Friday, January 20, 2012

Meditations on Forgiveness

~Tracy Frederick

You are probably very familiar with the biblical account of Joseph and his journey to Egypt.  You recall that Joseph was an innocent boy who found favor with his earthly and heavenly Father. His earthly father showed his favor by clothing him with a beautiful coat of many colors, while his heavenly Father bestowed visions on him, revealing to him that he would be a great leader and rule over his brothers one day. This was confusing to Joseph, but for those of us who know the account, we realize both were ways to comfort him for the times to come, hardships that would no doubt break his heart, but never his faith. But, that is not our focus, and will perhaps be the subject of a later meditation, so let us move on. You will recall that later, Joseph’s brothers were overcome with Satan’s temptations of jealousy and sold him into slavery, fully expecting him to be killed, or most likely tortured. But, then, by the help of his heavenly Father, he was saved from death and given the gift of deciphering visions, once again showing that our Father was protecting and providing, as he promised Joseph when he was just a boy. We move forward to Joseph enduring prison, and temptations, and his faithfulness to the Father who gave him His promise. All of this brings us to focus on what I believe is rarely taught from this account: forgiveness.  After Joseph teaches his brothers a lesson in humbleness that starts in chapter 37,we see Joseph speaking to his brothers kindly, after they contemplated his murder, abandoned him, lied to his father and caused him much grief, and were brought to the lowest place they could be (fulfilling the dream/vision they heard him tell them many years before), Joseph stands as their ruler, their master and the one that holds their lives in his hands; they are  humbled,  begging for their lives and fully expect Joseph to take retribution on them; they expect death. What is most interesting, is- they know they deserve death; after all, it is what they would do to him, if the roles were reversed. But, what we they find is mercy, forgiveness and compassion in chapter 45:4-7:  I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.  For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.  And God sent me before you to preserve posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” Then again, after their father dies, what they believe to be the only reason Joseph has kept them alive, they question Joseph’s motives again, and ask for their fate. Joseph replies in chapter 50: 19-21:  "’Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?  But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.  Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them." Many, less godly men, or women, would have used the opportunity to make them pay, to take their lives, or to make their lives as miserable as possible. A less godly man might have taken it as a sign from God that he had permission to kill them, that God had delivered them into his hand for his revenge. The great faith of Joseph was able to keep his heart from bitterness and anger, to see that it was all for the purpose of God that he suffered. It was only through this steadfast focus on the purposes of His father, the belief in that promise given so many years prior was the only thing that mattered. 

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