What They Deserve



The story of Joseph is a long, winding story that brings us from chapter 37 all the way here to chapter 50, after his father Jacob has died.    Short version is – Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, both for his big dreams and his fathers love.  So, they first conspired to kill him, then instead sold him for twenty shekels of silver to a passing caravan.  After all the ill will and direct malice with which they had treated their younger brother, Joseph’s brothers were fully aware of what they deserved in return.   But, Joseph had already announced his mercy and forgiveness to his brothers the first time he saw them, years after they had sold him off – “So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”  Genesis‬ ‭45:4-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬.   Despite this declaration from Joseph, his brothers still expect the worst after their father passes away.  


When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”   They know what they deserve.  They know what they would have done.  And they know that Joseph has position and power to make it happen.  Because of their guilt and fear, they feel they must resort to lying in order to ask for forgiveness – So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”‘ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”  They invent a story of their father instructing them to ask Joseph to forgive them, and appeal the the God of their father Jacob.  Notice they can’t simply humble themselves directly, they have to make up the story of their father giving the command.  But, at least they did ask forgiveness and acknowledge they had done wrong to their brother.

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”   Joseph chooses to leave his vengeance up to God.  He also sets the example, confirmed by Jesus, of not returning evil for evil.  He declares the ultimate power of God in all matters, and his submission to the plan God has.  His brothers meant the evil they did to him, but God used it for good.   Instead of being angry and living with resentment, Joseph had forgiven his brothers their sins against him.  He had not only forgiven them, but showed love for them and their descendants.  He answered the question ‘What would Jesus do?” many  centuries before Jesus did.

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”  So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”‘ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭50:15-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/gen.50.15-21.esv

John Lewis

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