Summary: By the grace of God Christians can learn to forgive others as Joseph forgave his brothers.
“Do we have to forgive Timothy McVeigh?” That question was discussed on the John Erling show on 740 AM, KRMG. A wide range of answers were given to that question. Some said, “No.” Others said, “Yes.” The host said he didn’t want to forgive him. There was a caller who said that since Mr. McVeigh didn’t ask for forgiveness we didn’t have to forgive him. Other callers insisted that we must forgive him and others said that God would be the one to judge Timothy McVeigh. Although I rarely call radio stations I picked up the phone and began to dial the number for KRMG. I stopped after the first three digits and hung up the phone. I realized that the host really wasn’t looking for an answer from a pastor. He was just boosting his ratings with a hot button discussion that touched the hearts of most Oklahomans. The debate also caused me to realize that there is a lot of misunderstanding in our society about forgiveness.
In our service this morning we are taking up the thought of how Jesus reveals forgiveness. He secured forgiveness for all sins through his death on the cross. Yes, he even died for the horrible act of murdering 168 people with a truck bomb. In light of how he forgives us Jesus now calls us who claim his Name to forgive those who sin against us--even our enemies. To illustrate what forgiveness is and who should be forgiven Jesus told many parables and preached many sermons. Each of them gives us additional insights into forgiveness.
The lesson of forgiveness is one that God’s people of every age have had to learn. In our Old Testament reading for this Sunday we see a beautiful example of forgiveness. Joseph forgave his brothers for the evil they had inflicted upon him. As followers of Christ with a fuller view of God’s forgiveness than perhaps Joseph had we can learn a lesson from him on how to forgive those who sin against us. Let’s set as the goal for our time together the objective of learning to forgive like Joseph. That thought will work well for the theme of our sermon:
LEARN TO FORGIVE LIKE JOSEPH
I. With unconditional love for others (3-5a, 15)
II. With understanding of God’s will for all (5b-8)
It is very difficult to summarize all the events that led up to our Old Testament lesson. Perhaps you recall some of the history. Jacob, the one who wrestled with God and received the name Israel, had twelve sons. He foolishly showed favoritism to one of his sons--Joseph. He gave him the now famous “coat of many colors.” In time the sibling rivalry that Jacob fostered reached a boiling point and almost led to murder. Instead of killing him Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and faked his death. Joseph was seventeen years old when he was taken down to Egypt as a slave. He rose to become the manager of Potiphar’s house. Then he was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife and imprisoned. By God’s plan and under his protection Joseph eventually became the ruler of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself.
Then one day it happened. His backstabbing brothers came to Egypt and bowed at his feet. They came asking to buy some food during the seven-year famine that was devouring a large part of the world at that time. With the tables turned Joseph could have taken revenge on them. But through some clever plans he uncovered the fact that his brothers had changed. In fact he saw that one of them was ready to give his life for another. Then, after he couldn’t contain himself any longer he revealed his identity and forgave them. The verses of God’s Word that we are considering for our sermon teach us a powerful lesson about forgiveness. May the Holy Spirit lead us to learn to forgive like Joseph. Transition: “Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still living?’ But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here.”
We can understand why Joseph’s brothers were speechless. Their past had finally caught up to them. The helpless teenager they sold into slavery was now one of the most powerful men in the world. The brother they hated and even wanted to kill was standing in front of them with their lives in his hands. Guilt must have flooded over them. Fearful speculation crowded their minds as they thought about what Joseph might do to them for what they had done to him.