A Midweek Devotional - Sovereignty and Forgiveness
Our journey through the main storyline of Scripture takes us this week to Joseph and his brothers in Egypt. We’ve skipped over the story of how Joseph got there in the first place. It was a story of hard providence. But now, in the famine ravaged region, God’s providence comes into greater clarity, for Joseph and his brothers. Once again, Unfolding Grace sets the scene for chapters 45-18:
“When a famine comes upon the land of Canaan, Jacob’s only hope is to send his remaining sons to Egypt for grain. When they arrive, they meet their long-lost brother and learn an important lesson: God has been in control all along, planning for their blessing and keeping His promise alive.”
Wednesday, February 10th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Genesis 45 - 48
Focused Passage for Reflection - Genesis 45:1-15
Reflecting on the Text:
How would you respond? Imagine, after years of stewing on the past, you finally came face to face with your persecutors. They kidnapped you and sold you into slavery. Then, after overcoming that trial, you were thrown in prison for a crime you didn’t commit. Finally, you were released and eventually rose to a position of power and prominence. It is a position from which you could inflict whatever form of justice you desired on those now standing before you. So how would you respond to their presence?
Joseph wept loudly. It actually sounds like he wailed. It makes sense. He surely must have experienced an outburst of pent up emotion as he considered how to respond. But Joseph’s weeping seems to be because he missed his brothers. These seem to be tears of joy as the brothers are finally together again.
Now, turn the tables. How would you respond if you were one of the brothers standing face to face with the one you had long ago cast aside? You and I would probably respond exactly as the brothers responded on that day. With stunned silence. Terror. Too afraid to speak, we would likely be thinking to ourselves, “What is he going to do to me now? This one I see in glory whom I long ago sinned against?”
Fear took over the brothers, just as it would us. But Joseph eased their fear by offering forgiveness. It was a shocking forgiveness rooted in one of the clearest proclamations of the providence of God found in all of Scripture. In verse 5 we read, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” It’s not merely that Joseph forgave them. He also sought to soothe them in their distress.
Would we have done the same? Can we now? Can we look past the wrongs done to us and forgive? Can we see the bigger picture of God’s loving providence in our lives, and can we trust in Him above all else? For almost all of us, this question is not posed in the context of a face to face meeting with kidnappers who sold us into slavery. It often deals with those who have injured our pride or hurt our feelings. The hurt is lesser, but it remains nonetheless. So can we forgive?
And what was this providence that Joseph described when he consoled his brothers? On the surface, it was the providence of the Lord to put him in a position to keep alive many survivors (v. 7), including his own family now standing before him. It was an important providence and a tangible way in which the Lord works all things together for good for those who love Him. (Romans 8:28) Though it seemed big in Joseph’s case, it is the same providence He extends over us.
But there is another which also extends over us. God’s providence was on display in that by preserving Joseph and his brothers, He was also preserving the line He first spoke of in Genesis 3:15. The Redeemer would come through this family line many generations later as an offspring of Judah. Again, the Lord was making good on His promise through Joseph, and ultimately through the brothers. So Joseph could forgive because Jesus, the Promised Redeemer, would later come to secure his forgiveness…just as He has secured ours.
How would we react? We can’t answer that question and I pray we never have to. But I also pray that we know the same God whom Joseph credited that day when he stood face to face with his persecutors. And let us have the same confidence in His good purposes, regardless of how hard they may appear.
Questions for personal reflection:
How does this picture of the sovereignty of God serve to encourage you in your current circumstances?
How does this story of forgiveness serve to encourage you in your current relationships?