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Trusting God When You’ve Been Hurt / Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 45:1-28

7And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8So it was not you who sent me here, but God.

Have you ever wished you could get back at someone who has treated you badly? You just want them to experience, if only for a moment, the frustration or pain that they’ve caused you. Revenge is never a good idea, is it? But sometimes it’s awfully satisfying.

A few years ago, a man had his laptop stolen. Fortunately, he had a program on his laptop that allowed him to access it remotely. To his surprise, he discovered that the thief had used the laptop to record a video of himself practicing various dance moves. And he was a horrible dancer.

So, he uploaded the dancing thief video to YouTube with the title “Don’t steal computers from people who know how to use computers.” The embarrassed thief returned the laptop and begged him to take the video down, but he refused. We all could come up with some creative ways to get revenge. But what if the injustice is much more severe? Shouldn’t the revenge be equally severe?

When we last saw Joseph, his jealous brothers had stripped off his ornamental robe, thrown him into a pit, then sold him into slavery. He ended up in Egypt, where he faced false accusations and years of imprisonment. But during these 13+ years in Egypt, Joseph chose to live as a godly man. He continually worked to honor God with his character and his actions. And God guided him to positions of ever greater power and prominence.

In our Bible passage today, we see that Joseph has become the governor over all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. This is the moment Joseph has been waiting for. A famine drives his desperate brothers to Egypt and because of Joseph’s wise management, the Egyptian government has stored up more than enough grain to feed the people. His conniving brothers are on his turf now. Here’s his chance to get his revenge. So why doesn’t he?

Because as Joseph looks back on his 13+ years in Egypt, he sees the redemptive power of God, how God used his suffering to fulfill a greater plan. Joseph looks back and sees that his story isn’t just about him; it’s about God’s power working through him to protect the nation of Egypt and to save his own family from starvation. And I hope that we can develop that same perspective on our lives, that same faith in a loving God who is always working to redeem our struggles, to heal our past and draw us into a relationship with Him.

Look at what Joseph says to his brothers in verses 5-8: And now, do not be distressed and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it wasn’t you who sent me here, but God.

Our job as spiritually forming Christians is to believe God when He promises to work both everything that happens in our lives and everything that happens in our souls for the good of people who love God and who surrender to however He wants to use them in this life (see Romans 8:28). That’s faith.

Did you hear that? Our job is to believe God. Can you do that when you’re surrounded by troubles? Through those long years of slavery and imprisonment, Joseph believed in God’s promises and surrendered himself to God’s will. And all those years later, he could look back and see how God had turned his troubles into triumphs.

Joseph looks back and sees the redemptive love of God, and that love compels him to offer forgiveness, reconciliation and salvation to those who tried to destroy him. In 1957, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached one of his most powerful sermons titled, Loving your enemies. As a leader of the civil rights movement, Dr. King had been harassed, threatened, and unjustly jailed. Yet his faith in Jesus Christ compelled him to return hatred with love and violence with peace. In this sermon, he preached, the strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil.

He wanted everyone to know that they had a more powerful choice than hate, and that is love. As he said, love has within it a redemptive power. That’s why Jesus says, Love your enemies. Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption.

Let that truth sink in for a moment: at the very root of love is the power of redemption. That can be seen clearly in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to reveal God’s character and purposes to us. He suffered injustice, imprisonment, torture and death in order to defeat the power of death, reconcile us to God and offer us eternal life. Joseph’s story is a foreshadowing of the faithful obedience and redemptive love of Jesus Christ.

In every way, Joseph is an image of God’s anointed one, through his suffering, a remnant of God’s people is preserved. Through his faithfulness, blessing goes out to all the nations. And he even forgives his brothers who tried to kill him.

Here’s a story about how the redemptive love of Jesus can heal the pains of the past in both the victim’s and the offenders live. A man had grown up with a stepmother who abused him physically and emotionally.

Sometimes in her anger, she would lock him outside in the yard all night. He would bang on the door, crying and begging to be let back in. No matter how bad the weather conditions outside, she never let him in. The next morning, she would deny him breakfast and rush him off to school.

Many years later, when the stepmother was dying and all her biological children had abandoned her, this man brought her to live in his own home. He took care of her with love and compassion until the day she died.

A friend said, “I can’t believe you did that for her after how she treated you. He said, I didn’t do it just for her. I also did it for myself. I reached a point where the burden of resentment was too heavy to carry around anymore. I couldn’t be free of the pain till I was free of the hatred. And anyway, I decided if I can’t love people who make loving difficult, how could I ever talk about love to anyone else? Isn’t that amazing? He decided if he can’t love people who make loving difficult, how could he ever talk about love to anyone else?

Jesus could preach to us about love because he knew how to love difficult people. Romans 5: 8 reads, But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Not because we earned it. Not because we deserved it. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The redemptive power and love of God reach their pinnacle in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we also know the redemptive power and love of God. We know our life story is not just about us; it is about God working through us, working all things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8: 28).

When you look back on your life, where do you see your “But God . . .” moments, those moments when God was working to redeem your toughest struggles by God’s power and love? And can you be a channel of God’s redemptive power and love for others? You can when you count on God to heal the past and transform the future, and to use your example as a testimony to God’s goodness.

Believe me, you can, if we focus on the cross and deep in our hearts, we are sure that the redemptive power of God’s love for us and for all who believe in Him and just like Calvin who was adopted as our brother will come to know, working all things for the good of all those love Him, who have been called to His purpose.