“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
Genesis 45:5; 50:20
Friend to Friend
If ever there is a place to learn about forgiveness…to practice forgiveness…to struggle with forgiveness…it is in the family. Makes me tired just thinking about it. And interestingly, it is in the context of family where the word forgiveness first shows up in the Bible.
Let’s dig into Scripture today. Come on. You can do it.
In the book of Genesis, we meet a young man named Joseph—the eleventh of twelve brothers, and favorite son of Jacob. He is most famously known for his elaborate coat of many colors. Young Joseph had several prophetic dreams involving his brothers and father one day bowing down to him. Rather than keep that bit of information to himself, he shared it with his already jealous siblings. When he was seventeen, his brothers had enough of this rather bratty brother.
So one day, when Joseph went out to the fields to check on them, they schemed to throw him in a well, shred his fancy coat, and tell Jacob his favorite son had been killed by a wild animal. Just after they had tossed him in the pit, an Egyptian caravan came passing by. Then they hatched another plan; rather than leave Joseph to die, they sold him into slavery and pocketed a bit of money in the process.
Joseph served as a slave in the home of a high-ranking official named Potiphar. While there, he was falsely accused of sexually assaulting Potiphar’s wife and thrown into prison. (And you thought you were having a bad day.)
During his prison stay, he interpreted dreams for some of his fellow inmates and God blessed him. One day the Pharaoh of Egypt had a disturbing dream that no one could interpret. The Pharaoh’s cupbearer, who had been in prison with Joseph, told the King about Joseph’s gift of interpretation.
Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream, and predicted seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. The Pharaoh was so enamored with Joseph’s God-given wisdom that he appointed him governor of Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh himself.
During the famine, who should show up in Egypt looking for food but Joseph’s conniving brothers? They were terrified when the governor revealed that he was their long lost brother. “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!” There were tears all around. Don’t you know they were terrified? What would Joseph do? What would you do?
This was Joseph’s response to the injustice inflicted by his brothers: “And now, do not be distressed, and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Gen. 45:5; 50:20).
Joseph did not say, “Oh, that’s OK. Don’t worry out it.” No, he called the betrayal what it was—evil against him that resulted in thirteen years of slavery. At the same time, he chose to forgive the wrong done to him, and allow God’s grace to flow through him. He opened the door for reconciliation and entrusted the matter of justice to God.
Thus ends the first book of the Bible: Genesis. We close out the epic narrative with a portrait of forgiveness that continues throughout the entire Bible. The word forgive walks out on the stage as a leading character for the entirety of the Scriptures and it began with the words of Jacob—an elderly father making a request to his wronged son.
This is what you are to say to Joseph: “I ask you for forgive your brothers the sins and wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. (Gen. 50:17)
Forgiveness rewrites the ending to the story. Not only does it grease the pain to make letting go of the past offenses easier, it also releases the aroma of hope that helps us reach out to the possibilities for the future.
Forgiveness is a continuous theme throughout Scripture and it all begins with a very mixed up family—how appropriate. I’m sort of glad. That gives me great comfort. I hope it does for you.
Heavenly Father, family is so messy. We hurt each other and love each other, sometimes at the same time. Help me to forgive quickly. Help me to allow every situation to make me better and not become bitter. Help me to trust in Your sovereignty in every situation.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Glance back at today’s devotion. How many ways do you see that Joseph was betrayed?
Did he have a lot to forgive in his family?
Read these verses again: “And now, do not be distressed, and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Gen. 45:5; 50:20).
How do these verses help you see your hurt through the lens of God’s sovereignty?
Is there someone you need to forgive today?
More from the Girlfriends
Today’s devotion was taken from my new book, Take Hold of the Faith you Long For: Let Go, Move Forward, Live Bold. And if there is anything we need to let go of in order to move forward it’s resentment. A mediocre, mundane faith is not what you were made for! In Take Hold of the Faith You Long For, I reveal the most common reasons we get stuck in our Christian faith, living less than what we had hoped. I show you how to break free of all that holds you back, move forward with all that God promises, and live the adventurous faith of bold believing. It’s time to leave behind feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and inadequacy that hold you hostage and take hold of the mountain-moving faith God intends. Let’s uncover untapped sources of confidence and courage, and see how to move from simply knowing the truth to actually living it out boldly. It’s time to TAKE HOLD of all that Jesus has already taken hold of for you and placed in you! Click on the book cover to download a sample chapter and view a quick video. And if you’re looking for a new study for your women’s group or individual study, Take Hold includes a Bible Study guide in the back. Also, you’ll find out about some free gifts with each purchase.