Summary: How could Joseph possibly forgive his brothers? Even his brothers wondered at it. But the key to how Joseph forgave is also the key to how God forgives us... and how we can forgive others.
OPEN: On the night of December 9, 1914, Edison Industries was virtually destroyed by fire. Edison lost two million dollars that night and much of his life’s work went up in flames. He was insured for only $238,000, because the buildings had been made of concrete, at that time thought to be fireproof.
(Edison’s son) Charles was 24; Thomas was 67. The young man ran about frantically, trying to find his father. Finally he came upon him, standing near the fire, his face ruddy in the glow, his white hair blown by the December winds.
"My heart ached for him," Charles Edison said. "he was 67 - no longer a young man - and everything was going up in flames.”
He spotted me. ’Charles,’ he shouted, ’where’s your mother?’
1 don’t know, Dad,’ I said.
’Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this again as long as she lives.’"
The next morning, walking about the charred embers of all his hopes and dreams, Edison said,
"There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew
Three weeks after the fire, his firm delivered the first phonograph.
(Never Give Up by Tim Crosby, Copyright (c) 2001 by The Quiet Hour http://www.thequiethour.org/)
All his mistakes were gone
He could start over again.
But not everyone believes that way
For example: Some people love to play God. Have you ever met anyone who likes to play God? (many raised their hands). Folks like this feel they have the authority to condemn others. They seem to be totally unwilling to let anyone ever turn their lives around/ start over again.
ILLUS: I was once visiting with some relatives when one person brought up how a preacher she knew was a hypocrite. He would be friendly and outgoing while talking to people in church, but in another organization he was part of, he was cold and impersonal - hardly said hello to anyone.
I tried to explain to this person that the preacher probably didn’t realize he was doing that and that she should try talking to him about it.
Just then another person spoke up and said “I disagree. He is a hypocrite. I always judge someone by their lowest common denominator”
(i.e. the worst thing they do usually defines who they are… for all time)
Somewhat shocked, I turned to this person and said “Oh no! By that standard, none of us stands a chance. We’re all lost!”
All Have Sinned And Fallen Short Of The Glory Of God.
That preacher had sinned, I have sinned, every Elder, Sunday School Teacher or upstanding member of this or any other congregation has sinned. We’ve all fallen short. If we were judged by the lowest common denominator no one would have any hope.
So there are those who like to play God and condemn everyone who doesn’t measure up to their standards.
THEN there are others who’ve sinned so badly they don’t think they could ever be forgiven.
One poet once lamented: Hazel Felleman
"I wish there were some wonderful place
Called the Land of Beginning Again
Where all our mistakes, and all our heartaches
And all our selfish griefs
Could be cast like a shabby old coat at the door
And never be put on again"
In her poem this author was saying how she wished there was such a place where the past could be put aside… but she wasn’t convinced that such a thing existed. That’s what we see with Joseph’s brothers – They seem to believe their sin will never be forgiven.
“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?’” Genesis 50:15
Joseph’s brothers been living in Egypt with Joseph for 17 years. For 17 years they’ve been
· living under Joseph’s protection,
· living in the lush pasture lands of Goshen,
· raising their children in the shadows of Joseph’s palace
For 17 years they lived just down the street from Joseph and Joseph could have taken revenge at any moment. BUT HE DIDN’T
Seventeen years earlier, Joseph told them he forgave them. In Genesis 45:5-8 Joseph declared:
“… do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
"So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”