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News for Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sunday School Lesson — Bible Studies for Life
Nov. 17: The Big Picture
By Rick Stevens
11/12/2013

Focal Passage: Genesis 37:5-8, 26-28; 50:15-21

God is Lord over all situations. When we wonder about the meaning and purpose of some circumstances in our lives, we often turn to Romans 8:28. “All things work together.” We should know that the Old Testament makes the same case. 

Genesis 1-11 is the story of beginnings and chapters 12-50 is the story of patriarchs like Abraham and Joseph. In the midst of the Joseph story, we see a powerful example of God’s purpose over a long period of time. Joseph is the character who was the son of Jacob and his favorite wife, Rachel. He was a favored child, given a special coat of many colors. While favored by his father, he was despised by his many brothers. This story gives a great finale to our “When Relationships Collide.”

Self righteous attitudes and actions arouse others’ hatred — Genesis 37:5-8. God has used dreams to communicate from time to time. In the Joseph story, he dreamed about a future day when he would rule over his brothers. Even patriarchs can say things that are not received well. Jacob’s family would be labeled “dysfunctional” in the modern day. There was a pattern of favoritism, jealousy, and heartache that showed up in the story of this family. When Joseph shares his dream, his brothers did not see a break in the pattern. They felt unloved and rejected. No doubt, Joseph had a different role in the family. His coat implies that his workload was different from the brothers. Ten brothers are now ready to see a way to settle accounts with this young brother, who was unfairly privileged. Just as families can be scarred and dysfunctional today, this story shows that God works with real live people.

Life can be disrupted by conflicts — Genesis 37:26-28. The opportunity for revenge became available for the brothers of Joseph. They discussed how to get rid of Joseph as a threat to their position. They dismissed the thought of killing him and covering up the death. Instead, they decided to sell Joseph to some traveling traders as a slave. The caravan was headed toward Egypt. They sold him into slavery for the common price of a young slave. They felt this would absolve them of the blame for his death, even though this was likely a death sentence. Then with the coat, they made up a story to tell Jacob that would lead him to believe that Joseph had been killed by an animal. Jacob grieved deeply the loss of Joseph. Dysfunctional or not, this family was now in the grip of pain from the actions of the brothers.

God can bring good out of evil — Genesis 50:15-21. The connecting chapters of Genesis tell a rich version of Joseph’s saga. He is sold into slavery and serves a man who is a civil servant named Potiphar. He rises in responsibility and then is falsely accused of rape. This leads to time in prison and then a new opportunity and a rise to improbable power and position. As the years go by, Genesis records Joseph’s brothers needing food during a famine. They come to Egypt to find that Joseph is the man in charge. Jacob has died, but the brothers now are in a position where God allows them to have to make amends. Messages of forgiveness and reconciliation are shared as the story wraps up. Then in verse 20 Joseph says “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result — the survival of many people.” Despite the evil actions of the brothers, God was still in charge. We all struggle with the problem of evil. This passage reminds us God is Lord over all situations. Even when he seems absent, God is still aware and engaged. 

The Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament is here in Genesis 50:20. It is a lesson learned in the hard places of Joseph’s life. Is there a place where we need to be reminded today of God’s view of the Big Picture? He sees it all. He is not finished. He is still Lord! 

— Stevens is director of missions, Cumberland Baptist Association, based in Clarksville.

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