Understanding God’s purpose can empower forgiveness

God is always working out larger purposes than we may be able to see.

Genesis 45:4-5, 7-8 – Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please, come near me,” and they came near. “I am Joseph, your brother,” he said, “the one you sold into Egypt. “And now don’t be grieved or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. … “God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. “Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

If anyone in the Bible had a good reason to hold a grudge, it was Joseph. Hated by his brothers, left in an underground cavern in the wilderness, consciously sold by them into slavery, he would have every right to not want to see them ever again, or to punish them if he ever got the opportunity.

Yet, as time would prove, all of this occurred for a much larger reason, a purpose beyond what any of them could see. What had started as a severe case of sibling rivalry ended up as one of the most momentous humanitarian events in the ancient nation of Egypt and the middle East.

Because of their hate for him, through a series of events Joseph ended up in the presence of Pharaoh and was used of God to interpret dreams that were given to him. God was warning Pharaoh that a long famine was coming, and by being prepared for it, Egypt would become an even stronger power in the known world. In saving Egypt, God was saving his own people, the family of Jacob, and providing the catalyst for a series of events that would ultimately create the nation of Israel.

When the brothers realized that the second in command in Egypt was their brother Joseph, they thought all of their rough treatment of him would now be countered with Joseph’s new position of authority over them. Due to the fact that their father Jacob, the authority of the family, had died, they schemed to prevent Joseph from treating them harshly.

Genesis 50:15-21 – When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said to one another, “If Joseph is holding a grudge against us, he will certainly repay us for all the suffering we caused him.” So they sent this message to Joseph, “Before he died your father gave a command: “‘Say this to Joseph: Please forgive your brothers’ transgression and their sin ​– ​the suffering they caused you.’ Therefore, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when their message came to him. His brothers also came to him, bowed down before him, and said, “We are your slaves! ” But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result ​– ​the survival of many people. “Therefore don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

However, we can see that Joseph had forgiven them when he told them not to be afraid, and that he would take care of them and their families. Joseph’s forgiveness was based on the fact that he related all of the events to the planning of God who was ultimately working out a larger purpose than their family dysfunctions.

Joseph replies with a question that applies to all of us who are unforgiving of others: “Am I in the place of God?” By asking this question, Joseph conveys his humility and deference to the justice of God. Joseph realized he was not put into a position of authority to selfishly punish his brothers, but to save many people. This type of humility in forgiveness allows God to be God and for us to move past the harms of the past.

When we don’t forgive others, we think we know better than God how somebody should be treated. This is what Joseph’s brothers were guilty of. However, when we forgive others, we allow God to be God. We can usually find strength to forgive when we can see that God always has a larger purpose in mind than any personal injustice we may have experienced. Keeping our focus on the purpose of God allows us the ability to forgive, and when forgiveness occurs, relationships can be restored and larger good things can happen.


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