“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” (1)
Learning forgiveness is like being in the school classroom. The teacher is asking questions at the beginning of the course “Are you teachable? Are you willing to be trained?” Her last question is the hardest, no matter what grievance you hold against another or what trespass someone has committed against you, “Will you forgive?” In life we encounter many offenses. We must learn to withstand! Press in and we will take a look at an Old Testament character named Joseph to see how he endured adversity. Why did he choose to forgive and what were the results?
Joseph was going against the tide of his culture that did not honor or approve of God. Even while he was wronged, he did not compromise his integrity or faith. Out of jealousy his brothers sold him into slavery – the beginning of his personal crisis. Afterwards, he endured another trial when he was maliciously accused wrongly of immorality from his master’s wife. He fled from her invitation, but her lies resulted in him being sent to prison. Joseph had plenty of time to rethink about how he’d been wronged in prison. He could have held onto unforgiveness, which would embitter him for years. Instead, he used each situation to learn more about God’s heart and actions. Because he sought God, his spiritual eyes were opened. He saw God’s fingerprints in the events of his life. This opened a new perspective, giving him hope as he rested in God’s providence. By contrast to Joseph’s fortitude, his brothers were fearful. In guilt they consoled themselves saying, “…what if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him.”(2) Grieved and sad, Joseph replied, “…do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (3). A greater purpose was being accomplished as God overruled his events, for the preservation of his family.
Was it right or fair that Joseph was sold into slavery? Suffering through unfair circumstances enlarged Joseph’s heart for God. He did not drown himself in his sorrows, but chose to seize the opportunity to forgive by trusting God for the outcome. He made a conscious choice to overcome evil with good. When famine struck Joseph had contentment knowing the needs of his family were met. Note Joseph’s second response, “…’I will provide for you and your little ones.’ So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (4). He not only provided protection, food and shelter in famine but also extended compassion gentle and tender words. Joseph’s example displays how the gospel of grace was reaffirmed.
Consider some other reasons why Joseph forgave and the blessings of forgiveness.
• Through the process of forgiveness, Joseph depended on God’s help. As he relied on God, his faith increased.
• Forgiveness gave Joseph a greater insight on just and righteous dealings with others.
• Joseph’s decision to forgive overlapped in saving not only his own life, but his family, too, providing security and protection for them. The results gained honor and respect.
• Through forgiveness he had greater knowledge of God’s love and attributes.
• Cultivating forgiveness produced more empathy and compassion towards his brothers.
• In forgiving, Joseph realized this was not a conflict between himself and his brothers, but rather a conflict between them and God. Forgiving them brought attention to their sin and gave opportunity for them to plead for pardon from God.
• God honors us when we desire to please him…forgiving is obedience, and obedience produces right feelings of contentment, peace and freedom.
• Forgiveness showed reverence towards God and provided an opportunity for God’s power to be displayed.
Almighty God, when I behold Your majesty, forgiveness is reachable and the light of Your glory is revealed. Help me to see the blessings that come from forgiveness. Amen.
1. Proverbs 19:11 niv
2. Genesis 50:15b nas
3. Genesis 50:19, 20 nas
4. Genesis 50:21 nas