Photo by Alex Shute.
As for you, what you intended against me for evil, God intended for good, in order to accomplish a day like this- to preserve the lives of many people. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Genesis 50:20-21
The back story… Joseph is having a conversation with his brothers. After their father had passed, they were worried that Joseph was going to harm and repay them for what they had done to him. They had plotted to kill him but ended up selling him as a slave in Egypt. (Genesis 37) Years later, they find out he is alive and that he is a powerful person in Egypt. (Genesis 45) He takes care of them and saves them from a famine that was in all the land. They were not worried about Joseph dealing with them until their father died. But we see the response of Joseph to his evil brothers. We are told he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:21
Joseph’s story teaches us what true forgiveness looks like.
We can choose to live offended or trust God with our injustices.
Joseph gives us a picture of choosing not to carry offenses. His brothers had done him evil. They had taken his life from him. They had sold him into slavery. If there was anyone who had a right to live offended it was Joseph. But he doesn’t. Joseph’s strength was God, even when things weren’t going according to plan, he still chose to trust in God. God didn’t fail him. He used what was meant for evil against him to accomplish the purposes he had for Joseph.
It can be hard to imagine how something so evil and painful can be the vehicle God uses to get us where He wants us to go. When we chose to live offended we are saying that people are more powerful than God. We are saying that people have the power to decide where we go or don’t go. Forgiveness is us taking back the power from the people who hurt us. Forgiveness is our way of denying what is in the past the power to influence our present and future.
The test of power.
The greatest test will be what we choose to do when we have the power and ability to repay people for the evil they have done to us. Joseph was now powerful; he was the Prime Minister of Egypt, almost as powerful as Pharaoh. He could have done whatever he wanted with his brothers and nobody would have questioned him. He could have thrown them in jail and left them in there to lot. But instead, he throws them a feast… He treats them kindly even when they didn’t deserve it. Kindness is the response of a powerful person. Kindness is the response of a person who knows God is ultimately in control, not people. Joseph knew God had made him powerful for their sake not so he can avenge himself for their sins.
Can God trust us with power? Are we going to use it for His glory or are we going to hurt the people we are meant to help? God will intentionally bring people who hurt us when we are powerful to see how we will respond. May we pass the test.
Forgiveness, a covering of love.
Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. he cried, “ make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “ I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?”But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. Genesis 45:1-3
They didn’t deserve mercy. They didn’t even expect it. They deserved what they got for what they had done to him. But Joseph astounds them by covering their offenses against him with love and forgiveness.
Joseph weeps before his brothers; the reality of what they had done became so fresh before all of them. They stood face to face with the evil they had not confronted. They were so terrified. Can you imagine standing before a person you thought you had killed? And realizing that he was powerful enough to take you out?
Joseph does something spectacular here; he makes sure that no one else is in the room with him when he reveals himself to his brothers. He greatly covers their sins. He covers their mistakes with love instead of revenge. He portrays true forgiveness for us in this. He doesn’t humiliate and tells what they had done to the Egyptians. What they had done was between him and them. He doesn’t gossip about them to everyone who could hear him. He works so hard to make assure them of his forgiveness.
Because love covers a multitude of sins [ It overlooks unkindness and unselfishly seeks the best for others]. 1 Peter 4:8
We are told love covers many sins. It doesn’t say love only covers small sins. Love is more powerfully depicted where there is a multitude of sins. When people don’t expect it or even think they deserve it; that’s when it matters the most.
Helping those who have hurt us the most.
The most painful wounds we will ever bear will come from our most close relationships. The enemy is canny, the people who will need the most help from us will be the ones who cause us the greatest harm. Sometimes, it may take us years to heal from their actions. We may need time before we can reconcile with them. Joseph needed time to heal before he saw his brothers again. If you need time that’s alright. God will allow us to go through the pain. He will allow us time to feel angry but eventually, we will have to turn around and give them the help they need from us.
If we don’t choose forgiveness the enemy will win in thwarting the purposes of God from our lives. We can’t allow the enemy to win. We can’t allow the hurt and pain to win. We win when we choose to overcome the hurt and betrayal and choose forgiveness.
Joseph tells them, “I will provide for you and your little ones.” It was for the sake of many. It wasn’t just for their sake but also for the sake of the generations that were after them.
If we will see beyond ourselves we will see the many that will be helped because we chose forgiveness. We will see the marriages that will be healed. We will see the friendships that will be preserved. We will see the many who will be inspired by our story and choose forgiveness.
We can either hinder God in saving and preserving a generation through unforgiveness, or we can partner with God through forgiveness.
If you are struggling to forgive someone close to you,( could be a sibling, a parent, a child, or a spouse). I encourage you to go read Joseph’s story in the Bible [Genesis 37-50], it will help you greatly.
May we choose forgiveness even when it feels like the most costly thing we will ever have to do!