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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Trusting Forgiveness

isn't easy.

Genesis 50:11-15 (ESV)

When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning by the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim; it is beyond the Jordan. Thus his sons did for him as he had commanded them, for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.

When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”

All this and Joseph’s brothers still don’t get it. What could possibly make them say, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him”?

The standard Christian psychology answer is that they don’t understand forgiveness and grace. That’s true, but their concern isn’t as silly as you might think.

Joseph’s initial treatment of his brothers almost seems sadistic. Because he lost control and revealed himself, we’ll never know how his scheme was supposed to end. Where was he going with that anyway? What was he trying to teach them?

We don’t know if Joseph even had a planned ending; it’s hard to imagine a good one that would fit. He seemed to be just jerking them around while he tried to think of something. If so, there’s a sinful element to what Joseph did back then.

Yes, he now says that he forgives them, but they remember his other side. It’s reasonable for Joseph’s brothers to worry about what he’s going to do next.

Forgiveness is easy to talk about but hard to do. Is there someone you haven’t forgiven? Or someone you have forgiven but that forgiveness isn’t total? Ask God for help. You’re not superman.

But it gets worse. Forgiveness is almost as hard to accept as it is to give. Even though we are forgiven, we’re like Joseph’s brothers; we struggle to accept it. We don’t understand forgiveness and grace either! This makes us uptight and unable to let the gospel run free in our hearts.

This is a difficult lesson. Forgiveness can be just words. People usually give incomplete forgiveness, and we tend to subconsciously assume that forgiveness received isn’t really complete.

But God’s forgiveness isn’t like that. It takes a lifetime to learn this.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! – Psalm 139:23-24 (ESV)

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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