Perhaps, you thought of Joseph.
Joseph’s story, which fills 13 chapters of the first book of the Bible, is one of the longest stories about any Biblical character. And it is one of the prime examples of stewardship. In his epic life, Joseph tends to his father’s sheep, Potiphar's household, prisoners needs, and rules over the entirety of Egypt. He was recognised as one whom God blessed in all that he did.
The word “steward” shows up more times in Joseph’s narrative than any other story in the Bible. Why? Because Joseph was an amazing steward? Certainly. But look at the story for yourself. In the NIV, steward shows up six times in Joseph story. In the KJV it’s three. In my favourite version, the HCSB, there’s eight uses of the word “steward” in the final few chapters of Genesis. No matter the version, the concept of stewardship is deeply embedded in the story of Joseph and yet, of the numerous times “steward” appears in Joseph’s story, not once is it in reference to Joseph! Every entry refers not to Joseph but to Joseph's own steward - the steward Joseph trained at the end of his long life of exemplary stewardship.
Read Genesis 43:16-17
What caused Joseph to invite his brothers to his home? Why?
(The presence of Benjamin – Because Joseph loved him, his full-blooded brother)
Was Joseph expecting them to return with Benjamin?
(Yes, he knew the famine was just beginning. There were five years to go)
How long do you think Joseph hoped and planned for this day?
As many Bible students have noted, Joseph’s story is a beautiful preview of the life of Jesus. Just as Joseph was a great example of stewardship of material earthly things, Jesus was the ultimate example of stewardship of spiritual things. He modelled and embodied God’s love perfectly. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father,” He said. And yet, when He left, He promised us we would do even greater things than He did while on Earth.
Why? Because we are better stewards of God’s love than He was? No.
Because we are His disciples. And when people today test Jesus for themselves, they look for living examples. They look to us to see what God’s love looks like. They look to us, today’s stewards of the mysteries of God.
Open Group Application:
Which long lost family member of yours is God hoping to see in His house? (invite stories)
Imagine the patience it took for Joseph to wait for his brothers to return, all the while hoping Benjamin would be with them, ultimately hoping it would lead to the unimaginable – seeing his father again. Is it possible, in God’s patient timing, that He is planning for you to draw your family members – even those seemingly beyond reclaiming – toward Him?
Reflecting on your life, how have you seen God working like this?
Read Genesis 43:18-19
Why did they approach the steward?
(Because they were afraid)
Why were they afraid?
(The money from their last trip was in the food bags when they got home)
What did they think Joseph was going to do to them when they got inside his house?
(Seize them, make them slaves and take their donkeys)
What was Joseph’s reason for bringing them to his house?
(To feed them!)
Did Joseph intend to harm them?
Open Group Application:
When has someone refused to come to church with you?
What was your reason for inviting them?
What fears might they have had about coming into the House of God?
What tasks did Joseph give his steward when he wanted his family to come into his house?
How does this parallel our preparation of God’s house for His reclaimed family?
Read Genesis 43:20-26
How did each of these things help them feel safe in Joseph’s house?
How did they respond?
(preparing and presenting the gift)
Open Group Application:
Consider the people God put on your heart earlier in this lesson.
How might the strategies of Joseph’s steward be enacted in our lives:
How can you speak a blessing over your fearful family member?
How can you assure them of God’s mercy and love toward them?
How can you show them you value them?
What can you give them that will refresh the promises of God?
What provision for cleansing might help them feel welcome?
What practical needs might they have?
Done together, these many acts of reconciliation took Joseph’s brothers from being fearful to being comfortable in his house. Regularly doing even a few of these things for our loved ones will begin to provide peace in their hearts as they consider entering God's house.
The story of Joseph's steward continues for another chapter. It grows more intriguing and passionate, climaxing as Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. The final six chapters of Genesis tell of his father arriving in Egypt to embrace his long-dead son, who is alive again – beyond all hope - and their life of joy as a complete family in the land of Goshen.
Likewise, our story of stewardship is nearing its final chapter. Jesus is returning soon to take us to the Father. The time is short, but there is still hope. We have a few more days to reveal the mysteries of God to our loved ones who are yet to embrace Him.
Read Colossians 2:2-3
What mysteries of God are hidden in Jesus Christ?
What treasures of wisdom?
What assured understanding?
Just as Joseph's greatness was seen through the steward he raised up, we disciples reveal the greatness of Jesus Christ as we lead others to Him by following His example and obeying His requests. God is love and we are His disciples. We truly are the stewards of the mysteries of God.