He was the subject of a 1975 Bob Dylan song. There was a movie of his life released in 1999. This high school drop out wrote an autobiography that was read by hundreds of thousands. Gunshots pierced the night in Paterson, New Jersey on June 17, 1966. Two men and one woman lay dead. Later two black men were stopped driving a white Dodge. They were accused, but both passed lie detector tests. There was no time for them to dispose of their weapons and change clothes between the murders and their arrest. Both men were later indicted, tried and convicted. Both men were sentenced to life terms in prison. A key witness confessed he had been pressured to lie on the witness stand. In 1976, the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned the conviction. In the second trial, the key witness again lied. The result was another conviction. One was paroled in 1981. Nine more years would pass, when in 1985 a Federal Court stepped in freed the other man. He had been a rising star in the boxing world, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. He was quoted as saying, "If I wasn’t able to get rid of that hate, then my opponents would have won. They would have been able to take far more than the 20 years that they took from me in prison."
I do not know if “Hurricane” Carter is a Christian or not, but his story and attitude can certainly teach something about holding a grudge. He could have allowed anger and bitterness to destroy him. Many have done that, but “Hurricane” saw past his circumstances.
Anger and bitterness can never accomplish anything positive.
Let’s take a look at another story. Joe was daddy’s boy. He always got the best clothes and wasn’t required to work as hard as his brothers. One day when the brothers were out in the pasture, dad sent Joe out to check on them. Jealousy raged in the hearts of the brothers. They schemed to kill Joe, but one of the brothers contrived a plan to sell Joe to a roaming band of traders. They told dad that Joe was dead. For years, Joe languished in a foreign land. He was falsely accused of rape and imprisoned. No one would have blamed him for becoming angry or bitter with his lot in life. God had plans, big plans, for Joe. Joe worked his way up the ranks of the government of the land. Some twenty-two years after his brothers exiled him, there they were on his doorstep begging for food because there was a severe famine throughout that area of the world. His brothers were unaware that it was their long lost brother that held their lives in his hand. Joe had the power to have his brothers put to death, no questions asked. Joe tested his brothers. He had missed over two decades of family life with his dad and brothers. He desired to renew his acquaintance with his brothers.
Turn with me to Genesis 45:
This story illustrates three things for us to look at tonight: God has a divine plan, We don’t always understand God’s plan, and Reconciliation is something that should be sought.
God has a divine plan.
Joseph’s brothers were trying to get rid of a problem, namely their irritating brother. He had been the favorite of their dad, and he flaunted it. They saw an opportunity to get rid of him and their jealousy at the same time. God, however, was using this extreme case of sibling rivalry as the chance to save his people and preserve His covenant with them. God had promised Joseph’s great-grandfather, Abraham, that the land of Canaan would be his and his descendants. At first glance, this seems an odd way to preserve God’s people. Attempted murder, selling someone into slavery, and lying to cover it all up? On top of that, his boss’ wife falsely accused Joseph and he winds up in prison. Are these ways to carry out God’s plan?