22 November 2023

Genesis 45:1-5

'God sent me before you to preserve life.' (v. 5)

Psalm 6


Today’s reading is very short in comparison to yesterday’s, but within it we find the clue to the whole of the Joseph story, indeed the whole of the book of Genesis and beyond. Back in Genesis chapter 12 God made a promise to Abraham that his family would become a great nation. Given Abraham and Sarah’s age at the time this seemed impossible, and yet it was fulfilled with the birth of Isaac. Now, in the time of Jacob and his sons, it seemed as though Abraham’s descendants would be wiped out through famine. However once again, albeit through the most unlikely of ways involving jealous treachery and imprisonment on false charges, God had been at work to keep his promise. Joseph’s insight to his brothers, that their actions had unwittingly been the vehicle of God’s providential protection, opened up a new relationship with them. It also brought hope to later generations that God is always still at work through difficult circumstances to bring about good outcomes.

Not that this important theological insight came easily to Joseph.  The level of emotion in today’s passage is striking. From the time when his brothers had first captured him and sold him into slavery (see Genesis 37:18-36), through his experiences in prison and on to his rise to power and responsibility in Egypt, Joseph had been carrying a heavy burden. His concern to test his brothers and discover if they had undergone a change of heart also demanded much of him. So we need not be surprised at the intensity of this emotional release. Joseph might be powerful and wise but he, like us, was also a vulnerable human being.


To Ponder:

  •  What helps you to see that God is at work even in difficult or disappointing circumstances?
  • In meeting first with Benjamin (Genesis 43:29-30) and then in revealing himself to his brothers Joseph weeps, but he does so either in private or in only his brothers’ presence. Does this have anything to teach us about how we handle our own strong emotions?


Merciful God, help us in the difficult moments of our lives to sense that you are still at work, and shield us with your loving protection. Amen.

Bible notes author

The Revd Donald Ker

Donald Ker is a supernumerary minister originally from the Methodist Church in Ireland. He now lives in Solihull, near Birmingham. He has served as a circuit minister, as a university chaplain, as Senior Tutor in Edgehill Theological College and as Superintendent Minister at Belfast Central Mission. Donald was also General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland for some years and its President in 2009/2010.

Share this