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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Genesis 50:15–21

Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them. (NRSV)

Most parents are happiest when their children get along, no matter how old they are. A colleague of mine lost her husband when their two daughters were in the throes of normal teenage rebellion. In his last days of life, their father spoke to each of his daughters privately. I would guess his instructions had to do with how their mom should be treated and how they should treat one another and what his hopes were for them.

Joseph’s father had just been buried. Now that their father was gone, Joseph’s brothers were concerned that Joseph, the one they had ostracized for so many reasons, would come after them in revenge for all they had done to him. They were scared. But their father, in his last days, had given them an instruction: “Ask your brother for forgiveness.” When they actually asked, instead of rejecting their request, Joseph wept. And when he wept, the brothers wept, too.

What a relief it is to admit the need to be forgiven. It’s so hard to admit, because we have so much invested in being right. And what a relief it is to forgive, to give up the need for the wrong doer to make up for everything that has been done. When the brothers were surprised, Joseph said, “Am I in the place of God?” Joseph knew then what it takes us a lifetime to learn: that we are all human with flaws and foibles, deeds done that shouldn’t have been done, and deeds not acted on that were serious omissions. Joseph also knew that he wasn’t God—that he wasn’t perfect and his brothers weren’t perfect either. And neither are we.

Merciful God, help us to forgive as we have been forgiven, and help us to ask for forgiveness when we have harmed someone. Replace our pride and arrogance with tears of humility and an ever-abiding trust in your love for us. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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