The Bible tells us how Joseph’s brothers plotted against him when he was a teenager. They thought to murder him, but finally chose to sell him as a slave (why not, at the very least, make a little profit on your brother?). They agreed to lie to their father about it all, leading him to the false conclusion that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.
Twenty-two years later, the brothers meet Joseph again. Twenty-two years of lying; 22 years of wondering if their flesh and blood was dead or alive; 22 years of unrelenting guilt; 22 years of pain that lived in their hearts and haunted them! If only they could go back and undo it – but they couldn’t.
Have you ever been there? Are you living with some pain of long-standing that simply refuses to leave you alone? The brothers met Joseph again, and, amazingly, he tells them it’s OK! That in spite of their evil plan, God had good in mind. He tells them not to be angry with themselves. In short, he forgives them freely, completely.
In the final chapter of Genesis, when their father, Jacob, dies, a sad scene is described. We learn what is still going on in the hearts of the brothers. “Now,” they reason, “now that our father is dead, Joseph will get even with us.” And they are afraid. They send a frightened message to Joseph, trying to convince him not to kill them even though their father is dead. The pain had not gone away. It was still alive and well, after long, bitter years, deep in their hearts. An incredible thing happens when Joseph gets their pathetic message. He weeps. The mistreated, abused, forsaken brother is able to weep over the pain of his once would-be tormentors – his own brothers. So many years and no release for them. Joseph had been freed but they were still captives of their own consciences; still tormented by their own evil; still frightened of life.
How many of us are still carrying it – our evil, our shame, our guilt? Jesus has spoken the word of forgiveness. But we go on our lonely, forsaken way, not quite able to believe that it could be true for us. True for others? Yes, of course! But for such as us, there could never truly be a new beginning. Friends, beloved of God, the Bible says that Jesus didn’t just come to speak nice words. He came to proclaim release to the captives. It is long enough now that you have carried your guilt. It’s been so long and so terrible hasn’t it? Your pain has never gone away. Isn’t it time – time to go your way forgiven and rejoicing? Jesus can deal with your every sin, no matter how grievous. Believe it! Accept it! Enjoy it! Share it! Let Him restore to you the joy of your salvation – please!
Doug Oakes is minister at the Woodlawn Church of Christ in Zanesville, Ohio. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.