Darryl Williams was a black high school football player with a bright future before he was shot by white youths in a racially motivated act of violence. The bullet turned him into a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down. Williams, though, went on to finish high school and university and now holds a normal job. His assailants were arrested, convicted, and served their time in jail. Darryl has never met them. They have never apologized, but he chose to forgive them anyway. “Hate is a useless emotion that takes up too much energy,” he said. “If I were to retaliate in anger, what would make me different from them? Both my religion and my common sense tell me it’s the thing to do.”
Joseph, too, chose to forgive his brothers’ sin of selling him into slavery and telling their father he was dead. As a high official in Egypt, he could have had them executed or imprisoned. But he knew God had directed his every step, and this knowledge helped him overcome his natural feelings.
In today’s reading we enjoy the climax of a suspenseful plot. Joseph planted a silver cup in his brother Benjamin’s grain sack, then made a false accusation to see what his other brothers would do. Had they changed? Yes. Judah told the whole story to try and gain Joseph’s sympathy, and he offered to make good on his vow to take Benjamin’s place. These were not the same men who had jumped on the chance to sell Joseph into slavery more than twenty years before.
In response, Joseph finally revealed his identity in one of the most gripping, emotional scenes in biblical narrative. His brothers were terrified—by the unexpectedness, the switch in languages, the sudden presence of their long-lost brother, their powerlessness, and their deep feelings of guilt. Joseph, however, did not seek revenge; instead he provided for his family’s needs, inviting them to come and live in the best part of Egypt. More significantly, he comforted and forgave his brothers, assuring them that “God sent me ahead of you” and that it had been His saving plan governing Joseph’s life all along (45:7–8).
Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers is a type or foreshadowing of Christ, who died on the cross to forgive even far more grievous sins and betrayals.
If you are struggling to forgive someone who has hurt you, meditate on this story of Joseph and his brothers. God does not excuse the sinful action of the brothers, but He still redeemed the situation to ensure the survival of His people. And He gave Joseph the ability to see His perspective and to forgive his brothers. Pray that the Holy Spirit will grant you His grace to forgive.