Joseph was favored. Out of his 11 brothers, Joseph was the favorite of his father Jacob. He was also favored of God. This is not the same thing as saying He was God’s favorite. Rather, God chose Joseph for a special role or purpose. His grace or favor was evident in Joseph’s life.
Genesis 37 begins with the story of Joseph as a young man. It starts by telling us about two dreams Joseph had. It also tells us that his brothers hated him. They hated him. They hated him. Three times in only a few verses, we read that Joseph’s brothers hated him. They were jealous because of their father’s favoritism and enraged by the implications of Joseph’s dreams.
First, Joseph dreamed that they were all out in the field tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly his bundle stood up and his brothers’ bundles all gathered around and bowed low before Joseph’s. Without any education in dream interpretation, his brothers immediately caught the significance. They said, “Do you actually think you will reign over us?”
Next, Joseph dreamed that the sun, moon and eleven stars all bowed low before him. Again, his brothers immediately understood the significance. This time his father rebuked him. His father said, “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?”
God gave these dreams to Joseph. Joseph understood this, but his family did not. His brothers, in their jealousy saw only an arrogant, spoiled brat.
It did not help their opinion of Joseph when they saw Joseph wearing a special, “this is my favorite son,” robe that his father had given him.
It did not help that Joseph told their father when the brothers did bad things.
Finally, the brothers decided on the ultimate solution. They would kill Joseph. They threw Joseph into an empty cistern, and were going to leave him to die. Then a band of traders happened to pass by. Seeing an opportunity to turn a profit rather than commit murder, the brothers sold Joseph as a slave.
As a slave, Joseph worked hard. He also enjoyed God’s blessings so he rose quickly to being in charge of the household where he was enslaved. Then disaster struck. Falsely accused of a wrong he had refused to commit, he spent years in prison. Genesis 39 through 41 tells of Joseph’s time in Egypt.
God has taken the time to tell us many details of Joseph’s life. I urge you to read it on your own.
In prison, Joseph quickly rose to a position of leadership. He took care of all of the other prisoners. In the course of his duties, he helped two prisoners by interpreting their dreams. He asked them to help him also, but when they got out, they forgot about Joseph.
Sold as a slave, wrongly thrown into jail, forgotten by friends Joseph had reason to be angry.
His brothers who were supposed to be his friends and protectors hated him and would have killed him had it not been for a chance meeting with some traders.
Many of us have been filled with anger over lesser things. Others of us have experienced things that some would count as worse. Some have been beaten and abused by their own parents. Others have been sexually abused by those who should have been their protectors. Each person knows inside the list of hurts, insults and injuries that he or she has experienced. Each one of us could fill pages. God records for all humanity to read some of the wrongs done to Joseph. In these pages in Genesis, we read only the major ones. We can be certain that there were many, many daily little jabs and stabs taken at Joseph by his hateful brothers.
A particularly pointed revelation is what the brothers said more than 20 years later. They said, “We saw his anguish when he pleaded for his life, but we wouldn’t listen.” In this statement, we see the cold-hearted malice with which his brothers treated Joseph.
Seeing and experiencing such cold-hearted malice, has caused many to reject God. A man named Vladimir told me that seeing his little brother killed by a German soldier convinced him there is no God. Some spend their whole lives bitter and angry at God, at society, at family or at those who hurt them.
The problem is we all have elements of Joseph’s story in our life. We all have been wronged to one degree or another.
Today I want to look at how Joseph responded, and learn how we can find healing in his words. Turn with me to Genesis 45 verses 3 through 8.
3“I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. 4“Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. In addition, he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. 5But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. 6This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.”
We know that we should forgive those who trespass against us. We know that to do so is good for ourselves. We remain the prisoner of the one we refuse to forgive. So many of us are enslaved by the hurts that we just cannot forgive. Look at what Joseph says. “It was God who sent me here.”
Not forgiving others and forgiving others is a major issue in our relationship with God. Jesus said, “14If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6: 14-15)
Do not hear me saying, “Forgive or else.” I am trying to get at something deeper. We all know God is sovereign. By “sovereign,” I mean that He is free to do whatever He wants with what is His. The universe is His. Nothing happens without His knowledge. He also has the power to control. Jesus said that not even a sparrow falls to the ground but God is fully aware of the situation.
As proof of what I am saying, I will give you a few verses from the Bible.
3Our God is in the heavens, and he does as he wishes. (Psalm 115:3)
35All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’ (Daniel 4:35)
9“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ (Isaiah 45:9)
These and many such passages of Scripture tell us of the sovereignty of God. This is why the deeper issue in forgiveness is our relationship with God. There is a truth expressed by Joseph to his brothers that needs to be communicated.
When Jacob passed away, Joseph’s brothers thought the other shoe was going to fall. Now that their father was gone, they feared that Joseph would try to get even for what they had done. Turn to Genesis 50:19-20 and see what Joseph said?
19But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.
There are three things in this passage we all need to take with us.
First, we are not God. We cannot punish those who wrong us. We must leave that to God.
Second, call it like it is. They intended harm. Joseph’s brothers were not good old boys just having some fun. They intended to harm Joseph and he did not sugar coat it. It is not our place to punish, and neither is it our place to excuse, downplay or take responsibility for the malice or wrongdoing of others.
Third, God intended it for good. This is probably the toughest point. We can see the good that came out of Joseph’s life, but it is difficult to see what good can come out of some horrible stuff that happens. Be careful here. Joseph did not say that what his brothers did was good. It was horrible. The bad things that people do are just that – they are bad. However, God can use the bad things for good. God is good. When horrible things happen, it is hard to believe that God is good. It is hard for us to trust that God will make something good of this bad thing. However, this is precisely what made the difference in Joseph’s life.
He rose above every bad thing thrown at him because he believed with all his heart that God is good and God is Sovereign. In the New Testament, we are encouraged to have this same faith. In Romans 8:28 we find it written: 28And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
This is why forgiveness is first an issue between God and us. He is sovereign. Do we believe He is good?
Read the story of Joseph. He trusted God. But, he did not trust his brothers. Before he revealed himself to them, he tested them in a number of ways. He forgave them, but he also knew what they had done. He provided for them, but he did not entrust himself to them. He trusted God completely and fully. He knew that God was in control and that even the bad things that happened only served to accomplish God’s purposes.
Get right with God. First, realize that He is willing to forgive you for anything and everything you may have done wrong. He sent His only Son to die in your place for the bad things you have done. All you need to do is ask him to forgive you.
Second, realizing all that He has forgiven you for, let Him set you free from any unforgiveness in your heart. He is good. He wants to bless you beyond anything any of us can imagine, but we have to trust Him.