The reunion of Joseph, his brothers, and father was filled with emotion and tears. After more than 20 years of separation, Joseph finally saw the fulfillment of his dreams play out. When Jacob died, the brothers grew fearful that Joseph might seek retribution against them. It was speculative, but possible. They asked, Genesis 50:15 “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?”
They sent a message to Joseph from their father about forgiving them. We don’t know if Jacob actually said the words, but the brothers thought it might ease the tension and release them from their past sins. The message was this: “I ask you to forgive your brothers, the sins, and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.” When Joseph heard the words, the Bible says that he wept. His reply is captured in the annals of time; an imprint of truth that provides a landmark for all to follow: Genesis 50:19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
A harbor is a place where ships often settle before unloading. “To harbor” is to keep something protected. It could also mean to store things that should not be kept. Joseph did not harbor feelings of bitterness against his brothers even though they thought he might. Joseph did not hold back some suspicion or angst because he had forgiven them years prior. The revealing word came in the question, “…am I in the place of God?”
The church and everyone who considers themselves a follower of Jesus Christ, would do well to ask this question. When we keep things in our hearts; when we harbor ill feelings and bitterness, which turn into judgment, we are putting ourselves in the place of God. The fact is simple: We have no right to hold a grudge! Jesus forgave us and we must forgive, if we so desire heaven. There is no other way. To think that we can hold anger or wrongdoings against one another and still be saved is the worst form of self-deception. How tragic it will be when the Lord returns and we find out that we lost due to the things we held in our harbor!
I’m looking at my heart and I’m making sure that it is clean and pure. I am forgiven which is reason enough to forgive. My offering of forgiveness is not based upon the attitude or presentation of those who have wounded me. My forgiveness is based upon the suffering of the Cross. Are you in the place of God? Your harbor will answer that question.
Pastor Jeffrey Harpole