Joseph the forgiver, part one

As I shift my look at Joseph, I want to focus on another thing about him that just comes screaming off the page when you read his story. Hopefully you’re either familiar with the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis or you’ve been following along with the blog, because I’m picking up near the end here. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, then tossed into prison by the master who bought him, and then Joseph wins the good graces of Pharaoh, who senses the favor of God on Joseph, and gets made into the second in command over the land of Egypt. It’s a thirteen year journey that takes Joseph from bratty teenager, to trusted slave, to trusted prisoner, to Pharaoh’s right hand man.

Joseph oversees everything in Egypt, and works hard to store up food in preparation for the seven year famine that God warned Pharaoh about. The Bible says that the famine hits and it’s so bad that not only are Egyptians buying grain from Egypt’s storehouses, but that people from all over the earth came to Egypt to buy grain because the famine was that severe and widespread.

There’s some interesting people in particular who are suffering and get interested in coming to Egypt to buy some grain. Joseph’s father, Jacob, and Joseph’s ten older half-brothers. At this point, Joseph also has a younger brother named Benjamin. So Joseph’s ten big brothers show up in Egypt to buy grain. They see this royal man of power overseeing the sale of grain, adorned in jewelry and fine robes, and they bow before him.

Following the timeline of the story, Joseph would be 39 years old at this point. It’s been twenty-two years since the day his brothers plotted to kill him before they ultimately decided to sell him into slavery. A lot’s changed, and when they come before this high ranking Egyptian they fall on their faces before him, completely unaware of who he is. But Joseph knows right away who they are. Here are the ten men who sent his life careening off the rails. Here are the ten men who ripped him from life with a father who loved him and treated him with special favor and sent him into 13 years of slavery and imprisonment.

Now, I found the next bit of this story to be a little strange. Joseph toys with his brothers a little bit. He accuses them of being spies, and puts them in custody for three days. As you watch this unfold, you start to see what Joseph is doing. He’s probing them about their other brothers, almost testing to see if they remember him and if they’re sorry for what they did to him. At one point, he hears them talking about it, as they believe they’re suffering this detainment as a reckoning for what they did to Joseph. When Joseph hears this he turns away and weeps.

There are several more steps to this very interesting interaction between Joseph and his brothers that I’m not going to spend any time on. Ultimately, Joseph sees changes in these men who once so callously sold him into slavery. He’s also overcome with emotion at the presence of his younger brother Benjamin, who unlike the other 10 is actually his full brother. Eventually Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. It’s a beautiful and touching scene full of emotion, and here’s the aspect of it I want to touch upon today.

Genesis 45:4-8 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

Up to this point, I’ve greatly admired Joseph. But this was the moment that he just blew my mind. These guys were awful to him when they were younger. The Bible says in Genesis chapter 37 that his brothers hated him and “could not speak peacefully to him.” They couldn’t even say anything nice to the guy! They’re going to kill him, then change their minds not out of regret or mercy but because they found a way to profit off of him. So they sell him into slavery, and then go back and grieve their father to no end by pretending that Joseph was killed. This kicks off a thirteen year odyssey for Joseph that sees him live as a slave, and then as a prisoner.

Now look, I feel like I’m good at forgiveness. I just can’t stay mad at anyone, it’s not in my nature. I understand forgiving the ten brothers, I really do. Joseph’s a man now, and while he’s still living in a foreign land through no choice of his own, his life turned out okay. Married, two kids, second in command to pharaoh, it’s not the worst outcome in the world. So I get the forgiveness part. But here’s what just explodes my brain.

Genesis 45:5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.

I understand forgiveness in this situation, but wouldn’t you want them to feel a little bad for what they did? I mean seriously, let’s be honest here. Wouldn’t you want to see some weeping, some begging for forgiveness, maybe just a dash of self hate? But not according to Joseph. It’s cool, guys! Don’t stress about it, don’t feel bad about it, don’t get mad at yourselves. IT’S COOL WHAT YOU DID TO ME! This whole murder plot, sold into slavery, grieving my beloved father, thirteen years as a slave and a prisoner, it’s all good. It’s cool, bros.

The word flabbergasted is maybe the best in the English language, and I use it here now. I’m flabbergasted by Joseph’s words and his heart. He saw God in his circumstances, and thus he releases all anger and resentment and bitterness towards those who thrust those circumstances upon him. As far as Joseph is concerned, it all worked out, because God used the situation to help others.

CLOSING AND PRAYER

I’m excited about closing out my look at Joseph the forgiver tomorrow as I feel the Lord really revealed to me some deep truths about why Joseph was able to forgive and how it relates to all of us.  I love the Bible, and I know I do this from time to time but I just have to encourage you to get serious about reading it.  If you’re not spending regular time in the word, now’s the time to change it.  God left us this book for a good reason.  He’s not an accidental God.  Every time I get serious about studying my Bible, God rewards me with deep knowledge, affirmations, love, direction, so many amazing things become real in my life directly through the study of His word.  Habits are formed a day at a time, so make today the start of a new habit of spending time daily reading the Bible.

For prayer today, I want to lift up those who have tough family situations.  The holidays can be a time of incredible joy, but for those with family struggles or broken families or families that have suffered loss, the holidays can be one long reminder of all that’s gone wrong for them.  If you know a family like that, or maybe if you’re even a part of family like that, just bring it before God today in prayer.  Ask for healing and reconciliation, for peace and comfort, and for the true spirit of the holidays to shine through.

I love you guys.  I hope Monday is treating everyone well.  Mine’s off to a fantastic start.  If your’s isn’t, just remember that God’s with you in the good days and the bad.  He loves us beyond understanding.

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Published by: Aaron Hall

A lifelong writer, I now spend my days working in communications for city government. I love Jesus with all my heart, and I love sharing my thoughts on the Bible here on this blog.

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