I want to begin with a bizarre ancient Jewish parable about 2 farmers.
Years ago, Bert was careless and knocked down the fence between their property and some horses got out. He said he was sorry, but Hal would not forgive him. He held a bitter grudge for years. One night, Hal was awakened by an angel of the Lord who said “God will bless you with 3 wishes but there’s one condition, your neighbor will get a double portion of whatever you get”
Well, Hal woke up his wife up and told her about their good fortune. They thought about what to ask for. Right away he asked to break out of poverty by getting a 1000 head of cattle. No sooner than he asked when they had heard the sounds of a 1000 cattle on the farm. He praised God and began to make provisions for his new cattle.
A few days later he was in the back 40 when he looked over at his neighbor’s property. He was reminded that his neighbor got 2000 cattle. His joy disappeared. He would never forgive Burt…and the thought of him prospering sent Hal into a rage. His joy was gone. He couldn’t eat or sleep.
Well a few days later he remembered that he had 2 more wishes. The old joy returned. They always wanted descendants. So, they asked the Lord to give them a son. Short time later his wife announced she was pregnant. They were overjoyed when their son was born. They took him to the synagogue to share their good fortune with those who had gathered.
But they had hardly sat down when their neighbor Bert stood up to say.” God has been good to our community, last night my wife and I had twin boys.”
Upon hearing this Hal was enraged… all he could think of was revenge.
He went home and asked for his 3rd wish. “Lord please blind me in one of my eyes. I can’t stand to see my neighbor who once hurt me prosper. I would gladly sacrifice half my vision for the satisfaction of knowing he will never be able to see what you have blessed him with.”
No sooner had he said these words, when the angel who started the whole process came again. “Why son of Abraham have you turned to such dark desires. Can’t you see what your unforgiving heart has done to you. I will not Grant your final wish. For you will never see joy in your life due to your bitterness and unforgiving heart. I was not going to tell you this the angel said. But it was Burt who I offered to give 3 wishes to in the 1st place. He wished that I would give his 3 wishes to you instead!
WOW…I bet you didn’t see that one coming! Hatred, Jealousy, and revenge are like a cancer that spreads and can destroy all of our Joy!
It reminds me of the story of Joseph (not Mary’s husband…the other Joseph):
Joseph’s brothers were angry with him. Part of it was his own fault since he told them about dreams that he had of them bowing down to him…. And part of it was that his father loved him more than the other sons. And he showed it. Look at the great robe of many colors he gave him. Well jealousy caused his brothers to sell him into slavery. But despite all that happened…we saw that “the Lord was with Joseph.” He rose in the ranks and Potiphar put him in charge of everything. But round 2 of the battle comes when Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him. He resists, acts with integrity, but she lies, and he finds himself in prison…but “the Lord was still with him.” It seems that everyone including the cup bearer…and it even seemed like God had forgotten about him. But a few years later God brings good out of the mess that Joseph went through. He interprets pharaoh’s dreams. They store grain during 7 good years of crops. So, they’re ready for the 7 years of famine. Joseph becomes the 2nd most powerful man in Egypt. And as irony would have it…many years after being sold into slavery his brothers come looking to buy some grain. They don’t recognize Joseph, but he recognizes them.
So…what would you have done if you were Joseph?
Throw them in prison…Torture them…Kill them…Laugh in their face…at least send them home with no food! Well…Joseph did not seek revenge for his brother’s actions, but instead he offers them complete forgiveness, and welcomes them back into his life!
Genesis 50:19-21…But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
How could he forgive them?
Well….He followed Jesus’ example! Jesus was totally undeserving of the suffering, He went through for you and I….and yet we read.
Luke 23:32-34…..When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals — one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Forgive those that are crucifying Him? Well…It is even better news for us! Jesus paid your price…and God forgives everyone who sins against Him. (and that includes you)!
Acts 10:43……All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Yah…but that was Jesus…what about us? Well, Peter asked about forgiveness… Matt 18:21-22…. Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Not long before she died in 1988, in a moment of surprising candor in television, Marghanita Laski, one of our best-known secular humanists and novelists, said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.”
The best part of forgiving others who have hurt us… is that it heals us as well.
There are six powerful words following the tearful scene when Joseph and his brothers are hugging and kissing: Genesis 45:15…Afterward his brothers talked with him.
Life could never be the same again. I wonder whether they had ever really talked with each other before this day…but now they talked!
Please don’t cheat yourself out of some precious relationships just because somebody somewhere along the way had a falling out.Forgive one another as God has forgiven you…and afterwards…START TALKING. Reconcile! Rebuild those relationships!
At weddings I love to use a verse that gives us all direction in life:
Col 3:12-14…Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
In Joseph’s case, it is clear that this is no longer the boastful, pride-filled dreamer of his youth, but the journey the Lord has led him down has led to being a servant leader.And as a servant leader, he is ready to forgive his brothers and to let the Lord heal this broken relationship.
So now what? Do you say, “nice devotion” and go on your way unchanged? Or do you apply it to your life? Do you make amends? Who have you been withholding forgiveness from? What will you do about it? Forgiving is hard! But necessary to please God…and to be healthy and Joy filled. I read a devotion by a guy named Roy Smith.
Take this weekend to ponder and apply each of these 8 steps:
1) Begin by assuring yourself that compared to Christ’s suffering you haven’t been seriously wronged at all.
2) Recall the many kind deeds that have been shown to you, perhaps even by the person who has harmed you.
3) List the benefits you have received from the Lord.
4) Thank Him for blessing you with His love and forgiveness each day.
5) Make an honest effort to pray for the one who has injured you.
6) Go even further by looking for an opportunity to help them.
7) If the offense is especially hard to forget, try to erase the pain by thinking gracious and generous thoughts. (Give the pain over to God)
8) Finally, before you fall asleep at night, repeat slowly and thoughtfully that phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
My next devotion will be Monday. Worship with us online at royred.org starting Saturday at 5:30. A lot of other resources to be found there as well. Onsite worship will start June 28th. To attend, please reserve a spot online at www.royred.org or call the church starting each Monday at noon.