The Pitfall of Guilt and Grudges
We can only move forward when we embrace God’s forgiveness.
In this passage, we come to the climax of the story of Joseph. God has used all the experiences in Joseph’s journey to prepare him for this moment. As second-in-command to Pharaoh, Joseph has acted upon God’s wisdom in implementing a plan to provide for the survival of his family, and indeed all of the people in that region of the world.
He has been humble and faithful throughout his journey and elevated in every instance. He has not given in to anger or hatred over the betrayal he experienced at the hands of his brothers or the injustice he received at the hands of Potiphar.
God has divinely woven the tapestry of events in Joseph’s life, maturing and preparing him for this grand assignment. In the process, God has reunited Joseph with his father and brothers.
Your guilt does not imply another’s grudge. (15–18)
We can only imagine the magnitude of his brothers’ shock, amazement, fear and dread when Joseph revealed to them that he had not only survived, but thrived. Not only was he alive, but he was in a position of power, holding their very existence in his hands.
Rather than responding with anger toward his brothers, Joseph forgave them, embraced them, brought them all to Egypt and provided for them through the remainder of the famine.
When his father died his brothers were fearful. Had Joseph just been biding his time and now seek revenge?
A French diplomat in the 18th century coined the phrase, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” The meaning is clear about holding on to hatred and plotting revenge at a future time when it is least expected and most satisfying. That was the concern of Joseph’s brothers. They knew their guilt, and perhaps how they would have responded to the kind of mistreatment they had given their brother. They may have projected their own feelings and motives onto Joseph.
But they didn’t truly understand what God had done in Joseph’s life, and the level of Joseph’s maturity and compassion.
Refocus on God’s providence. (19–20)
Did the brothers deserve Joseph’s compassion, kindness and forgiveness? No. That’s the beauty of mercy and grace. Mercy can be defined as not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting the blessing we don’t deserve. Joseph didn’t focus on the hostility of his brothers, but on the providence and sovereign plan of God. That was a hard-learned lesson, but from Joseph’s mature perspective, he could see that God was at work even when it wasn’t obvious.
In fact, he would make a profound observation when he said, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.”
Receive God’s forgiveness and comfort. (21)
Joseph had forgiven his brothers. It is evident by their proposal to be Joseph’s slaves that they hadn’t sought God’s forgiveness and cleansing. They were still in a bargaining mindset. King David reminds us in Psalm 51 that all sin is primarily against God. That’s where we need to begin in our dealing with sin.
Joseph says, “Don’t be afraid.” That phrase is echoed throughout the Bible every time God is doing something. He follows that up with a promise: “I will take care of you and your children.”
In this way, Joseph is a reflection of Christ and what He did on the cross. In Jesus Christ, we find forgiveness, freedom from fear and provision of everything we need.
By Don Fugate
Fugate is senior pastor at Foxworthy Baptist Church in San Jose, California.