But God…


I’ve been told that, throughout Scripture, there are some 43 verses which reference the phrase “but God…” It is often used as a preface to some “curveball” in the outcome of an event. Time and time again, God takes a seemingly tragic event or a foolish decision and works an amazingly different result. Today in our reading, we see that same phrase “but God…” Joseph’s brothers had a short-sighted plan to rid themselves of Joseph, but God had a different plan altogether. How often do we perceive a situation as extremely tragic, foolish, or sad, only to see God use that same situation for outcomes we had not even considered?

  • Can you think of an event in your life that started off poorly but ended up with a totally different outcome than you ever thought possible?


15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


1.  In verse 15, what do you suppose was the root of the brothers’ fear?

2.  How did the brothers expect Joseph to act?

3.  What characteristics of Joseph’s faith are illustrated in this passage?

4.  In this section, we see fear exhibited in the brothers and faith exhibited through Joseph. When you respond to life out of fear (due to sin or rebellion toward God), how different are you than when you respond to life out of faith in the living God?


In this text, we can see how the brothers’ fear of their past choices continued to haunt them after the death of their father, Jacob. Despite years of separation, Joseph’s kindness, his forgiveness, and his reminder that God has a bigger plan, his brothers continued to focus on their past choices and suffer from the fear which their choices brought about. When they approached Joseph in fear, he responded with a living faith. He highlighted for them that he was not in the place of God, and that God had a much bigger plan in store than the simple events put in motion many years earlier. Joseph’s response is a strong reminder that the power of sin can be broken, but only through the power of a living God.

  • Ask God to identify any areas in your life where past choices lead to a regular renewing of fear.
  • Ask him to remind you of his complete and total forgiveness that washes away the past and brings new life.