The Sweetness of Forgiveness [Genesis 50]
14After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers, and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.
15When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!" 16So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, "Your father charged before he died, saying, 17'Thus you shall say to Joseph, "Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong."' And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father." And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
18Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, "Behold, we are your servants." 19But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? 20"As 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. 21"So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
After Israel (Jacob) died Joseph's brothers were afraid that he would now take the chance, that they thought he surely had been waiting for, to pay them back for their awful deeds. They just couldn't believe that he had truly forgiven them. They begged for forgiveness again and even sent a charge from their dead father that Joseph must forgive. Joseph wept when he saw that they had not received his forgiveness and that they still had not released (forgiven) themselves for their cruelty. But for Joseph that forgiveness had happened long ago. He had seen God's hand in all that had happened and knew that God had "meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive," even if they had evil intentions.
I am so encouraged by Joseph's faith. There is someone in my life that I offended about ten years ago. Persuaded by a friend, I had participated in playing a childish prank on him. I did confess my wrong to him and asked his forgiveness but I have suspected that he still holds it against me. This morning I realized that I am doing what Joseph's brothers did: I am carrying the offense in me. Every time I think he is being stand-offish or annoyed I assume it is still over the old offense, when in fact I am currently doing things that do annoy him. It occurred to me that my friend has never once mentioned my past offense, not even joking about it. How do I know that he didn't forgive me? But the bigger question is, has God forgiven me? Is this what Christ died for? If He remembers my sins no more, why am I still bringing it back up? (Hebrews 8:12)
What if my fear is true? What if this person just tolerates me and is never really going to forgive me? What if, no matter how kind I am, he still is disgruntled with me? That is exactly what Joseph forgave his brothers for in the later part of his life. His brothers were still presuming him to be the bratty little brother who lorded over them and tattled on them, the very thing that incited them to harm him in the first place. Because of Joesph's faith in God being the one who determined this course for him and His understanding of God's bigger picture, he not only let go of his own offense but he also let go of his brother's offense of still acting our of their own fear. Wow! And then he graciously continued to show that love and forgiveness with actions as well as forgiveness. "'So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones' So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them."
As I am considering my own story, one sentence sticks out - "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place?" I have been trying to act in God's place by not believing that He has forgiven me and that somehow I still need to do something to keep this person from disliking me. I have missed the sweetness of forgiveness in this relationship. What I need to do now is ask God to cause me to believe His forgiveness for all the times I have offended this brother in Christ. Jesus paid well for this sin and I can not pay for it. Thank You, Jesus. Cause me to forgive this dear brother that has a hard time with me and probably fears what I will do next. Fill me with Your compassion, forgiveness, love and gratitude for him. Cause me to trust You to take what I intended as evil and use it for good in both of our lives.
Lord, we praise You for Your forgiveness and Your work in our lives. You are amazingly able to take what others intend for evil and make it work for good. Cause us to receive these truths in our own hearts as we deal with our own offenses and the offenses of others.