Last week we saw how Joseph, his brothers and even the Egyptians mourned the death of Jacob. But what now? What’s next now that Jacob is gone? Do they go back to a normal life back in Egypt? Well they should, but there’s suspicion in the air.
[Read Genesis 50:12-15.]
For some reason or another the brothers weren’t convinced that Joseph had truly forgiven them for selling him into slavery. They were thinking that since their dad was dead nothing would stop Joseph from exacting revenge upon them for their crime. But they had nothing to fear because Joseph had completely forgiven them years ago.
You know, forgiveness is such a freeing act of the will. When we forgive someone for the wrongs they’ve done to us it frees us from our anger towards them. When we’re forgiven by someone for the wrongs we’ve done to them it frees us from the feeling of condemnation. Forgiveness frees up people from things that hinder relationships.
[“That’s okay” phrase; kids forgiving each other examples.]
* Forgiveness is choosing to not punish someone for their wrongs; To not hold it over them; To not remain angry with them; etc.
Again, for some reason the brothers didn’t feel forgiven and were worried about what Joseph might do to them since their father was dead. What they needed to do was:
I. Remember forgiveness
[Read Genesis 50:15-18.]
Now how could they have forgotten how Joseph so dramatically and emphatically forgave them when they were reunited some 17 years earlier.
[Read Genesis 45:3-8.]
Now I know that Joseph didn’t come out and say the words, “I forgive you”. But he surely implied it and from then on continually provided for and protected his brothers. So why did they feel unforgiven?
Maybe it’s because of the instructions that Jacob gave to the brothers before they died?
[Read Genesis 50:16-17a.]
Jacob instructed the brothers to ask Joseph’s forgiveness for what they had done even though it seemed that Joseph had already forgiven them. Now we don’t know why Jacob would do that, unless he felt like it was important for the brothers to own up to their wrongs. Remember, Joseph forgave them even though they never formally apologized to him. So maybe Jacob felt like the brothers got off kind of easy.
And you know what, maybe the brothers did need to verbalize their repentance towards Joseph. After all, they did sell him into slavery!
So because of their father’s instructions and because of their fear of Joseph they went before him, humbled themselves and formally apologized for what they had done. And it didn’t matter that it was something they’d done years and years ago. Deep inside they always knew that they needed to come before Joseph and ask his forgiveness.
[“Sober House” forgiveness from families story.]
Even people of the world know just how freeing it is to give and receive forgiveness.
But it sure is hard at times, isn’t it? Some people have done us so wrong, so many times, and don’t even have a shade of remorse for what they’ve done. But we know we need to forgive them. So how do we do that? How do we forgive the unrepentant? Well Joseph seemed to keep in mind some basic truths about God that enabled him to forgive his brothers. Truths that can help our perspective concerning forgiveness. First we need to:
II. Remember that God is Judge
[Read Genesis 50:19.]
In other words, “I’m just a man. I’m not God. I’m not the Judge. You don’t have to answer to me.” Pretty amazing words from a man who was the Prime Minister of Egypt at the time and who had every right to have his brothers thrown into prison for their past crimes against him.
But Joseph put everything in an eternal perspective and reminded them that he was just a man, a sinful man, just like them.
[Read Matthew 7:1-5, 12:36.]
Who are we to judge one another, meaning, who are we to decide whether or not we can forgive someone. We’re all sinners! God is the only one who can pronounce judgment upon someone. For us to act like we can’t forgive someone because either their wrong was so great or their repentance not genuine enough is putting ourselves in the position of God. Only God is perfect and only God knows the heart. He is the One who will ultimately judge our lives.
[Read Matthew 12:36.]
We must trust that God will judge those who’ve wronged us according to His perfect wisdom, love and grace. Just like He’ll judge us one day. We as humans must simply forgive each other as we want to be forgiven.
How did Jesus instruct us to pray? “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Remembering that God is the Judge will help us forgive others. Another thing that can help us forgive others is to: