Powerful Facets Of Forgiveness

While many tend to forgive others there are a number of misunderstandings about forgiveness. Let us look at the life of Joseph in the Old Testament for some insights into this powerful blessing.
Powerful Facets Of Forgiveness
Source - Image owned, uploaded and copyrighted 2016 by author (Brother Pete)

The Holy Bible indicates that in order to receive the forgiveness of God we need to forgive others. This is what Christ said in what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” (Mark 11:26): “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” While conscientious Christians make an effort to forgive there seems to be some misunderstandings among some in regard to forgiveness.

The forgiveness by Joseph who was sold by his brothers into Egypt gives us a good start to understand Biblical forgiveness. For this message we will look at various portions of this

account in Genesis 42:25-28, 43:18-22, 44, 45:5,7, and 50:15-21. It would be good for the reader of this article to get the full background and you can do so by reading {1} Genesis chapter 37, and 39 to 50. But, for those desiring a condensation of the facts behind the portions of text dealing with our message I offer the outline in my article, A Father’s God Honoring Legacy {2}, followed by this one that brings us to Joseph forgiving his brothers:

Brief Summary Of Events Leading To Joseph Forgiving His Brothers

  • Pharaoh places Joseph in charge of collecting grain during the seven good years, then selling the grain in the seven lean years. 41:38-57
  • Because the famine affected the Promised Land, Jacob eventually sends Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to buy food. 42:1-5
  • Joseph sees his brother’s arrive, but keeps his identity secret. Joseph begins to test his brothers to see if they have changed. He insists that the next time they come to Egypt to buy food they must bring their youngest brother, Benjamin. 42:6-28
  • After great reluctance on the part of Jacob, Jacob permits the brothers to return to Egypt with Benjamin. 42:29-43:15
  • Joseph puts his brothers through additional tests, the final one being that Benjamin is made to look like he stole Joseph’s cup. 43:16-44:13

Summoned back to Joseph, all his brothers offered themselves to him to be slaves. Joseph insisted only Benjamin stays. I would say this was the ultimate test. Joseph was a favorite son of Jacob by Jacob’s favorite wife, but so was Benjamin. When they sold Joseph to a caravan over a decade before this, the brothers displayed a high disregard not only for Joseph, but for their dad, Jacob, and most of all for God. This was the ultimate test to see if they still possessed their sinful disregard.

But Judah spoke up expressing very deep concern for Jacob. He then told Joseph that he had become surety for Benjamin and begged Joseph to make him his slave and not Benjamin. (44)

That did it! As we begin to read chapter 45 we see Joseph could no longer control himself and ordered all those attending him to leave. He wailed loudly. He then spoke to his brothers in their tongue, declared he was Joseph and asked if Jacob was still alive. From verse three and further we read (NASB), “But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. 4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come closer to me.’ And they came closer. And he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8 Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.’”

From a portion of this passage, along with others in Genesis, we will see two main facets of forgiveness. They are indeed powerful. They can change one’s life for the better if one permits God to work in their life. They can change the lives of other people if those people let God work in their life. The first facet points out if there is going to be forgiveness then certain things must go.

I. Forgiveness Removes . . . 

It is clear in Genesis 45 that Joseph freely and totally forgave his brothers. However, after Jacob dies, chapter 50 records Joseph’s brothers were worried that Joseph might seek vengeance. Verse 15 (NASB) records, “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!'"

If you are reading from something like the KJV you will see, “Joseph will peradventure hate us, . . .” The Hebrew word used here for hate {3} can mean to hold a grudge. It is part of our sinful nature that we hold a grudge, but God calls each of us beyond our sinful nature.

From what I have studied in the Holy Bible, because of the eternalness of Christ that goes throughout all time (past, present, and future), God’s grace was available to anyone even before the point where Christ died, rose, and ascended. At some point in his life Joseph acquired that grace and spiritually grew in it. It is by the grace of God that he was able to not bear a grudge despite being so harshly treated by his brothers.

As we continue to read in chapter 50 we see Joseph did not hold a grudge against his brothers. “And Joseph wept when they spoke to him” (verse 17) shows the tenderness of Joseph’s heart. In verse 21 we read, “So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them." True godly forgiveness removes any grudges.

Such forgiveness also eliminates any possibility of vengeance. Note again that it says in verse 21 that Joseph comforted them. The man that was hurt so badly applied the grace of God in his life that he might comfort those that had hurt him.

For some people, like myself, not bearing grudges or seeking vengeance is not learned overnight. Indeed, when Christ comes into one’s heart the ability to do so is there, but we have to learn to apply it. Before I came to Christ I would have greatly enjoyed taking vengeance on those who bullied me in school. After I came to Christ that desire was squelched, but every now and then it wanted to rear its ugly head. Just like no one plays music without some sort of knowledge and practice, no one maturely walks in Christ without knowledge and practice. And, when it comes to practice, that is one reason why trials come across our way and are repeated down through the years--since we all need a “refresher course” once in a while.

