“Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19)
Joseph’s brothers had cruelly rejected him and sold him into slavery. Now, in the days following their reconciliation, and even though he has shown them great kindness, they fear that he might turn on them. Here you and I see ourselves when guilty consciences drive us. No matter how kindly someone treats the sinner, the sinner always watches his back.
So the brothers come to Joseph, asking for him to affirm his forgiveness again. He responds, “Am I in the place of God?” It’s an interesting response. Both condemnation and forgiveness presume a certain authority over the person being condemned or forgiven. Joseph seems to demur in the face of either option, refusing be either Judge or Savior. He simply resumes his love for them as their brother. Thus he affirms (in a brilliant way!) that their sin is so long forgotten, it doesn’t even merit forgiveness!
It’s a crucifixion, of sorts. Joseph dies to all his rights, and thus bestows great privileges and blessings upon his family—he even frees them to enjoy those gifts with neither guilt nor resentment. Our Lord did the same when He carried His forgiveness to the cross and grave and then back to us again. He let Himself be crucified, turned powerless and inferior, to affirm that He’d rather die than raise even a pinky finger against a sinner. His forgiveness comes freely, to set you free.
LET US PRAY: O God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: You willingly bore the shame and lowliness of our sin so that we might bear the glory of Your kindness and love. Grant that this glory would crown and adorn us all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Pastor Steven K. Gjerde