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How to Forgive: Biblical Mercy

As with most things in life, the Bible can teach us how to forgive others and let go of our desire for revenge. You don't have to dive too deep in the Bible to find a story of forgiveness, either. The story of Joseph can be found in book of Genesis.


Genesis tells the story of Joseph, one of 12 brothers, being his father's favorite. His brothers, jealous of this, plot to kill him. Instead of killing him, they settle on selling him into slavery. At 17 years old, Joseph is imprisoned and taken from Israel to Egypt. He spends years in prison.


At the risk of creating a too abridged version of the story, Joseph becomes known as someone who can interpret dreams. One day, Pharaoh cannot find a person who can interpret his dreams until Joseph is mentioned. After listening to Joseph's interpretation and prediction of an upcoming famine, Pharaoh appoints Joseph Prime Minister of Egypt! Joseph prepares Egypt for the famine by making them store grain.


In an incredible turn of events, the boy who was cast out by his own family is now the second most powerful man in all of Egypt, and is saving lives. That alone is staggering, but it's what happens next that shows the true course of God's purpose in Joseph's life.


When the famine strikes Israel, Joseph's brothers are sent by their father to Egypt to ask for grain. Joseph's brothers do not recognize him when they arrive.


Joseph puts his brothers through a series of tests to see if they are honest men. He knows the treachery that they have already committed, and he still feels the pain of being cast out by his family. No doubt, he wishes to take revenge on them for what they have done.


However, Joseph, ever wise, can see the lesson God has laid out for him. He's lost years of his life to slavery because of his brothers, yet, he has been exalted because of this very tribulation. Even though his brothers cast him out of his comfort and his life, he was place there to save lives in the future. He explains this when he reveals himself to his brothers.

"Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance." Genesis 45: 4-7 NIV

When given the chance to kill or enslave his brothers, he embraces them, cries over them, and heals his heart through this forgiveness and understanding of God's mercy and plans.

"Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him." Genesis 45: 14-15
Joseph embracing his brothers

Joseph was able to forgive his brothers because he understood God had a plan for his life. He understood that any vengeance that should be done is God's to do, and not his. His weeping over his brothers demonstrates the relief he feels by forgiving them. He no longer has to carry anger in heart toward them.


Our pastor this week discussed how mercy is the fire extinguisher of forgiveness. Mercy allows us to put the fire out, when often we choose revenge, which stokes the flames. A fire that is constantly stoked is destructive, and everyone gets burned when a fire gets big enough. It's up to us to allow the Lord to do his bidding, to have his mercy, and for us to rest in that and forgive others. That mercy we extend to others will extinguish the fire in our hearts and free us.






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