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Mar 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 16, 2014 – Genesis 50

The Christ-Like Virtue

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him?” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying, “Thus you shall say to Joseph, ‘Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.’ And now please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Genesis 50:15-17

Intro: We have come to the end of Genesis

For a moment, let’s look back at the beginning — the creation story of chapter 1
– the origin of all that we love, enjoy, and find beautiful
• repeatedly, God looked at what he had made and saw that it was “good”
– but then a rupture occurred that affected the natural world as well as humankind
• what was whole became fragmented
• what was innocent became guilt-ridden
• what was intimate is experienced as alienating
– the fissure not only runs through the cosmos, but through time as well
○ fracture and disintegration became the new normal

God looked on his broken world and determined to fix it
– but he also determined that he would not fix it alone
• he would call humankind, that had been responsible for the rupture, to help repair it
– so from early on, history was given a goal – it is moving toward a target; namely, salvation
• healing, reconciliation, and restoration
• everyone is involved in this project–you and I,
○ with our own little break-ups and reconciliations
○ each life is a microcosm that reflects the rupture and repair of the macrocosm

This brings us Joseph and the end of the book
– his is also a story of fracture, betrayal, and alienation
• but he overcame it and achieved reconciliation
– in Joseph’s story we learn how healing occurs, and how salvation is worked into the wound

Last week we watched Jacob draw his last breath

With his dying words he instructed his sons to return his body to Canaan
– Joseph had to get special permission to leave Egypt
• when he went to Canaan, he was accompanied by a huge entourage
• his entire adult family and Egyptian dignitaries
– upon entering Canaan, they paused to observe a formal week of mourning
• the locals had never seen anything like it, v. 11

Joseph placed Jacob’s body in the family vault and returned to Egypt
– this was only the second time in his life that Joseph made this journey
• between those two trips, his brothers changed a little
• Joseph, however, was a completely different person
– this is an important factor: spiritual and personal development
• the one who grows and deepens as a person is the one who can initiate reconciliation

Back in Egypt, Joseph’s brothers got worried

This is a sad situation and for two reasons:

  1. They don’t trust Joseph or believe they’re forgiven
  2. They are still trying to connive their way through their circumstances
    – they invent a clumsy story about a secret conversation with their father
    • “Dad said we’re supposed to tell you that you have to forgive us!”
    – they cannot just be open and forthright, admit their fear of him, and ask him to forgive them
    • when people are dishonest, it makes reconciliation extremely complicated and difficult
    • and frustrating, I might add!

Joseph’s brothers were still carrying the burden of their guilt
– it made them suspicious, fearful, and anxious
• it built a wall between them and Joseph
– perhaps their guilt had been dormant for awhile
• but a turn in their circumstances and it immediately resurfaced

The best way to live, is to not do anything that incurs guilt
– there is a blissful freedom in not having to keep checking your rearview mirror to see if you’ve been caught
– the second best way to live is to quickly resolve the guilt we’ve incurred  (make amends, restitution, etc.)
• Israel’s religion had mechanisms for doing this

Otherwise, guilt burrows inside and may even seem to disappear
– but under the right conditions, it is again unleashed
– in the Scriptures, a typical feature of someone encountering God is they suddenly became conscious of sin
• Isaiah, “Woe is me”; Daniel, “. . . my splendor turned into corruption”; Peter, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”
• what did Jesus say to Peter? “Do not be afraid”
○ exactly what Joseph said to his brothers–twice (vv. 19-21)

I frequently get stuck when praying the Lord’s Prayer

“. . . as we forgive those who trespass against us”
Helmut Thielicke observed that no sooner do we ask for forgiveness that “it immediately becomes practical.”
– it sounds as if Jesus makes God’s forgiveness conditional
• the point is, when the wheel turns all the spokes move at once
– if my life in God does not benefit others, then it is not real deal
• we have learned that contemplative prayer can be a way to draw close to God, gain strength, and so on
○ but it can be an attempt to escape life – the hard things
• it is like what Paul said about praying in tongues (1 Cor. 14:4-5)
○ it is legitimate for me to build up myself, but only if it results in greater motivation and capacity to love and care for the needs of others (1 Co. 13:1-3)

When it comes to forgiving people I feel have betrayed a confidence, manipulated or slandered me, I hesitate
– when Jesus says, “Forgive them,” I generally respond in one of the following ways:
• “Yes, Lord, You change them and I’ll forgive them.”
• “Yes, Lord, as soon as they come crawling on their knees, I’ll forgive them”
• “Uh, let me get back to You on that.”
– I think the response he prefers is the most honest response:
• “I can’t Lord. But please work with me on this issue in my heart, because I know that with Your help the day will come when I will authentically be able to forgive this person”
○ this response works
○ eventually I find that I am able to forgive the other person, because the Lord has changed, not him, but me

Joseph’s forgiveness was real

How can I say this?
– because he did not sweep their offense under the carpet, but treated it seriously
“As for you, you meant evil against me”
– we do not help people by minimizing the wrong they have done to us
• if they ask for forgiveness, we should not wave it off–e.g., “Oh, you don’t need to do that”
• we should take the situation as seriously as they, and sincerely say, “I forgive you”
– Joseph’s found his ability to be merciful and generous with them by looking past them
“but God meant it for good”
– here we are, back to the beginning
• in Eden, there was the tree of knowledge of good and evil
○ it symbolizes the rupture in the world
• Adam and Eve unleashed the evil, but good was also present
○ and now in Joseph’s story, his brothers intended evil, but good prevailed
○ this is how the healing of the world occurs — good undoing and counteracting evil

Looking past his brothers, Joseph saw a bigger picture
“Am I in the place of God?”
• Joseph did not manipulate or manage all of the power and authority he wielded
• so it wasn’t his place to deal with them–take revenge
– the brother’s ongoing issue was no longer an issue for Joseph

Vincent Brummer made the observation that “the one who forgives is the one who suffers,” and again, “the person who forgives is the person who has to pay the price for reconciliation”

• but I would add, one who forgives is the one who is set free

The world can be healed
– but to be healed, it has to be reconciled
• and to be reconciled it has to be forgiven

Conc: Can we do this?

Can our prayer go from, “Make them pay” to “Father, forgive them”?

The mom instructs one child, “Say you’re sorry” and the other, “Say, ‘I forgive you’”
– and both children find a way to say the right words, but with an intonation that gives them an opposite meaning
• they say they’re sorry without being sorry, and say they forgive without forgiving
– Jesus throws a monkey wrench into this pretense of ours

My heavenly Father will also [punish] you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart (Mt. 18:35)

 – the heart is the only place where forgiveness can be true
• and with this we come to the fulcrum of forgiveness – our hearts, where the lever of mercy is placed

God works at getting us to see from his perspective
– a classic example is the prophet Jonah, who wanted to see Nineveh scorched
• but in God’s eyes, the 120,000 people in Nineveh were like children who did not “know the difference between their right and left hand” (Jonah 4:11)
○ how odd, that God should have to argue his right to have compassion on these people to his prophet
○ odder still is the number of Christians who live devoid of compassion
– through Jesus eyes, we see the person differently
• and when we see differently, we feel differently
• and feeling different about the person, we find that forgiveness comes “naturally”

So when Jesus asks us, “Will you let Me heal you?” and we say, “Yes, Lord,” his second question is, “Then are you ready to forgive?”
– once we experience for ourselves the joy and freedom of being forgiven, the Lord tells us,
“Your cell door has been unlocked, now run with this key and unlock the cells of all the other prisoners”

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