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.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:15-21
Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Miserables, is a story about Jean Valjean, who was sentenced to a 19- year prison term for stealing a loaf of bread. During his imprisonment, Valjean hardened into a tough convict. No one could beat him in a fight. No one could break his will. Valjean finally earned his release but found he had nowhere to go. He wandered through the village seeking shelter until a generous bishop had mercy on him. That night, while the bishop and his sister fell asleep, Valjean rose from his bed, rummaged through the house, and crept off into the darkness with the family silver. Three policeman knocked on the bishops door the next morning with Valjean. “I’m delighted to see you! Had you forgotten that I gave you the candlesticks as well? They’re silver like the rest, and worth a good 200 francs. Did you forget to take them?”
Valjean was startled and stared at the old man with an expression no words could convey. Valjean was no thief, the bishop told the policemen: “This silver was my gift to him.” When the policemen left, the bishop gave the candlesticks to his guest, and said, “Do not forget, do not ever forget, you have promised to use the money to make yourself an honest man.” The power of the bishop’s act, which defied every human instinct for revenge, changed Valjean’s life forever. A naked encounter with forgiveness melted the granite defenses of his soul. He kept the candlesticks as a precious memento of grace and dedicated himself from then on to helping others in need. Someone told me, “Nothing anyone has done to you can compare with what you have done to God.” In the course of my life, I have learned the lesson is true.
Joseph saw God’s providence in man’s malice. He said, “what you intended for evil, God meant for good.”
The blood of Jesus cleansing us continually, that our sin is washed away constantly, but what He did on the cross sacrificially. Christianity is a celebration of what Christ has done, not condemnation for what we have or haven’t done. When it seems impossible to forgive another, remember how much greater wrong has been forgiven you. For one sinner to sin against another is a relatively minor thing, but to sin against a holy God is an unfathomable thing. If God has forgiven you so much, then whatever you forgive against a fellow sinner is relatively small. Here is the truth, “Focus not on what you have lost but on what you have left.” Joseph repays evil not only with forgiveness but with practical love. He was promising something more personal than philanthropy.
Learn to focus on what you have left, rather than on what you lost. Perhaps it was a job, a possession, or even a relationship, but you may well be letting your unresolved bitterness so negatively affect you that you are damaging the spiritual and emotional health of those close to you. No matter what pit you’ve dug, or what brother you have sold, our restorer Jesus has washed away our sin with His own blood. There is now no condemnation to you who are in Christ Jesus. What can separate you from God’s love? Absolutely nothing. Pray for the presence of God this morning. Pray for focus on what you have left in Jesus this morning, not what you have lost. Pray for NewLife this morning to experience revival. Pray for our city. Pray for our schools. Pray for our Mayor and Governor this morning. Pray for our nation.