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Monday | The Shame of Man & the Nature of God
Genesis 41:56–42:1 | As Chapter 42 begins, Moses invites us into an awkward family meeting. Jacob’s large family is running out of food quickly in the midst of a terrible famine, and they hear news of an abundance of food in Egypt. It’s a no-brainer. Jacob calls his sons together to hear the wonderful news. Except it doesn’t seem wonderful to them…at all. They are seemingly petrified at the mere mention of Egypt. As the 10 sons are listening to the news, they are having 10 simultaneous flashbacks involving a coat, a pit, a caravan of slave traders heading to Egypt, and a wicked decision they had been trying to forget about for 20 years. Yet, God knows that they’ve got to go back before they can move forward, and he’s willing to climb into the muck of their past to bring them into life.
1. Can you relate with the 10 brothers about things that you have done in your past that you’ve tried to forget about and “bury”?
2. Spend a moment in silence asking God if there is something he wants to uncover and deal with in your heart and write it down.
Read Hebrews 4:13. We’ve all experienced it at one time or other. The elephant in the room. An elephant in the room is something that has happened to bring discord or awkwardness to a relationship, but that neither person chooses to recognize. Both people choose to keep a pseudo-relationship rather than going through the pain of dealing with the issue. God does not have elephants in his rooms. He always moves towards his people to expose their sin and bring it into the light. Just as he did with Joseph’s brothers.
3. How does this aspect of God’s character challenge the way you see God?
4. Does Hebrews 4:13 bring relief or a sense of shame to your heart as you read it? Why?
Read Hebrews 4:14–16 | This isn’t how it should be. This isn’t how a perfect God should treat wicked sinners. But it is. He isn’t ashamed of us or disappointed at our sin, but he sympathizes with us and moves towards us full of grace and mercy. He established his love for us on the cross and continues to pursue us by his Spirit.
5. Read Hebrews 4:13–16 together. After reading 14–16, what should be our reaction at verse 13?
6. If God brought to mind things from your past in question 2, then spend some time now asking God to help you see him moving towards you in that area with kind love, tender mercy, and generous grace.
Tuesday | Attention Grabbers
Genesis 42:2–17 | If their attention wasn’t grabbed when their father mentioned going to Egypt, it sure was when they got there. When they got to the front of the grain line, their worst fears were realized as the man in charge called them spies and threw them into prison. What they thought was the end of them was only the beginning of God’s process of restoration. When God initiates his transforming grace in our lives, things rarely go as planned.
1. What are some ways that God has grabbed your attention in the past?
2. God used a 7-year famine to grab the attention of Joseph’s brothers and start the process of restoration. What does this tell you about the character of God?
3. Spend a moment thinking about this question: Might God be using current events in your life and in our world to draw your attention to areas of your life in which he wants to transform you? Write those down.
Read Psalm 139:23–24. David has an incredibly open heart in this Psalm, giving God free reign to grab his attention and search his heart. David is not afraid of God’s searching gaze because he trusts in the tender mercy and grace of God towards him.
4. Do you often have this same desire as David did: for God to search your heart and grab your attention? Why or why not?
5. David doesn’t stop with asking God to search his heart but also asks God to lead him forward in verse 24. What might it look like for you to be led by God in some of the areas you wrote down in Question 3?
6. Pray and ask God to give you a heart that is open to him speaking to you through his Word, circumstances, and other people.
Wednesday | Owning Up
Genesis 42:18–21 | If God grabs our attention and exposes our sin in order to lead us to restoration, how do we respond to him? Joseph’s brothers were in this very situation. Their attention had been grabbed and they were looking their past in the eye. Finally, they began to respond to what God was doing. Rather than choosing to ignore or deny the past, they owned it. This is where our response begins.
1. The Biblical word for owning our sins is ‘Confession.’ What does confession look like in your walk with God? Is this something you do often?
