Scripture: 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.” Genesis 50:19-21 ESV
Observation: As the epic story of Jacob, Joseph, and his brothers concludes with the end of the book of Genesis, the reality of death looms. The author tells of Jacob and Joseph’s passings—both of whom die in peace advanced in years. And both petition their surviving family to bury their bones in the Promised Land. After Jacob dies, Joseph seeks permission from Pharaoh to intern his father in Canaan and fulfills his vow. And four hundred years later, Moses would do likewise for Joseph (Exodus 13:19).
Upon Joseph’s and his entourage’s return to Goshen, fear grips his brothers regarding their past sins against Joseph. So they send a fabricated message to their brother that purports that Jacob requested that Joseph forgive his brothers’ transgressions against him and add a personal note directly asking for his forgiveness (50:17). Then they come and fall at Joseph’s knees and declare their servitude to Joseph, which invokes Joseph’s heartfelt assurance that they have no reason to fear him and that he will continue to care for their families (above verses).
Takeaway: Joseph does not excuse their past behavior. He explicitly calls their actions “evil.” But “God meant it for good,” to save many lives. Sound familiar? It is a beautiful ending to a rollercoaster story that foreshadows the heart of our Gospel: the God-man came to serve and to give his life as a ransom to save his brothers and sisters (Mark 10:45). And from his cross, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). From dreamer to the redeemer, God directed Joseph to restore a family that would become God’s chosen nation; and it all began with forgiveness.
So what does this mean for you and me? The battle between good and evil continues to mar our lives and our land. So let those of us in privileged positions like Joseph’s, who have benefitted from God’s blessings, extend forgiveness to those who have sought our harm and even find ways to arrest their fears and care for their families. Indeed, this is the heart of our upside-down Gospel. And so we are to do likewise and, with his Holy Spirit’s help, redeem good from evil.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who extended forgiveness to us at the extravagant expense of his life and who continues to care for us through the work of his Holy Spirit. Would you please help us to do likewise and follow the lead of your Holy Spirit in extending forgiveness and care to those who have sinned against us, that we might be your vessels of redemption over evil? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling