Opening Prayer: “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”
Daily Scripture Reading:
- Genesis 42-45
- Matthew 6:14-15
- Ephesians 4:31-32
“And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.” -Genesis 41:57
I wonder if Joseph looked for their faces in every crowd that came through Egypt to buy grain. I wonder if he had rehearsed the confrontation in his head for years. I wonder if he was expecting his band of betraying brothers to show up hungry at some point because he recognized them right away. This was the moment. The youngest brother crying out for his life from the pit was now the one who held all the control. He could have them killed on the spot. He could send them away without grain to a slow, starving death. What would Joseph do to his brothers?
When the time came, I think Joseph needed more time. For 3 chapters it seemed he played games with them, testing their character. He kept his identity hidden as he made false accusations and unreasonable requests, pressing them for information on the family. Joseph doesn’t appear ready to roll out the red carpet of forgiveness at first sight. Were his brothers still money hungry, as it appeared they had been when they decided to sell Joseph rather than kill him? No, because they returned the silver they found in their bags twice. Did they still hate the favored sons of Rachel and care little for their father’s heart? No, because they were willing to sacrifice themselves for young Benjamin and fought to protect Jacob from further heartbreak. Were they still calloused to Joseph’s plight and the memory of him crying out? No, because in 42:21 they recognized,” surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life but we would not listen.” Though we never read an apology from the brothers to Joseph, I think we see a change in their character by the time they reach Egypt. We don’t know if Joseph wanted to discern that before he offered forgiveness. The truth is, we aren’t commanded only to forgive if the offending party is sorry or changed. We are commanded to forgive because Christ forgave us. But I think Joseph’s fear of forgiveness overlaid on his deep concern for his family shows us that Egypt’s savior and second in command was still very much human.
Ultimately, Joseph revealed himself and started walking the road toward forgiveness and reconciliation because he was more attached to God’s sovereignty and His plan, than he was to his own agenda. In Genesis 45:5,7-8 Joseph, overcome by emotion, says to his terrified brothers, “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. God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here but God.” Joseph couldn’t deny God’s hand in his unexpected life. He had relinquished his own self-serving dreams somewhere along the road to slavery or inside a prisons’s cell. There is something about hitting rock bottom that gives you perspective. There is something about having absolutely nothing that frees the ordinary blessings to become everything. And now Joseph’s life truly was immeasurably more than he could have asked or imagined when he was dreaming of stalks of grain. The puzzle pieces fell into place for him and he no longer hated his brothers for the part they played in getting him to this day.
Finally we see that Joseph didn’t just barely forgive his brothers, like my kids do when I make them apologize to each other. He didn’t stop at a disgruntled, “I forgive you” under his breath. He went on to abundantly pour all the blessings he had access to onto his family. Instead of giving them only the sacks of grain they had come for, he gives them “the best of the land of Egypt (45:18).” In this example, we really see what Jesus has done for us. He doesn’t stop at forgiveness or even at eternal salvation. He desires to give us “every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3)”
Refusing to forgive is like refusing to take the trash out. The job might be tedious and smelly, but refusing to do the work brings far more rancid consequences. From Joseph we learn that taking some time to process may not be bad but we are called to forgive no matter how sorry or changed the other person is. We also learn that tying ourselves to God’s sovereignty and dream for our life will free us up to forgive others that may have interrupted our own agenda. And if we really want to be like Christ, we will not hold back, but offer abundant blessings to those we forgive.
Today’s Big Questions: Is there someone in your life that you know you need to forgive today? Are you waiting for an apology or a changed heart? Can you see where God has had his hand on the situation, even if it hurt?
Prayer Response: Today, ask God to not only give you the ability to forgive just as Christ forgave you, but ask for the power to bless those who have hurt you.
Optional Action Step: Volunteer to take the trash out today at home or at work. As you do, remember Ephesians 4:31-32 and imagine yourself getting rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Remember that the rot of un-forgiveness in your heart is so much more than the stink of that garbage.
Closing Prayer: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”