What Sustained Joseph During the Darkest Days of His Life
“And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him. 16 And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, 17 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 spake unto him. 18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. 19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20 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.” (Gen. 50:15-20)
With the death of their father Jacob, the brothers of Joseph grew afraid of him, for Joseph, in the providence of God, had risen to be a powerful political leader in Egypt. The brothers of Joseph had reason to be afraid, for many years before they had shamefully and cruelly hurt Joseph.
Motivated by jealousy, the brothers resented the special favor and affection Joseph was receiving from their father. Joseph was the child of Jacob’s old age, and the patriarch loved him in a special way, manifested in the special robe Joseph was given to wear. One day the elder brothers decided to kill Joseph, but when the opportunity arose, they sold him into slavery.
The years passed, and through many remarkable circumstances, Joseph went from being a slave, to being the highest civil servant of Egypt, and trusted by the pharaoh. Joseph rose to a position of power, to help or hurt multitudes. His word was law, and the brothers of Joseph knew they might be in trouble.
Soon after the death of Jacob, the brothers sent a message to Joseph pleading for him to forgive them for their father’s sake. When Joseph received the message, his heart was broken. Taking advantage of the situation, Joseph gathered his brothers around him to share his heart, and to help them to understand what had sustained him over the years, and that was his view of God.
When his world of youthful privilege had fallen apart, when the circumstances of life forced Joseph into literal slavery, when Joseph found himself unjustly accused of immorality and cast into a dungeon, when Joseph was left in prison despite helping others to be released, what sustained Joseph was his view of God. Joseph believed that God had designed all of his situations for good.
What others meant for evil, Joseph believed that God meant for good. Centuries before Paul wrote the beautiful words of Romans 8:28 from a Roman prison, Joseph embraced an eternal truth. God will work all things together for those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose.
Not just some things will work together for good, but all things. Even when it is not obvious, God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him.
The natural question arises. “Do you love God?”
Many people profess love God when all is going well in life. But their love for God does not survive a financial setback, a broken relationship, physical suffering, or the death of a loved one.
Dark thoughts replace good ones. The dark thoughts produce feelings of bitterness, anger, and resentment.
Two prisoners in a Nazis concentration camp were talking. One prisoner asked, “Do you think God will forgive the Germans for what they are doing to the Jews?” The other prisoner replied, “The real question is should we forgive God?” The horrors of a concentration camp has caused some to stop loving, and stop believing in God.
But Joseph was not of that persuasion. Like Job, Joseph had determined in his heart, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
A person’s view of God will determine how they react to the injustices of life and the cruelties of others.
When others seek to take away a person’s livelihood or life, when others slander and spread false rumors, when others move with malice to terminate a relationship, God will make the movements of others work for the good of those who love Him.
Understanding the sovereignty of God, and submitting to the divine will, Joseph was able to love the unloving, forgive the unforgiveable, and show grace and mercy to mean and merciless men.
All Christians should embrace Joseph’s correct view of God, and that can be done through a thorough study of the Scriptures.
Now observe some final lessons to be learned from the Narrative of Genesis 50:15-20
First, the brothers of Joseph did not fully comprehend the greatness of his character. They had no idea of the goodness of Joseph.
In like manner, many people have no idea of the goodness and greatness of Jesus, how kind, forgiving, and gentle He is.
That is beyond sad, that is tragic for self-induced fear and misery is so unnecessary. The Puritans like to say that God is more willing to forgive a person than they are to sin.
Second, when people do not know with whom they are dealing, they tend to think the worst, and attribute motives, and intentions, that others do not have. “Joseph will hate us,” said the brothers. “Joseph will repay us for all the evil which we did unto him.” Such are the thoughts of the ungodly.
Third, when people do not understand the gospel, they try to take matters into their own hands, and force others to say or do something. They try to be clever, and become manipulative. No one is beyond being used by such people, including the dead.
The brother sent a message to Joseph pretending they had a message from beyond the grave, asking Joseph to forgive. “And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, 17 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:” (Gen. 50:16-17a).
Fourth, the good news about people is that they can move towards their own spiritual maturity by honest confession of sin, and asking for forgiveness.
To the eternal credit of the brothers of Joseph, they moved to maturity, for we read that they bowed before Joseph, acknowledged their transgressions against him, and asked for forgiveness. “and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father” (Gen. 50:17b). “And now…” Two lovely words. Based on the will of our father, forgive us.
There is a spiritual parallel to be noted, for it is the will of God the Father to forgive those who have transgressed. A person can go to Calvary, and ask Jesus to forgive, by arguing that it is the will of the Father that the Son forgive, based upon repentance, confession, and humility. When this is done, the sinner can receive God’s forgiveness. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
Fifth, Joseph wept when his brothers pleaded for forgiveness. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, wanting them to plead for forgiveness, but the people would not.
Those who have sinned, must ask God for the gift of repentance, so they can weep over sin, and Jesus will weep with them.
Sixth, what others might mean for evil, to hurt, and harm us, God means for good. Believe this because it is a high view of God, because it is true, and because it will sustain you, and give you grace under pressure.