|Jim Lepage Art|
In Genesis 50 we read that after Israel (Jacob) died, Joseph's heart grieved for him and he, along with his brothers, mourned and cried, and buried his father Israel. But not long after that, Joseph's brothers came to him with great fear.
The past still haunted them. Their past sin's shadow had not yet departed from them. They had once asked Joseph to forgive them from their sin against him, and Joseph had expressed his forgiveness with words and tears, and actions (Gen. 45). Joseph even called them and brought them near to him, to a safer place where they would lack nothing. But now that their Father was gone, now that their circumstances had changed, the questions came back and the shadows grew darker and bigger as the memories of that day rushed back like cataracts -the Dreamer, the tunic, the well, the merchants, the look on Joseph's eyes, his cries, his pleas, the blood of the animal, the lies all had to make up, the moment they faced their father, his loud cry, and the way their lives were changed forever- all were tangible memories that made them shiver and sweat. What if Joseph had changed his mind? What if Joseph's forgiveness was just a show to make their father happy? What if he had not really forgiven them? So they came and again asked for his forgiveness one more time because, you see, forgiveness and restoration and all-is-forgotten-and-all-is-made-new is too good to be true, and it just can't be that easy, right? Their nightmares were real, but more real than Joseph's promise of forgiveness?
However, Joseph didn't change his mind. He "wept when they spoke to him" and said to them, "Do not fear... " and then again, "Do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones." And the author tells us that with these words "he comforted them and spoke kindly to them."
If we could only see and understand how Jesus forgives us! How many times we are haunted by our past sins, by memories that out of nowhere spring up and cast a heavy shadow on our hearts. How many times we have asked God to forgive us for the same sins over and over again? We are like Joseph's brothers, we doubt the character, the goodness, the free gift that Jesus gives us. We can't possibly believe that God forgives the worst and calls us and brings us close to him to feed us with the best of the land, with bread and wine. "No," we say, "that can't be."
But we must believe and not fear to come when God bids us to come. God's love for us and His forgiveness are not dependent on anything we do or don't do; His forgiveness doesn't rest on the circumstances around us, His forgiveness comes from His immutable character and perfect love. He even leads us, in his kindness, to repentance. We ask for forgiveness because He softens our hearts to be able to do that.
Don't fear the shadows of past sins. Repent and believe that He delights to forgive His people.
And there is one more layer to unwrap in this story. One more lesson on forgiveness.
How do we extend forgiveness to others? Like Jesus to us? Like Joseph to his brothers? Joseph knew -and never denied- that what their brothers did to him, they did full of malice and meant it for evil. However, he fully forgave them and did all that was possible for him to do to restore that relationship. Why did he do that? How was that even possible? Again, because Joseph knew God and His character. He understood one thing above all else: God is sovereign over all the events of our lives, even over those things that people do and say against us. He even told his brothers, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?" (50:19)
Let us learn to be like Joseph -and even more like Jesus. Let us welcome those who have hurt us and have meant evil against us, let us start saying more often kind words that can bring comfort, "Do not fear, come..."
Soften our hearts, Oh Lord, to receive and extend forgiveness.
Under His sun and by His grace,