Pastor Craig Groeschel writes in his book CHRISTIAN ATHEIST about something horrible that had been happened to his younger sister throughout the years… He writes, “You can imagine how I felt when I learned of the tragedy. I found out that my little sister had been (abused) for years by a close family friend. Max had been Lisa’s sixth grade teacher. He taught me how to play racquetball, shopped at my dad’s retail store, and often cheered for my sister at her school drill-team performances. At the time, this single man in his mid-thirties seemed like a nice person looking for friends. Our family really accepted him, unaware that behind the supportive teacher façade was a very sick man who repeatedly abused numerous girls over many years.
To say I wanted Max to die and burn in hell doesn’t even begin to convey how much I wanted him to suffer. Although the words rage, hate, and revenge come to mind when I think about Max, the English language simply doesn’t have a word for how I felt.
We all know Christians are supposed to forgive. But many of us think that there are exceptions to this rule. Sure, we should forgive most of the time – maybe even almost all the time. But to forgive a guy like Max? Forget about it.”
Anger and forgiveness are two words that go together like water and oil. It is extremely hard to show forgiveness to someone who you are angry with.. To say it is easier to stay angry at someone rather than forgiving them would be an understatement. But controlling our anger and extending forgiveness is something the Bible tells us we must do. I think about Groeschel’s story, and I can’t even imagine how I would respond or even consider the painstaking difficulty I would have in even entertaining the idea of forgiveness. Yet, as a Christian I know that this is what I would need to do.
In Genesis we read the story of Joseph and his story is one that is entrenched with anger and forgiveness. Joseph’s life was ridden betrayal as his brothers took him and sold him as a slave. Abuse when his brothers threw him in a pit and when Potiphers wife tried to seduce him. False allegations when Potipher’s wife accused him of trying to abuse her. And injustice as he was thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. We see from our vantage point it was all for the glory of God. However, at the time I am sure he did not know how the outcomes would be for God’s glory, so I am also sure that he had difficulty working through his anger and ultimately forgiveness. Today we are going to look at the events of Genesis 42 – 45. I am going to give a quick overview of these chapters (I would encourage you to read these chapters on your own) and we will see how Joseph worked through his difficulties and look at the amazing act of forgiveness he shows to those who did him wrong.
Genesis 42:1 - 10
At this point of the story Joseph had overcome his hardships and was promoted to a place of honor in the land of Egypt. He was Pharoah’s right hand man. However, there was a famine in the land where Joseph’s father, Jacob and his brothers lived, and they heard that there was grain for sale in Egypt. Apparently, his sons were a little mystified as to how they should deal with this famine. He says, “Why do you look at one another?” This is another way of saying, “Why are standing around doing nothing when there is a lot of work that needs to be done?” He sends his sons to Egypt but leaves his youngest Benjamin behind. Jacob did not trust his sons with Benjamin since he was Joseph’s brother. He was afraid they would allow something bad happen to him like they did Joseph. The pain of losing his son Joseph was still raw, and real after 17 years. Jacob had not forgotten what happened to Joseph. There is a lack of trust on his part and rightfully so.
Nevertheless, the brothers make the journey to Egypt and unbeknownst to them their brother Joseph is still alive and thriving in Egypt; in fact, he is now the governor of the land, and the one person people would see when they came to buy grain from the storehouses. When his brothers approached Joseph, they did not recognize him, but Joseph knew them. They bowed before him, and Joseph remembered his dream of many years ago (Genesis 37: 5 – 8).
Joseph does not want to reveal his identity to them just yet. He treats them like strangers and speaks harshly to them. He accuses the brothers of being spies. After grilling them for some time the brothers mention they have another brother… They say unfortunately, one is dead and the other, Benjamin, is back home with their father. Joseph demands they bring Benjamin to back to him and one should stay back until they return. The brothers talked among themselves, and Joseph went to a private place and wept.
