Summary: Bad stuff happens, people need forgiveness; how the two fit together and draw us closer to God.
15Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.”
Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them. Genesis 50:15-21 (NRSVA)
It was five days before Christmas when a stranger approached ten-year-old Christopher Carrier, claiming to be a friend of his father. I want to buy him a gift, and I need your help, said the stranger. Eager to do something good for his dad, Chris climbed aboard a motor home parked up the street.
The driver took Chris to a remote field, claiming to be lost, and asked Chris to look at a map. Suddenly Chris felt a sharp pain in his back. The stranger had stabbed him with an ice pick. The man drove the wounded boy down a dirt road, shot him in the left temple, and left him for dead in the alligator-infested Florida Everglades.
Chris lay lifeless for six days until a driver found him. Chris miraculously survived his injuries, though he was blind in his left eye. Because he was unable to identify his attacker, police could not make an arrest.
Joseph’s life was like that…except for the fact that he had seen the faces of the ones who had violated his freedom – often! His brothers had sold him into slavery. Twenty years later he had the opportunity for revenge, but did not take it. We understand the beneficence of Joseph in not exacting that revenge. But what of the brothers…what was their life like?
The scenario goes like this – you have had a problem with a friend or member of your family. You were wrong; he accepted your apology, and said it was all done. Still, in the back of your mind there is this nagging doubt, an insecurity that says it’s going to come back on you some day. He says he forgives you…but, does he really?
Joseph’s brothers had that kind of uncertainty about the forgiveness they had received from him. Could it be that the experience of Jacob, their father had come home to roost, the sins of the father visited on the sons? Is this a generational repeating of Family Feud?
If you recall, there is a lot of similarity between the events of Jacob with his brother, Esau, and the brokenness of Joseph with his brothers. Note the similarities:
• Thieves…Jacob the father was a thief, conning his brother Esau right out of his birthright and blessing…Reuben the son of Jacob, along with his brothers, sold their young brother Joseph into slavery, stealing his childhood and relationship with their father.