“WISDOM OF LIVING (12): FORGIVE”         By Pastor YAU

Proverbs 19:11; Genesis 45:1-8                      December 12, 2004

 

INTRODUCTION:  “A man’s wisdom gives him discretion; it is to his glory to overlook (forgive) an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11) While the Bible has so much to say about forgiveness, 138 times, the above quote is the best to me. Too often, either we are unable or unwilling to forgive or we forgive grudgingly. Yet the Bible says it is our glory, more than honor, to forgive an offense and the offender.

       The story of Joseph forgiving his brothers for the sin, and crime they committed, as quoted above, serves as a supreme example of forgiving.  The Hebrew word of “forgive” is the same word used at the PASSOVER in Exodus which means “to overlook.” It does not erase the history or the facts of sin. But it COVERS the facts of sin: just don’t look at the sin, look at the sinners. That is how God forgives us, the sinners, when the blood of Jesus covers our sins.

 

 FORGIVING THE UNFORGIVABLE:  (Please read Genesis 45:1-8)

       How could anyone forgive someone who wanted him dead? How could anyone forgive someone who had caused him so much suffering and pain? What motivated Joseph to forgive his brothers who had done some much harm to him? Here are some of the possible reasons and lessons we may see and learn from the story:

1)    Joseph forgave because they were his family: (45:4) Too often, tragedies happened in families and among people close to each other. Conflicts of personality and interests, jealousy or pride, self-seeking or simple hatred, they all cause pain and suffering to one party or both. But the sense of family enabled Joseph to forgive or to overlook, the sins of his brothers that had caused him so much pain in the past.

         God has a purpose for us when He places us in a family, be it the physical or the spiritual, the church. No matter how much we have been hurt by someone in the family, we are to forgive because we are family.

2)    Joseph realized that God was in control of all events: (45:5, 7-8) Three times, Joseph mentioned that it was God who controlled the events, even that of his brothers’ scheme that brought him to Egypt. He believed that nothing happened to him was purely planned and executed by the evil of men. God was there even in the most vicious acts of evil men. God is above all human. He is in control of all things: good and evil. Nothing ever slips through His fingers.

3)    Joseph trusted that God could bring good from evil: (45:5, 7-8)  Joseph did not forget, I don’t believe anyone could, that he was sold to Egypt by his brothers. But he told them God turned that evil act into something beautiful: sending him there so the family, all the people, could be saved in the famine. Further more, God raised him to position of prominence to save the House of Jacob and the nation of Israel.  The spiritual ability to see God in control of events and His power to turn evil acts of man into glorious outcomes for God’s people may enable us to forgive. (Romans 8:28)

 

REAPING THE FRUITS OF FORGIVING:  (Please read Proverbs 19:11)

       Many cultures promote or glorify revenge instead of forgiving. Some ancient Chinese classics place the act of vengeance as duties of the good. But the Word of God takes an opposite stand on vengeance and forgiveness. Here are some of the reasons:

1)   The act of forgiving is a sign of wisdom and discretion:  To forgive is not a sign of being weak or dumb. To the contrary, it is an act of wisdom and choice of thorough deliberation and consideration. Many acts of vengeance are results of hasty anger and emotion. People who choose the path of wisdom tend to forgive instead. It doesn’t take much brain to inflict wounds on others in revenge. But it takes much more to control oneself to forgive.

2)   The act of forgiving crowns you with glory:  Joseph did not seek glory when he forgave his brothers. God crowned him with glory way before his decision to do so because of his good heart. God elevated him to position of great glory because of what was in him.  Through the thousands of years, this story of great forgiveness was repeated millions of times to unknown number of people brings much more than the glory he had in ancient Egypt. God made Joseph a supreme model on the greatness of forgiving.

3)   The act of forgiving brings you fruits of blessing:  No one could ever know how much blessing forgiveness may bring. Here are only a few obvious ones.

a)    Forgiving brings God’s forgiveness on you. (Luke 6:37)

b)    Forgiving brings back those who offended you. (Genesis 45:15)

c)    Forgiving brings peace in your heart. (Proverbs 3:2)

d)    Forgiving bears fruits that glorify God. (John 15:8)

e)    Forgiving brings blessings from God. (Job 42:10)

 

CONCLUSION:  It is inevitable that people offends each other in this world of chaos and sin. Often times we offend others even without knowing. Even to the most outrageous offences, we are to learn from Joseph how to find ways to forgive, even though you may never forget. This is one of the ways we show our lights in this world of darkness and vengeance. Especially at this time of Christmas, let us make extra efforts to forgive.