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Tuesday, December 22, 2015


"And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?  And as for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.  Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them."  
Genesis 50:19-21

One of Satan's most potent weapons is the affliction of innocent people. In the minds of shallow men, it is a proof that there is no Righteous God or Merciful God. In truth, they accuse God of being unjust since He is the Governor of the Universe. Truly faithful and loyal people like Joseph show us the beauty of believing in the wisdom and providence of God even when the world appears to be upside down, right is wrong, and wrong is right.  Enjoy the thrill of a true story that ended with "happily ever after."

Joseph had to endure many injustices at the hands of his brothers.  They were jealous of him because he was his father's favorite.  His father gave him a unique coat of many colors, which provoked anger among the other siblings.  Worse yet, Joseph's dreams made them hate him even more.  When the opportunity arose, his brothers sold him as a slave to the Ishmaelite traders. These slavers sold him to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officers.  Recognizing Joseph’s faithfulness and talents, Potiphar gave him a great deal of responsibility.

He remained a faithful servant, winning trust and esteem for seven years.  Later he was falsely accused by Potiphar's wife and thrown into prison, where he endured injustice for another seven years. He soon won the favor of the jailer and was given much greater responsibilities.  Joseph was released from prison (thirteen years after being sold as a slave) when he interpreted Pharaoh's disturbing dream. Consequently, Pharaoh elevated him to a position of great power and authority.  The extraordinary thing is that Joseph did not mention a word about his injustices but pointed the Pharaoh to God alone.  It would seem to me that that was his great chance for revenge.  With his new charge, Joseph was expected to prepare the nation of Egypt for the coming years of famine.  When the famine arrived, he was to save his family and reunite with them. As you read through the end of Genesis, it is amazing to see how Joseph remained faithful to God despite his circumstances.

After 21 years, his brothers heard of the food supply down in Egypt amid such famine. Then, Jacob sent the brothers down to Egypt to bring back food.  Eventually, they stood before Joseph, not recognizing who he was because he was dressed like a king.  A lot had changed here. This was Joseph's big chance to "set things right" and take full revenge.  What would you have done? Would you, had you been Joseph, have thrown them into prison to let them have a taste of what you had to suffer at their hands?  All the injustices that he suffered were the result of envy and hatred.  Joseph endured betrayal and suffering.   Do you think that was fair?  Put yourself in his shoes.  Could you have forgiven those who tried to kill you?  Could you have forgiven those who sold you as a slave? Joseph did!  

If anyone had reason to be bitter, Joseph did.  How moving are Joseph's words to his brothers when he finally decided to reveal his identity to them!  His words showed the deep and precious work our God had done in his heart through all the years of suffering. When his brothers finally realized who he was, they panicked.  But to their surprise and relief, Joseph's touching and precious words reassured them of his love for them. 

"And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians heard, and the house of Pharaoh heard.  And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence.  And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.  And now be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.  For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and there are yet five years, in which there shall be neither plowing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve you a remnant in the earth, and to save you alive by a great deliverance.  So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and ruler over all the land of Egypt."  (Genesis 45:2-8)

Joseph's brothers are perplexed and speechless. They were not prepared for Joseph's declaration. Perhaps they were in disbelief, guilt, and terror.  I wonder if Joseph's brothers remembered all their words of ridicule, envy, and hatred.  I bet they were worried that he would pay them back for the wickedness they had committed against him in the past.  When their father Jacob died, Joseph's brothers feared that he would take vengeance upon them.  He responds with a message of love and confidence in God's divine providence.

"And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, It may be that Joseph will hate us, and will fully requite us all the evil which we did unto him.  And they sent a message unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the transgression of thy brethren, and their sin, for that they did unto thee evil. And now, we pray thee, forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.  And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we are thy servants.  And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?  And as for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.  Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them." (Genesis 50:15-21

What wonderful, moving, and precious words these are! These are words that proceeded from a broken heart, which suggest that all of life's injustices, struggles, and sufferings work toward some greater good, for those who love the LORD and are called according to His divine purpose.

