A sermon on Genesis 45:3-15, for the 7th Sunday after Epiphany, February 21/24, 2019.
They can be the best of friends. They can also be the worst of enemies. One minute they play a game together in the living room as happy as can be, but the next minute their voices fill the house with words of anger and jealousy. Welcome to the life of having a sibling. Some will call it sibling rivalry. Parents call it a normal day in their household. Call it whatever you would like; it plays out. They can be yelling, screaming, rushing off to their separate rooms only to come back a few seconds later to hangout enjoying each other’s company.
It is easy to bury the hatchet when a person is related to us. The love in a family helps make forgiveness a priority. What would happen if a family member committed something so horrendous that it leaves a huge chasm in our relationship? What would happen if a coworker hurts us? What would we think of a complete stranger who wrongs us? All of a sudden forgiveness might not come so easily. God throughout his Word teaches us to forgive. What makes forgiveness a priority in a Christian’s life?
Love Overcomes All
- Our forgiveness towards others.
- God’s forgiveness towards us.
So much had changed over the years. The last time Joseph’s brothers saw him he was being carried off as a slave. They listened to his cries for help with deaf ears. Then they devised a plot to cover up their actions by lying to their father saying a wild animal attacked Joseph. They might have learned to live with their actions. Perhaps they no longer thought of Joseph, except for the moments of guilt in their life.
God did not forget about Joseph. Potiphar purchased Joseph as a slave. Joseph oversaw all of Potiphar’s house. A false accusation against Joseph landed him in jail. God was still with Joseph in prison. The warden put Joseph in charge of the jail. Joseph even interpreted dreams of the royal baker and cup bearer, while all of them were in prison.
Then Joseph’s big break came. Pharaoh had a dream. None of his advisers could interpret the dream. The royal cup bearer, who had forgotten about Joseph, remembered the one in jail who could interpret dreams. Pharaoh had Joseph brought to him. By the power of God Joseph gave the meaning of the dream. Seven years of abundance would take place in the land. After those seven good years, seven years of extreme famine would ravage the land.
Joseph advised Pharaoh to save up during the good years. Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph’s wisdom and foresight that he made Joseph second in command of all of Egypt. Joseph had been sold as a slave, put in prions, and now rose to second in command of all of Egypt.
Once the famine hit, everyone had to come to Egypt to purchase food. The famine even spread to the land of Canaan. Jacob sent his sons down to Egypt to purchase grain. Although they did not recognize him, Joseph immediately recognized his brothers. He did not make himself known yet. Joseph put on an act. He questioned his brothers He accused them of being spies. Finally, Joseph gave them food and sent them on their way minus Simeon, who had to stay back in prison.
Jacob had to send his sons a second time to Egypt. This time Benjamin, the other son born of Rachel, accompanied his brothers. Joseph welcomed his brothers again. He invited them to a meal at his residence. After spending time with them, Joseph no longer could keep quiet. He sent everyone out of the room and said, “I am Joseph” (Genesis 45:3)!
Surprise! Surprise! The brothers could not move. They stood before the one they sold into slavery so many years ago. The one they despised growing up now was one of the most powerful men in the world. They swallowed hard. What would happen to them? Would Joseph take revenge upon his brothers? Joseph could easily have put them in prison or had them killed.
Joseph spoke to his brothers a second time, “Come closer to me, please…I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be upset or angry with yourselves for selling me to this place, since God sent me ahead of you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:4-5). Joseph harbored no ill will toward his brothers. He did not blame them for all the hardships he endured.
Joseph got the big picture. God took a series of sad events and turned them into good. God placed Joseph in this particular position and this exact time to save many people. Joseph saw God’s grace. Joseph saw God’s plan. He did not want all his brothers to beat themselves up or worry about how Joseph would treat them. Joseph forgave them for their previous actions.
What an example of a loving, forgiving heart. So many of us would be salivating to get even with someone who treated us so harshly. Even if the plan came from our own siblings, our own flesh and blood, who decided to commit such a grievous wrong against their own. We would seek out vengeance for all the pain and hardship they caused.
We are unwilling to forgive people who do so much less against us. On the playground someone spreads gossip about a classmate. We want to dig up juicy tidbits against them to get even. A coworker steals our lunch from the company fridge. We want them to pay for our lunch. A fellow Christian fails to help us in our time of need. We call them hypocrites.
Our mind does not go to forgiveness naturally. We want to get even. We believe one bad action deserves another, so the world can remain in balance. However, love will overcome all. Our Christian love for others will lead us to forgive others. We speak these words all the time in the Lord’s Prayer. We pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” God’s forgiveness does not depend on our forgiveness, thank God for that otherwise we would never be forgiven. We do want to have a forgiving heart towards others.
Love will overcome all. Will this be easy for a person to do? No. How can a Christian have that forgiving spirit towards others? It is because the Christian knows the forgiveness God gives to them.
Joseph continued to speak to his brothers, “God sent me ahead of you to preserve you as survivors on the earth, and to keep you alive by a great act of deliverance” (Genesis 45:7). Not only would Joseph save thousands of people from death around the world, Joseph also would save his own family.
Joseph invited his father, brothers, all their families, and all their flocks and herds to Egypt. He would provide for them throughout the remaining years of the famine. Why was this such an important part of this account? Jacob had a very special promise from God. God first gave it to Abraham, and Isaac, and now Jacob. All nations on earth would be blessed through one of their descendants.
The Savior would come from Abraham’s line. If Jacob and his family perished in Canaan, the promise would end there. God elevated Joseph to this position of power to save the remnant. The promise remained alive and well. The Savior would be born from Abraham’s line.
Our Savior came to forgive the sins of all people. He would live a life free from the ill effects of sin. No matter how many times the devil came to tempt him, Jesus remained blameless. He then went to the cross to suffer and die for our sins. His innocent blood cleansed us from all of our sins.
We need to appreciate this wonderful gift. We sin many times in our life. Our speech is used to tear others down. We fail to stand up for the truth of God’s Word out of fear of the backlash that will come. We fall victim to the lies of false teachings. Doubts of God’s goodness make us question his love. We bring nothing to God. We cannot earn anything from him.
Jesus still died for us. Jesus still took our punishment upon himself. Jesus’ heavenly Father turned his back on his Son in his greatest moment of need. All this Jesus did so that we might be forgiven. He expects nothing in return. He grants this as a free gift through faith in him.
Now, we stand before God in freedom. We do so in confidence. We do not have to be like Joseph’s brothers wondering if retribution will come our way. Our sins, all our blemishes, all the dirt and grime of sin have been taken away.
We stand in awe of God’s wonderful forgiveness. We don’t deserve it. Yet, Jesus paid our penalty. We continue to wander, however, God welcomes us back with a forgiving word. We see the tremendous debt taken away from us, so we in turn will turn a forgiving look to others. It does not matter if they are our enemies or friends. Our Christian love will forgive because God forgives us.
Forgiveness can only come from a loving heart. God’s heart is pure love. Love for sinners like you and me. Love that does not want to see us going through the pains of hell. Love that sent a Son into the world to die for us. Our love will forgive others for their wrongs against us. Love Overcomes All. Amen.