“And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19)
The background of Genesis 50:15-21 is that Jacob, the father of twelve sons, later called Israel, made up of twelve tribes from these twelve sons, had died in the land of Egypt. Jacob, or Israel, and eleven of his sons and families had migrated to Egypt because of a great famine in the land of Judah. Previous to this event, Jacob’s other son, Joseph, was sold into a traveling band of slave traders by his brethren because of jealousy.
These traders had sold Joseph to Potiphar, the Captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Joseph’s lot grew worse and he was finally placed in the king’s prison; here he spent 13 years of his life. But as God’s plan for Joseph was manifested, he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream of a soon-coming famine. Joseph’s interpretation and plan of action placed him next to the Pharaoh in position and power.
By all rights of human reasoning, Joseph should have hated his eleven brothers for their actions – selling him into slavery at the age of 17; spending the next 13 years of his life in a miserable prison for having done nothing wrong, but only for being his father’s favorite son. They meant to kill Joseph because of their jealousy. But because of God’s plan to “save much people alive,” the brothers sold him into slavery instead of killing him. Instead of the destruction of Joseph, he was elevated to a position of honor in the land of Egypt. He came up with a plan to store up seven years of plenty for the coming famine. Because of the famine, Jacob and his eleven sons, daughters, and families came to Egypt to live through the famine that was over all the land, even in Canaan land.
Jacob died after being in Egypt 17 years. After Jacob’s death, Joseph’s eleven brothers were afraid now that Daddy was dead, Joseph would punish them for the evil they had done to him. So they sent a messenger (verses 16-17) asking for forgiveness for their evil deed toward Joseph.
Joseph wept when he was told of their request and he made a profound statement. His statement revealed his knowledge of God and it revealed the condition of his heart of forgiveness to his eleven brethren, even though they meant evil against him. Joseph said (verse 19b), “Fear not: for am I in the place of God?”
First, he said, “Fear not” – you don’t have to fear me; for I will do thee no harm. This is the mind of Christ; for Christ said on the cross of His enemies, (Luke 23:34b), “…Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…” Not only did they not know the depth of their sin and its consequences to the Nation of Israel, but neither did they know that they were carrying out the Secret Will of God (Acts 2:23):
“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”
However, even though the Secret Will of God was carried out, Acts 2:23b reveals the motive behind those who had Jesus crucified by the Roman Government, “, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” And yet Jesus said, “…Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34b).
So it was with Joseph’s eleven brothers in their evil heart to kill Joseph because of their jealousy. Joseph said, “Fear not” – you don’t have to fear me, “for am I in the place of God?” Now as to what God will do to you, I know not – but as for me, “Fear not.” “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:20). And he continued in verse 21, “Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he (Joseph) comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.”
Christian, you that have been mistreated, lied about, left for dead, cast into adversity because of others. What saith thee to your enemies? What condition is your heart in because of the evil done against you? Is it as Joseph’s heart was “fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones… he comforted them…spake kindly unto them”? Will you speak as Christ and say “Father, forgive them”?
The answer should be: Yes, I have the mind of Christ. Yes, I will love my enemies; I will bless them that curse me; I will do good to them that hate me. And I will pray for them which have despitefully used me and have persecuted me. (See Matthew 5:44.) Yes, I will avenge not myself, “…but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19). But rather, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21). Yes, I will say what Stephen said as he was being stoned to death (Acts 7:60), “…Lord, lay not this sin to their charge…”
But you may ask, “How could Joseph, Jesus, and Stephen say this to their enemies?” The answer is because they saw past their enemy’s evil motives to God’s good. We must do as they did and look beyond our enemy’s motives to see God’s good for us and others, even for His own glory. Joseph was exalted and saved his family in the famine; Jesus was raised and exalted and saved His Family; and Stephen was written down in the Holy Writ to show others the mind of Christ in the face of persecution and tribulation, even unto death.
Where is your mind today in the face of trial and tribulation caused by your enemy? I encourage you to read the stories of Joseph and Jesus and pattern your mind after the heart of God, which is Love, which issues in forgiveness.