Monday, February 25, 2013

Forgiveness of Joseph

another viole2

 Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on
the heel that crushes it.
Mark Twain

I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

Genesis 45:5-8

The story of Joseph is one of my favorites. Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob. His mother was Rachel, the wife whom Jacob loved. Rachel had been barren for many years. Jacob's ( yôsēp̱, yĕhôsēp̱) name means either remover (God has taken away) or increaser (may he add). Upon his birth, Rachel may have given Joseph his name for either - God has taken away my barrenness or may the Lord add to me another son.

Jacob's family was anything but your model family. Joseph was the child most loved and favored by his father. His father even gave Joseph a special long coat. This favoritism caused his 10 half brothers and his one full brother to hate him. At age 17 Joseph had two dreams that predicted that his brothers would bow down to him. The brothers hearing these dreams, plotted to murder Joseph.

The oldest brother, Reuben, did not want Joseph to die. He suggested to throw Joseph into a cistern, hoping to rescure him later. The brothers stripped Joseph of his special robe and threw him into the cistern. A caravan of Ishmaelites passed by carrying spices and perfumes to Egypt. Hoping to gain money and still be rid of Joseph, they sold Joseph to the traders for twenty pieces of silver. The brothers placed goat blood on the torn robe and convinced their father Jacob that Joseph  deahad been killed.

In God's plan for Joseph this was not his end, but the beginning of the saving of the nation of Israel. You probably know the whole story, but it is still quite worth reading again. ( Genesis chapters 37 to 50 ). The amazing story continues, all according to the plans of God. Joseph eventually becomes the number two man in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. Joseph saves his family from death by starvation due to a seven-year famine. Jacob's family is the nation of Israel. The entire family moves to Egypt establishing Israel as a remnant in the land. The Israelites increase in number. Pharaoh plots to eliminate the Israelites. Moses leads them out of Egypt. God's long ago promise to Abraham continues to become a reality.

The focus of this blog is both on the providence of our sovereign God, as well as the forgiveness of Joseph. The grace of God working in Joseph is evident in the way he dealt with his brothers. God put Joseph in a position to save his brothers. Joseph did not seek revenge on his brothers. He forgave them. Joseph realized that his personal suffering was the way God planned to preserve his family. Joseph was aware that his rise to power in Egypt was not for his personal glory, but for the glory of God. Joseph told his brothers not to worry and not to be angry at themselves. He told his brothers three times that it was not them who had sent him to Egypt — it was God.

Joseph had a remarkably tough life. He was threatened murder by his brothers. He was sold into slavery. He was thrown into prison for a trumped up charge of molestation or rape. Surely he must  of asked himself: Why did this happen to me? Where was God when all this happened?" Joseph, however knew that God was being glorified. God was there all along. God was working things out according to His purpose.

Joseph rose to tremendous power in Egypt. Now he finally gets the treatment he deserves. Right! Look who shows up kneeling before him. It is his devious, jealous brothers. And they need something from him. He must have thought, "Why should I give them anything, why show them any mercy. Look at all the suffering they caused me" It was the perfect time for him to get even. Joseph chose to forgive not to seek revenge. Joseph said, "You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good." Genesis 50:20

I am amazed and humbled by Joseph's response to his circumstances. Would I have the ability and courage to do as he did – probably not. During this challenge for Joseph there was no family to turn to for help. There was no Bible to read, no pastor to advise and council, no church to support him. Joseph, however knew that God had a purpose for him. He knew that God was sovereign and had a plan. God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Genesis 45:7 Praise God for His grace and salvation.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. 
C. S. Lewis

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