Neh. 9:17 …But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…
It was probably quite a shock for Joseph to encounter his brothers in Egypt, almost 23 years after he had last seen them. The last time he saw them was when he was being carried off by the slave traders to Egypt. Imagine if you were Joseph, experiencing all that Joseph had experienced over those 22+ years, the bad as well as the good. What might you be thinking or feeling at that moment that you encountered 10 of your brothers?
Forgiveness is a process for us most of the time. Sometimes we can forgive and forget immediately, but other times we have to continually lay the hurt and suffering before God, because anger and bitterness towards the other person continue to come to mind. Joseph probably had a very similar experience.
He named his first child Manasseh because God had made him forget his hardship and suffering (Gen. 41:51). It may be that God had been working in him even before he saw his brothers. We also see in our passage that twice, before he revealed who he was, he wept for compassion for his brothers as he was testing them.
When Joseph did reveal himself to them he said, I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. (Gen. 45:4-5) He forgave and understood God’s purpose in all that God had done. Joseph knew God, so he knew forgiveness.
Today is the day not just to encourage the kids to forgive others, but first to encourage them to trust God for the forgiveness of their sins. God created us, but we have rebelled against him and his rightful rule over our lives. We have sinned against God in our rebellion much more than Joseph’s brothers had sinned against him. Joseph’s brothers needed to know he forgave them and harbored no anger towards them, but we so much more need to know God’s forgiveness and freedom from punishment and his anger towards us.
Let me encourage you, if you are a family group leader, to read through the “Who Will Be King?” booklet online so that you can prepare to share it next Thursday. Through this booklet you can emphasize the forgiveness that the children can receive in Christ.