SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
November 18 2007
God Can Redeem Our Suffering and Make Us a Blessing
Key Verse: God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. – Genesis 45:7
The great affirmation of this lesson is that God can redeem our suffering. That this is true should make us feel like shouting Hallelujah! God redeemed and made sense of Joseph’s suffering. We shall explore that in these chapters. But there is another angle we should examine first. God also redeemed the suffering of Joseph’s brothers and the suffering of his father Jacob.
Imagine how Joseph’s brothers suffered for more than 20 long years the guilt of getting rid of their arrogant brother. Every time they saw a pit of any kind, they must have relived the sight of their helpless brother Joseph in the pit where they had thrown him.
The brothers had done an evil thing – and they had gotten away with it. No CSI team turned up evidence to expose their wickedness. For years they must have been nervous when strangers came by their home; perhaps they had come to inform Jacob of their evil deed.
Their sleep surely was interrupted countless nights. They would wake up in a cold sweat, having heard in their dreams Joseph begging them not to leave him to die in the pit. Guilt has a way of torturing us relentlessly for our sins.
The sight of any young boy wearing a coat of many colors would have triggered their guilt. Instantly they would see the anguish on the face of their brother Joseph the last time they saw him. How they must have hated the sight of any man wearing such a jacket.
When at last Joseph revealed his identity as their brother, the brothers’ load of guilt turned instantly into fear. They must have thought, “We are dead men now; our brother will take his revenge and kill us.”
Then to their amazement they found that revenge was not on Joseph’s mind. Instead he offered them his forgiveness, inviting them to see what Joseph saw – the gracious hand of God at work, using their treacherous deed as a means of blessing them and many others. Instead of justice, Joseph’s brothers experienced the kindness of God.
The heavy weight of their guilt was removed, like a burden rolled away by the power of God. Not only would their hungry families have food to eat in years of famine, they were savoring as well the sweet taste of forgiveness. After so many years of suffering for their sin, God had redeemed their suffering!
How Jacob must have suffered over the years, remembering the son he had loved so dearly and mourning his tragic death. The death of a child takes something out of a father. It is like a chunk of his heart is torn out. He never gets over it though he manages somehow to go on with life. But life is never the same. The heart-wrenching loss of one’s own flesh and blood colors life with somber shades of realism.
Finally, after all those years of heartache, Jacob discovers that his beloved son Joseph was not killed by wild animals. He is alive! And Joseph is now in a position to provide for his entire family and spare them from years of famine. Though Jacob must pack up and move once again, he will now be blessed by the reunion of his family and their rescue from poverty. All of this, Jacob realizes, has occurred because God had a plan to use Joseph for the benefit of his entire family. God has redeemed Jacob’s suffering by turning his sorrow into joy.
And what of Joseph’s suffering? His
tears flowed for much more than the emotional reunion with his brothers.
Incredible joy swept his soul as it dawned on him that God had a purpose for
all Joseph’s suffering. Suddenly God showed him that everything had happened
for a reason. It was not his brothers who had sent him to
Joseph saw the purpose of his life as he gazed at his frightened brothers. He realized the futility of revenge. He understood the beauty of forgiveness. He saw God at work. He knew the unbelievable joy of knowing that God was using his life to bless others. There is no greater joy to be found in this world than the joy of knowing that God has a purpose for your life and that he can redeem your suffering and make you a blessing to others. May God be merciful and give us such joy and understanding about our own suffering.
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