 "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."  (Romans 8:28)

Can it be that even the greatest sorrows in our lives can bring goodness or be messengers of good? 

As difficult as it might seem, this was a great lesson that Joseph had to learn through his many, many wounds.  Joseph acknowledged he was not the judge, but rather the Almighty God is the judge of all men. Joseph knew well from his past experiences that God could work all things for our good to those who love Him. His desire was for God to accomplish His divine purposes, whether good or bad.  Joseph focused on the fact that God was working through the circumstances for good. Though they had meant evil against him, God intended it for good.  There was not a bit of bitterness in his heart toward those who caused him so much harm.  What an impressive man of God was Joseph!! He submitted to God's will and not his desire for vengeance.

So what is the lesson that we can learn from Joseph's example?

  • Joseph recognized the providence of God in his life:   

Joseph acknowledged that all of his cruel hardships were, in fact, disguised blessings from God (Gen. 45:5-8; 50:20).  His steadfast faith carried him through his difficult times even when he didn't understand the purpose of his sufferings.  So often, the struggles and devastating setbacks we have to endure are disguised blessings. 

Like Joseph, the apostle Paul had to endure troubles that proved to be blessings.  

"Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel.  (Phil 1:12

Like all those who love and are faithful to God, we have this blessed assurance that all things would work together for our good (Rom. 8:28).  And even though we might not be able to see God's providence at work in our lives, we must know that He is working.  We must trust God, always remembering that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. "  (Romans 8:18)

  • Joseph did not hold a grudge or seek vengeance against those who meant to harm him:   

Joseph learned the value of forgiveness well, and we should imitate his attitude.  Have you ever heard anyone say:  "I can forgive him, but I don't want to get too close to him anymore?"  This was not Joseph's attitude.  Instead, he forgave his brothers and cared for them in Egypt (Gen. 50:21).  He chose to return good for evil.  Joseph treated them as if their wickedness against him had never occurred.  That is what true forgiveness is all about.  He knew he was not in the place of God to bring vengeance upon another or punish someone for what they had done to him.  We must have a heart like Joseph to forgive since we have no other option. We are not in the place of God.  We have no right to execute our anger on others.  This is reserved for God alone.  God is the avenger who would right the wrongs that have been committed against us.  He would be the only one to take care of all the injustices of this earth, not us.  Joseph recognized this and did not use the power he had in Egypt for punishment and vengeance.

When we refuse to forgive, we act as if we are in the place of God and are saying that His wrath is not enough.  Lack of forgiveness reveals pride and arrogance.  God gives us the grace to overcome this sin when we trust in His righteous judgments.  We must learn to forgive from the heart. Otherwise, we will pay a terrible price.  We will not enjoy an eternal home in heaven, and we will not find true peace here on earth.  The apostle Paul spoke of this in Romans 12:17-21:

"Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men.  If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men.  Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord.  But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."

Paul was another one who had to suffer and was deeply wounded.  He suffered enormously at the hands of his brethren.  He had every right to be bitter.  However, like Joseph, Paul decided to see beyond his wounds and those who afflicted him with suffering.  He understood well the real reasons for his scars, 
"On my own body are scars that prove I belong to Christ."  (Galatians 6:17)

He saw the stripes that were inflicted upon him, not as evil but as good—a proof of Christ's ownership (II Corinthians 11:24).  

Do you think that Paul was bitter about the unfairness and injustice of how others treated him?  As a matter of fact, he was not! 

"For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren , my kinsmen according to the flesh."  (Romans 9:3)

Let the following words of Paul sink deep into your hearts:

"Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you."  (Ephesians 4:32)  

Jesus demands that we forgive those who sin against us if they repent (Luke 17:3).  In Matthew 6:14-15, He said, 

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." 

As Jesus was concluding the parable of the unforgiven servant, He said, 

"So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts."  (Matthew 18:35

You see, Joseph was willing to forgive his penitent brothers from his heart.  It is much easier to forgive others when we realize how much God has forgiven us!  

