Thursday, February 10, 2011

Genesis 50 - Get Bitter or Grow Better?

LINK: Genesis 50


Even the Egyptians mourned Jacob for seventy days after he died. Some commentators believe this showed the importance of Joseph and his family as the traditional amount of time for mourning for a Pharaoh was seventy-two days.

Jacob's wish to be buried in the land of Canaan with his ancestors at the Cave of Machpelah was granted. Remember this is where Abraham established a beachhead in the Promised Land.

After his death, burial, and mourning were complete, Joseph's brothers began to worry that perhaps Joseph still bore a grudge for the evil they had caused him. Joseph's assurances in Genesis 45 were not enough to assure the brothers that once the father died, Joseph would not deal out his revenge for how they had wronged him in the past. Joseph had to reiterate his complete forgiveness:

But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? And for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." 
(Genesis 50:19-20)
Joseph could see God's higher plan. There are not too many people who have been mistreated like Joseph was mistreated, but Joseph's character was free from bitterness even to the end, and God blessed him for the forgiveness that he showed his brothers.

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Only One outshines even Joseph, Jesus was mistreated and stands as a perfect picture of forgiveness. Jesus, too, could see the higher plan:

. . . who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)

It is SO hard to forgive and trust when we do not understand why evil things have happened to us. I have had to do it more than once in my life, and it is not easy, but I can look back and wholeheartedly say that God really "meant it for good," and He did it for higher purposes to place me where He wanted to place me and used those bad things to equip me for the purposes that He has for me today. I am sitting here today looking at what God is doing, and I stand amazed! He really did mean it for good, and I can honestly say there is not one person that I have not forgiven in my life! It was a process, and it does not mean that it happened instantly either, but I can, honestly, see God's sovereignty in all the bad things that have ever happened to me!

Extending forgiveness is a painful step of maturity, but in that pain comes the freedom from a bitter spirit which could eventually destroy us. Chuck Swindoll sums up Joseph's final years with the following application:

"To grow old, free of bitterness, is the finest gift we can leave humanity. 
To face death, right with God and man, is the finest way we can enter eternity" 
(Joseph: From Pit to Pinnacle, p. 17).

When it comes to forgiving others for evil done against us, we can either get bitter or grow better. The difference in our life is entirely in the choice we make. Joseph made the better choice. I pray you will make that choice too.


This article on the hard work of forgiveness is a favorite.  I bolded some parts for emphasis:

The Thing We Don't Do

Forgiveness is hard work 

by Andrée Seu

Forgiving is the hardest thing you will ever do. That's why most people don't do it. We talk about it, cheer for it, preach on it, and are sure we've practiced it. But mostly the illusion of having forgiven is that the passage of time dulls memory. The ruse will come to light with hair-trigger vengeance when fresh offense hurls in to empty out the gunnysack of half-digested grievances.

I asked a few people if they'd ever forgiven anyone, and what it felt like. They gave me answers so pious I knew they'd never done it. I am at the present moment in the maw of temptation, and I can tell you there is nothing exalted about this feeling, this one-two punch to the gut that comes when you even contemplate forgiving, which is as far as I've come.

At first I decided I would forgive the person—and never speak to him again. This felt pretty good, but I saw the dissimulation in it at once. I alternately toyed with going to him to "tell him his fault" (Matthew 18:15), which is my biblical right, so there. I had the decree of rebuke written up in my head, a document of fastidious and plenary detail—all for his own good. A smarmy satisfaction accompanied the plan, so I nixed it. For now.

In C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, a woman confronted by an angel about forgiving her husband says, "Well, I have forgiven him as a Christian." The phrase is meaningless. She then bulimically seethes for pages about his wrongdoing and her longsuffering.

Keeping one's mouth shut is commendable, and more than I have managed in the past. It will work as long as I don't go near a phone or e-mail. But I am reminded that "Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad" for two whole years after the rape of his sister Tamar, and it ate him alive till in the end he killed the man.

O my brothers, you cannot imagine the exquisite verbal retaliations I have hatched in the idle hours, each more perfect than the last: theologically impeccable, legalistically faultless, poisoned prose polished to a lethal point. Must I now relinquish these? Must I kill the little darlings? Are they not to see the light of day? Such a waste.

Forgiveness is a brutal mathematical transaction done with fully engaged faculties. It's my pain instead of yours. I eat the debt. I absorb the misery I wanted to dish out on you, and you go scot-free. Beware the forgiveness that is tendered soon after injury; be suspicious. Real forgiveness needs a time lag, for it is wrought in private agony before it ever comes to public amnesty. All true acts of courage are thus done in secret.

Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Church in Manhattan shares the following letter from a man who once had to forgive a woman:

"I forgave her and it took me a whole year and I had to forgive her in small sums over that whole twelve months. I paid those sums whenever I spoke to her and kept myself from rehashing the past. I paid them whenever I saw her with another man and refused self-pity and rehearsal inside for what she'd done to me. I paid them whenever I praised her to others when I really wanted to slice away at her reputation. Those were the payments but she never knew them. However, I never knew her payments, but I know she made them. I could tell."

And now the unthinkable: not only to forgive but seek the good. Nature abhors a vacuum and Jesus admits of no middle ground between hate and love. Pray for him.

When you were a child you thought like a child, that pain was something to flee. Now in the adulthood of faith, suck up your hundred denarii, because someone took your ten thousand talents upon Himself (Matthew 18), and like a lamb led to slaughter and a sheep before its shearers was silent (Isaiah 53:7). He did not retaliate but "continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:23). Be so awash in the ocean of His love, my soul, that the shortcomings of all human loves will, more and more, seem but a trifling thing.

Copyright © 2006 WORLD Magazine

September 30, 2006, Vol. 21, No. 37

Can you say AMEN to this!!!!???? It is easier said than done, but let's DO IT with the help of the amazingly love of God "awash" in our hearts.


Lord, Joseph was such an example of forgiveness for us. THANK YOU for letting us see the light of Your love as the pages of his story unfolded to us over these last couple of weeks. Lord, we want to be "awash in the ocean of Your love." We know that human love has its shortcomings and forgive us for the expectation that it would satisfy us when only Your love can really satisfy. Give us the supernatural ability to forgive from the deepest parts of our hearts because Your love is overflowing within us. Wash over us, dear Jesus, because You are the ultimate example of love for us, and it is in Your precious and magnificent name that we pray, AMEN!
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