Genesis 50:19-20 – But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
The story of Joseph is possibly one of the greatest case studies in the entire Bible on the topic of forgiveness.
Joseph has a big, messed up family, maybe similar to your own, and he was the youngest of a big group of brothers. His dad sinned against him by favoring him and, in turn, his brothers turned against him. His brothers grew jealous of him, concocted a plan to throw him in a pit and sell him as a slave, and attended the funeral where they let their dad think he was dead.
He was taken to Egypt, where he was possibly the only believer in an incredibly pagan land and gets a job as a slave. Because he was honorable and did a good job, he gets promoted in the house of a man named Potiphar. Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph, but he refuses and rejects her attempts at adultery, so she falsely accuses him of rape, for which he’s thrown in Egyptian jail.
While in jail, he continues to practice his God-given gift of interpreting dreams and interprets the dream of another man in jail, who is released, who says he’ll remember him when he gets out. Of course, he doesn’t, so Joseph is still stuck in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.
He does finally get out of jail and, ultimately, many years later, is made second in command to Pharaoh in the land of Egypt.
In God’s incredible providence, there’s a famine in all the land and Joseph’s brothers show up to get grain. He could’ve been vengeful, and, by any worldly standards, he would’ve had every right to show vengeance to those who had harmed him so greatly. They don’t recognize him immediately, but he reveals himself, and they are freaked out because they think they know what’s coming to them. Instead, he’s able to help them and show mercy to them, not because he forgave them in that moment, but because he had forgiven them years before.
An old Chinese proverb suggests that someone who holds bitterness and unforgiveness towards others should dig two graves. As children of God our Father, He wants unburdening and life for us. The Holy Spirit can give us the strength to be like Joseph, who had every reason to be bitter and to withhold forgiveness from his brothers, but he instead forgave them and was blessed.
Who do you hold bitterness towards and how can you unburden, let go, and forgive?