Genesis 50:12-21 The legacy of a blessed community is love and forgiveness, not bitterness and manipulation
12 Thus his sons did for him as he had charged them; 13 for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field for a burial site from Ephron the Hittite. 14 After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers, and all who had gone up with him to bury his father. 15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. 21 So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Now, with their father dead and buried, the brothers return to Egypt to settle unfinished business. Apparently, the brothers were anticipating a backlash from Joseph. They were unconvinced that Joseph has indeed forgiven them. In exchange for Joseph’s mercy and forgiveness they were even ready to become his slaves. Today’s devotion teaches us that the legacy of a blessed community is love and forgiveness, not bitterness and manipulation
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead…
This scene reveals the brothers’ inner world, the guilt and fear from their past undoing. For they anticipated a backlash for all the wrong which we did to him. However, their message to Joseph (Your Father charged before he died saying….) showed that Jacob already knew of the brothers’ crime committed against Joseph. And the fact that nothing is recorded of Jacob openly seeking clarification from his sons hints at an unresolved tension among them. It is surprising that this tension is only resolved after the passing of the patriarch. The sequence of events are:
- First, the brothers sent a message to Joseph through an intermediary to relay Jacob’s instructions to forgive them just before his death.
- Second, they pleaded for forgiveness for the heinous crime they have committed.
- Third, they submitted to Joseph’s leadership by offering themselves as slaves.
Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?
Joseph wept upon seeing his brothers’ message and gestures. And it appears the family have finally found true reconciliation. Hence, it is most probable that Joseph’s tears are of joy as opposed to grief. Indeed, the tension due to the brothers’ distrust of Joseph cannot in reality be resolved until Jacob dies.
When the brothers offered themselves as slaves, Joseph’s immediate reply, “Am I in God’s place?” revealed his conviction that God is sovereign over all. And since God has a predetermined purpose for their transgression, he will not act in God’s place to punish them. Thus, Joseph had no other agenda except to continue to care and provide for them.
In the light of God’s wisdom and absolute control, believers can rest safely even in the lap of evil.
Joseph may have by his brothers’ treachery incurred unimaginable suffering. But treachery played into God’s sovereignty who is intended on saving Egypt and Israel from famine. The harm intended by his brothers was turned on its head paving the way for good. Therefore, in the light of God’s wisdom and absolute control over all things, believers can rest safely in the lap of evil. The evil done against us will invariably turn to our benefit.
Many believers insist that God, being all powerful is able to bring about the good without incurring the suffering of the righteous. However, in God’s scheme of things, glory is always preceded by suffering. And in Jesus’s case, the cross came first before the crown. Paul said in Romans 8:17, “if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Unless we persevere in the face of evil, we cannot experience the glory that God had intended for us. And in Acts 14:22, Paul encouraged the disciples who suffered persecutions, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
The legacy of a blessed community is love and forgiveness, not bitterness and manipulation
The demise of Jacob invariably test the true strength of the bond among the sons. Since the restraining authority of the patriarch was taken away, Joseph can now do whatever he wished to his brothers who depended on him for sustenance. When Jacob was alive, there was no way of testing the authenticity of Joseph’s forgiveness towards them. Now that their father is no more, it is logical to call to question the true strength of their kinship. Nevertheless, the brothers’ scheme in using an intermediary to convey their deceased father’s wish attest to their trepidation and skepticism. However, this time, in the absence of Jacob, Joseph spoke kindly to them proving their fears were unfounded. Thus, it was now clear that Joseph’s forgiveness was birthed out of love, not out of compulsion to please Jacob. For God has determined the brothers’ crime as instrumental to Israel’s salvation. And by virtue of this fact, Joseph has forgiven his brothers.
Many forgive out of fear, being compelled to forgive their opposers lest God will not forgive them (see Matthew 6:15). But in their hearts of hearts, they continue to harbour bitterness secretly wishing for the demise of their opposers. Such have not been regenerated and do not belong to the blessed community of God. Although, the blessed community is not yet free from evil, they carry the mark of love and forgiveness, not bitterness and manipulation. Through love and forgiveness, the holy family has indeed triumphed over evil leaving a legacy of blessedness to the world.
How should believers who suffer injustice respond?
- Believers must not fret, but trust God and be confident of their eventual vindication.
- Believers must seek divine wisdom as to how they should work towards a predestined end. As in the case of Joseph, he continued to be fruitful in his work and to always do what is conscionable. Whether as slave or prisoner, he did his utmost working heartily unto God and not unto men.
- Believers must take authority over their circumstances by actively taking down the enemy in spiritual strongholds. We do this by sending angels to destroy their walls and flatten their cities as Joshua did at Jericho city. Through Jesus’s authority, we push back our adversaries, and through His name we will trample down those who rise up against us (see Psalms 44:5).
- Believers must learn to forgive out of love and wisdom while awaiting God’s vindication and restoration of all things.
Is your family constantly embroiled in petty quarrels often with rituals of rehashing past wounds and conflicts? In every conflict, learn to see things from God’s point of view. Learn to empathise and disagree without getting angry. By releasing the past, you enter into a new chapter of your family leaving a legacy of love and forgiveness.
Dear Lord, I praise you for your wisdom is unsearchable and nothing escapes you, not even evil. Therefore, I will rejoice as whatever harm is done against me, will invariably turn to my benefit. Show me the way that I should go, so that I may destroy the works of the evil one. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.