WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 22, 2012
THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS
(Forgiveness brings healing)
When Jacob died, at the ripe old age of 147, Joseph ordered that he be given an Egyptian style funeral that lasted for seventy days, following a forty-day embalmment process. This was only two days short of what the Egyptians gave to their own Pharaohs when they died. This was an indication of the Egyptians great respect for Joseph in those days.
This 70-day mourning period was followed by another 7-day funeral for Jacob, after Joseph, his family, and their entourage arrived in Canaan (Gen. 50:1-10). He was finally buried in the cave of Machpelah, which Abraham purchased from Ephron the Hittite, for a permanent burying place. It is also where Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Rebecca, were buried. Jacob had also buried his first wife, Leah there when she died a few years earlier.
When Joseph and his brothers returned to Egypt following their father’s funeral in the land of Canaan, the brothers feared that since Jacob was now dead, Joseph would feel free to carry out his revenge on them, for the terrible acts that they had done against him many years earlier. And, even though Joseph had earnestly forgiven them (Gen. 45:1-15), they still carried their own guilt, and thus still feared what he might do, given all the power he now possessed in Egypt, over them. In fact, they feared him so much that they concocted a lie, and sent it in a written message to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died, he instructed us to say to you: “Forgive your brothers for the great evil they did to you, so we, the servants of the GOD of your fathers, beg you to forgive us” (Gen. 50:16-17a).
Here we see that the, still conniving brothers, were overlooking the fact that Joseph had great respect for the GOD of Israel, and had earnestly experienced the grace of GOD for himself, and, that this allowed him to be able to show genuine graciousness to anyone who might have offended him in the past, or may offend him in the future.
When Joseph received their message, he broke down and wept bitterly, as his brothers then came and bowed themselves before him, declaring themselves to be his servants (Vs. 17b-18). Joseph reassured them that his forgiveness was genuine, as he said to them, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I GOD, to judge and punish you? As far as I’m concerned, GOD turned into good what you meant for evil. HE brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. Indeed, I myself will take care of you and your families” (Gen. 50:19-20).
When we know and understand GOD’s grace, we can’t help but forgive, and extend grace to others. If we are to be like GOD, we must begin to show GOD-like behavior towards one another, doing good deeds for one another, instead of evil. We need not concern ourselves with judgment (revenge), for that belongs to GOD.
After being reassured by Joseph, he and his brothers lived peacefully together for the remainder of their lives. Joseph died at the age of 110. He lived long enough to experience the joy of spending time with the grandchildren of his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Forgiveness has a way of bringing spiritual peace to both the offender and the offended. Joseph life story teaches us many things about having a GODly attitude towards life, and, towards each other. In fact, out of all the great men and women in the annals of Bible history, perhaps Joseph, with his own life, demonstrates to us most clearly that, GOD should be obeyed because of HIS goodness to us, not because we fear HIS judgment.
Before he died, Joseph prophetically made his brothers promise to carry his bones out of Egypt when the time of “The Great Deliverance” came, something that they couldn’t have possibly understood at that time. For, they had not yet began to feel the sting of oppression in Egypt, as they were still welcome guests of the Pharaoh in those days. But there would soon be raised up, a generation of Egyptians and Pharaohs who did not know of the exploits of Joseph, and they would place “GOD’s chosen people” into servitude for over 400 years.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
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