Genesis 37:3-4; 19-36
Over the last two Sundays, we’ve acknowledged the fact that living a life of faith, as a follower of Christ, isn’t always easy. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise: Jesus warned his own disciples, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). And we know trouble, don’t we? It’s a reality of this life.
We face challenges, obstacles... temptations... that can make us, or break us. Those moments, those situations, can be overwhelming, knocking us off course... or they can serve as opportunities for us to Glorify God; chances to give evidence to our faithfulness.
Over the past two Sunday’s we’ve looked at the lives of a couple of biblical characters who overcame the world and it’s troubles to glorify and honor God. We talked about David’s patience... his willingness to wait on God to be God... instead of taking matters into his own hands (and making things worse). We talked about Daniel, and how he obeyed God, even when ostracized, and persecuted (literally thrown to the lions) on account of his faith.
And today, we shift our attention to Joseph.
Joseph believed God was in complete control over every area of his life - that God was sovereign, even in the difficult moments; and trying times - that God was constantly working everything out for Joesph’s good and God’s greater glory.
Of course (as the story goes), Joseph’s brothers were jealous (of Joseph)... they resented his relationship with their father. So they robbed him of his youth by selling him into slavery - after contemplating killing him - and faking his death.
Joseph found himself a servant in a foreign land... eventually landing in prison on false charges. He’d fallen about as far as you could ever imagine falling!
But his situation, his circumstances... never defined Joseph.
Joseph was eventually rescued from prison... and found himself promoted to the second highest position in all of Egypt.
His own family (his brothers) had turned on Joseph.
But those very same brothers would find themselves at Joseph’s feet... seeking his help during their own time of trial (a famine). Despite their failure to recognize Joseph... Joseph certainly recognized them.
Of course, eventually Joseph revealed his identity - and his brothers were shaking in their boots. They expected Joseph to treat them as harshly as they had treated them.
But vengeance, and revenge, were never Joseph’s intention. Instead... Joseph offered kindness... expressing thanks to God... and giving God the credit and glory, for all the events in his life that led him to his present situation. It was all part of God’s greater sovereign plan!
Joseph said, “It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you” (verse 5), and again, “God set me ahead to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (verse 7). In the 50th Chapter of Genesis, Joseph said to his brothers, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.”
It’s clear that Joseph had a tremendous trust in the sovereignty of God’s will... and had a faith in God’s promises that enabled him to forgive those who’d sought to do him harm.
Have you ever experienced the hurt of total rejection? Of course, I don’t think any of us have ever had brothers fake our death and sell us into slavery! But... have you ever had someone that you loved and trusted - turn their back on you? Has anyone ever walked away from you without so much as an explanation?
It can be mighty hard to forgive betrayal...
Sometimes we find ourselves asking God to help us forgive those who’ve wronged us... we ask God for the strength and ability to forgive. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t!
But... honestly... for me; that’s tantamount to a copout. So long as we’re able to brush off actually forgiving others, by using God as our scapegoat... we’ll never witness true forgiveness. In fact, we’re preventing it.
God’s Word doesn’t call us to “work on forgiveness” - to pray and pray and pray some more for the strength to forgive! God’s Word calls us to in fact forgive! Forgive and you will be forgiven. The power to forgive is already in us! If Christ is our Lord - we have all we need. Philippians 2:13 says, “For God is working IN YOU, giving you [BOTH] the DESIRE and the POWER to do what pleases Him.”
Corrie ten Boom, was a Calvinist Christian (like us) - and a member of the Dutch Reformed Church in Holland. She and her family were instrumental in helping Jews make their way to safety during the second world war... by hiding them in their home. When Corrie’s actions were reported to the Nazis (when she, herself was betrayed)... she (and other family members) were arrested, and sent to concentration camps.
If anyone could’ve legitimately refused to forgive, Corrie ten Boom was one of those people. She had watched as evil people destroyed lives... and she had worked faithfully to intervene, doing God’s work in the midst of suffering. Yet, ultimately, she and her family suffered... her sister and father both died while in custody of the Nazis.
But Boom still, through it all, believed in the call to forgive, and the power of forgiveness...
She said, “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” In other words, forgiveness is a choice; not an emotion or a feeling.
Forgiveness is a defining attribute for Christians... it’s part of our DNA to forgive. The feelings associated with forgiveness will eventually follow... but the act of forgiveness is a specific event, a moment in time, when you and I choose to release the constrains of hatred... and brokeness... and heartache... and rejection... and betrayal... in a deliberate act of the will, before God.
There’s a very real and profound freedom in forgiveness. It’s freeing for US, no doubt! But the freedom found through forgiveness doesn’t just benefit us... but everyone around us. Forgiving people are happier people! They’re more loving, more tolerant, more grateful people.
And even though we may never know the true impact of our forgiveness... God will know, and He will use the testimony of our forgiveness to set others free.
You and I, like Joseph, may even be able (at some point) to look back, and say, that “what others meant for evil, God meant for good.”
Timothy Kelley once said, “The more you rejoice in your own forgiveness, the quicker you will be to forgive others.”
Our willingness to forgive is a testimony to our willingness to accept Christ’s forgiveness. Unearned, unmerited, undeserved forgiveness.