Do you hold on to feelings of bitterness when someone hurts you? Much of the ten years that I practiced law was spent advocating for people who had been wronged. When someone breaks a promise, or harms us, we have an innate desire to seek justice—to seek what we deserve. Indeed, our whole system of civil law is built upon this premise. Justice is a good and noble goal, but when we are wronged, we often confuse it with another that we think will provide more catharsis: revenge.
Joseph’s life was marked by injustice. Though highly esteemed by his father, he was sold by his brothers for pieces of silver, left for dead in a pit, and imprisoned despite being innocent. Sitting in his cell, alone and seemingly forgotten, it is easy to picture him going over every wrong he had suffered to bring him there. “If only I could get power,” we can envision him thinking, “then I will get even.”
And, of course, Joseph did get power, He was raised out of his lowly station to sit at the right hand of the most powerful man in Egypt. However, when he did use that power, it was not to avenge those who wronged him, but to save them from certain death. Though his brothers feared Joseph’s reprisals, he reassured them in Genesis 50:20, “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
In Jesus, we see the man who suffered the greatest injustice in all of history. Despised by His kinsmen, betrayed for silver, accused though blameless, and crucified in shame—Jesus’ suffering exceeded even that of Joseph. But, as with Joseph, the evils intended by man against the Messiah were used by God for a much greater purpose: the power of salvation for many. God meant the evil against Jesus for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive—for eternity!
Jesus did not seek what He deserved, nor did He punish those who wronged Him. Rather, He suffered and died so that, by God’s love, we might not get what we deserve. So let us live every day in freedom from reprisals (both against us and by us), rejoicing in response to Jesus, the true and better Joseph!
“But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.” (Acts 3:18-19)