Summary: Forgiveness. Real forgiveness. What’s done is done; but God works to restore and to heal and to bring good out of it all.
God in the Ebb & Flow of Life:
The Work of God
Scripture Text: Genesis 50.14-21
This week I read a story about former-basketball-coach Bob Knight. Bobby Knight became a stand-out coach with the University-of-Indiana ~ …coaching almost 3-decades, …winning 3 national-championships, …and 11 conference-crowns. …but, …success is not-just-measured in-terms-of the “win-loss” columns! Bobby Knight was fired for bullying a player; …the next seven years were spent at Texas Tech, where he set a basketball-record for victories (902). You’d-think he could coach anywhere, …but his volatile, hot-headed temper causes many-schools to pass! Success is measured in different-ways!
We’ve come to the final chapter of Joseph’s life - …the last one that we’re gonna-explore. It has been a story of tragedy-and-triumph, …of betrayal and redemption, …of separation and reconciliation, …a story of brokenness and healing.
It has been my hope-and-prayer that we’ve seen God has-been-with him in the ups-and-downs, …in the ebb-and-flow of Joseph’s life.
But, we’ve looked at this ancient-story, …not-just to learn about this-guy who lived a very-long-time-ago; …but, the whole purpose has been to open our eyes to-the-fact that God is with us ~ …even-as He was with Joseph, …all-along-the-wild-roller-coaster we call ‘life’!
Whether we’re dealin’ with the emotional-wreckage that comes when people mis-treat us; …or whether we’re suffering isolation-and-separation from those that once were so-close; …or whether we are surprised by the swift-changes when the tables get-turned ~ …the bottom-line for us is the same-as it was for Joseph: …God is faithful and He goes with His beloved children! Whether you find-yourself in the valley, …or on the mountaintop: …God is with you! And, it’s because He is faithful, …it’s because He goes with us through the different chapters of life, …it’s because you are not alone and you belong to Him …and because the Lord works to bring good out-of whatever you suffer ~ It’s because-of-Him that we can even, ever-hope to take risks, …and to let-go of old-hurts, …and hold-onto hope!
The last-couple-of-weeks, …God has used Joseph’s story to help us see that the choice-to-forgive is sometimes a choice that must-be-made again-and-again! When circumstances change, …when old-memories come-haunting, …when the enemy-of-your-soul lies to-you and says it’s o.k. to hold-onto a grudge, …those are new-opportunities to choose to forgive, …new-occasions to re-affirm that you are not going-to-be bound-up by someone else’s sins-against-you!
We see this played-out in this last-segment of Joseph’s story. Dad is gone. And the brothers fear that Joseph has-been biding-his-time out-of-respect for his “old man”; …they fear that some deeply-buried-grudge will now-surface; …they fear that Joseph may now-unload on them!
And whether Jacob actually-left this-message for Joseph, …or, whether the brothers concocted-it to pressure Joseph to go-easy on-them ~ …we don’t know, for-sure. But, what we do know is that the brothers were absolutely torn-up! They are consumed by their guilt and the awareness of their sins against Joseph. And-because of their guilt-and-brokenness, …they are terrified!
Ya-know, …one-of-the-truest-statements the brothers ever-spoke is found in verse 18:
“We are your slaves,” they say.
Now… They probably said this to appease Joseph and to-avert his hot-wrath. But… How-true it-is that when we sin against someone, …and-when our hearts come to terms with our responsibility (in-the-matter) ~ …isn’t it true that our hearts become chained, …bound, …shackled by the reality of that guilt!?!... In-a-real-sense, …we are no-longer free ~ …and-certainly not-free when it comes to the person we have sinned-against… It’s-as-though sin-and-guilt hand-cuff our hearts, …and there’s no-way to free-ourselves!
But, the wonderful, …amazing, …godly-act of forgiveness is the key to being freed! It’s because Joseph forgives his brothers, that they are freed from the fear that has gripped their hearts. It’s because his brothers seek Joseph’s forgiveness, …that they are freed from the guilt that has burdened their hearts for decades! And because Joseph chooses to forgive, …he is freed from the bondage of anger and resentment and hatred ~ …the cancers that eat-away at the soul, …and bind-our-hearts from being free to-love and to-share the blessings of God.
By-all-accounts, Joseph was a huge-success. He was powerful. He was wealthy. He was highly honored-and-esteemed. But, his ‘greatness’ is not found in his position, …or in the staff-and-ring that signified his-great-power; …his greatness was not manifested in the chariot that he rode through the streets, …or the number of servants that attended his commands; …rather, his greatness is found in the decision to forgive and to have-mercy on his brothers!
I don’t know if you can relate to this story, or-not. Many, many families carry deep divisions. Maybe you find it hardest to-forgive those who are closest to them ~ …for, it’s-those who are closest to us that potentially can hurt us the deepest!
Can we consider those-that are within our “inner-circle” ~ …those-that are family – …either by birth or by-marriage or by the grace of God? Let’s think-about those that we share a last-name with, ...or a blood-line, …or a house, …or a house-of-worship. And let’s consider those-relationships that are estranged or broken, …unhealthy or un-loving.