Harm and Forgiveness
This is a sermon preview for the eleventh (and final) sermon in the “Promise & Threat” sermon series. To watch the recording of any of the sermons in this sermon series, visit our website.
“Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”
–Genesis 45:1-15 (NIV)
Of the Genesis stories, Joseph is a well-known classic. Whether from children’s books, the 1970s musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, or the 2000 animated movie Joseph: King of Dreams, odds are, you know (at least some of) the plot of the story.
And it’s truly an incredible story! Even by literary standards, this story has it all: family drama, rooting for the underdog protagonist, mystery. And now–in Chapter 45–a surprise “Joseph reveals all” episode and a moment of profound forgiveness. No wonder everyone knows and loves this story!
While thinking on the layers of this literary masterpiece, I read a reflection by John Walton (Genesis NIV Application Commentary). He lamented that he was a horrible chess player. When he plays chess against the computer, he is amazed that it doesn’t seem like it matters what move he chooses–the computer somehow uses each of his moves for its own strategy. The computer always seems to win. (A lament which I know all too well!)
“Compared to God, we are all like bad chess players competing against a computer. There are differences, of course. God is not just in it to win, and God’s moves are not mechanically programmed. In one sense it can be said that when God wins, we win. He is driven by love and compassion.”
This is what makes Joseph’s story such an incredible ending to Genesis! God wins! Joseph wins! And even the rotten brothers, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham all win because of God's love and compassion!
For eleven weeks, FBCM has been following God’s promises throughout Genesis. For eleven weeks we have seen time and time again how humanity’s flaws and this sinful world try to threaten those promises–from old age to unknown futures, betrayal, silence, and wrestling. For eleven weeks we have seen God show up in the midst of every threat and overcome it–showing God’s true faithfulness in both scripture and our own lives!
When Joseph sees his brothers in need from the famine, he could’ve easily dismissed them. Joseph could have been consumed by rage and revenge. Joseph could have tried to use his power to punish his brothers for all the evil they did to him.
But God intervened. God guided Joseph towards grace. God led Joseph to forgiveness, allowing God to (once again) fulfill his promise of multiplying Abraham’s family and making them a blessing to others.
As Joseph so eloquently says a few chapters later, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives,” (Gen. 50:20).
There are many times in life when it feels like we’re losing–whether that’s because of our own choices or others’. But as we bring this series to a close, we can have confidence that God is the Chess Master. God does not desire evil to happen, but God cannot be stopped by it. God somehow always turns evil into good and shares his victory with us.
In the meantime–until we see that victory come to fruition–may we all have the eyes to see the world like Joseph did. May we forgive as we have been forgiven. May we bless others as we have been blessed. And may we rest in the assurance of God’s unshakable character that overcomes every obstacle in our paths.
What is the most surprising part of Joseph’s story to you? How might God be trying to tell you something through that part of the story?
Who or what do you need to forgive? How does knowing that God turns all things right empower you to take the first step towards forgiveness?
What promise from this summer Genesis series do you want to “hide in your heart” (Ps. 119:11) to guide your life towards faithfulness in the future?