In Matthew 5:44, Jesus said, 
"But I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you."  He exemplified this when He prayed for those who were crucifying Him, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."  (Luke 23:34)

  • Joseph recognized that he was not in the place of God:

Joseph acknowledged the difference between man's position and God's position.  Man ought not to infringe on God's place in any way at all.  God is the Creator, and we are His creation.  He is the Master, and we are the clay.  This applies not only to the subject of vengeance but also in many other areas. We must not presume to add to God's words or take away either (Deuteronomy 4:2). It is arrogant and presumptuous to change in any way the pattern of worship as found in the New Testament. We must not presume to change the simple pattern of authority, organization, or work as written in the words that Jesus taught his apostles. Jesus is Lord!  It would be good to remind ourselves of the words of Isaiah 55:8-9:  God's ways and thoughts are not ours because they are higher, even as the heavens are higher than the earth.

  • Joseph had a faith that trusted in the promises of God:

Joseph showed the same faith that his father Jacob had.  He had put his hope in God's promised land, the land of Canaan.  Joseph did not want his bones to be left in Egypt.  Furthermore, he expresses his deep faith in God to lead His people out of Egypt and take them to the promised land.  Our hope in God's promises gives us the faith to overcome everything and even forgive those who harm us.

Consider the hope that is found in Jacob's blessing on Judah:

"Judah, thee shall thy brethren praise: Thy hand shall be on the neck of thine enemies; Thy father's sons shall bow down before thee.  Judah is a lion's whelp; From the prey, my son, thou art gone up: He stooped down, he couched as a lion, And as a lioness; who shall rouse him up?  The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh come: And unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be.  Binding his foal unto the vine, And his ass's colt unto the choice vine; He hath washed his garments in wine, And his vesture in the blood of grapes:  His eyes shall be red with wine, And his teeth white with milk."  (Genesis 49:8-12)

The lion of the tribe of Judah was to be our Lord Jesus, who was going to rule as King ("The scepter shall not depart from Judah").  Tribute and obedience of the people were going to come to Him. Everyone who would come to pay tribute and obedience would have plenty of blessings as He stands with strength and power.  What a beautiful picture of Jesus, the one who gives hope to all who belong to Him!  This thought is portrayed in the book of Revelation.

"And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath overcome to open the book and the seven seals thereof."  (Revelation 5:5)

Jesus brings redemption to those who put their faith in Him.  Likewise, He deals with our enemies. Our hope is in Jesus' rule.  He reigns now and forever, putting His enemies under His feet.  So stand tall and under the strength of His might.  He is acting on our behalf, our good.


So let us treasure in our minds and hearts the moral of this true story: that though men might intend to do evil to us, God means it for our good.  He is using all of these wounds, sufferings, injustices, and evil to bring us to the perfection of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, 

"For those whom the LORD loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives."  (Hebrews 12:6)

Keep in mind that until we see God's hands in our sufferings, we are going to be fleshly, pointing at and blaming our persecutors and offenders for the wrongs they have done to us.  For those who are not walking according to the likeness of God, there can be no room for pain, discipline, and value in wounds. For them, pain is met with resentment and wounding with retaliation.  This is sad since there can be no healing until we stop assigning blame and allow God to heal our wounds; until we realize that "God meant it for good." Until we see and come face to face with a realization that the wounds that others have inflicted upon us are not just the wounds of our enemies but also the hidden work of a loving Father, we can never be free of bitterness and resentment.  Wounds are for our healing!  They are for our good! Without the wounds of restoration, healing, and a renewed heart, there will be no desire to follow God and His marvelous light. 

 "Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do the stripes of the inner depths of the heart."  (Proverb 20:30)  

It is our Father who controls the scourge. 

May our Lord help us to have a heart of forgiveness.  May we be like Jesus, Paul, and Joseph, who died to themselves to bless those who had wronged them.  May we always recognize the providence of God in our lives.  May we understand that we are not in God's place, that He is the Master, and we are the clay.  May we have a faith that trusts in His promises. 


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