What if Joseph hadn’t forgiven his brothers?
Today’s blog is written by a guest writer, Janet Koolhaas. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind sharing from what she has taught in her Bible studies classes. Hopefully you will agree that she has some amazing insight!
“Do you find yourself making statements or having thoughts that begin with either of these two-word phrases: “What if” and “If only”? I confess that I constantly find myself thinking thoughts like: If only we had more money, If only I weighed fifty pounds less, OR What if I become a widow, or What if one of the tall trees behind our house blows over onto the house? Both phrases are detrimental to my spiritual life, as one belies a lack of faith and the other breeds fear.
There is one instance, however, when asking ourselves what if serves a very useful purpose. This what if serves as a strong motivator to surrender to God’s will and His wisdom for our lives.
Lately my thoughts have been consumed with the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. You know the story – he was despised and sold into slavery by his brothers, taken to a foreign country, falsely accused of wrong-doing, thrown into prison, forgotten by his fellow prisoner, later released from prison and then elevated to a high position second only to Pharaoh himself. Eventually he came face-to-face with his brothers and had to make a difficult choice whether or not to forgive them for all the misery they had caused him. Fortunately, he made the right choice.
Recently I asked myself, “What if Joseph had not chosen to forgive his brothers?” “What if the immensity of their treachery and his subsequent misery were just too big of an offence for Joseph to let go of?” “What would have been the ripple-effect of his decision?”
Joseph is considered by most to be an Old Testament “type” (or foreshadowing figure) of Christ. His supervision of gathering up warehouses full of grain during the seven years of plenty in Egypt essentially made him the “Savior” of the then-known world during the ensuing seven years of famine. If Joseph’s brothers had not received his aid during the famine, his brothers, his father Jacob, and the very roots of the nation of Israel would have died with them. That would have been sad enough, but these roots were meant to eventually spring up into the “tree” from which Jesus our Savior was to come. What if God’s entire plan of salvation had been nipped in the bud by Joseph’s potential unforgiveness?
Of course, if Joseph had failed the test, we know that God would have found another way to fulfill His plans. His plans cannot be thwarted. But, praise God! Joseph chose the path of forgiveness, and the ripple-effect of that single act has trickled – no, flooded – down to us through the ages in the Person of Jesus Christ who also chose to forgive the very ones who were in the process of crucifying Him.
So here I am mulling over the offence that I have struggled with for several years. I have prayed, forgiven, prayed some more, forgiven again and can’t seem to fully let go of the offence. I ask myself, what will the long-term fallout be if I fail in this struggle to forgive? What if I give in to my soulish tendency to hold a grudge? How will this impact my children and my grandchildren down through the generations? Maybe they won’t starve to death, but family unity might die. Alienation and division could be the bitter fruit of my failure to fully forgive. Satan would be given a foothold in my bloodline. I realize now that unforgiveness is not an option. Holding a grudge is not a valid choice in the life of a believer.
“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Perhaps you struggle with an offence that you simply cannot let go of. I invite you to join me in meditating on the story of Joseph in God’s Word for as long as it takes to transform our minds and hearts.
Lord, give me a revelation of what forgiveness could look like in my situation. I surrender to You my perceived right to hold a grudge. You are the Righteous Judge, who will settle all accounts one day. Thank you that my offender’s actions were nailed to the cross – as were mine – when Jesus died to set all of us free from the bondage of unforgiveness. In Jesus’ name and for His glory, AMEN.”
“. . . and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”
“Then Peter came to him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Photo by: Warren Wong – Men highfive in field