But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?”
At this point in the story, Jacob/Israel has died and been buried in Canaan. The sons of Israel got a bit worried, thinking that Joseph might hold a grudge against them and decide to settle accounts now that their father is dead and buried. So, they get together and decide to ask forgiveness, but to ask as though their father had asked Joseph to forgive them for having done wrong. Joseph sees through the ruse and I read this morning’s verse.
As I consider the lead-in to this verse, I am reminded that I, myself, am forgiven because my forgiveness is requested by another. I have to ask forgiveness. I must repent of what I have done. But it is in Christ’s Name; on Christ’s merit that the Father is able to forgive my transgressions at all. Like Joseph’s brothers, I approach the one on the throne in the name of another. I do not know that I had noticed that before.
Joseph’s response to his brothers parallels what David will later write about sin — that it is against God alone Whom we sin. Joseph does not excuse his brothers’ actions, but points instead to the fact that God is the One from Whom they must seek forgiveness and he points to the results that God brought from those actions.Likewise, I need to recognize that all sin is ultimately not against me, but against God. It is not my rules that have been broken. While I may have been wronged, I can choose to forgive and put the action behind me, as Joseph did.
The brothers meant harm. There is no doubt of that and Joseph recognizes it. But God used that to bring about something good. This, I think, is how I am to understand what Paul writes in Romans about God working all things together for good. God is able to make good come of even the things that others intend to harm me. It was not a pleasant or agreeable journey for Joseph and I should not expect it to be for me. The intended wrong resulted in good not only for Joseph and his family, but for the entire land of Egypt.
Am I in God’s place? The answer, of course, is no. Let me remember that I am forgiven because Christ took my place and continues to intercede for me. Let me choose to forgive others even before they have asked it of me, as did Joseph. Let me remember that all things, even the things that others intend to harm me, God is using to work good in my life and in the lives of those around me.
Father, thank You for Your forgiveness and for Christ’s intercession on my behalf. Thank You that You are working all things — no matter the intent of the actor — together for good. Please keep me mindful of these things, that I might more readily forgive others and look toward the good You are working.