The text for this lesson is Genesis 37:12–36; 45:1–15; 50:15–21
- Despite their sins against him, Joseph forgave his brothers. Despite our sins, God forgives us for Jesus’ sake and wants us to forgive others.
- Law: The devil, the world, and my sinful nature war against me every day. I can’t control what other people do to me or love and forgive them as I should.
- Gospel: Jesus, the sinless Son of God, suffered and died at the hands of evil men in order to earn salvation for the whole world. God forgives my sins for Jesus’ sake and helps me to forgive others.
- God had chosen Abraham and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans to be the father of His people. His son, Isaac, miraculously born in his parents’ old age, was the first step. Isaac in turn had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob went to his uncle Laban’s country and married Leah and Rachel. Jacob had ten sons through Leah. Through Rachel, he had Joseph and later Benjamin. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah and thus loved Joseph more than the ten sons of Leah. He treated Joseph with favor and gave him gifts and attention more than the others. Joseph boasted of dreams that his family would bow down to him. His brothers hated him.
The story is a familiar one to most of us. Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers, who were tending the flocks in a nearby land. His brothers saw him coming and plotted to kill him. Instead, they sold Joseph to a caravan of traders on their way to Egypt. They covered up their sin by telling their father that they had found Joseph’s blood-stained coat lying in a field. Jacob mourned inconsolably for Joseph, thinking that he was dead.
In Egypt, Joseph was sold to Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Joseph was now alone, bound to a life of slavery, and away from his family because his brothers hated him and wanted him dead. God caused Joseph to rise through the ranks of his fellow servants. Even when falsely accused and thrown into jail, he was successful. By the hand of the Lord, Joseph was promoted to second-in-command for all of Egypt, in charge of distributing food to all people, both Egyptians and foreigners.
Because there was a drought in all the region, Joseph’s brothers were forced to come buy grain in Egypt. Joseph was able to cause his brothers stress and remind them of what they had done to him. When they acknowledged their sin, he revealed himself to them and acted kindly toward them. He rescued them from the famine and brought his whole family to Egypt, giving them the best of the land to live in and to raise their flocks.
After all the evil that his brothers did to him, and after all the years that Joseph had to suffer because of their evil hatred, Joseph confesses that God sent him before them into Egypt to keep a remnant alive (45:7). He could see clearly that it was not his brothers who forced him to Egypt, but rather God who foresaw all the good that He would work through Joseph for the sake of the Messiah’s lineage. The brothers meant it for evil, but God meant it for Joseph’s good and, ultimately, the good of the whole world (50:20).
God’s love filled Joseph’s heart, enabling him to forgive his brothers. Joseph is a picture of Christ, suffering at the hands of evil people, knowing that it was God’s ordained will for this to happen.
God never denies our prayer on account of our sin. He is gracious and willing to forgive. He grants us more than we either ask for or deserve. The forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation is infinitely more than we ever could have hoped for, being formerly slaves to sin. Although we deserve punishment on account of our sins, we now have the hope in Christ to be rescued from this world of sin.
Our heavenly Father also wants us to forgive and to do good to those who sin against us. “Just as we daily sin much against God, and yet He forgives everything through grace, so we, too, must ever forgive our neighbor who does us injury, violence, and wrong” (LC III 94). We cannot do this on our own. But the Holy Spirit works in our hearts through God’s Word to give us the power to forgive others.