15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.
I urge you to read the whole story of Joseph throughout Genesis, chapters 37-50. The story began with Joseph as a haughty teen who brags about his other brothers bowing down before him. The brothers leave Joseph in a pit to die, but instead, he is rescued. His rescue turns out to be short lived, because he is then sold into slavery.
Still, Joseph eventually found success in another land – Egypt. His story is truly one about humbling adversity and overcoming challenges. Despite multiple hardships, Joseph remained steadfast in his faith.
By this final chapter of Genesis, Joseph’s brothers have been humbled. Now they have fallen on hard times. While Joseph rose to become governor of Egypt, they experienced years of famine and lost their family fortune.
When reunited after so many years, the brothers worry about Joseph’s reaction. Decades had passed, life had not been easy, and there had been so much grief. Yet, as the brothers beg for his forgiveness, Joseph’s response shows his internal knowing, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?”
The message resonates, because despite several near catastrophes, Joseph remained faithful to God, as he knew God’s faithfulness to him. The brother’s original deeds may have intended harm, but Joseph says, “God meant it for good!” The statement is not meant to minimize injustice or to foretell a silver lining, but demonstrates Joseph’s belief in forgiveness and grace.
Whatever tragedy or hardship we encounter, there are two things that the Joseph story helps us to realize. First, God is always with us, especially through any and all adversity. Second, God intends for us to forgive just as he has forgiven us. Joseph was a haughty teenager who wept when his brothers pleaded for forgiveness years later.
Despite his anger and grief, Joseph knew that justice could only come only through God’s grace. He could have stayed angry and grief-stricken, but instead chose forgiveness. We also can choose to stay angry and hard-hearted, but then where is our faith? Just as God remains forgiving, despite our misdeeds or indifference, so too must we steadfastly share forgiveness however we can. As we find meaning, even despite tragedy, forgiveness points us back to God’s grace, which is offered to us all.
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
Prayer: God of Grace, in such unusual times, we feel uncertain in the face of difficulties. We remain angry and worried about the future. We want so much to find and hold onto faith and to believe that you alone will help us overcome all that has us feeling grief stricken. We ask for your forgiveness whenever we have fallen short in faith. We remain grateful for your grace-filled presence and ask for your continued guidance as we share your forgiveness with those around us and throughout the world. Amen.