God promised Abraham a people and a place. Jacob and his sons were His people and lived in Canaan. Hebron, specifically.
But Joseph lived in Egypt. Remember?
Having won the trust of Pharoah, Joseph wore his signet ring and was second in command. He married an Egyptian woman from a high-profile family, and they had two sons together. In his position, Joseph devised a plan to save Egypt from starvation during the envisioned seven years of famine. To use my over-used phrase: he was kind of a big deal.
The prediction of famine became a painful reality, reaching beyond Egypt. And as hunger loomed in Canaan, Jacob sent Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to buy food.
Knocking on Joseph’s door, the brothers were unaware of who stood on the other side. But Joseph knew who knocked. The odds were not in their favor.
Using an interpreter, Joseph questioned his brothers. He most wanted to know if his father and younger brother Benjamin were still alive. He suggested the brothers may be spies, so he put them in prison for a short time. While there, the brothers panicked, and got honest with themselves and one another, confessing their guilt and regret about Joseph. Looming death tends to make one think of such things.
Though they were careful to speak in Hebrew so that Joseph could not understand, Joseph heard. He stepped away to weep.
He eventually released the band of brothers, but Simeon stayed behind as ransom for Benjamin.
Joseph’s brothers left Egypt with food in their backpacks and fear in their hearts. Returning to Jacob, they told him everything that had happened.
“The man in charge of Egypt kept Simeon. And he wants us to bring Benjamin back to him.”
Jacob responded with an adamant no. “He’s all I have left of Rachel and stays with me.” Oh, yea. First-choice wife, Rachel.
But hunger knocked again in Canaan.
Because returning to Egypt without Benjamin would be futile, Judah leveled up. Yes. Judah. He wass a changed man.
“Hold me accountable if any harm comes to him.“
So the brothers and Benjamin returned to Egypt for more food.
From behind his Egyptian façade, Joseph directed a drama full of conflict and tension. The drama eventually found its resolution because Joseph didn’t let his circumstances define him. He forgave his brothers, recognizing God was moving behind the scenes, working things out for a good greater than they could understand.
Hope is always working things for our good. And God’s glory.
Jacob — Israel —his sons, and their families all journeyed to Egypt. Joseph gave them the best of the land. Together, they settled in the land of Goshen. Seventy in all. And they prospered.
Can you imagine? Believing in and clinging to God, trusting in His timing? How about Joseph’s restraint and forgiveness?
Joseph’s brothers didn’t sell him by accident. Their jealousy spawned their harm. They could have walked back their poorly-planned ruse; they did not. But Joseph believed that even though the brothers intended him harm, God used the situation for good. He could see God’s plans reached farther than his personal pain.
Do you hold on to hurts? Do you secretly wish pain on others or want God to settle the score? In your favor, of course.
What the enemy intends to harm us, God redeems and restores. ( I don’t believe He always determines it; but allows it.) Beauty from ashes. Pearls of great price. Graves to gardens. Mourning to joy. You can say it however you like. But saying it isn’t believing it. Saying it isn’t living it. You can hear and speak it on Sunday, but when Monday rolls around, are you living it out?
Though he was in a position of power to do so, Joseph didn’t settle the score; he settled the tension through forgiveness.
If we believe God truly works for the good of those who love Him, we will forgive those who have accidentally harmed us. But greater still, we will also forgive those who intentionally hurt us, trusting God to create His good for His glory.
Lord, it’s too easy to see our circumstances and get stuck in a cycle of hurt and unforgiveness. When we live with unforgiveness, our heart bleeds out into every relationship, staining every effort.
Father, You take what others mean for harm and make it good. Your plans are not shaken. When our plans get derailed, Your ultimate plan is not. When we can’t make sense of our circumstances, may we seek You. For in Your presence, there is peace and joy.
Give us Your power to forgive others, just as You have forgiven us. Help us cling to the promise that You will make it good. And we will give You the glory. Amen.
For much of the year, we can hide from our hurt. We can avoid it. Eat it away. Drink it away. Exercise it away. But something about Christmas causes us to look our pain, or the source of our pain, right in the face. Perhaps, literally.
Today, why don’t we offer our hurts as a sacrifice? Let’s lay them down and free those who caused our pain. Because in doing so, we free ourselves.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven [a]you.EPHESIANS 4:31-32
Unforgiveness doesn’t sit neatly in a corner. No. It leaks into every nook and cranny of our hearts. It oozes. It hardens. It rots.
I know. It’s hard. Forgiving feels like our offenders are getting off free; they are. That’s what forgiveness is. And in setting others free, we find our own freedom. Oh, sure, it costs us something. It costs us our pride. Our right to hold a grudge. Our right to withdraw. Our right to avoid. But forgiveness sets our hearts free to live loved.
Just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
There’s no gift under any tree better than the gift of forgiveness. So, whether you need to give such a gift or receive one, what a beautiful gift it is — forgiveness.