Summary: The power to forgive past offenses and create a better future is powerfully demonstrated by Joseph. How did he do it? He says, "Am I in the place of God," and "God intended it for good."
LETTING GO AND MOVING ON—Genesis 50:12-21
A few years ago, I was visiting the town where I grew up, and I ran into someone I had never met, who knew my sister. As we made the connection, she asked me, “Are you the brother who pulled her doll in half?” Well, I guess I was pulling on the legs of her precious doll, Pammy, when the doll broke in two and the stuffing fell out on the front porch. Apparently my sister hadn’t forgotten, and I guess I hadn’t either.
Of course, that was child’s play (literally), compared to what happens in some families. Often there is favoritism, manipulation, or power struggles. There may be verbal or physical abuse, lies and betrayal. As siblings age, there might be fighting over inheritances, or undeserved disrespect.
The hurts can go beyond families: false rumors, bullying, cruel comments online. People are selfishly used, friendships abused, or trust betrayed.
Some of us may bear scars from our past: bitterness, anger, or desire to get even somehow.
How can we get past all of that? Is it even possible?
We are concluding a series on the life of Joseph. Early on, Joseph was arrogant, and his brothers were jealous. They caught him away from home, and sold him to a slave trader, who took him to Egypt. Joseph went through some hard times in Egypt, enduring loneliness, slavery, and prison. We can imagine the pain and bitterness that he felt, and we wouldn’t blame him if he harbored resentment toward his brothers.
Yet God was in control, and God was with Joseph in Egypt. He got out of prison, to become the most powerful man in Egypt, behind Pharaoh himself. His father and brothers came to Egypt to escape a famine, and they stayed because they were prospering. Joseph’s father, Jacob, lived 17 years in Egypt, before he died of old age.
Read Genesis 49:29-50:21.
The brothers remembered what they had done to Joseph, and they were concerned about what he might not do to get even with them. Joseph had done nothing when his father was alive, because it literally might have literally killed Jacob if he had. Now Jacob is dead, and the brothers are desperate in their fear of what he might do.
Read Genesis 50:15-17.
Did their father really say that? Probably not! After all, why would he say that to them, and not to Joseph? I’m sure Joseph could see through that ploy; they were still lying and manipulating.
When Joseph got their message, he wept. I think he wept because he still hurt from what they had done to him. He hadn’t forgotten; how could he forget, when they were still the same lying brood?
How will Joseph respond? The brothers come, and grovel before him. “We are your slaves,” they say.
How would you respond, in a similar situation? If you could picture someone who has hurt you, now coming to you, trying to avoid payback, how would you respond? When you feel the old anger, distrust, or resentment, and think of the years that you have endured it…and now, that person, those people, are at your mercy. How will you respond? What will you say, and what will you do?
Joseph has one goal: He wants to put this behind them, and he wants to build a better relationship with them.
How does Joseph get beyond the hurts of the past? How can we get beyond the pain, the resentment, the disappointment, the rage, the coldness that is part of our relationship with some people?
Joseph says two things, that are the keys to letting go and moving on. In verse 19, “Am I in the place of God,” and in verse 20, “God intended it for good.” Those are also the keys for us to get past the hurt.
AM I IN THE PLACE OF GOD?
When we appoint ourselves as judge of the universe (our universe, at least), we are out of our depth. W We can’t teach a lesson to every bad driver, correct every evil in world, or take care of every bully or mean person. Even if we could, we would do a poor job of it. We might exaggerate some offenses, and not be bothered by others just as serious. Rarely could we be unbiased or just in our judgments. Jesus pointed out the essence of our problem:
Matthew 7:3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Joseph asks, “Am I in the place of God?” What is God’s place? It is God’s role to judge, and to maintain justice in the world. If God were not just, the world would be a very unruly place.