But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I God?
You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it,
in order to save the lives of many people, just as He’s doing today.”
Genesis 50:19, 20 (Common English Bible)
Joseph is a man with a large life, a great soul. Never does he dip below God’s highest desires for him. Always a man of considerable dignity, Joseph is humble in service, in a prison or in a palace. His life unfolds as any life does, in circumstances that are both tragic and blessed. His greatness is untarnished, even after years of unjust imprisonment. And in the national crisis that shakes Egypt and brings alarm to the people – a famine of biblical proportions – Joseph seizes the situation with uncommon wisdom and saves the country. He shines in the stiffest test of a great person, the management of prosperity. It is his management here that emphasizes Joseph’s sterling quality and offers a glimpse of the face of God.
Those qualities that distinguished Joseph are tested at an early age. Joseph incurs the jealously of his older brothers. Desiring that Joseph is removed from the family forever, the brothers sell him into slavery. Now, because of the famine, the older brothers stand before their younger brother once again, this time within Joseph’s power. They come from desperation, cringing, hoping for gracious treatment. Joseph is now on a world’s stage – at least throughout the Egyptian empire. People are watching. More important, God is watching. Joseph’s response to the brothers who once sold him as a slave would be the biggest test of what he is made of. The brothers cared little for Joseph’s welfare when he was young. Now the brother’s welfare was in Joseph’s hands.
Joseph answers his brother’s plea, “Don’t be afraid. Am I God? You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as He’s doing today.” Only the greatest of women and men can confess to those who have wronged them that the injury has turned out to an advantage. Joseph rises to such a stature. Joseph’s response is suggestive of two motives for such a grand and expansive heart; two things that help Joseph to forgive.
First is that Joseph is able to see that God is at work upon those who injured him. “Am I God?” It is as though Joseph is saying that the work of retribution is none of Joseph’s business. It is a dangerous position of heart for anyone to think they are the instrument for God’s justice. There are matters to large for us to assess, turns of the heart of which we are unaware. God always works beyond our understanding in the hearts of others including the hearts of those who have wronged us. Joseph understands this. More, Joseph sees that his brothers are different, that they have changed from the early days when they sold their younger brother as a slave.
Second, forgiveness is made easy for Joseph because he has the clarity of insight to see how God has handled the wrongs he had suffered. God has taken the evil Joseph’s brother intended and turned it into a blessing for the nation of Egypt. The cruelty Joseph endured did not loom large in his mind, thoughts of revenge occupying his life. The wrong inflicted upon Joseph became the impetuous for a chain of events that would result in his being named Prime Minister of Egypt. God worked ceaselessly and mysteriously to savage the wrong and build a structure of a mighty purpose for Joseph and for the world. Joseph’s clarity of God’s hand in his life, his gratitude and worship of God, swept all bitterness clean out of his life. Joseph’s disaster has given way to God’s victory. Such is the result of wreckage that is placed into the giant grip of God.