3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping.7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.
Genesis 45:3-8a, 15
The average person would rank the following as the most difficult things to do (thetoptens.com): 1) Get out of bed in the winter 2) Childbirth 3) Raising kids—being a parent is ranked as one of the most difficult things to do, especially in the society we’re growing up in today. 4) Losing a pet 5) Accepting the death of a loved one– You can’t believe that you cannot see the person next morning, who used to taunt you, tease you, scold you and much more than that, who used to love you—especially if their faith in Jesus in in question! While all of these things are difficult for people to do, Joseph did something that surprises us all! Can you do what he did? No wonder Jesus included this action as a part of the Lord’s Prayer as we pray: “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” But it’s not easy. Your best friend shares all your secrets with everyone, and now everyone is laughing at you and making fun of you – and you’re supposed to forgive that person who appears NOT to be your best friend after all? Forgiving others can be one of the most difficult things we do, but it is a fruit of faith God teaches us through the account of Joseph. Therefore, may the Holy Spirit open our ears and hearts to
Be Guided By God’s Work of Forgiveness
How God Works Forgiveness in our Hearts
How many brothers and sisters do you have? Joseph had 11 brothers and a sister. Often times the children born in the middle think that they are not noticed as much by their parents as the oldest or the baby of the family. Not so in Joseph’s family. Joseph was his father’s favorite child and showed this by giving him that coat of many colors. You can imagine how jealous the brothers were! But, Joseph made matters worse! He told them about dreams he had – dreams where his brothers and even his mom and dad were bowing down to him! Well, the angry brothers didn’t have to think twice when the opportunity came for them to get rid of their little brother. While out in the fields, the brothers caught Joseph, threw him into a pit for a couple of days, and then sold him as a slave, that’s right, human trafficking, into a far away country – Egypt.
Now we might think this was bad enough, but Joseph experienced the roller coaster life of being a slave in charge of Potiphar’s house to being charged with the false news of sexual assault by Potiphar’s wife and ending up in prison. While in jail Joseph helped some fellow inmates understand some dreams they had, because God gave Joseph this ability. After a time the ruler of Egypt also had a dream and Joseph helped Pharaoh understand his dreams about the coming years of lots of food followed by several years of famine – or no food. Pharaoh was a smart man, and put Joseph in charge of the food program. We don’t usually complain when things are going so well, but why does God allow such tough times for those he loves? There’s a question you’ve probably wrestled with yourself from time to time.
To be sure, Joseph faced some really difficult circumstances, but these are not the circumstance that impresses us the most about Joseph. One of the most difficult things in the world to do is to forgive someone. Especially someone who hurts you. And you’re supposed to forgive him? Someone destroys your reputation by spreading lies about you behind your back. And you’re supposed to forgive him. Someone hurts your mom or your dad or your sister, and you’re supposed to forgive him. This is one of the hardest things in the world to do.
It is now 20 years later. Joseph’s family ran out of food, too. Jacob sent the brothers to Egypt to buy food. And because Joseph was in charge of distributing grain from the silos, Joseph was the person from whom the brothers had to go and buy their food. But, when the brothers got there they didn’t recognize Joseph at all! Joseph wasn’t dead, as the brothers thought he would be. Now he was alive and alive with power! Joseph put his brothers through a series of tests to see if God had worked repentance in their hearts. After realizing that the guilt of their sins had indeed caused them to have repentant hearts, Joseph gets ready to give these brothers the shock of their lives!
“Have everyone leave my presence!”
he ordered. Was Joseph going to slaughter his brothers for their behavior and he wanted no witnesses? Then he cried out
“3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.”
Guided by God’s Miraculous Work of Forgiveness in his own heart, Joseph was a tool (the feet and hands of God) in service to the Lord to work his miracle of forgiveness for his brothers.
Epiphany is a season for revealing – but this is quite amazing! Joseph wastes no time revealing God’s amazing work of forgiveness, listen:
“4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”
Joseph could have pinned them to the wall because of their sins, or thrown them into prison until the rats ate them up, or reminded them of his old dreams about bowing down to him. How could the brothers come close to Joseph? How could they come close to a brother they had sold into slavery? How could they come close to the king that held their lives in a balance? Joseph revealed to them how.
