September 11, 2005: The Facets Of Forgiveness

Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for freely forgiving us all our sins against You.  Thank You for not holding a grudge against us.  Thank You for freeing our souls and lifting our spirits by washing away our guilt on a bloody cross.  May we never take such forgiveness for granted and may we always show it in our lives.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO HAS FORGIVEN YOU FROM HIS LOVING HEART!

TEXT:  Genesis 50: 15-21

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

When I was a little boy I collected rocks.  I picked through the gravel in the alley-way behind our house looking for agates.  I attended some rock and mineral shows and purchased samples of unique stones.  I liked how they looked, how they felt, and how they captivated my eye.  By, the way, I still have my rock collection stored in a  box!  When Debra Ann and I got married, we both had little money.  And as it turned out, both our mothers didn’t wear their diamond rings any more.  So they gave their stones to us.  Her ring is her mother’s stone, mine is my mother’s.  Cut stones have unique properties.  Their facets grab and capture the light and reflect it back.  I have love affair with cut stones and over the years I’ve added a few different ones to my adult “rock” collection in the form of rings.

Today our focus is on the Rock of our salvation: Jesus Christ.  And He shines bright and clear and flawless especially when He hands to us the forgiveness of all our sins.  Since all our lessons talk about such forgiveness and our text speaks of it so graphically, let us now examine:

THE FACETS OF FORGIVENESS

I

Once upon a time there were two brothers, twins.  Although they shared the womb together, they were very different.  One brother was hairy and hard-nosed.  He loved the outdoors.  The other was more of a stay-at-home guy whose skin was smooth.  They were competitive, as are most siblings.  And when they reached the age of majority, the second brother connived to steal his father’s blessing from his twin.  Upon hearing of this, the older twin got angry and eventually the younger brother feared for his life.  So, he moved away.  Over the next 20 odd years he worked hard, married two sisters (that’s a long story) and had various children.  He also became very rich.  Finally, under God’s direction, he moved back to his old stomping grounds and decided to meet with his long-lost brother.  He was still very fearful of his brother’s temper, so the day before they would meet, he send between 500-600 animals (a fortune in those days) as a peace offering to his twin.  He even divided his family in order to save some of them if bloodshed should occur.  Upon meeting, this younger brother bowed down to his older sibling.  The first thing the elder brother said was: “What do you mean by all these droves I met?”  “To find favor in your eyes, my lord,’ he said.  Well, God took care of the problem.  They made up.  The men were Esau and Jacob, sons of Isaac.  And Esau had already forgiven Jacob from his heart.  Jacob’s fear over not being forgiven and the 20 years of uncertainty it had caused him were all self-inflicted.  Nonetheless, in giving all that livestock to Esau, Jacob brought forth fruits of repentance over his sin, didn’t he?

II

In our lesson we come across another band of brothers—Jacob’s 12 sons by his two wives.  We know that Joseph was a favorite son of his father who those brothers had conspired to kill 20 years earlier.  But, at the last minute they sold him into slavery instead.  And for the next 20 years Joseph went from being a slave in Egypt to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, to the 2nd in command of all Egypt.  We know that God used Joseph for good in his life.  Through his wisdom and Godly ability, Joseph put aside enough food to save thousands during 7 years of terrible famine.  We know that Joseph’s brothers had come to Egypt to buy grain to live and that after some subterfuge Joseph had revealed himself to them and forgiven them their past sins against him.  He forgave from the heart because God had put the forgiveness and the love of Christ in his heart.

Now Jacob is dead.  And those past sins come back to haunt his brothers.  They doubted Joseph’s sincerity because their own hearts troubled them.  Luther says of sin: “it is easy to commit, but after it has come to light it rears its ugly head, and it keeps pricking us.”  Their feelings of guilt over the past got the better of them.

Is that a summary of you and your life?  Be honest.  Even though you’ve been to church hundreds of time and heard God absolving you of sin through me, His servant, don’t you still at times doubt that His free forgiveness is real?  Don’t you sometimes think: “It’s too good to be true?”  Well, you have company in your past misgivings.  Joseph’s brothers are really a picture of you and me.

III

Our lesson says that the brothers sent word to Joseph pleading their case with their father’s own words: “I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’  Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.”  Some commentators believe that the messenger who conveyed these words was Benjamin, the one who was totally innocent of the past crime and who also shared the same mother, Rachel, with Joseph.  If that is true, it shows just how careful and fearful these other brothers were.

But, what happens next?  “When their messenger came to him, Joseph wept.”  He cried because he knew the anguish in their hearts.  He cried because they still didn’t trust him and his word.  Then the brothers arrive on scene and throw themselves to the ground before Joseph.  “We are your slaves,” they said.”  One key facet of forgiveness is true sorrow over sin.  You’re sorry you did it and not just sorry you got caught.  But another key facet is the totally willingness to bring forth fruits of faith.  That is, to do whatever it takes to make amends; to put your pride in your pocket and beg God for help.  We see that in the attitude and actions of these brothers, don’t we?

And the third main facet of forgiveness is taking away all human fear by letting go and forgiving another from the heart.  The brothers didn’t earn this forgiveness.  They did nothing to deserve it.  But Joseph forgave them anyway because the love of Christ covers over all sins.  This bright light of love still shines today in our text.  It shines in your hearts and lives when you give your sins to God.  And it takes away all heartache and pain.

The end of the story is summed up by Joseph himself. “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.”

Forgiveness is a gift from God given to us in Christ, Who earned it by dying in our place on a cross.  It is hard to accept the fact that such free forgiveness is real.  It is hard to repent of past sins and let go of them.  But, that is the beauty of true, Godly forgiveness.—It reflects God’s heart back at us.  So, in closing I ask you this: “What is better?  An uncertain conscience, or a forgiven one?”  Godly forgiveness isn’t too good to be true—it is true!  Believe it and live at peace with Him, with others, and with yourself!  Amen