The story of Joseph is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I think that I can identify with his journey from spoiled and deeply loved by his Father yet hated by all his half-brothers. What they did to him was unforgivable! They sold him into slavery and tore his coat that his Dad had made for him and put animal blood on it to pass him off as dead to their Father. Those evil brothers went on with their lives, got married and had families. Joseph, however, went to Egypt and was sold as a slave to Potiphar whose wife couldn’t keep her hands off him and cried rape when Joseph told her no to sex. Then Joseph was thrown into an Egyptian prison and forgotten about for a number of years. Yet Joseph, because he had a loving God that helped him out with interpretation of dreams, was eventually rescued from prison and became the second in command of all of Egypt! What a prince he became! Then as many of you know, the time of famine came to the whole world and through the famine Joseph was reunited with his brothers. It is a thrilling story in Genesis and one well worth your reading.
What I noticed today as I was revisiting this story of triumphant over tragedy was how long Joseph waited before he met his brothers. In reality, I don’t think it was Joseph’s heart that needed the time to forgive. Rather I think the time was necessary for his hard-hearted brothers to come to repentance. What I see is that when people are full of sin it takes God longer to work out a good ending for their victims. Granted it was Joseph who suffered as a slave and as a prisoner but God was with him and showed favor on Joseph so that everything he did brought prosperity. Those ten half-brothers, on the other hand, did not have favor from the Lord. They had to work everything out for themselves. I suspect that many things went wrong in their lives only we don’t see it because their story isn’t the point God wants us to remember. God wants us to focus on his servant Joseph because he had the right attitude toward God. His half-brothers had no thought for their family, their Father or their God!
I see people like them today and I bet if you are honest you see people like them as well. The people who go through life caring only about themselves, people who don’t care about their family or what their parents think or feel. I mean, think of it, these guys took the one person that their Father felt comfort from and left him for dead when they sold Joseph into slavery. If God had not had favor on Joseph there would have certainly been a different ending to this story. These self-centered persons are the type who can compartmentalize their feelings and never feel a twinge of guilt, talk about hard-hearted! They were jealous, angry, prideful, lacking in love toward their brother and Father, and arrogant about what they had done. But Joseph, on the other hand, grew up and became a man of honor and integrity and had the favor of God on his life!
Having favor from God doesn’t mean that we get our own way in life and Joseph’s story certainly shows that to be true. Joseph reminds me of the song we sang as children in Sunday School. “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” Wherever Joseph went his attitude was to serve God and do his best at the task before him. Like a light that never went out Joseph kept on shining for God and God granted him favor.
I believe that the time for Joseph was not nearly as important as the time it took for God to work on the ten brother’s cold hearts. In the end, though, God broke through those cold hearts and made them remember what they had done, that terrible crime of so many years ago. God worked on their consciences and through some rather interesting events those guys finally saw how awful their crime had been to their brother and their aging Father. My question to you is to ask if maybe your patience is important when someone has wronged you.
First of all God works on your heart, he grows you up as a Christian and your faith gets deeper and deeper when you are hurting and reeling from the pain someone has caused you. Secondly you forgive and it is a process that will take some time but in the end you forgive or else you aren’t a real true Christian. Then when you have basically forgotten about the person that hurt you and your life is going well and you have moved on God sometimes makes you cross paths with that person who hurt you. Some cracking and breaking down of a harden-heart begins in the other person and they see how God is blessing you and it makes them stop and think about the sin they have committed against you. Just like these brothers and Joseph. God will bring it to their mind when the time is right and He will make them deal with it just as He did the ten brothers. I would not want to be one of the brothers in any situation; rather I want to be the Prince Joseph! Don’t you? Have you thought about what you will do if you are ever in a situation like Joseph was with his brothers?
Let’s set the scene, you have moved on and you are happy and contended in your life. You have finally built a new life that you actually enjoy and you are feeling so blessed by God. The past no more haunts you and there is not sting in your thoughts if they ever return to that dark time when someone hurt you. You are praising God for all the good things He provides to you and for seeing you through the dark past of hurt. You suddenly are aware of a new situation on the horizon, that person who hurt you so deeply is struggling and hurting. Perhaps what that person did to you someone else is doing to them or maybe it is a different situation all together but you realize that you are being given an opportunity to do good for this one who harmed you, will you do good or will you walk away?
His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:18-21, (English Standard Version or ESV).
When you have perfect peace in forgiving something horrible that has been done to you God has done a powerful work in you. There is no more bitterness. There is no longing for retribution. There is peace and contentment because you see the good that has come from the dark and hurtful past. You have experienced grace and mercy and you have extended it to someone else who may not be worthy of it but then neither were you worthy of God’s grace. Your whole attitude changes because God has done the purifying work inside your heart.
If you are going through a rough time and in the process of trying to forgive the unforgivable my advice to you is to be like Joseph and not like his half-brothers. Joseph had a hard life and there are no answers as to why God allowed Joseph to go through so much suffering. But what I see is that all of us grow during struggles, we dig deeper and plant those spiritual roots deeper into God’s word and we become an adult Christian. That was the reason, to grow us up in the Lord so that we can go out and be the light to a darkened world.
I am trying to cultivate an attitude like Joseph, no bitterness, acceptance that God is in control and has not forgotten me, and has a purpose for my life that is important to someone, somewhere, sometime. After all God sent Jesus Christ to me and that certainly changed my life and gave me hope! How cool is that!!!!
Until next time…Katherine