Read Psalm 32:1–5 | This is the promise of owning our sin. When we cover our sin, our hearts are filled with deceit, and we groan under sin’s burden. But, as we acknowledge our sin, we experience the joy and freedom of the free gift of forgiveness.
2. Has there ever been a time when you had this very experienced described in Psalm 32 where you were burdened under the weight of your sin and then experienced freedom and joy when you confessed it? Spend a moment reflecting on it.
3. Right now in your relationship with God, do you feel burdened with hiddenness or overjoyed at the free gift of forgiveness?
Joseph’s brothers began their process of restoration when they recognized their sin before one another. Biblical confession involves other people. David confessed his sin to Nathan the prophet. James tells us in James 5:16 to “confess [our] sins to one another.” When we do this, we step out of the hiddenness of our sins and allow others to speak the grace of the gospel to our hearts.
4. Do you have people in your life to whom you regularly confess your sins? Write down their names. If not, who could that potentially be?
5. Sometimes the most difficult part of confessing our sin is believing that we are truly forgiven by God and that we no longer carry our sin around with us. It is good to memorize Scripture about God’s promise of forgiveness so that you can walk in the freedom of God’s free grace. (1 John 1:9, Psalm 103:12, Psalm 32:5, Romans 8:1, etc.)
Thursday | Retribution or Restoration?
Genesis 42:22 | Things start to go very badly for Joseph’s brothers, and Reuben knows why. He thinks it’s the punishment and retribution for their sin coming back down on their heads and he’s almost right. But not quite.
1. Do you ever think that God is paying you back for something when you experience hard things?
2. Or, do you tend the other direction and hardly ever recognize God’s hand in the events of your life?
Read John 3:16–17 | It is good and necessary to see God’s hand in all of life, but we must interpret it through the lens of the cross. Christ will indeed come again in judgment for sin, but the cross shows us that God’s heart for people is restoration and salvation. When he pursues us in our sin it’s not with the gavel of a judge but with the invitation of a Savior.
3. How does this challenge the way you view God?
4. What might it look like for you to begin seeing hard things in your life as invitations towards deeper joy rather than retributions for sins and mistakes?
Read Romans 8:31–35 | This is a wonderful picture of God’s stance towards you as his child. He is for you; he is your advocate, your defender, your close ally, and the payment for your sin. When we see God rightly, we learn that rather than running away from him in shortcomings and failures, we can run to him as a refuge and friend in the midst of our brokenness.
5. What needs to be corrected in your view of God and his stance towards your sin?
6. Spend some time thanking Jesus for the Gospel and for his grace.
Friday | Receiving Grace
Genesis 42:23–25 | Even though he is testing his brothers to see if they will own their sin, it is obvious that their confession won’t buy his forgiveness. He has already forgiven them and provides abundantly more than they deserve. His costly grace towards them is not a response to their actions but a constant. It’s there to be received. In the same way, God’s grace towards us is not a response to anything in us, but a constant…available to all who will receive it.
1. In what ways do you feel like you need to earn good things from God (whether spiritual or physical blessings)?
2. How does Joseph’s example challenge the way you view God’s character?
In his Gospel, John very intentionally places the stories of Peter’s denial and Judas’ betrayal side-by-side for comparison in John 13 & 18. Both men turned against Jesus and both were sorrowful, but only Peter receives God’s grace of forgiveness and restoration. Judas tries to deal with his guilt on his own by hanging himself. Pride keeps us from wanting to receive God’s grace. We seek to do it ourselves by trying to get better, trying to make it up to God or by punishing ourselves. But God’s loving forgiveness and kind provision is a constant…available to all who will receive it.
3. Are you quick to run to God for grace and mercy or is your first reaction to fix the situation yourself?
4. Spend a moment to think about this question. How is your pride influencing the way you act towards God today?
5. Read John 1:12. We don’t receive out of a place of pride but out of a heart of humility. What might it look like for you to regain a childlike humility in receiving grace from God rather than trying to do things yourself?
6. At a practical level, where do you most need God’s help today? Spend a moment asking him for grace.