We ended the last chapter with the testing of the brothers complete. They had fully recognized their wrongdoings. They had changed. Consequently, Joseph revealed himself. Joseph forgave his brothers instantly because He knew God had a sovereign plan. What a fantastic and challenging response on his part:
Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; ... (Genesis 45:5-8)
These words give me chills, "It wasn't you who sent me here, but God." Joseph forgave his brothers because he understood and accepted God's higher plan. If it had not been for Joseph's descent to Egypt, Israel and his descendants would have died in the famine, or if they had stayed in Canaan, they would have not preserved their national identity because of the strong Canaanite influence. Thus, Jacob and his descendants relocated in Egypt where they prospered and multiplied!
God had overruled the evil plan of the brothers. Looking at it from a worldly perspective, Joseph had every right to be bitter and revengeful, but he was gracious and generous and forgave. He wanted to be reconciled with his brothers, wanted to see his father once more, and he wanted his people to be preserved. He looked at the bigger picture and made peace.
The Scarlet Thread of Redemption
Of course, no one stands out more as the perfect picture of forgiveness than Jesus Himself. He pleaded with His Father to forgive the very people who hung Him on a cross (Luke 23:34). He still pleads for us today as He is seated at the right hand of God (Romans 8:34). Since we have been extended that forgiveness through His death, we can certainly extend that forgiveness to those who have wronged us. It is a decision to forgive and trust, knowing that all the circumstances of life are in His hands.
God longs for forgiveness and reconciliation. I had a time in my life where everything came crashing in on me. In 1983, I suffered a breakdown. As I explored the "whys" behind that breakdown with a mature older woman, she helped me to see that some of my problem stemmed from the fact that I had been abused, and I had never forgiven my abuser. I had every "right" not to forgive the wrong done to me, but like Joseph, I needed to forgive and see God's larger plan for me. He has used that experience to help me have an empathy for people who are in tough situations. He has helped me "to give comfort for those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which I have received from Him" (2 Corinthians 1:4). He has used it for His higher purposes in my life.
Many of us have been victims of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Some of us, like Joseph, have even been abused by family members. There is evil all around us; and sometimes, we become victims of that evil. Forgiveness is the only path to freedom in Christ. I believe that with all my heart.
Perhaps you have been wrongfully treated in the past. Talk to God right now about how You feel and listen to Him.
What are you prepared to do to forgive that person or persons for their wrong treatment? Perhaps you are unreconciled in a relationship. What are you prepared to do to repair that relationship? Is your desire to be vindicated or reconciled?
Lord, teach us to forgive others as You have forgiven us in Christ Jesus. Lord, we trust that You are sovereign and that You are good. Help us to trust You and not become bitter when bad things happen to us but to get better through the process. Thank You that You are the God of all mercies and all comfort (1 Cor. 1:3) and You comfort us in all our mistreatment and affliction. Amen.