Reconciled by Trial

joseph reveals himself to his brothers

What you intended for evil, God has used for good.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:4-8)

What a powerful story of forgiveness and reconciliation!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, Forgiveness with Boundaries, about David’s relationship with Saul.  In that post I pointed out that, although David clearly forgave Saul, reconciliation was not possible because of Saul’s proven untrustworthiness.

The story of Joseph and his brothers, however, turns out quite differently!

Joseph’s brothers committed a horrible crime against Joseph.  They threw him into a pit with plans to leave him to die, then decided to sell him into slavery, instead.

Through a series of trials and the grace of God, Joseph eventually became ruler over all the land of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh.  When famine struck, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food, not knowing that Joseph was in charge of food distribution.

The story culminates in the scene quoted above, where Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, declaring his forgiveness, and the family is reunited.

So, let’s look at some of the things Joseph did and did not do, that resulted in this outcome of reconciliation after such a horrific crime:

  1. Joseph recognized God’s hand in his life.  He gave glory to God for, not only life’s blessings, but also the many trials.
  2. Joseph chose to be thankful for God’s provision rather than bitter over his brothers’ felony.  In my experience, these two are almost mutually exclusive.  It is nearly impossible to remain bitter and unforgiving while also thanking God for how He used an otherwise tragic event for my own good.
  3. Joseph chose to forgive…to not hold his brothers’ crime against them.
  4. Joseph did not trivialize the offense.  He was very clear in stating that his brothers had sold him into slavery.  Too often, we fail to ever address the depth of a grievance.  Joseph did not make that mistake.
  5. Joseph did not seek his brothers out, either for vengeance or for reconciliation.  Even though he had been in a position of authority for several years, he made no attempt to find his family or contact his brothers.  Joseph had, apparently, simply put his family’s situation in God’s hands, trusting Him to work things according to His plan.
  6. When Joseph encountered his brothers, he did not immediately reconcile with them.  Initially, he did not even trust them with the knowledge of his identity.  Before entrusting them with reconciliation, Joseph first severely tested his brothers over an extended period of time.
  7. Joseph revealed himself ready for reconciliation only after his brothers had proven their hearts of true repentance in both sorrow over what they had done to Joseph, and a willingness to lay down their lives to protect their younger brother, Benjamin.

The primary difference in outcome between the story of David and Saul and the story of Joseph and his brothers lies in the position of the perpetrators.  Joseph’s brothers truly repented of their crime, changing both their hearts and their actions over a period of several years.  Whereas Saul’s behavior clearly demonstrated that he had not truly repented and could not be trusted, although expressing words of repentance.

In dealing with situations of deep wounds acquired in abusive relationships, we would do well to follow the examples set by both Joseph and David.

How has God used forgiveness in your life?

[Linked to God Bumps , Beholding Glory , Graceful , Seedlings , Wellspring ]

 

26 thoughts on “Reconciled by Trial

  1. The story of Joseph is a powerful one in showing the way to forgiveness. The way you highlighted all the aspects of his forgiveness lights the way for us to forgive those who have hurt us. Such an important topic, great post!

    • Joseph’s story is of my favorites, even from childhood. I’m sure that has something to do both with my own name and that it was one of my father’s favorite Bible stories.

      Thank you for hopping by, Mindy!

  2. We have to trust God’s up to something big, even when we can’t see the big picture or the light at the end of the tunnel… God does and he’s up to something much bigger than we could ever have asked or imagined. I think we are all too quick to judge the course of our life or the Father’s actions based on present circumstance instead of trusting he’s working all things out to the good!

    Thanks for posting this reminder that God works from a life perspective and I think God wants us to view events from that perspective, even when we can’t see the end or understand the course. Thanks!

    • Yes, God’s plan is being worked out in the daily lives and decisions of His children.

      That message shines thru bright and clear in the story of Joseph.

      It is so much easier to see with hindsight. While going thru trials, we must simply trust His goodness despite appearance of circumstances.

      Thanks for the perspective, Michael!

      • It only took Him 38 years to teach me if I look back at his faithfulness it will build my confidence and faith. I know he will come through again! #QuickLearner

  3. Forgiving others is so important. Doesn’t sometimes automatically, casually or flippantly occur. If something serious happens w/in a family, it isn’t easy to just “do it”. More than once, the Lord has healed my heart enough to deal with the forgiveness and then the rest of the healing exploded. MOST of the time, relationships have been restored. But not always. I’m hoping that it will come to pass, but just have to leave it in the hand of my Lord.

    Good thinking process plunged into me through your post. Thanks.

    • I’m so glad, Joanne! I love it when God uses us to start a new thought process in each other!

      Yes, forgiveness almost always requires a conscious decision to forgive, even for small grievances. For deeper wounds, it definitely requires God’s healing power.

      I love your statement in regard to restoration of relationship, “…just have to leave it in the hand of my Lord.”

      So true!

    • That is a good point, Patsy.

      Although Joseph was clearly on the receiving end of major abuse, he chose to see God’s hand of blessing in it all, rather than seeing himself as a victim.

      Thanks for the perspective!

    • Yes! It is all woven into His woundrous plan of blessings for our lives.

      Thank you, Sarah, for that perspective!

  4. I’m so glad you pointed out the difference in forgiveness and reconciliation. So many people believe that to forgive automatically means to reconcile which is not true! I dislike the phrase “forgive and forget”. That’s so unrealistic and I believe it holds many people back from trying to forgive because they know they will never forget.

    Mary Beth
    newlifesteward.com

    • I agree, Mary Beth!

      I think we sometimes confuse the overlooking of minor differences and the forgiveness of deep wounds. They are vastly different in nature, and cannot be treated the same.

      Thanks for the input!

  5. My husband and I were just talking about forgiveness this morning! I am thankful for true forgiveness and the healing it brings, but there are some things I do not want to forget. Some things need to be remembered so that they will not be repeated. We can remember without holding a grudge. It can be tricky, but possible through Christ.

    • “I am thankful for true forgiveness and the healing it brings, but there are some things I do not want to forget. Some things need to be remembered so that they will not be repeated.”

      So true, Tereasa! Forgiveness is essential. However, forgiveness does not always include forgetting, trusting, or reconciling.

      Here is a link to a post from a few weeks ago in which I talked about how David forgave Saul, but could not be reconciled due to Saul’s untrustworthiness: http://josephjpote.com/2012/05/forgiveness-with-boundaries/

      Thank you for the discussion!

  6. Great insights here, Joe! I’ve been struggling to know how to deal with a friendship that has gone off-track. And this gives me more clarity on how to proceed. Thanks for your well-timed words!

  7. The part in the story where Joseph has to leave the room to weep gets me every time. Such a rich story to learn from. Thanks for featuring it here, Joe.

    • Same here, Laura!

      And it happened right after Judah asked to take Benjamin’s place as a life-long slave.

      It’s not difficult to imagine the mixed emotions that must have washed over Joseph at that point…thankfulness that his brothers had changed…thankfulness that Benjamin had someone to protect him…release of pent-up concern over not being able to protect Benjamin himself all those years…wondering why they hadn’t loved him as well as they loved Benjamin…

      Speculation, of course, but human nature hasn’t changed, and I know the sorts of things that would have been running thru my mind, at that point…

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