A Study of Joseph – Forgiveness before Restoration

God is the ultimate healer as we saw in our last post. After years of trials and tribulations, God delivered Joseph from his afflictions and allowed him to be placed over all of Egypt. Along with that, Joseph was given a new bride and shortly after that, was blessed with two sons. Egypt was soon enjoying 7 years of great prosperity just as Joseph had said they would and Joseph knew that 7 years of famine were to follow. So with preparations made and the storehouses full, Joseph and Egypt were ready for the days that lay ahead.

And just as God had delivered Joseph from his bondage and protected Egypt from the famine, He was about to bring restoration to the house of Jacob (Israel). The onslaught of famine was not immune to Egypt only but was felt around the world, even into the land of Canaan. This week we will look at Genesis 42:1-28 with our focus being on the latter part of the chapter.

In Genesis 42:1-4, we see the plight of famine is reaching across the globe as Jacob instructs the sons to go to Egypt and buy the grain they need to survive. Jacob did not send Benjamin (the youngest) with them. In verse 4 – But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he thought, “Something might happen to him”.  I wonder to what extent Jacob did not trust the 10 brothers? Obviously, he was protecting Benjamin but exactly from what, we are not sure. So the brothers, after 20 plus years come face to face once again with the brother they thought they had gotten rid of years earlier! And we see that a dream long forgotten by most, was soon to be fulfilled….partially anyway.

Genesis 42:6-7 – 6 Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. 7 As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked. “From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.” They however, did not recognize Joseph so he decided to test them a little. He claimed they were spies to which they obviously denied by telling him their story and that they were the sons of one man and that they were…..wait for it…..honest. Still unknown to them but the sins of their past were about to be unfolded for all to see.

Joseph challenged their response and insisted they were spies to which they confessed even more – in verse  – 13 But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.” Joseph decided to test the brothers by holding one of them in prison while the others returned to Canaan to deliver the much needed food and then return with the youngest brother to prove that they were not spies. It’s interesting how the brothers respond to this plight. See, they knew exactly what they had done some 20 years earlier was wrong and they now recognized they were being punished for their sins. Genesis 42:21-22.

Important to note here, I think, is that Joseph was not proposing these tests to his brothers seeking revenge or in some way making them suffer to get even. He is simply testing their current attitudes. Is there any remorse? sorrow for what they had done years ago. Joseph had long since forgiven his brothers for what they had done. It didn’t however, change the overwhelming emotions of having his brothers face to face in his presence. Can you imagine all of the emotions that Joseph must have felt the instant he recognized his brothers?

I would encourage you to read Genesis 42:21-28 for yourself and take in what true forgiveness really looks like. You will notice 3 distinct things about this passage.

1. We are to forgive unconditionally. We may never hear an apology or have a person admit being at fault. Doesn’t matter, we are instructed as Christ followers to forgive. Christ himself forgave us long before we ever admitted of being guilty of anything. Luke 23:34 – 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[a] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. and in Matthew 5:44 – 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 

2. Even with true forgiveness, there may still be some painful, possibly negative emotions. My dad always tried to teach me one principle and that is – Do what you know is right! Period. No execuses. The challenge to this for me, has always been in regards to those who have wronged me. There are some people who have done wrong by me yet I have forgiven them and have been able to do right by them, even when it was tough to do. But in all honesty, there are some who I have tried to forgive but in my heart I honestly don’t know if I would be able to do right by them. I would like to think so, but I know in my flesh, there is a good chance I wouldn’t.

3. Giving forgiveness while also praying for justice is acceptable behavior…the key however, is to who’s justice are praying for? Yours or God’s? True justice can only come from God! And as such, that should help to bring us a sense of peace.  Romans 12:17-19 – 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 

4. Last thought. Joseph is also showing great leadership here and in the scriptures to come by helping his brothers restore broken relationships: with him, with each other, their father and ultimately with God himself. So here is a future challenge for you. The next time you find yourself in a position of having to forgive someone – ask yourself this  question – how can I use this situation to help bring the offending person to a closer relationship with Jesus.

Peace and thanks for reading!

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