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Can you match Joseph’s example of forgiveness?

What would you do if you were carried off to a foreign country and sold into slavery? Would you carry a grudge the rest of your life? Would you exact revenge if ever given the chance?

Most of us probably don’t have any fear of being sold into slavery, so let me ask these questions a little differently. Have you ever been hurt or betrayed by one of your close friends or relatives? Do you still carry a grudge? Would you exact revenge if ever given the chance?

Being sold into slavery may not be something we fear, but for Joseph, slavery was very real. He was sold into slavery, and his brothers were the ones who sold him.

Gen. 37:26 Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it for us to kill our brother [Joseph] and cover up his blood?

Gen. 37:27 “Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.

Gen. 37:28 Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt.

Joseph’s brothers sold Joseph and he was carried off to a foreign land as a slave. How did Joseph respond? Did he carry a grudge? Did he plot ways to get even? Today we’re going to look at some verses in Genesis 50 that provide a good example to us of what we should do when we are hurt or betrayed by someone close to us. The verses we are about to read took place many years after Joseph had been sold. During those years, Joseph had been elevated out of slavery into a position of power.

Gen. 50:15 ¶ When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!”

Notice the word “grudge”. Now that their father was dead, the brothers were unsure how Joseph really felt about what they did to him.

Gen. 50:16 So they [Joseph’s brothers] sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying,

Gen. 50:17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I [Jacob] beg you [Joseph], the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’

This is a message that Jacob asked Joseph’s brothers to relay to Joseph. Jacob sent this message to Joseph asking Joseph to forgive his brothers.

This sentence, however, is what the brothers themselves asked Joseph to do.

Gen. 50:17c And now, please forgive the transgression of [your brothers] the servants of the God of your father.”

Notice the word “forgive”. The brothers clearly asked Joseph to forgive them for selling him into slavery. Now let’s look at Joseph’s response.

Gen. 50:17d And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.

Gen. 50:18 Then his [Joseph’s] brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”

Notice the words “fell down”. The brothers not only asked for forgiveness, they physically demonstrated their remorse.

Gen. 50:19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?

Notice the phrase, “do not be afraid”. Joseph continued talking.

Gen. 50:20 “As for you [my brothers], you meant evil against me [Joseph], but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

We’ll talk about this some more later on, but notice that Joseph saw the good that came out of being sold into slavery. Joseph finished by once again telling his brothers not to be afraid.

Gen. 50:21 “So therefore, do not be afraid; I [Joseph] will provide for you and your little ones.” So he [Joseph] comforted them [his brothers] and spoke kindly to them.

Gen. 50:22 ¶ Now Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his father’s household, and Joseph lived one hundred and ten years.

Gen. 50:23 Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s sons; also the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born on Joseph’s knees.

Gen. 50:24 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.”

Gen. 50:25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.”

Gen. 50:26 So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.

Let’s review what happened here. Gen 37:27 tells us that Joseph’s brothers sold Joseph into slavery. Think about the cruelty of that act. Now even though it seemed like Joseph would never see his family again; eventually, Joseph did rise out of slavery, he became the ruler of Egypt, and he was reunited with his family. Then Gen 50 verse 15 tells us that when their father died, the brothers feared retribution from Joseph. Chapter 50 verse 17 tells us that the brothers asked Joseph to forgive them and then verse 21 tells us that Joseph did forgive them.

What should we learn from this? Well, Joseph is a great example for us to follow. Consider the following verses.

Eph. 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Notice the word “forgiving”.

Col. 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

Notice again the word “forgiving”. We are commanded to forgive each other. Joseph is a great example of forgiveness. Joseph was sold into slavery and for many years he had little hope of ever seeing his family again, but he forgave those who sold him. Furthermore, Joseph was able to notice the positive that came out of being sold.

Gen. 50:20 “As for you [my brothers], you meant evil against me [Joseph], but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

Joseph realized that God used his enslavement to put him in a position where he was able to save many people, including his own family, from the severe famine.

What about us? Are we able to forgive the way Joseph forgave? Are we able to forgive someone who causes us severe pain, heartache, and/or disappointment? Are we able to see the positives that come out of our pain, heartache, and disappointment?

Notice that these verses also have this concept that we should forgive because God forgave us. Forgiveness is not easy. For some people, the pain from past injustices runs very, very deep, but just as God has forgiven us, and just as Joseph forgave his brothers, so too we should follow Joseph’s example and forgive others for the injustices committed against us.

“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”