I don’t know how Joseph did it.
His brothers threw him into a pit and left him to die. Realizing they couldn’t profit from that, they pulled him out of the pit and sold him to a tribe of Nomads headed to Egypt. If that wasn’t enough, they led Joseph’s father to believe that a wild animal had eaten him.
In Egypt, Joseph was falsely accused of trying to seduce his bosses wife. That landed him in prison. He stayed there, forgotten, for many years. All because his brothers were jealous of him and got rid of him.
Yet, in the end, Joseph forgave his brothers. He loved them and reconciled with them.
I have the personality that can hang on to a hurt and nurse a grudge. I’m much better than I used to be in my younger days (Praise God!), but I still struggle with how Joseph could be so very forgiving to his brothers.
I know in scripture it tells us many times over that the Lord was with Joseph. When he was sold into slavery, when he was imprisoned, the Lord was with him. I understand that this is one reason Joseph could forgive so easily.
But there’s one small verse in scripture that I believe sheds a bit more light on Joseph’s forgiving heart.
Here’s some of the back story:
Joseph’s father, Jacob, stole his brother Esau’s birthright from him. Esau was so angry, he threatened to kill Jacob. Jacob fled and stayed with his uncle Laban for 20 years. Finally, he headed home, with his wives and children. He heard that his brother Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men! Jacob was terrified, so “He put the servants and their children first, Leah and her children after them, and Rachel and Joseph last.” Genesis 33:2.
Little Joseph was there when Jacob and Esau met up after so many years. He saw his father Jacob bow in humility to the brother he had wronged. Then he saw his Uncle Esau forgive his father Jacob.
“But Esau ran to meet him (Jacob), threw his arms around his neck, kissed him, and they wept.” Genesis 33:4
I wonder, all those years later, when he saw his own brothers, if Joseph thought of that moment? I wonder if he remembered the sweetness of reconciliation and love?
Esau modeled forgiveness, and Jacob modeled humility. Joseph and his brothers learned from what they had seen.
‘Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 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. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.’ Genesis 50:18-21
We must have a willingness to forgive, even when it doesn’t seem possible. As He was with Joseph, God will be with us and strengthen us when we choose to let go of anger and bitterness.
Is there someone for whom you can model forgiveness today? A child, a grandchild, a friend? And when they asked you how it’s possible to forgive so much, tell them how God was there for you. Tell them about HIS love and forgiveness.
May we all be an example of loving kindness and forgiveness to others today and always.
Grace be with you,