“When deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive. . . . Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future” (Mary Karen Read, last journal entry before being shot to death in the Virginia Tech shootings, April 16, 2007). Lack of granting forgiveness is a major hindrance to spiritual, emotional, and even physical health. Joseph was not hindered because he knew how to forgive.
Our lesson picks up where we left off two weeks ago. Following Judah’s moving “My Life for the Boy’s” speech, Joseph was overcome with emotion. He sent the Egyptians from the room, revealed his identity to his brothers, and assured them of his forgiveness. In the second text Joseph reassured his brothers once again of his forgiveness—this time following the death of his father Jacob.
Forgiveness Is Easier When We Sense the Providence of God
Forgiveness is never easy. Just look to Golgotha. But forgiveness is made easier when we look for the fingerprints of God in our stories. Joseph could forgive his brothers for their abuse, their merchandising of his life, and their deception because he looked to the bigger story of God in his smaller narrative. Joseph could not control (restrain) himself. Even though his only audience was his brothers, the Egyptians and even the household of Pharaoh heardJoseph’s weeping. This is the third time of five that Joseph cried. He was one who could be touched.
Joseph verbally declared his identity. Did he speak in the Hebrew language? Notice how “other-centered” he was. After the big reveal he immediately asked about his father Jacob. His brothers must have stood there like deer in headlights. They were dismayed (terrified or vexed) at his presence. So Joseph asked them to come closer to him, and they came near. He stated his identity again and added, “Whom you sold into Egypt.” Genuine forgiveness does not whitewash the offense.
Joseph went right to work pastoring his brothers, acknowledging God’s work in his situation, stating reality about the ongoing famine, revealing his Egyptian position, and giving the invitation for the larger extended family to move to Egypt, where he could care for them. He encouraged them not to be distressed (pained or grieved) or angry (to be hot or to burn). He saw the hand of God, even in his brothers’ betrayal. God sent Joseph to Egypt to preserve (set in place) the family and thus maintain the promise of God. He explained that they were only two years into a seven-year famine. Joseph had the position and clout (lord, ruler, like a father to Pharaoh, and one who had honor) to provide during the famine.
Joseph did not take “no” for an answer concerning his invitation to come to Egypt. He even demanded that the journey be made with haste. His genuine forgiveness is seen in his desire to care for the very brothers who betrayed him. The emotions ran deep as the only sons of Rachel hugged and wept. Joseph kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. It reminds one of other touching scenes in Scripture (Genesis 33:4; Luke 15:20; Acts 20:36-38).
Forgiveness Is Easier When We Focus on the Future
The scene shifts, but the theme of forgiveness remains the same. Jacob’s whole family made the journey from the land that bore his name (Israel) to Goshen. Jacob had been reunited with his son Joseph and even got to see Joseph’s sons. But Jacob died, and the brothers fell into family management mode. They feared that with Jacob out of the picture Joseph might try to get even. Does the brothers’ guilt indicate that they have not emotionally owned the forgiveness that Joseph extended?
The brothers spoke on behalf of their dead dad (real quote or contrived?) pleading yet once again for forgiveness from Joseph. They admit that what they did was evil and a transgression. They still view themselves as servants of Joseph (Genesis 37:5-11). Once again Joseph is touched and expressed his emotion by weeping. Joseph told them not to fear. After all, he was not God. He admits that what they did was evil. Again, there is no whitewashing of the sin.
“But God” is an outstanding phrase in this narrative. The brothers meant things to go one way in selling Joseph, but God . . . (see Ephesians 2:4; Titus 3:4). Joseph wanted to put the past behind and move into a brighter future. He viewed his role as a providential provider. He comforted them and spoke kindly (from the heart) to them. Life is too short to be hindered by the past. Forgiveness helps us move confidently into the future.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.