God in the Midst of a Mess


Injustice. Victimization. Abuse. Most of us can only imagine experiencing betrayal and fear to the point of hopeless despair. But consider the example of Joseph. As a young man, he was hated by his jealous brothers and thrown into a pit to die. Joseph ended up being sold into slavery and was forced to serve in a foreign land. Thousands of miles from family, and stripped of the secure surroundings of home, Joseph trusted God. Miraculously, he became second-in-command of the nation of Egypt. Many years later, famine brought his brothers face-to-face with Joseph for the first time since they had tried to kill him.

  • If you were Joseph, how would you be tempted to treat your brothers?


Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them. And he said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land.” 10 They said to him, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies.”

12 He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.” 13 And they said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.” 14 But Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you. You are spies. 15 By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.” 17 And he put them all together in custody for three days.

18 On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me. So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so. 21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” 23 They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. 24 Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. 25 And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. This was done for them.

26 Then they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed. 27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money in the mouth of his sack.28 He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!” At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

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


  1. A worldwide famine was the motivating factor for Joseph’s brothers to go to Egypt, where they encountered Joseph. What does this tell you about God’s character, as it relates to difficulty?
  2. Joseph accused his brothers of being spies. What was Joseph’s demand to test them?
  3. Explain why verse 18 is powerfully significant to the way this story unfolds.
  4. What does Joseph’s weeping in verse 24 convey about the way he viewed his brothers? How did his response show sensitivity?
  5. List three actions of Joseph that reflects Godly character.


God is working in the midst of a mess. This story unveils a reality that God is faithful to accomplish his purposes NO MATTER WHAT! Joseph did not exact revenge on those who attempted to end his life. Instead, he gave grace. Because of this life-altering example, Joseph’s brothers acknowledged a spiritual reality when they asked, “What is this that God has done to us?”  

  • Ask God to impress on you your need for his grace in a difficult relationship. 
  • Ask the Lord for his strength and the self-control offered by his Holy Spirit.