Sunday, February 25, 2007

Genesis 45:1-24; 50:15-21 - Overcoming Resentment

Pray and Read: Genesis 45:1-24; 50:15-21

Opening thought:
All of us have felt the sting of being falsely accused or unfairly treated. For some of us, those events continue to stick in our memories like a burr swelling into resentment.

It could have been the way your father talked to you. It could have been what a teacher said to you once in class. It could be what a girlfriend one time did to you. It could be an ex-husband’s sarcasm. It could have been what a customer did to you and your business. It could have been your supervisor’s smart aleck comment.

It could have been that person you thought was a friend who broke your confidence and added lies to your shared secret. It could have been the doctor’s diagnosis or the way you were treated because you are a woman. It could be because of your ethnic background or your accent. It could be the attitude people have toward you because of your last name or it could be your father's profession.

Many of our hearts are swollen with the poison of old resentments because we have refused to let Christ pull out the thorns. We’re like small children who cry about the pain but won’t let anyone touch the sore. Our focus is on ourselves and our hurt.

We do have another option, however. We can shift our focus from horizontal, human to human, to vertical – your eyes on God, not the wrong done to you. For most of us, though, our first reaction is that we could never forgive. The hurt feelings, the ruptured relationships make it impossible.

But we read about a farmer in the Bible named Joseph who did it. Let’s look at his life and see how he overcame resentment of ill-treatment from those he loved.

Contextual Notes:
In Genesis 37, Joseph is the favorite of his father, and Joseph lets everyone know it. Jealousy drove his brothers to sell him as a slave to a caravan headed to Egypt.

In chapter 39, Joseph becomes the servant of an Egyptian official named Potiphar. But Potipar’s wife decides she likes Joseph – really likes him. When Joseph will not yield to her advances, she accuses him to her husband of rape. Potiphar believes her and throws Joseph in jail.

In chapter 40, Joseph interprets a dream of Pharaoh’s chief cup bearer who is in prison with him. Joseph asks him to put in a good word for him with Pharaoh when he gets out, but the cupbearer forgets about Joseph after his release.

After two more years in jail, Joseph in chapter 41 is miraculously released by interpreting Pharaoh’s dream. Pharaoh also makes him prime minister of Egypt. By chapter 42, the predicted famine has driven his brothers to Egypt in search of food. What a shock and fear for them as they realize the man they see is the one they sold into slavery many years before (Genesis 45:1-3). Joseph’s brothers, and we too, would expect Joseph to use his position to really get them back now that he had the upper hand. But surprisingly Joseph reacts with complete forgiveness. Joseph is a shining example of how to respond to injustice.


1. Accept your situation as directly from the Lord (45:5-8):
Joseph had his eyes on God and had gained his viewpoint on his situation. It carried him through.

Application: This is a critical first step that gets you moving in the right direction. If you can trust God to use even (and most of all) the unjust or painful experiences in your life, you’ll growing toward seeing it from His perspective.

2. Be proactive, not protective (45:9-11)
Joseph immediately thought of his brothers’ well-being and of his father and wanted to get them into the safe haven of Goshen. Instead of taking revenge, Joseph was proactive to look out for their future.

Application: You can’t help but be jolted when a close friend or relative turns against you. ThatWhat you have to guard against is the natural tendency to protect yourself. When you put all your energy into defending yourself, you cannot see the big picture. Psalm 37:8-9

3. Consider the other person’s viewpoint (45:12-15)
Joseph realized they might not believe him or be terrified at what he might really do to them. He encouraged them, embraced them, kissed them, and they finally talked with him.

Application: Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. You might see that their behavior made sense to them. If so, seek forgiveness. But even if their actions were unfounded, it won’t hurt your compassion quotient any to open your heart for insight from their perspective.

4. Stay positive and search for God’s lessons (50:19-20).
Joseph had the power to pulverize them for what his brothers had done to him, but he sees God at work in his life to use him for His glory. Romans 8:28

Application: It’s easy to let hard circumstances sour our lives, to give in to our own negativity, a critical spirit, and a joyless countenance. If you’re getting critical a lot, you need to ask yourself if you are falling into resentment. The problem with resentment is that it leads to bitterness and defiles all those around you. Hebrews 12:14-15; Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32.

5. Look for ways to show kindness (45:21-24; 50:21)
Joseph overloaded these rascals with love and provision of the world’s superpower, and when they were afraid anew of him after their father’s death, Joseph reassured them of his love and provision for them.

Application: Before you get too bitter, remember that all of us have been rude or behaved unfairly at times, so there’s no room for self-righteousness. We are not talking about “killing them with kindness.” That’s not Biblical. We are to offer a friendship that is absolutely genuine.