The Bible story of the encounter between Joseph and his brothers in Egypt is a beautiful description of mercy and forgiveness.
From the human viewpoint, Joseph could have been justifiably angry and bitter toward his brothers. They had sold him as a slave to Midianite traders, and he had then ended up in prison in Egypt for many years.
Joseph was only reunited with his brothers much later, when they came to Egypt to buy food. The Pharaoh had appointed Joseph governor over all Egypt, and it had been his task to store grain for the years when crops failed.
Joseph thus had an opportunity to take revenge on his brothers. But he did not do that. He saw profound significance and God’s guidance in the events that had taken place. He said to his brothers: ”And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Gen. 45:5–8.)
Joseph forgave from his heart
The brothers also brought into Egypt their father Jacob, and the whole family settled down there. When Jacob died, the brothers feared that Joseph might finally seek revenge for their evil deeds. Even while their father was still alive, they had probably been horrified of the prospect of him dying. Frightened, they sent Joseph a message where they quoted their father’s words: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” (Gen. 50:16–17.)
The brothers were believing men and understood their transgression. They knew that Joseph was a powerful man who could make their life very difficult. But they had feared in vain, for Joseph had already forgiven from his heart.
When Joseph answered to his brothers’ petition, he said that it is not for man to revenge; the power to judge remains with God. He said to his brothers: ”Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Gen. 50:19–21.) The fact that Joseph had forgiven his brothers from his heart was also reflected in the way he provided for his brothers’ families.
Encountering others with the mind of Christ
We can say that Joseph had the mind of Christ. (Phil. 2:5–8). He did not want to respond to evil with evil, but rather wanted to be merciful and encouraging. Through faith he understood that he himself had been forgiven much by God, and that all of his temporal treasures were a gift of God.
Joseph and his brothers had been in God’s school. The brothers had had to humbly apologize for their evil deeds. Their speech was no longer full of arrogance in the way it had been when they had forced Joseph to join the slave traders many years previously.
Apology and forgiveness are seldom easy. A person searching for God’s kingdom must enter through the narrow gate of repentance. (Matt. 7:13). The same is true of daily repentance: it is not always easy for a child of God who has fallen into sin to humble himself to ask for forgiveness.
It may sometimes also be difficult to forgive. If a person cannot forgive his neighbor, his heart may become embittered, which has many negative consequences. It is therefore important to pray that God would give us the strength both to apologize and to forgive. When God helps a person do that, his heart is relieved of bitterness and the burden of sin. He will have a happy and merciful mind.
Text: Pekka Aittakumpu
Source: Siionin Lähetyslehti 3/2015
Translation: S-L. L.
Julkaistu englanninkielisessä numerossa 10.5.2017
Monet suunnitelmat ovat tänä poikkeuksellisena keväänä muuttuneet. Muun muassa perhejuhlien järjestelyjä on pitänyt miettiä uudelleen. Tämä on koskenut myös avioliittoon vihkimisiä. Nyt vihkimisiä on toimitettu niin, että koolla on ollut vain joitakin läheisiä, ja muu juhlaväki on seurannut tilaisuutta ehkä virtuaalisesti.