Friday, January 20, 2012

The Power of Forgiveness

In our lesson last week, Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers. Gen 45The reconciliation occurred and healing began. Joseph told them to tell their father Jacob that he might bring the entire family to be blessed. He would nourish them in the land of Goshen, which was located in the fertile eastern area of Egypt's Nile Delta. It was fertile for both farming and livestock.

Upon receiving the news that his son Joseph was alive, Jacob (aka Israel) was immediately ready to go see him. Gen 45:28 Having thought about it, however, Jacob did not move his entire family on such a big move without consulting God. Gen 46:1-3 He received the blessing from God to go. 'I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.' Gen 46:4

When they went into Egypt it was approximately 70 souls (Ex 1:1-5) along with their cattle and goods. Joseph advised his brothers to tell Pharoah they were shepherds by trade. '...for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.' Gen 46:34 Joseph was making sure his family was well cared for in Goshen. He did not own the land of Goshen, but he knew Pharaoh would favor his family members with the land because of their trade. Joseph knew to make sure they all stated they had a job from their youth. Gen 46:34 When Joseph introduced them to Pharaoh, the first thing he asked was about their occupation. Gen 47:3 'And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families. And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine.' Gen 47:12-13 With the help of God, Joseph worked through a plan to feed all the people. Everyone believed he had saved their life. Gen 47:25

Joseph loved his father Jacob dearly. He nourished him in Goshen for many years during the famine. After Jacob prophesied over Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and his sons, he requested that his remains be returned to the family burial plot in the field of Machpelah which was located before Mamre in Canaan. To accommodate his wishes, Joseph had the Egyptian physicians to embalm his father, a procedure which took forty days. Gen 50:2-3 A body that remains outside the grave more than four (4) days can have unpleasant odors. It was very important to carry out Jacob's desire to bury him in Canaan with his ancestors. Hebrews did not use the embalming practice, for they did not have the same religious afterlife beliefs but no mummification was involved.

Jacob was so well-loved that the Egyptians mourned his death for seventy days. Pharoah then gave Joseph permission to bury his father in Canaan. He was accompanied by all his children and all the servants of Pharoah, and many elders. It was a stately funeral for a patriarch. Gen 50:6-7

After the funeral the brothers have forgotten the reconciliation of so many years ago. They stood listening while each one received a prophesy from their father on his death bed. He was no longer there to keep the family together. What were they to do if Joseph decided to have a change of heart because their father was no longer around? 'What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?' Gen 50:15 They never did understand Joseph as a brother. Did they ever consider him part of their family?

'And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spoke unto him.' Gen 50:16-17 The brothers felt guilty of their wrongs, jealous of Joseph, and naked without their father as a covering. There is no Biblical evidence that Jacob ever made this statement. There is evidence that, on his death bed, Jacob stated Joseph had rose above all the wrongs thrown against him because of his faith in God. They lied to save themselves and their families. Joseph wept because his brothers still thought that he was angry with them. Had not the healing begun when he reconciled with them years ago? Gen 45

The brothers were in Goshen when they sent the message to Joseph who was in the king's court taking care of business. It was not enough for them to send the message by proxy. 'And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.' Gen 50:18 The brothers went to Joseph, in person, and knelt down. This was truly something Joseph had seen in his dream as a lad. He did not know all the pieces of the puzzle to God's plan at the time. Althoug he was a willing vessel, he was not ready. He had to go through suffering and preparation for the job at hand. 'And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?' Gen 50:19 Joseph acknowledged their evil, but their evil was part of God's good purpose for a greater good in saving many people during the famine. Never look for someone's forgiveness and place them on a pedestal above God. 'But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spoke kindly, unto them.' Gen 50:20-21 Joseph wanted them to remain focused on the big picture. He spoke kind words, extending mercy and comfort. God sent him ahead of the family to save them from the famine. Joseph promised to provide for his brothers and their families.

Joseph lived until he was an hundred and ten years. He was able to experience the joys of his great granchildren descending from both Ephraim and Manasseh. (It should be noted that Jacob gave Ephraim, the younger son, the greater blessing.) He assured his brothers and all relatives that God would keep them and visit them, upon his death. Joseph was so sure that God would bring them out of Egypt, as He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that '... he took an oath with the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.' Gen 50:25 (See also Hebrews 11:22) 'So Joseph died, being a hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.' Gen 50:26 Moses fulfilled Joseph's promise and took the coffin out of Egypt when he led the children of Israel from bondage years later. Exodus 13:18-19.

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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