Three mean-looking guys on motorcycles pulled into a truck stop café where a trucker was eating his lunch at the counter. As soon as they entered the café and spotted the little man on the middle stool, they walked up behind and grabbed his food. Next, they spun him around and laughed in his face. And you know what the trucker did? Nothing. He simply paid his bill and walked out without saying a word.
One of the bikers was unhappy that they hadn’t succeeded in provoking the small man into a fight; and he bragged to the witness, “He sure wasn’t much of a man, was he?” The waitress replied, “No, I guess not.” Then, glancing out of the window she added, “I guess he’s not much of a truck driver, either, because he just ran over all three of your motorcycles.”
Remember the old adage, “Don’t get mad, get even.” That pretty much sums up the natural inclination of the human heart – not only to others, but to God.
Have you lived long enough, and thought deeply enough, to know that most problems people have with God are not theological, but personal? I think of Elizabeth Elliot’s whose first husband was murdered by cannibals to whom he and several others had come to minister. Her second husband died of cancer. And she wrote about it.
“The experiences of my life are not such that I could infer from them that God is good, gracious, and merciful necessarily. To have one husband murdered in the cause of Christ and another one disintegrate, body, soul, and spirit, through cancer, is not what you would call a proof of the love of God. In fact, there are many times when it looks like just the opposite. My belief in the love of God is not by inference or instinct. It is by faith.” And that’s exactly what we see in Sunday’s text – Genesis 50:15-21.
After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a woman in Kentucky who took him to a grand old tree that once stood in front of her house. There in front of that tree she wept bitterly that the Union soldiers had come and destroyed its limbs and trunk. She looked for a word of condemnation from the general. Surely he would see her plight and share in her mourning. But, after a brief silence, the God-fearing general looked her in the eye and said, “Cut it down, my dear madam, and forget it.” But how do you get there? How do you get to the place where you don’t only forgive and forget, but love? Joseph shows us.
In preparation for Sunday’s message, “The Mark of a Changed Heart”, you may wish to consider the following:
- How long has it been since Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery?
- How long has it been that they and their father have lived in Egypt?
- What would prompt them to think that Joseph may wish to pay them back for all their evil?
- What does their message in verse 16 signal about their desperation?
- Why does Joseph weep? (Note verse 17)
- Do you see any similarities between these brothers in verse 18 and the youngest son in Luke 15?
- What does Joseph’s response in verses 19-21 say about his changed heart?
- Who does Joseph most resemble in the Scriptures?
- In what ways does the story of Joseph mirror Jesus’ story?