15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
18 “We are your slaves,” they said. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
These verses are some of the most well-known in the bible. There is so much going on in these few little passages. We know that with the Fall, sin entered the world. Sin always has consequences. I can remember being a young teenager, having done something wrong, and waiting for the punishment my parents saw fit to bestow. Consequences.
I can’t imagine being one of Joseph’s brothers. Their jealousy causes them to sell their brother as a slave and then they tell their father a lie about him being killed. They have to live with the weight of that sin. They watched their father grieve and mourn for the loss of his son knowing full well they had a part in that pain. I am sure the guilt festered inside of them every day. So time passes and life goes on as that sin is still out there, lurking. But God knew about it!
In the meantime, He was watching over Joseph and molding his character. Years later, the brothers are reunited with Joseph, and they bring their father to Egypt as he wanted, and Jacob has his son back. Whew, happy day. The sin is revealed, they can let go of that guilt they’ve been carrying around. Their father is beside himself with joy, they have plenty of food, and they can relax. Then Jacob dies.
That is the problem with sin, it happened and can’t be undone, and as we are taught, the consequence of sin is death. Sometimes the death is the death of peace. We can be forgiven but sometimes those consequences hang over our heads. They come at us just when we think we can let it go and we don’t have to live every day knowing what we did, how we hurt someone, or how someone else’s sin hurt us. The brothers figured that as long as their father was alive, Joseph would do nothing in retaliation. But now that he has died, they fear their brother has been harboring anger over what they did to him. So they once again resort to their old tactics—lying! They manipulate the situation out of fear. How many lies are told because we fear the outcome of being truthful? They were waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.
The next part is what struck me this time: “His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him.” Finally . . . repentance. Up to this point, I am not sure they repented for what they did. This time they gave up their pride and humbled themselves, asking for forgiveness. Seems to me Joseph had such a dream where his brothers fell down before him which caused this whole journey to begin with. The dream God had given Joseph had come to pass. The grace Joseph showed to his brothers is an example of forgiving grace and mercy shown to us by our loving Father.
Joseph weeps, perhaps because his brothers think so little of him that he would bring harm to them. He assures them that though they might have meant evil against him, God used it to bring about the saving of many people. I can look at my own life and see how God brought good out of a situation. In fact, I wouldn’t be a believer today if someone hadn’t caused great pain in my life. That situation took me straight into the arms of Jesus.
3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
God has given us a means to cleanse us from our sins. We can be rid of them once and for all, no longer carrying around the guilt and shame of what we’ve done or what’s been done to us. We don’t have to live like we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. This way to forgiveness is through belief in Jesus Christ. John preached of His coming. Jesus came to take our sins upon Himself and restore our relationship with God. Oh the joy and freedom that comes when that truth finally sinks in.
Heavenly Father, your mercy upon us overwhelms me at times. I ask You, “why are You so good to me?” and I know it is because of Your great love for us. My heart overflows with gratitude for how you’ve changed my life. Thank You. In Jesus name, Amen