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The Bigger Picture

Notes & Transcripts

The Bigger Picture

Gen 45:1-21; 50:15-21

Purpose, along with last week's lesson:  To learn a great Old Testament story, see the working out of God's promise to His people, and look forward through the life of Joseph to the work of our savior Jesus Christ.  To be reminded of the trustworthiness of God's forgiveness of our sins (as the forgiveness in Gen 45 should not have needed to be affirmed in Gen 50).


Last week we learned how Abraham's great grandson Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt by his envious brothers.  This week, we learn how God used human evil to bring about His purposes for Abraham's chosen people and for us.

1.  Last week we learned how Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery.  This week I have a followup question.  What if you were one of Joseph's brothers, and you met Joseph years later. Now he's prime minister of a great dictatorship, and you are in his country, in his power.  How do you feel?  Is your future looking bright, or not so bright?

And what if you were Joseph?  You've been very fortunate, and somehow you've become prime minister.  You're number two in Egypt, right below Pharoah.  Now your brothers show up needing help.  How do you want to treat them?

At the end of last week's lesson I suggesed you read Genesis 39 through 44, to see how Joseph fared in Egypt.  Did anybody read it? Will you summarize the story for the rest of the class?

Joseph was sold to Potiphar, Pharoah's captain of the guard.

Promoted to overseer of Potiphar's house.

Falsely accused by Potiphar's wife.


Put in charge of all the other prisoners.

Pharaoh's cupbearer and baker imprisoned.

Each had a dream.

Joseph interpreted (cupbearer's good, baker's bad)/

Joseph's interpretations were correct: cupbearer restored, baker executed.

Pharoah's dreams - cows and corn.

Cupbearer told him about Joseph.

Joseph interpreted the dreams - 7 years of plenty; 7 of famine.

Joseph made prime minister.

His brothers sent to Egypt to buy grain.

Joseph recognized them; they didn't recognize him.

Joseph schemed to get Benjamin to Egypt so he could see him.

Ask volunteers to read Genesis 45:1-15

2.  How much time elapses from last week's lesson to this week's? How old is Joseph in today's lesson?  Hint:  Read Gen 37:2, 41:46, 45:6.

22 year, and Joseph is now 39 years old.

He was 17 when sold (Gen 37:2), 30 when called by Pharaoah (Gen 41:46), then 7 years of plenty (Gen 41:53-54) and 2 of famine (Gen 45:6).

3.  2.  What is the pivotal event in this story?

Many possibilities.  Talk about them.  Just about everything had to work the way it did, to bring the story to where it is in Genesis 45!

4.  Role play:  You all are Joseph's brothers; I'm Jacob.  Explain to me what's happened.  How did Joseph treat you?  Why? 

He didn't give justice, but mercy - grace.

Just because he was gracious and loved his brothers, in spite of everything. 

He understood God's hand (First Cause) at work behind the second causes.

Re-read verses 4-8 to see God's hand at work.

The pivotal events we talked about above were second causes explaining how things unfolded the way they did.  Second causes are important.  We study them in science, and we see them at work in our everyday lives and in world events. But Joseph calls our attention to the first Cause:  God working His will..

Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 50:15-21

5.  Did Joseph's brothers believe he had really forgiven them in Chapter 45?

Evidently not.

6.  Do you ever find youself doubting that Jesus has really forgiven you?

What words do we hear in the liturgy that reassure us of Jesus forgiveness?  Hint:  Read the introduction to the words of absolution in the general confession and absolution.

How do we know these words are true?  Hint:  Read 1 John 1:9.

7.  Is there anything in Gen 45:1-15; 50:15-21 that should be understood figuratively in addition to its literal meaning?

Last week we learned how Joseph's life was similar to Jesus' life:

1.     The birth of Joseph was miraculous in that it was by the intervention of God as an answer to prayer. The Lord Jesus is virgin born. His birth was certainly miraculous!

2.     Joseph was loved by his father. The Lord Jesus was loved by His Father, who declared, “This is My beloved Son.”

3.     Joseph had the coat of many colors which set him apart. Christ was set apart in that He was “separate from sinners.”

4.     Joseph announced that he was to rule over his brothers. The Lord Jesus presented Himself as the Messiah. Just as they ridiculed Joseph’s message, so they also ridiculed Jesus. In fact, nailed to His cross were the words: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

5.     Joseph was sent by his father to his brothers. Jesus was sent to His brothers and sisters—He came first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel - to his own people, who didn't know him.

6.     Joseph was hated by his brothers without a cause, and the Lord Jesus was hated by His people without a cause.

This week we add the following:

7. Joseph went down to Egypt; Christ went into the world. Joseph saves Egypt from a famine of grain; Christ frees the world from a famine of the Word of God.

8. The major difference, of course, is that Joseph was only reported to be dead, while Jesus Christ did give His life on the cross and was raised from the dead in order to save us.

8.  What have we learned, besides a great story?

God's forgiveness is sure, not requiring us to "keep checking."

Can you live graciously, as Joseph lived?

God as First Cause.

To close, ask a volunteer to read Romans 8:31-39.

   Romans 8:31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,

     “For your sake we are being killed all day long;

     we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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