The story of Joseph keeps coming back to my mind this week. I can’t help but think that Jesus has something to say to us from this story – especially in what Joseph had to say to his brothers.
I have to admit, it hasn’t been a good week since my last post. I spent the week running from God and avoiding him. Oddly enough, I have kept up with my reading through the bible… sort of. I am stuck in the middle of Jeremiah. Do you know how hard it is to read God’s word and really hear what it’s saying when you are at the same time avoiding the God who inspired it? I realized that this is why I avoided reading the bible to begin with.
I am not a particularly good Christian. In fact, I see myself as one of the worst Christians I know. I’m a rebel and a coward. This blog is not about presenting myself as a good role model at all but a desperate attempt to finally reconcile with God in some meaningful and lasting way. That I would begin to actually be a good friend to God. I know I’m not right now (or at least I think I’m not), and I must admit that right now I’m just in need of his forgiveness and grace. Which leads me to the question:
Does God hold grudges?
Most of us, I believe, still think that he does. The Bible tells us that for those who confess their sin and repent, that God forgives and forgets, but still we often fail to believe that God forgives so freely. At least I do.
A Lesson From the Life of Joseph
Many (including myself) see Joseph as a kind of archetype of Jesus. Their are similarities between the two. For example, Joseph was treated by his brothers in the same way as Jesus was treated by his brothers, the Jews. They plotted to kill them out of jealousy. Both Joseph and Jesus were prepared by God to be the savior of the world. And finally, there are striking similarities between the way they both forgive their brothers. (Jesus said from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”)
As the story goes, Joseph’s brothers were jealous of his favored relationship with their father Jacob. Offended by his dreams of grandeur and air of superiority which he freely and foolishly shared with his family, they plotted their revenge. Murder was discussed but in the end, they sold Joseph into slavery to Egypt.
After years of testing and character development, Joseph went on to become second only to Pharaoh in Egypt and was instrumental in providing the wisdom and guidance the world needed during a seven-year long severe famine.
Through a series of events which you can read about near the end of Genesis, Joseph was reunited with his father Jacob and his brothers in Egypt. He became their benefactor, protector, and savior.
Years passed and so did Jacob. Now, with their father gone, Joseph’s brothers thought that now surely Joseph would exact his revenge on them for how they had treated him. So they lied to Joseph. Here is the story from Genesis 50:15-21
But now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful. “Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to him,” they said. So they sent this message to Joseph: “Before your father died, he instructed us to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. Then his brothers came and threw themselves down before Joseph. “Look, we are your slaves!” they said.
But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.
I think that in many ways we are like those brothers of Joseph. We know we have done God wrong. (I know I have.) And we wonder, will God remember and punish me for my sins? Will God make me pay for what I’ve done?
Many of us are often like Mel Gibson’s character Benjamin Martin in the Patriot when he says, “I have long feared that my sins would return to visit me, and the cost is more than I can bear.”
We are just waiting for the hammer to fall. But, when we think like this, don’t we forget the cross? Don’t we forget that the hammer already fell long ago and drove nails into the holy perfect loving Son of God?
This is why God no longer holds our sins against us! They were already held against God’s own Son, our savior Jesus!
So, we don’t need to live in constant suspense thinking, ‘When will I be punished?’ But instead we can do as Paul recommends in Romans 5:12:
“So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (NLT)
I read this the other day and underlined it. Do you ever read something in Scripture and wish you could just grab the words off the page, put it in your heart, and then actually live it? That was my experience as I read this. I wanted to download it to my brain like in the Matrix, and start being a good friend to God!
But in the meantime, while I may be a ways off from being a good friend to God, it’s important just to know that God isn’t holding a grudge, that once confessed, my sins aren’t going to come back upon me, that his forgiveness is real and can be trusted.
Listen to God as he speaks kindly to us, assuring us of his forgiveness and his good intentions. Here are a few thoughts from Scripture to encourage us all:
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9)
“God is love” and love “keeps no record of being wronged”. (1 John 4:16 & 1 Corinthians 13:5)