Bible Study: War or Peace

Love changes things—for the better.

Holding onto hostility is tempting, perhaps even in vogue. But good comes to those who promote peace. In one Old Testament story, the Lord used Joseph’s situation to preserve the nation of Israel for the Messiah’s future coming. Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers can also inspire us to work for the good of everyone—God blesses us so we can bless others. And that works best when tensions have been resolved.

 

READ

Genesis 45:4-28

 

BACKGROUND

It’s about 13 years since Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery and implied to their father that he was dead. Joseph in time rose to great power in Egypt. His brothers, who’ve come to buy grain during a famine, don’t recognize their now influential sibling.

 

REFLECT

Joseph’s brothers have hurt him badly, but even when recognized, they do not ask for forgiveness.

  • Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers and invites them to “come closer” (Gen. 45:4). He even uses the Hebrew entreaty na, a stronger word than please, such as “I beg you.” This statement is in stark contrast to the last time Joseph approached his brothers, when they ripped off his clothing and threw him in a pit (Gen. 37:23-24). How would you describe the state of Joseph’s heart toward his brothers now? What would it look like to invite someone who’s hurt you to “come closer”?

  • To the world, Joseph would be justified in denouncing his brothers—but he doesn’t. Instead, he rejoices in God’s plan to save them all (Gen. 45:5-8). Though our misfortunes may not be part of such an important plan, we know that God uses each one for our good (Rom. 8:28). What does this indicate about the relationship between trusting Him and turning the other cheek (Matt. 5:39)?

  • Jesus likens peacemakers to “sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). Elsewhere, that description refers to those who “love [their] enemies” (Matt. 5:44-45). Peacemaker, then, applies to not only one who mediates between others but also a person who relinquishes personal hostility, as Joseph did. Since “maker” implies action, can you describe something you’ve done recently, or could do, as a child of God fostering peace?

 

CONTINUING THE STORY

The peace between Joseph and his brothers brings a dramatic change: Joseph offers his siblings and father a home in Egypt with him, along with provisions to help them survive years of famine.

Is there something you could do for someone but have been putting off because of unresolved conflict?

  • Is there something you could do for someone but have been putting off because of unresolved conflict? How can you pave the way to shared blessing for everyone?

  • After Joseph’s explanation and expressions of forgiveness, the whole group cries, embraces, and talks together (Gen. 45:15). When tension between people ends, the relief felt is often powerful and filled with joy (though later, in Genesis 45:24, Joseph did have to remind his brother to “not quarrel”). Have you ever experienced this kind of change in a group dynamic or a relationship that had been troubled? Were you able to maintain that change, or did it require renewed peacemaking?

 

REFLECT

Peace heals wounds and restores us.

  • Genesis 45:25 refers to Joseph’s father as “Jacob.” But when Jacob is convinced that Joseph is alive and they will be reunited, Genesis 45:27 says his spirit revived—the same word used in 1 Chronicles 11:8 for the rebuilding of a ruined city. Jacob is then referred to as “Israel,” the special name he received from God years earlier (Gen. 32:28). The effort to make peace can have deeply felt and beautiful consequences for the suffering of others.

 

GOING FURTHER

Consider how this study applies to your life.

Bringing peace in a room, let alone the heart of an enemy, is a sacred calling and one of the joys of being a Christian. And while it often means rolling up our sleeves and getting involved, we should never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers. While He can’t be seen, He can certainly be felt. This presence is a force to be reckoned with and may invoke powerful reactions without our saying a word—whether the reaction is one of fear or love depends on the heart of the person encountering Him.

Bringing peace in a room, let alone the heart of an enemy, is a sacred calling and one of the joys of being a Christian.

  • Believers are “a fragrance of Christ”—the aroma of either death or life (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). Have you sensed this effect of your presence on others? If so, were you surprised how little it seemed to do with you personally?

  • What do you think Jesus meant by “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34)? Can peacemaking be consistent with the division often brought by the gospel? How?

  • Perhaps you’ve known situations where you couldn’t bring peace—say, with people who refused to reconcile or forgive. Scripture says we’re not to participate in the trading of offenses but promises we’ll be blessed for blessing others (1 Peter 3:9). What can you do today to bless someone who’s unwilling to reconcile?

  • It’s our privilege, through the Holy Spirit, to bring peace wherever it will be received. Even when some say no to Jesus, it’s still possible to maintain a loving stance by remembering to keep the sword in the gospel and not in our hearts.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Reading Bible

Related Stories

360x360identifying-fear
How to Identify Fear

We all want to take Jesus seriously when He says “be not afraid” but we may not be fully aware of what scares us. Here are 13 questions to help.

By Ed Welch

4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, Please come closer to me." And they came closer. And he said, I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.

5 Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.

6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.

7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.

8 Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

9 Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, `Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay.

10 You shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have.

11 There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, and you and your household and all that you have would be impoverished."'

12 Behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth which is speaking to you.

13 Now you must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and all that you have seen; and you must hurry and bring my father down here."

14 Then he fell on his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck.

15 He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.

16 Now when the news was heard in Pharaoh's house that Joseph's brothers had come, it pleased Pharaoh and his servants.

17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, Say to your brothers, `Do this: load your beasts and go to the land of Canaan,

18 and take your father and your households and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you will eat the fat of the land.'

19 Now you are ordered, `Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father and come.

20 Do not concern yourselves with your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.'"

21 Then the sons of Israel did so; and Joseph gave them wagons according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey.

22 To each of them he gave changes of garments, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of garments.

23 To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and sustenance for his father on the journey.

24 So he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, Do not quarrel on the journey."

25 Then they went up from Egypt, and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob.

26 They told him, saying, Joseph is still alive, and indeed he is ruler over all the land of Egypt." But he was stunned, for he did not believe them.

27 When they told him all the words of Joseph that he had spoken to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived.

28 Then Israel said, It is enough; my son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die."

23 So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him;

24 and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.

5 Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.

6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.

7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.

8 Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

15 He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.

24 So he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, Do not quarrel on the journey."

25 Then they went up from Egypt, and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob.

27 When they told him all the words of Joseph that he had spoken to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived.

8 He built the city all around, from the Millo even to the surrounding area; and Joab repaired the rest of the city.

28 He said, Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed."

15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;

16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?

34 Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

Background Color:
Light
Aa
Dark
Aa
Font size:
A
A
A