Genesis 50:15–21—Joseph’s brothers had done the unthinkable—they had sold him into slavery and told their father that his son was dead, eaten by wild animals. Years later, they were astounded to find out that Joseph was still alive and serving in Pharaoh’s court, as the most powerful man in all of Egypt after Pharaoh.
So long as their father was alive, they thought that they were safe from Joseph’s retribution; however, after Jacob’s death, they feared for their lives. The peace in the family would last so long as their father was alive. After he was dead they could only anticipate the brunt of the wrath and fury of their brother Joe. And who could blame them? Joseph had much time to lament as he wasted away in prison those many years. In short, their crime continues to haunt them.
Incredibly, Joseph forgave them. He recognized the hand of God at work in his life. Joseph’s treatment of his brother could only have come from the hand of a merciful Savior. Joseph shifts the question of forgiveness to the only relationship the brothers claim. They are God's servants; is it not therefore God's business to forgive them? "Am I in the place of God?" he asks. The implied answer being no, the next question, then, is, how does God see the matter? "Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good."
Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers ought to serve as an example to us, particularly when we find it so hard to forgive petty sins of others. Love covers a multitude of sins. So we ask our Heavenly Father to teach us to forgive as the catechism teaches, “We pray that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.”
A prayer for deliverance from sin: We implore You, O Lord, in Your kindness to show us Your great mercy that we may be set free from our sins and rescued from the punishments that we rightfully deserve; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.
Schnorr von Carolsfeld, woodcuts “Joseph reunited with his brothers” copyright © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use.