Garry continued his series on Joseph this morning, speaking from Genesis 44:25-45:7 when Joseph’s identity is finally revealed to his family. What his brothers had done to him many years previously had haunted them and they were terrified when they found silver and the cup in their sacks, fearing retribution would fall on them. When Joseph spoke to them in their native language (no longer using an interpreter) and revealed his identity, they must have been struck dumb with shock; the Hebrew word says they trembled inwardly. Surely Joseph would now take revenge on them in the most fearful way?

Joseph has had chance to see the changes in them; Judah offers to take Benjamin’s place and Reuben speaks for them all asking for mercy. Joseph is not bent on revenge, however. He understands the purpose of God and can forgive freely. Jesus taught us to pray ‘forgive us our sins, for we also fortive everyone who sins against us.’ (Luke 11:4) Matthew reminds us that our forgiveness of others is linked to God’s forgiveness of us (Matt 6:14-15) and Paul reminds us that we are to bless those who persecute us (Rom 12:14).

If we don’t forgive others, we are like a tethered dog, chained to the past. Forgiveness is essential, for our own benefit as well as for the sake of others.Even if the person who has wronged us does not repent, we are still called to forgive (see Luke 23:33-34, Acts 7:59-60) It is not necessarily easy to forgive (as Corrie Ten Boom discovered when meeting one of her Nazi guards after the war), but forgiveness is needed if we are to move forward in God. We know that He has forgiven and accepted us (see Ps 130:3-4, 1 John 1:9) and therefore we can have the courage to forgive others when they wrong us. Like Joseph, forgiveness can be difficult, but when we forgive, we can be sure we have God’s blessing and that He will help us, even though there is no guarantee of reciprocity.