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Monday, October 19, 2009

Joseph – the Forgiver

Joseph was stunned and trembling as he crouched inside the deep pit that his brothers had thrown him into. It was dark and smelly down inside where he was, and blood was trickling down his leg which had been scraped from his fall.

Joseph could hear his older brothers up above laughing and making plans to kill him. He had always looked up to his ten older brothers. They were trusted family. How could this be happening?

Two days earlier Josephs’ father Jacob had asked him to go out into the fields and check on his brothers. They had been away too long with the flocks and Jacob was worried. When Joseph finally found his brothers in the fields near Dotham he ran towards them excited. But the seventeen year old Joseph was in for a terrible surprise. Instead of greeting him, his brothers grabbed him and stripped him of his coat and threatened to kill him. Then they threw him into a deep pit, while they plotted his death. The brothers were jealous of him because their father had given him a colorful coat.

As the brothers sat eating their dinner they looked up and saw an Ishmaelite caravan with camels approaching from the distance on its’ way to Egypt. The camels were loaded down with spices and balms. “Hey, instead of killing Joseph, why don’t we sell him as a slave to these travelers?” Judah suggested. And the other brothers agreed. Joseph was pulled up out of the pit and sold as a slave for twenty shekels of silver.

As he was being chained up the young Joseph watched as his brothers ripped up his coat and poured animal blood all over it. “When we give this coat to our father, he will think that Joseph is dead,” they joked. With his head hanging down and a sense of dread and panic settling in, the teen-ager was carried away to Egypt and into slavery.

Years passed. Joseph was sold to one of Pharoahs’ officers and Scripture tells us that God was with him and blessed everything he did. Joseph grew to be a handsome young man ---so handsome that his masters’ wife asked him to go to bed with her. Even though Joseph refused, day after day his masters’ wife continued trying to seduce him. Finally one day she grabbed his coat and pulled him toward her bed. Joseph ran out of the house leaving his coat behind!

“Look who tried to sleep with me while you were away!” the wife told her husband, as she showed him Josephs’ coat. “I screamed and he ran away, leaving this coat behind.”

So Joseph was thrown into an Egyptian prison. This was the second time that Joseph’s coat was used to perpetuate a lie about him. “They bruised his feet with shackles, and his neck was put in irons,” Psalms 105:18 tells us. But Scripture also reminds us that God was with him through it all.

God had given Joseph a marvelous gift --- the ability to interpret dreams. Years later when Pharoah dreamed about the seven fat cows and the seven skinny cows, Joseph was able to give Pharoah the interpretation of his dream. The seven skinny cows represented seven years of terrible famine over all the lands.

Because Pharoah could see that God was with Joseph, he brought Joseph out of the prison and elevated him to the position of a great leader. He gave Joseph the job of preparing all of Egypt for the seven years of terrible famine that had been predicted. And God gave Joseph the wisdom to do that job and save the known world from starvation.

And so it was that Joseph found himself as a mighty Egyptian ruler looking down over his ten brothers as they knelt before him begging for food. ---those same ten brothers who had sold him into slavery. And now the tables were turned. Would the powerful Joseph give food to his hungry brothers – help their families through the great famine – or would he finally get back at them for what they had done to him?

Genesis 45:1-8 and Genesis 50:19-21 tells the beautiful story. Joseph chose to forgive! “Do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you,” he told his brothers. Joseph took care of his eleven brothers and their wives and children and grandchildren. He returned to them good for evil. He brought them all to Egypt along with his father and insisted that God had taken the bad thing they had done to him and turned it around to be good. With God in the picture how could Joseph not forgive his brothers. Even though Joseph had to suffer many years in prison ,with God in his life, Joseph was freed from the prison of un-forgiveness.

Can we like Joseph, draw near to God and learn to forgive the people who hurt us? When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are asking God to “forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who treesspass against us.” Matthew 6:9 Even though God commands us to forgive those who wrong us, do we sometimes find that obeying God and offering forgiveness is hard to do?

Like Joseph we need to give our lives to the Lord. When we hide our lives in Christ we can see the slights and hurts others give us in a new perspective. We can ask God to give us the freedom in Christ to forgive. Even though forgiveness is too difficult for us to do by ourselves, nothing is too hard for God. And He will help us forgive. We are told to pray for our enemies. It is hard to hate a person that you are praying for.

Part of the Lords’ Prayer teaches us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” Living with un- forgiveness is an evil that can harm us. It is like poison to our souls. The weight of un- forgiveness will crush us. We are to leave our resentments and hurts with God. He is big enough to take care of them. And He will. God can do for us what He did for Joseph. He can take our troubles and work them together for good. Romans 8:28.

We have a miracle working God. His ways are mysterious – too great for us to comprehend. If we trust Him we can say with David in Psalm 27, “When my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.” “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” It’s hard to hang on to un- forgiveness when we know that God has promised to take care of everything. --I John 5:4

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