” 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”
Because Joseph called them, inviting them to trust in his forgiveness! God allowed these tough times to change the hearts of the brothers and saved them in spite of their sinful actions! They were so selfish, so unloving, so hateful. God is so giving, self-sacrificing and so merciful.
How could Joseph possibly find such forgiveness in his heart? It was because God had worked the miracle of forgiveness in his heart over and over again in his life! Many times over God used hatred and lies and imprisonment of sinful people to work in Joseph’s heart and produce the fruit of forgiveness for people. Sometimes you hear people say, “How can I ever forgive that person for their sins?” Or “How can God ever forgive me for my sins? He knows my lies, by jealousy, my self-righteousness, my self-centeredness, my deceit, my anger, my stubbornness, my disobedience to my parents and teachers, my desire for those things which God has forbidden and my lack of desire for those things God has commanded.” Only the Lord God can relieve us of such guilt through the promise of his forgiveness in Jesus Christ who washed all our sins away when he died on the cross! Believe it!
Not only did the brothers learn about how God works the miracle of forgiveness in Joseph’s heart, but they also learned how their gracious and merciful God worked out all things for their good!
How God Works Out All Things for our Good
Joseph speaks about God’s purpose in verses 5-8
“5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”
Don’t forget the BIG PICTURE! God had promised Adam and Eve a Savior. He couldn’t break that promise. On the other hand, God’s chosen people living in Canaan were in danger of losing their relationship with God as his people because of the influence of those heathen nations around them. So, God allowed this family of 70 or so believers to be taken to Egypt and during the next 450 years grow into a nation. But, an even greater purpose was to be fulfilled 2000 years later when Jesus would be revealed as our Savior from this very same people. So, Joseph focuses their attention on God’s goodness. Even in the plots, twists and turns of this account, we can clearly see God was in control of the whole situation and would see to it that our Savior, Jesus would be born.
Joseph was given faith to see and believe God’s purpose in this whole ordeal. However, would the brothers believe it? Would they believe that God used their evil intentions for the good of the whole world? Would the brothers believe in God’s control? It would be tough, but the answer is “Yes.” Because God revealed himself as their gracious, loving, forgiving Lord. Joseph was foreshadowing of what Jesus would talk about one day:
“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Joseph was the example the brothers could see of someone who learned to trust in God who worked out all things for their good. Only because of what God accomplished could they set aside their guilt. Only when they learned to see beyond the physical situation to God’s promise of the Savior could they cope with reality. Even to his dying day, Joseph knew that God would use their situation to carry out his promise. Listen to Hebrews 11:22
“By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.”
What a great example of God’s people trusting in God’s control. Joseph knew God was close to him. God had revealed himself to Joseph as his Lord and Savior.
The final verse reminds us of God’s providence:
“15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.”
It must have “clicked.” The brothers knew it was the Lord who worked out all this for their good. Joseph assures his brothers with a kiss and a hug and no doubt a heart to heart talk about God’s great love! It was God’s love and the good news of forgiveness that put their hearts as ease.
This same gospel is the good news that puts your heart at ease. Yes, you also face difficult circumstances when people hurt you, destroy your good name, or hurt someone you love. Forgiving them is one of the hardest things to do. When those days come, remember Jesus who always trusted in God’s providence and guidance for his life, even to the point of going to the cross for you. It is this gracious forgiveness that we have received from Jesus that motivates us to have thankful love and forgiveness for each other.
Look! I know we have difficult things going on in our life. And there are times that God allows or even creates suffering (not the source of the suffering, but using the bad events for our eternal good) for the innocent, sickness, jet crashes, mass shootings, and the like. But, God also redeems all he allows. That is because 1) God is perfect and so good. 2) I am broken 3) Sometimes God intervenes in his mercy. 4) His ways are always higher than my ways, and his thoughts than my thoughts. Because you know we have plenty of difficult things to do in life…. Like getting out of bed, giving birth and raising children! Seriously, while all of these things are difficult for people to do, Joseph did something that surprises us all! Well, no, not really. Joseph learned that even in difficult times the Lord was using him as the feet and hands of God to bring the miracle of God-created forgiveness into the lives of people. Like Joseph, may your life also Be Guided By God’s gracious Work of Forgiveness worked in your heart as you watch God work out all things for your eternal good and for the good of those you get to forgive in Christ. And even when you can’t see God’s hands, know that you can always trust his heart! Amen!