All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

True Forgiveness
Based on Genesis 50

When Joseph’s brothers realize their father Jacob is dead, they say, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” Fear grips them, and they avoid appearing to him in person. Instead, they send messengers, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph; I beg you, please forgive the trespass [literally rebellion/crime] of the servants of the God of your father.’ ”

This comes as a great shock to Joseph, and he begins to weep! Encouraged by this emotional display, his brothers cautiously enter the room and bow low to the ground before him, saying, “Behold, we are your servants.”

Their request for forgiveness comes many decades after they treated him so cruelly in his youth. Jealous of his coat of many colors, and angry after hearing his dreams, they had intended to kill him! Ultimately, they resolved to be rid their brother by selling him to traders. These, in turn, would sell him into Egyptian slavery.

A Different Concept of Forgiveness

The concept of forgiveness we generally have lacks many of the significant concepts this passage presents. The Hebrew word used here for forgiveness is nasa. It appears over 650 times in the Old Testament, and carries a very wide range of meanings, such as “lift up,” “raise high,” “pardon,” “bear,” “exalt,” and “support.” Most Hebrew dictionaries relate the concept of forgiveness to derived meanings, such as “take away” or “remove.”

Often this verb is used with non-religious meanings such as “lift up one’s head,” or “lift up one’s eyes.” Isaiah 46:7 speaks of those who take their own crafted god in a time of panic or siege, lift it up to their shoulders, and carry it.

The subject for this verb can either be God or man. Isaiah 53:4 states the following about the Suffering Servant, “He has borne [literally, ‘took up’] our griefs and carried our sorrows.”

After Joseph’s brothers declare themselves to be Joseph’s servants, he responds.

“Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

Joseph clearly sees that even though evil was directed toward him, God has used it for good and saved many lives through his work in Egypt during the great seven-year famine. God has also saved and increased his family, and brought them considerable prosperity.

In spite of what his brothers have done, Joseph begs them to not be afraid of him, for he will treat them well. As part of his forgiveness, he vows to provide for them and their little ones in the future.

Don’t miss this: Joseph’s promise is far more than a mere promise to provide for their physical needs. It means that he will lift them up, helping to restore them to good standing before God and man!

This is exactly what God does for sinners who have rebelled against Him! In the process of forgiveness, He restores us ultimately to the position we had before sin.

In that same way, when we forgive those who wrong us, we have the tremendous responsibility to “lift up” and restore them, as well!

(Read 032)

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