A Life Essay in Forgiveness

Father’s Day, 2010

Every relationship is founded on Love, meaning that relationships find their stability and their flexibility in Love. Love is the commitment, the glue, the mortar, in relationships, the unchanging, unmoving, unbroken thing that enables the relationship to be lived in peace, harmony and excitement. Upon the foundation of Love, the structure of each relationship is built. The elements of that structure are service and forgiveness.

Today, the Holy Spirit would have us focus on the issue of forgiveness, and we take as our initial text the Story of Joseph, which begins in Genesis 29, when Rachel became the wife of Jacob, but remained barren, even though Rachel’s sister, Leah, who also had become the wife of Jacob, became pregnant and bore a son, Reuben, to Jacob, in fact, several sons (See Genesis 29: 16- 35).

The more children Leah bore to Jacob, the more angry and jealous Rachel became (see Genesis 30:1-7), and she felt disgraced in her barrenness, and she went to every length to win the reproduction competition with her sister, Leah. Finally, in Genesis 30:22, we find that God – who creates life and opens wombs – remembered Rachel and opened her womb, and she born a son for Jacob, a son she named Joseph, saying “God has taken away my disgrace”.

In the life of Joseph, we see certain very important lessons, and if we apply them to our relationship to God and our relationships with each other, through the Blood of Jesus, we will find that our own disgrace is taken away, by God’s forgiveness of

our sins, by His grace, through our faith, and not of our own works or doings.

Let’s look briefly at those lessons from Joseph’s life, as recounted beginning in Genesis 37-50, and here is the background which you probably know: Out of jealousy, Joseph’s brothers (except Reuben) sold him into slavery to Ishmaelite merchants (distant cousins??!!), faked his death by a wild animal and lied to their father in cover up. The Ishmaelites then sold Joseph to Pottiphar, a high official (Captain of the Guard) of Pharoah in Egypt, and Joseph became a slave in Pottiphar’s household. Pottiphar’s wife liked Joseph and the way he looked and tried to seduce him, and he refused, and she lied that he had attempted to sleep with her, and so Joseph was tossed into jail. While in jail, he interpreted the dreams of two minor officials who had also been tossed into jail, and the result was that one was freed and the other executed. Later, while Joseph was still in jail, Pharaoh had two dreams, which no one could interpret. The man whose dreams had been interpreted by Joseph in jail, whose life was thus spared, informed Pharaoh of his experience with Joseph, and Pharaoh called for Joseph. Joseph was brought from the jail, cleaned up, and presented to Pharaoh. Pharaoh requested Joseph to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph interpreted the dreams, which prophesied the forthcoming famines, and the Pharaoh decided Joseph should be in charge of all Egypt, and so Joseph became second in command, next to the Pharaoh, over all of Egypt. Joseph ran the country, produced food and stored it up; the famines came; Joseph’s family – brothers and father, etc. – in Cannan were running out of food, and so some of them were sent by Jacob to Egypt to buy food. Cutting through the details, Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him (he had an Egyptian name at this point and had grown up many years since when they had sold him when he was only seventeen years old). Joseph provided them food and arranged for his whole family to move to Egypt and be provided food. And this is also the story of the beginnings of the Egyptian bondage of the Israelites, foreshadowed by the sale of Joseph into Egyptian slavery.

We find some significant verses in this perusal of Genesis 37-5039:2, “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered”; 39:3, “When his master saw that the Lord was with (Joseph), and that the Lord gave (Joseph) success in every thing he did, Joseph found favor in (Pottiphar’s) eyes and became his attendant. Pottiphar put (Joseph) in charge of his household and he entrusted to (Joseph’s) care everything (Pottiphar) owned”; 39:6b-10, “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while (Pottiphar’s) wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But (Joseph refused. ‘With me in charge,’ he told her, ‘my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’ [Ed. Notice, not sin against Pottiphar but God.] And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her”; 39:20b-23, “But while Joseph was in prison, the Lord was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and (Joseph) was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in everything he did”; 41:15-16, “Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ ‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.’’; 41:39-40, “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.’”; 42:25-26, “Joseph gave orders to fill (his brothers’) bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey (back to Cannan). After this was done for them, they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.”; 43:30, “Deeply moved at the sight of his brother (Benjamin), Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.”; 45:1-15


Now, what do we see about the character of Joseph in all We see forgiveness, and the heart of humility it requires!

  1. Joseph held always to humility before God, and took no personal credit for any of the good and great things he did.
  2. Joseph made the best of each horrible circumstance he was put into, through no fault of his own, without sacrificing God’s standards, and staying constantly in God’s presence.
  3. Joseph did not lose his humility, nor even as a high official in a pagan land, nor did he lose his commitment to God and God’s standards for living life.
  4. Joseph always trusted and served God.
  5. Joseph understood what we know as theprinciple of Romans 8:28, as in verse 50:19- 21, “But Joseph said to them (his brothers), ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for God to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”
  6. Joseph forgave his brothers, in spite of what they had done to him in jealously andmeanness!
  7. In that spirit and life of forgiveness, Joseph served not only Pottiphar, he also served Pottiphar’s wife by not agreeing to her ministrations, he served the warden of the jail and those in the jail, he served Pharaoh, he served the people of Egypt, he served his brothers and his family.

What great lessons about life, and faith, and humility and courage, and forgiveness we learn from Joseph.

In a large sense, we learn from Joseph the essential lessons of the gospel of Jesus Christ: truth and grace are what forgiveness is built on. I John 1: 9, if we confess (“truth”) our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. His forgiveness is by grace, Ephesians 2:8.

In our relationships with God and each other – whether in marriage, parent-child, workplace, commerce, social, church, general, we need to govern ourselves in the knowledge of how love is the foundation of all good relationships that are good relationships, and polluted love is the foundation of all bad relationships, and how forgiveness and service are the elements of the structure on the foundation of love, which are the building blocks of relationships, and truth and grace are the things that fasten relationships all together in strength and richness and stability, as God’s love is poured out in us, 1 John 4: 19, because He first loved us, and through us and back to Him.

Examine yourselves, and ask this simple question, in your private room (like where Joseph wept), where is there friction in my relationship with God, and with my wife or husband or children or parents – (let the circle widen out)? And as you identify particular spots of friction, starting at the center, with God, then going outwards, write them down, and write down what you can do, out of love and with the Holy Spirit’s direction, even whether you want to do so or not, to forgive and to serve the ones you love, with whom you are in relationship. You are not responsible for their reactions, but you are responsible for your actions. Only you can ask God to soften your heart, and only you can receive that softening and apply it in your heart, to soften to those where your relationships are burdened with friction and anger, and distrust and enmity, so you can be humble enough to be courageous to take the lead in rebuilding, restoring, sustaining, relationships, which is Love. Let your life be an essay in forgiveness!

God bless you and amen+