Joseph filled their bags with grain and put their money back and sent them back home; Simeon stayed behind. When they returned home, they were afraid because their money was still in the bags and they were even more afraid when they saw their father. They told him the governor wants Benjamin to come back with them and Jacob refuses. Interestingly he would rather lose his son Simeon than entrust Benjamin with his sons.
Some time passes and the famine gets worse (just as the dream stated) the grain runs out in Jacob’s household, and he tells them to go back to Egypt to buy more. They convince Jacob to send Benjamin along with them. Judah swears that he will protect him and if anything, bad happens to Benjamin then his father could hold him responsible.
As they return to Egypt, they are afraid because they think they will be accused of stealing since the money was still in their bags from before. This ends up not being an issue. Joseph tells them he received their wages so God must have blessed them.
As they stand before Joseph, this time with Benjamin, he is overcome with emotion once again. He goes into his chamber and weeps. Once he regains his composure, he invites the brothers to dinner and portions from Joseph’s table were given to them, but Benjamin received five times the portion.
Joseph plants his cup in Benjamin’s sack. He accuses Benjamin of stealing and the brothers pleaded for mercy for their brother. Judah insists on taking the blame instead of Benjamin.
Joseph can no longer contain himself. He begins crying and commands everyone to leave him except his brothers. He then reveals his identity to his brothers. The brothers were troubled at this revelation. They were literally speechless. They were afraid because they knew what they had done. Never in a million years would they have ever thought this would have happened, but it did. They didn’t know how Joseph would respond. He was now second in command in all of Egypt and he could have easily sought revenge. But he doesn’t. This is where we see the true heart of Joseph. He demonstrates compassion, he extends grace, and he shows them forgiveness. He responds in 45:5, “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God has sent me before you to preserve life.” Did you hear that? Do not blame yourselves for anything because I am here by divine appointment. In verse 7 he declares his purpose for going through all he went through and then caps it off in verse 8 by saying, “It was not you who sent me here, but God.” In so many words he is saying, “All is forgiven.”
Not only does Joseph show compassion and forgiveness but he invites his brothers, their families, and his father to come move to Egypt so he can take care of them. What an amazing spectacle of grace. They are so undeserving of this treatment, yet Joseph shows them kindness.
As he sends his brothers back home, he says, “Do not quarrel on the way.” He knows his brothers well. They could very easily play the blame game on the way home… “Hey, it wasn’t my idea to put him in a pit!” “I never wanted to sell him, I was going to rescue him, and so you are to blame!” and so on…. Joseph says “don’t quarrel. All is forgiven so let’s put this behind us now and continue as a family.”
When the brothers returned home, they told their father what happened, and he is ecstatic! He is willing to go to Egypt so he can go see his son Joseph before he dies.
All Is Forgiven
This is one of the most beautiful stories of compassion, grace, and forgiveness in the Bible. Joseph’s response could only happen through the power of God and the Holy Spirit. Joseph chooses forgiveness over anger and bitterness. Why? Because he knew it was the right thing to do and he also knew it was pointless to harbor anger and bitterness in his heart because then he would become an angry and bitter person. He could have easily justified revenge or gave his brothers a taste of their own medicine. But he doesn’t. He forgives. I/we can certainly learn a lot from Joseph when it comes to forgiveness. There is great difficulty in letting go of anger and extending forgiveness. Personally, I am still working through something that happened to me in recent years and I will admit I am having difficulty not being angry with someone who caused great harm too my family and me. In my heart I have forgiven this person, but the root of anger and bitterness lingers. I think therefore the story of Joseph speaks to my heart. I can honestly say that I have never withheld forgiveness from anyone, but I do struggle with allowing the spirit of anger and bitterness to remain in my heart towards this individual. Maybe some of you in this room have had similar experiences and have difficulty either showing forgiveness or allowing bitterness to take root; so, I am not going to stand up here and tell you how easy it is to forgive… but I will tell you by the power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit you can forgive… even if you think you can’t.
How we can show forgiveness
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.