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02 January 2012

Forgiveness - 2 January

Welcome to 2012. If you have chosen to make resolutions this year, I pray that you have the strength to follow through and the wisdom to bring them to God for His help. And my prayer for each of us is that this year be not filled with health and wealth and happiness, but that it will be filled with the joy and peace that comes from God and God alone.

Forgiveness! As we studied prayer, I realized that I have issues with forgiveness. I’m sure you do, as well. You remember the hurts – the sarcastic comment from a friend, a lie someone told, people who have disappointed you. But of course YOU are perfect, right? You’ve NEVER done things like that yourself.

Why is it that we conveniently forget the wrongs we do, but we keep holding onto those things others have done? Can we be in God’s will with the attitude, “I’ll forgive her, but I’ll never forget”? I pray that this study will help you as it helps me. I know that I need to be more Christ-like in my attitude towards others, and this year I plan to start by learning to forgive God’s way.

You think YOU have been wronged? What would you have done if you were Joseph?

Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan. 2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. Gen 37:1-4 (ESV)

I wonder what the brothers were doing to cause Joseph to bring that bad report. Whatever it was, it reinforced Israel’s (God changed his name to Jacob later) superior love of Joseph. Israel treated Joseph with favoritism.  Did Joseph react to that favoritism? Did he give his brothers even more reason to hate him? The Bible doesn’t speak of it… but I wonder if human nature took over … just a little???

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: 7 Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. 9 Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 11 And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind. Gen 37:5-11 (ESV)

The favored one has a dream. He tells his brothers about the dream, and unsurprisingly, they don’t respond well. Maybe they thought Joseph was making it up. Maybe they secretly worried that he was right. Whatever the case, they hated him even more.

To add insult to injury, Joseph had another dream. This one upset even his father! Maybe Israel thought Joseph was getting “too big for his britches”. Maybe Israel didn’t like the idea of bowing down – to anyone. But this dream added a layer of dissension in the family. Not only did the brothers hate him, after the second dream they were also jealous.

Neither hatred nor jealousy leads to peace and contentment. Israel played favorites. The only person who enjoys favoritism is the one who is on top. Joseph, for all the wisdom God gave him, was still a youth. I can imagine him taunting his brothers, reminding them that HE was the apple of his father’s eye, as only a teen can do. There are no verses that show any attempt by Joseph, Israel, or the brothers to resolve this tense situation.

Skipping a few verses….
They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”— that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. 24 And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. 25 Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. Gen 37:18-28 (ESV)

Oops! Israel’s favoritism didn’t help Joseph here. The situation was so grim that his brothers planned to kill him. Reuben saved his life by convincing the brothers to throw him into a pit. God sent a caravan and Judah hatched a plot to sell him as a slave instead.

What did the brothers say to Israel to justify having the 20 shekels of silver? Now that was probably an interesting conversation…

When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes 30 and returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?” 31 Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not.” 33 And he identified it and said, “It is my son’s robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” 34 Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. 36 Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard. Gen 37:29-36 (ESV)

I find this passage interesting. Reuben had gone somewhere, and while he was gone, Joseph went missing. Compounding the problem, they had to find a way to explain Joseph’s disappearance. The brothers apparently didn’t exactly lie to their father. They didn’t tell him what happened – they simply dipped the robe in blood and showed it to Israel. He assumed from the blood that Joseph had been mauled.

So we see that favoritism led to hatred and jealousy, to a plot to murder and then to selling the brother into slavery. The cover up was simple. Dip the favorite’s readily identifiable coat in goat’s blood and let Dad think what he wants. This could be a plot for a new TV series!

I’m sure your emotions have never led you to a thought of killing someone, but have you been enraged by favoritism? Considered something “unfair” (which usually means that it didn’t go your way)? Been jealous because someone has something that YOU don’t? Hated someone – for any reason? Can you see yourself in the story? Would you have been Reuben, who wanted to restore Joseph to his Dad (and possibly reconcile the family), or would you have been Judah, who got rid of the problem? Would you have been a part of the conspiracy?

So what does all this have to do with forgiveness? Stay tuned. The story continues on Wednesday!

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