Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 10: Joseph Forgives
February 14, 2010
Objectives of sermon:
· Teach us to forgive like Joseph because we have been forgiven like the brothers.
· Skim passages
· 063, Divining Recon., Leftovers
Scripture reading: Genesis 37:18-28 (Ahzryia)
Happy Valentine’s Day! If you haven’t made your reservations, you may want to slip out quietly now (I won’t tell).
You know the wounds we carry, the wrong done to us as well as the wrongs we have done. Forgiveness is both one of the hardest and best parts of our faith.
I said last week that the more I studied Jacob, the less I liked him. With Joseph, it is the opposite. Joseph is (I think) the OT’s most honorable person.
· Unlike Jacob, he entrusted himself to God yet was active when he was supposed to be.
· Unlike Rueben and Judah, he was sexually pure, even when he had everything to gain.
Riches to rags, A hallmark story
I said that Jacob’s story that was like a soap opera, but this is like a Hallmark riches-to-rags-to-riches story.
Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son, born of his favorite wife. Even at the age of 17, he proved as an able manager and was honored with a “multicolored coat,” marking him above his brothers.
God also promised him, through dreams, that his brothers would bow down to him. Perhaps he got a big head over this, but it certainly didn’t improve his brothers’ attitude towards him.
One day Jacob sent him to check up on his brother (not too bright) and they decide to kill him. Fortunately Rueben persuaded them to throw him in a pit instead. The end up selling him as a slave and he is taken to Egypt.
In Egypt he is bought by Potipher, and quickly rises to the top because God bless him in whatever he does. He is doing great until the misses decides he’s hot, in what is the first recorded example of sexual harassment.
When he refuses her, she accuses him of rape (“Hell hath no fury...”). Potipher throws him in prison (but I think he didn’t believe his wife, since Joseph was not executed).
In prison, God is still with Jacob, where he again rises to the top and basically runs the prison. There he correctly interprets the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s officials. The one who is restored returns to favor, two years later, by telling Pharaoh that Joseph interprets dreams.
Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream which warns of seven years of plenty then seven of famine. Joseph is made #2 in the nation in order to organize the storage of food.
Things go great for Joseph but the plot thickens – the brothers show up to buy food. How does he respond to the brothers who enslaved him? Long story, very short, he forgives and is reunited with father and they all live happily ever after.
Joseph, forgiveness expert
There are so many lessons that we could take from Joseph’s life, such as how to deal with trials, trusting God, sexual purity, but the one I want to focus on is forgiveness.
· With the exception of God, no one in the Bible is a better example of forgiveness than Joseph.
Forgiveness is a fundamental challenge. All of us have been wronged in some way and all of us have struggled to forgive.
I take that back, some aren’t struggling with unforgiveness –they have no desire to forgive. A whole sermon could be given on why we must forgive, but I will boil it down to two things:
1. As Christians, God has forgiven us so much it is the damnable insult (I use that term intentionally) to not forgive others (“Forgive us our debts...”)
2. Forgiveness is also for our own good, as we will see.
Sorry to bring it up...
I am going to ask a lot of you this morning: I want you to bring to mind the people and situations you are struggling to forgive.
· I’m not sadistic, nor is this “Oprah.”
But I strongly believe that this is really, really important, and I don’t want this to be some theoretical sermon on how Joseph was nice and forgave his brothers.
Examine yourself: Is there unforgiveness lurking in your heart?
Q How do you know if you’re unforgiving? It’s one thing to say “I forgive you,” it is another to fully forgive.
· Here’s the test: Do you feel a twinge of anger and bitterness when you think of them?
I know that many of us are held captive to bitterness, and I want us to find freedom by walking through the process of forgiveness by looking at Joseph.
· Make no mistake, it is a process.
Healing doesn’t happen just because we want to. Deep hurts take time to release. Just as you rehearse a grudge over and over, you have to release it over and over as well.
1. Forgiveness is relinquishing your right for revenge
Forgiveness is surrendering the right to get even or the desire to see them suffer. It is no longer nursing a grudge. It is literally canceling the debt that they owe us.
· It’s like a bank forgiving a mortgage.
When the brothers came to Egypt, they were completely in his mercy. Action flicks frequently revolve around the hero go through many trials to get revenge, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
· This is boring, they walk into his ‘hood, defenseless.
Nothing was stopping Joseph from acting out the fantasy of revenge that must have played in his head (we’ve all done that – wishing we could say just the right thing, etc).
· The only thing that held him back is that he did not want to, he had forgiven them and they did not owe him any suffering.
When did he forgive them? Years beforehand – notice this:
Genesis 45:16 When the news reached Pharaoh’s palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, Pharaoh and all his officials were pleased.
Perhaps I am reading between the lines, but this tells me that he had already been speaking well of them, out of a heart of forgiveness. It is consistent with his character.
