I watched a movie recently were two brothers were reunited after the Civil War. They ran into each other just as the war was over. They fought on opposing sides, but they forgot their differences and traveled back home together. They had each fought for what they believed to be right, but when the war was over they embraced each other. One was thought to have died in the war but everyone was glad to see them even though they fought for opposing beliefs.
We may be separated from loved ones because of job relocation, military service, ministry calling, or division in the relationships. Sometimes we may live in close proximity to a loved one and yet be separated because of hurt feelings. Sometimes we allow hurt feelings to fester, and we become bitter toward another family member. Sometimes those torn relationships between family members can be the most difficult to restore.
Where division occurs, God can work to bring about restoration and healing.
1. What makes restoring a broken relationship so difficult?
2. What makes attempting to restore a broken relationship worth the effort?
In today’s focal passage we will examine how God worked to reconcile Joseph and his brothers. We will see how God worked through events in Joseph’s life to bring about the hard work of reconciliation.
Last week we ended with Joseph being exalted to the second highest position in Egypt because of the wisdom God had given him. Today we find the seven years of plenty have passed and the drought is only in its second year, with five years yet to come. Canaan, where Jacob and all of his family lived, was also experiencing drought. They heard that there was grain in Egypt. So Jacob told his sons to go to Egypt and buy grain. Ten brothers went the first time, leaving Benjamin at home.
Joseph accused them of being spies and kept Simeon as hostage until they returned with Benjamin. After some time Jacob relented and allowed them to return with Benjamin.
What happened next? (Discuss the cup hidden in Benjamin’s sack and Judah’s plea for Benjamin.)
(Write “22 years” on the board.)
Revealed! Read Genesis 45:1-4
Twenty-two years had passed since his brothers sold him into slavery. Their relationship had been splintered longer than that.
1. What emotions might have been evident in this scene between Joseph and his brothers? (Joseph wept uncontrollably, even to the point that those in Pharaoh’s house could hear him. His brothers were petrified with fear!)
Joseph spoke Egyptian to his servants, so his brothers had no idea what was happening or about to happen.
2. If you had been in Joseph’s place, what do you think you would have done?
3. What is the best way to initiate a reconciliation process? (Bathe the situation with prayer. Come face to face with the real issue between you and the other person. Express your willingness, in love, to resolve the issue. If you are the offended, offer forgiveness. If you have offended someone, in love, ask for their forgiveness.)
Realize it may take more time for the healing than you thought.
There are situations, such as battered spouse or an abused child, where reconciliation is not possible. Legal action may be necessary.
Read Mark 9:50
Read Romans 12:18
Read Romans 14:19
4. What attitudes, words, and actions should a believer embrace to live peaceably with others?
When people have wronged us, we are wise to avoid getting revenge, for vengeance belongs to God—Rom. 12. In His perfect wisdom, God knows exactly what is best!
We’ve seen the emotional moment when Joseph proclaimed his identity to his brothers. Now let’s see how Joseph pointed to God’s plan at work in his life.
Remnant! Read Genesis 45:5-8
1. How did Joseph set his brothers at ease? (He told them not to be worried, because he didn’t plan to harm them. He even told them to forgive themselves because this was all God’s plan.)
When we have wronged others, forgiving ourselves can be just as difficult as seeking forgiveness from the ones we have hurt.
We must remember that if God has forgiven us then we need to forgive ourselves.
2. How did Joseph’s understanding of God’s purposes help him show forgiveness to his brothers? (Joseph told them that God’s plan was bigger than their hatred of him. He said that it was God’s plan for him to be in Egypt at this strategic point so he could help with the famine and consequently, with their own family.)
3. Challenges and hardships are part of the human condition. What are the various ways people respond to challenges and hardships? (List on the board.)
4. How does it change our response to the challenges and hardships when we are looking to see God at work in the circumstances? (God focused rather than “me” focused.)
Read the paragraph that begins, “Spiritually discerning…” from the PSG p. 123.
5. How can believers increase their awareness of God working in their lives?
6. How does looking at the big picture of life help a person deal with past hurts and injustices?
We see how Joseph continued to focus on God’s plan for his life, unfolding even in the difficult seasons.
Reunion! Read Genesis 45:9-13
1. Beyond forgiveness, what did Joseph display to his brothers who had wronged him? (Joseph displayed mercy, love, kindness, and a concern for the well-being of his family even when his brothers had wronged him.)
God wants us to care for others without judgment if it is in our power to do so. (See Prov. 3:27)
2. Why did Joseph express such urgency in bringing his father back to Egypt? (Joseph knew the seriousness of the famine.)
3. How can we show that we genuinely seek reconciliation?
(Give class members a copy of “Path to Reconciliation.” Read the paragraph at the top of the page and discuss similarities as time allows.)
We see how Joseph took tangible steps toward reconciliation by physically providing for his father and brothers, as God provided a way. Now let’s see further evidence of Joseph’s mercy.
Restored! Read Genesis 45:14-15
As believers, we should carry an attitude of forgiveness and openness. We can’t go through life without being wounded in some way or wounding someone else in some way. We must be willing to humbly ask for forgiveness and with great mercy and grace, grant forgiveness to those we’ve wronged.
1. How did Joseph show mercy to his brothers? (He initiated the first step of restoration by revealing himself to them. Then he kissed them as a sign of peace.)
2. How do these verses urge us to get rid of bitterness and hatred? (As Joseph forgave his brothers, God desires that we forgive others as we have been forgiven—Eph. 4:32)
Living at peace with others means we may need to take the first step toward reconciliation with those we have offended or who have offended us.
Extending forgiveness and grace to those who have hurt us takes courage, but if we are serious about living biblically, we must take the initiative and seek reconciliation.
Summarize and Challenge!
1. Privately: In what ways do you identify with Joseph’s story?
2. How has God’s sovereignty been evident in your life?
Take some time to think about why you may need to forgive or seek forgiveness from someone this week. What actions do you need to take?
Pray asking God to help you bring restoration to difficult relationships you may have in your life.