Israel was saved from starvation by the wisdom and providence of God through Joseph (Ge.37-47). And Israel was saved as a family by a Father’s instruction in forgiveness. Genesis 50 shows us that forgiveness is a prominent Bible theme. (cf. Ge.3:15).
Forgiveness is the object and an essential element in God’s plan to save man and those man loves. It must be received, practiced and demonstrated! Like Peter, most, if not all of us wonder how to practice it (Mt.18:21f). God gives instructions and examples to show us how. Consider accounts of Philemon and Onesimus, the sisters at Philippi, Peter and Paul, and Paul and John Mark!
Surely forgiveness is as divine a subject as we could hope to study. It is a divine nature that we must desire to partake. (2Pt.1:4-9).
And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him. And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. (Ge.50:15-17).
Here are lessons for the offender. Guilt afflicts until forgiveness is sought. (Mt.5:22-25). Things may get worse in relationship where forgiveness is not held as premium. (Mt.18:14-17). And here are warnings for the offended. Sin and lack of forgiveness can lead to hate. Sin and lack of forgiveness can lead to revengeful attitudes.
If the offender would receive forgiveness, he should GO to the offended. For our families to be whole, we must teach and command forgiveness. (Ep.6:4; Ge.18:19). What we don’t teach while we are alive, they will not be trained to do when we are gone!
If we really desire forgiveness, we should go and ask. If we really want forgiveness, we should confess our evil. The children had seen Israel, the servant of God go, confess, pray for and practice forgiveness with his brother Esau. (Ge.32). While tempted to be hardened in heart, God’s child must weep and pray over his enemy’s sin. (Mt.18:12; 5:43-48; Ga.6:1,2; Ep.4:31-32).
And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. (Ge.50:18-20).
One truly seeing his need of forgiveness will not just ask but fall upon the offended one’s mercy. (Lk.15:18-19; 1Cr.7:10). Humility and submission are essential to conversion and gaining forgiveness. Often the offender weeps as badly as the offended. There is pain with sin. Consider Peter and Judas. (Mt.26:75; 27:3-5).
The offended needs to comfort the fear of the offender! Doesn’t God do that for us? (Ez.33:11; 2Tm.4:2). We know that forgiveness takes place in the mind or heart of God. We must not judge or think of ourselves to be mightier than God. (Mt.18:21-35). When forgiveness is not sought and/or not granted, there is great reason to fear. (Ac.8:22,23; 1Jn.1:9; Mt.6:15).
Why do we hang on to the evil done to us? (Ep.4:26). Often God uses it for our good if we allow it! Especially this is so if we meet “evil” with the right response! (Mt.18:15; Ja.1:2-4). Billions may be living adequately fed, but miserable. The same may be lost. Maybe the evil and our right response will save many souls – maybe even our families. (Mt.5:16)
Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them. And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father’s house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years. (Ge.50:21-22).
Kind words and nourishing treatment are companions of forgiveness. We must not fool ourselves if we think we have forgiven our mate but take our anger out on “the dog”.
Longevity is better when we learn forgiveness. And longevity can be a reward to one who learns overcome bitterness and wrath. Life can be disappointing and cruelly sad at times, but better to end it having practiced God’s direction in Luke 6:37. Only when forgiveness prevails, can we be assured that our family can grow strong in faith, loyalty and size.
Joseph saved his family in time of famine. Jacob saved his family in time of difficulty – by teaching forgiveness. (Lk.10:37b). Our families will be saved long after our decease if we instill in them God’s plan and prescription for peace and forgiveness. How many problems might be avoided? Unhappiness, bitterness, alcohol and drug abuse, runaways, and separations often are rooted in a lack of forgiveness.
Congregations surely need to practice forgiveness! Some are physically divided and spiritually paralyzed for lack of it! God and His church are all about forgiveness! All nations and all “races” need it! Every soul needs it and to practice it! It’s been rightly said, “Forgiveness is not God’s problem. It is ours!” Please study Psalm 103.
Did you know that having been betrayed by family, but comforted with a family in Egypt, Joseph chose to name his firstborn, “Manasseh” meaning “one who causes to be forgotten“? (Ge.41:51). Life is full of comfort, if we will only focus on it. If I refuse to forgive or cannot forgive, could my problem be hate? A person is precious, worthy and valuable as he is, not as he acts. Do I have a forgiving spirit, like God?
Some are heard to say, “How can I forgive one when he has not repented?” A more important and better question is “Will you be able to forgive one if he does repent?”. Ultimately forgiveness rakes place in the heart of God, but He expects each of us to be peacemakers and those who would cultivate forgiveness. (Mt.5:7-9; Ga.6:1,2). HJS