Why is this important? It tells me that forgiveness is not based on whether or not the other person deserves it; it doesn’t even require that they ask for forgiveness.
· Forgiveness is between you and God, not you and the offender.
Choose to forgive
Notice that this is not a feeling, it is a choice. If we wait until we feel like forgiving, it may never happen. But if we choose to forgive, our heart will follow (eventually).
· This in act of the will, but is requires the help of the Holy Spirit to do – seek God’s help through prayer.
Sometimes you’ll have to start by praying to want to forgive.
Forgiveness frees us
As I said earlier, forgiveness isn’t just for their sake:
If Joseph spent all his time in jail nursing his grudge against his brothers, Potipher, and his wife, do you think he would have been blessed by God and able to accomplish all he did?
Forgiveness is the process of letting go, it’s freeing ourselves from bitterness.
Q When you rehearse an offence, does it leave you feeling happy and free or hollow and empty?
“Being bitter is like taking poison and waiting for your enemy to die.” Bitterness and unforgiveness is very damaging forces to our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
· The sin of bitterness and unforgiveness is a shortcut happiness that will leave us in misery.
BTW: Why do we enjoy bitterness? Because it shields us from our own failure.
2. Forgiving isn’t forgetting
I hate that expression, “forgive and forget,” not only does it set an unattainable standard, it also creates a very foolish and dangerous idea about forgiveness.
When the brothers came into town, Joseph acts very strangely:
He didn’t let them know who he was and accused them of being spies, threw them into jail for three days, made them leave one behind, and told them they couldn’t come back without Benjamin.
· When they returned, he framed Benjamin for theft, and threatened to keep him as a slave.
At first I thought Joseph was being vindictive, but then why does he frame his favorite brother? And why does he act so contrary to what we have seen?
I am convinced that Joseph is testing his brothers to find out if they had remorse and if they had changed. (There’s a great movie version with Ben Kingsly that take is this way.)
Joseph basically recreates the situation when they had thrown him in the pit: He gave them every reason to abandon Benjamin and watched how they responded:
Genesis 44:33 - 45:4 [Judah said] “Now then, please let your servant [speaking of himself] remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy [Benjamin], and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father.”
What a dramatic change! Rather than abandoning Benjamin, Judah and the brothers offered themselves for him. At this, Joseph knew they could be trusted and he revealed himself.
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. 3 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.”
· Joseph forgave, but he had not forget – he knew what they had done and what they were capable of.
Joseph had completely forgiven them, but by testing them, he shows us what forgiveness is not:
The memories don’t go away and don’t stop hurting. We don’t pretend them away or act as if nothing happened.
· Separate from (though connected to) forgiveness is receiving healing, with God’s help, and perhaps professional counseling.
2. Minimizing or Condoning
Forgiveness doesn’t mean an offense was insignificant. What the brothers had done was very wrong. Forgiveness does not excusing, justifying, or rationalizing the offence.
Forgiveness does not mean trusting a person again. They may simply may not be trust-worthy. “Fool me once...”
Finally, forgiveness doesn’t release an offender from the legal or moral consequences of their actions. You may need to forgive even as you press charges.
· In fact, if others are likely to be harmed, you are morally obligated to press charges.
3. Desire God’s best for them
Perhaps the highest test of forgiveness is when we can not only give up our right for revenge but also desire, and even pray for God’s best for them.
We see this in the kindness Joseph shows his brothers, giving them their silver back and sending them back to Jacob with 20 donkeys filled with good stuff.
Luke 6:27-28 Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Is this natural? No, this requires a supernatural act for God’s love and grace. We have to start by seeing them as God sees them: broken people in desperate need of his love.
· “Hurt people hurt people.”
4. Reconcile if possible
Reconciliation is our hope and our highest goal:
Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
But that “if it is possible” is very, very important. Forgiveness is always possible, reconciliation is not. When Joseph tested his brothers, he was determining if he could reconcile with them.
· You can tell by his embrace of his brothers that he genuinely wanted to, but he first had to make sure they had changed.
We must use careful discernment when restoring a relationship with someone who has significantly sinned against us.
How do we know when reconciliation is possible?
1. Is the offender reachable?
2. Is the offender safe?
3. Is the offender willing?
4. Has the offender changed?
If the answer to all of these is “yes,” we should be looking to God to help us restore a broken relationship. This doesn’t mean that everything goes back to the way that it was – they may never be trustworthy.
Reconciliation simply means that, “We’re going to start rebuilding our relationship, without the wedge of that specific issue between us.”
As Christians, we are to be known as people of grace, people who have received great love, grace and forgiveness from God and hence give great love, grace, and acceptance.
Q & A
Prayer: Help us to forgive like Joseph because we have been forgiven like the brothers.