Forgiveness in Action

KEY VERSE: “Ye thought evil against me but God meant it unto good.” —Genesis 50:20

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Genesis 45:1-5, 14, 15; 50:15-21

THE seven years of famine became so severe that the family of Jacob, hearing that there was food in Egypt, went there to buy grain in order to survive. Little did they know who they were dealing with. But Joseph knew his brothers, and it brought to mind the awful circumstances of his last recollection of them—a scene he would rather put out of his mind.

But now sensing a feeling of remorse by his brothers, his heart went out to them, and he devised a plan for their reconciliation. He was well aware that the circumstances which brought them to him were of the Lord’s doing.

Doubtless Joseph remembered the dream in which he saw, in symbol, his brethren bowing to him; also the dream in which his father as well as his brothers would bow down to him. (Gen. 37:5-11) Now that circumstances were bringing about a fulfillment of these dreams, Joseph could well have taken the opportunity to remind them, assuming an “I told you so” attitude. But Joseph did not do this. Instead he emphasized the fact that the experiences through which he had passed were of the Lord, and designed to keep his chosen people—the seed of promise—alive.

God’s purpose in dealing with Joseph as he did, and causing this whole beautiful story to be recorded for our admonition and blessing, is set forth in Joseph’s statement to his brothers when he revealed his identity to them. He said, “God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” To this Joseph added, “So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.”

What a marvelous expression of confidence in God and in the outworking of his providences! Even more important as a lesson for the Lord’s people today is the attitude of forgiveness Joseph displayed. Joseph could have simply seen the outworking of God’s providences in his life, yet continue to hold resentment against his brethren.

However their sin in attempting to do away with him was not forgotten by them. Some time later, after Jacob had died and the family had returned from burying him in Canaan, they became apprehensive. It seemed to them quite likely that Joseph’s leniency was on account of their father, and now that he was gone they could expect some sort of retaliatory treatment from their younger brother, who still held his high position of authority in the land.

They were so concerned that they seemingly resorted to misrepresentation. They told Joseph that their father, before he died, had requested leniency for them. But there is no record that he did. The messenger sent to Joseph to speak for his brothers said, “Thy father did command before he died, saying, so shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father.”—Gen. 50:16,17

Joseph’s reply was reassuring, and at the same time brought home to his brethren that after all their responsibility was to God, and not to him. He said, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God?” (vs. 19) Then he continued, ‘But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive.”—vs. 20

Joseph’s viewpoint is obvious. Since God had overruled the evil intent of his brothers to accomplish good, he could not find it in his heart to punish his brethren or to harbor any resentment against them. The Lord had given him the dreams which forecast the outcome to which their evil intent would lead, and since the Lord was involved in all that had taken place, Joseph’s desire now was to leave his brethren in the hands of the Lord to punish or to refrain from punishing as he deemed best.

Joseph’s life emphasizes the importance of mercy as a quality of Christian character. As followers in the footsteps of Jesus, we are not to demand justice from others. Like Joseph, any injustices perpetrated against us we leave in the hands of the Lord. The test upon us is whether or not we will be merciful. Paul wrote, “Love seeketh not her own.” (I Cor. 13:5) We are to be just in our dealings, while we exercise mercy toward those who treat us unjustly. If our hearts are filled with the Spirit of the Lord we will find joy in this way of life.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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