What about his brothers? During the various tests that he gave them, Joseph noted they were plagued with with grief and anger. In 45:5 he tells them, “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves.” They were grieved partly because their dad, Jacob, had been through a lot after they had sold Joseph and then fooled their dad

into thinking he was killed. Jacob became further unnerved when Simeon did not return the first time. Joseph also saw his siblings were angry at each other and their own selves for the way Joseph was treated. Joseph forgave them, but what they then needed to do was to forgive themselves. This had to be done in order for their grief and anger to stop.

Our selected passages show at least one more thing that forgiveness removes: fear. After consoling them, helping them, and pointing out the providence of God was behind what happened, we see in chapter 50:15-18 that once their dad died a spirit of fear came upon them, thinking that Joseph will now punish them. But Joseph continued to be kind and assuring to them (50:19-21). A level of blessedness can be had when fear is banished.

II. Forgiveness Realizes . . .

Though we can remove a number of negative things with forgiveness let us make sure we replace them with the positive things God would have us to have, realizations of His ways and of His knowledge of man. Foundational to these are the purposes of God.

Joseph was quite clear to his brothers that the providence of God had its mighty hand in what happened. Note what he says in the following:

45:7-8, "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8 Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt." (NASB)

50:20, “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”

And without a doubt, before he died, Jacob told Joseph what God said to him as recorded in 46:2-3: “And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, ‘Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here am I.' And he said, ‘I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation.’”

All one has to do, if they truly know God through Christ, is to realize the various purposes God has for the redeemed once they leave this world. And, even before we leave this world we can know that though we are mistreated by others, if we let Him, God will through Christ shape us into the image of His dear Son (Romans 8:28).

As we carefully and prayerfully read the entire account of Joseph and his brothers we will see that, though we are to forgive, we are not to be gullible. Even Christ knew the frailties of men (John 2:24-25): “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25  And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” This is in no way contradicting 1 Corinthians 13:7 because 1 Corinthians is dealing with the matter of spiritual gifts within the Body of Christ.

While Joseph forgave his brothers in his heart, as they left him to go back to Canaan he told them, “So he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, "Do not quarrel on the journey." He forgave, but he also realized that his brothers had to continue to permit God to touch and change their lives.

Another thing this verse shows us  is that while we forgive we can also admonish those we have forgiven. We must be careful, though, that our admonishment must not be tainted with vengeance or pride. When we admonish we must recognize that we too can fail.

There is at least one more thing we can find in our passages that godly forgiveness realizes. One who forgives in a godly manner realizes the best one to punish anyone is God. He knows all. He knows the circumstances involving peoples’ actions.

Joseph says in 50:19, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place?” Like Joseph, we must realize that we are not God, we must not play God. That is the centerpiece of godly forgiveness. We must take the focus off ourselves and place it on the glory of God.

If you find it difficult to forgive, ask God to help you and thank God for those you come across you need to forgive. If you have received forgiveness from someone, ask for God’s help to mold and shape your character, and thank God the person did forgive you. Above all, if you have not done so, since we are all born as sinners, ask God to forgive you, and cleanse you. Make a full surrender to Him and make Christ your King.


{1} You can read the Holy Bible online at Blue Letter Bible, https://www.blueletterbible.org/ .

{2} Please read A Father's God Honoring Legacy at http://holybibletreasures.expertscolumn.com/article/father-s-god-honoring-legacy .

{3} From an electronic version of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance by James Strong incorporated in the Online Bible program, and so throughout the article whenever the ancient language is referred to and no other authority is cited.

This article was in the form of a sermon (message) outline with comments. God willing by March 12, 2016 (hopefully much sooner), you should be able to hear the actual message (sermon) by selecting a link at http://www.sapphirestreams.com/life/audioM.html#M392 .

Unless otherwise noted all Holy Scripture is from the 1769 Authorized Version with spelling of some words updated for our time in addition to changing LORD to YHVH as it rightly should be when the text so indicates. An * next to the abbreviation for another translation or version indicates the same for the text presented.

Not responsible for any advertisements appearing with this article nor am I necessarily in agreement with any of them. The statements of this paragraph hold true not only for this article, but for everything I have placed on the Internet.

Article Written By BrotherPete

I am a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, having served over forty years as a pastor. I graduated from Northeast Bible College of Green Lane Pennsylvania and have a Bachelors Degree in Bible. I am enthused about the Word of God and how it can make a positive change in the life of anyone once it is teamed up with faith and the Holy Spirit. I am happily married. Visit www.sapphirestreams.com.

Last updated on 09-07-2016 156 1

Please login to comment on this post.
  • nbillett  28-12-2016
    Not that the Devil is the cause of every sin and evil that people do. there is also the selfishness of our "flesh" and the lure of the false promises of "the world" but the Devil, as enemy of God's Kingdom, is never at rest.
    reply 0
Control Your Soul
Avenues Of Strength