for us a preview of the way of forgiveness in the ministry of Jesus.

I am Joseph (1–3)

The famine in the land had brought Jacob’s sons to Egypt and before Joseph in order to barter for grain. It’s quite a shocking turn of events, and it reads almost like a Charles Dickens novel. Of course, the brothers do not recognize Joseph. He’s older now, likely speaks Egyptian and is dressed like a foreign lord.

Joseph arranges a series of events that would force his brothers to come before him repeatedly. Perhaps Joseph is testing his brothers, or perhaps he is simply trying to understand what to do with his brothers — vengeance, justice or forgiveness.

In this moment, he can contain himself no longer. He weeps “so loudly that the Egyptians heard it” and reveals his identity, saying, “I am Joseph.”

The brothers are stunned, silent and most likely terrified. What would Joseph do to them?

God sent me (4–8)

In an effort to console his brothers, Joseph invites them to take a closer look. And then he speaks words of comfort, reconciliation and hope.

He doesn’t pronounce judgment. He doesn’t accuse them. He doesn’t even blame them. Approximately 20 years have passed — 20 years of prison, false accusation and living in a foreign land. Every day he may have thought about the trauma.

And now that his traitors are in his grasp, he lays the responsibility for his circumstances at the feet of God. He says three times, “God sent me” (vv. 5, 7, 8). Joseph understood that this moment was not God delivering the wicked into his hands but God using their folly so He could rescue this family.

Joseph could not see God working and yet he was faithful. He could have pursued revenge — and the world would have understood that pursuit of justice — yet he instead pursued redemption.

Settle in Goshen (9–15)

For Joseph the forgiveness was not just emotional, but it came with greater and lavish gifts. The land of Goshen was the best of Egypt.

In terms of the known world, we might even refer to it as a kind of Eden. Forgiveness came with gifts, and it came with an emotional reconciliation: “Joseph kissed each of his brothers as he wept, and afterward his brothers talked with him” (v. 15). The author presents for us quite a scene.

The speed and breadth of Joseph’s mercy is astonishing, as is our Lord’s. Our God does not simply overlook our sins. He receives us as His own, cleanses us from unrighteousness and makes us heirs to His eternal Kingdom. His mercy is like Joseph’s but better.

His is a grace that we’ll have no less days to sing about into the coming ages and beyond.