|Vol. 16 No. 4 April 2014||
How many times have we asked this question when some adversity has come knocking on our door and entered to our utter dismay? How many times has someone asked us this question?
Joseph of old certainly could have been asking himself or somebody this question. It all started with family favoritism. The Bible tells us that Joseph was hated by his older brothers because their father Jacob favored him over them. Genesis 37:3-4 says, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.”
His brothers’ utter contempt for him served as fertile ground for what they did. On one occasion Jacob sent Joseph to look for his brothers. Away from the protection of his father, Joseph’s brothers took full advantage of this unhealthy family atmosphere and how they felt about him. When they saw him coming, they conspired to kill him.
Reuben talked them down from this murderous plot with the intention of delivering Joseph out of their hands and returning him to his father (Genesis 38:21-22). Judah also agreed that Joseph should not be killed, but suggested that he be sold for profit (Genesis 38:25-28). Speaking of his ordeal, Psalm 105:17-18 records, “He [God] sent a man before them – Joseph – who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters, he was laid in irons.”
Their actions are reminiscent of what happened to Jesus following His arrest. Matthew 27:18 says, “For he [Pilate] knew that because of envy they had delivered Him.” Joseph’s brothers stripped him of his tunic and threw him into a pit. A slight parallel is also seen between Joseph and Jesus after Joseph was thrown into the pit. Genesis 37:25 reads, “And they [Joseph’s brothers] sat down to eat a meal.” Matthew 27:36 reads, “Sitting down, they [the soldiers] kept watch over Him there.” The indifferent and callous behavior demonstrated in both accounts speaks volumes!
What the brothers had sown they began to reap in ways they could not have possibly imagined! They had no way of knowing that God had used their act of vengeance to bring Joseph to a position of prestige and power. They had stood before Joseph asking for food because of the great famine in the land of Egypt and Canaan, not knowing who he was! Joseph had accused them of being spies and put them all in prison for three days.
Genesis 42:21-22 records their recognition of guilt for what had happened to them. “Then they said to one another, ‘We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.' And Reuben answered them saying, ‘Did I not speak to you, saying, Do not sin against the boy; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us.'” We need to understand that we can be sure our sins will find us out (Numbers 32:23)!
As this drama drew to a close in Genesis 50, Jacob was dead and Joseph was still in power. His brothers were now afraid that he would take vengeance on them for what they had done to him as a young man. Joseph’s growth and maturity was evident as he had been perfected through his experience. His faith had been tested. He certainly had appreciated how God had blessed him. He had learned to comfort others. He had learned to trust God. In Genesis 50:20-21 one reads, “Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”
In this account one of the many messages from God is a life lived in faith and obedience does not equal being exempt from sufferings, fiery trials, and afflictions! Most of us do not have a problem appreciating the outcome of Joseph’s horrifying ordeal. Our problem is accepting what happened to him in between being sold at the age of 17 and coming to power at the age of 30. His faith was tested to the zenith those 13 years in between! It’s the in between where we must ensure that we deal with others as Joseph did. First Peter 4:12-13 puts it like this: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” Joseph was able to endure through his obedient, submissive and trusting faith in his God!
Furthermore, God allowed His Son to suffer. He had no sin, and no guile was found in His mouth. “Though He was a Son, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). Notice the verse says our Lord learned obedience by the things which He suffered, not the things He enjoyed. We as heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ will learn obedience in exactly the same way. God’s purpose always is to prepare us for heaven!
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Nothing is more heartwarming than seeing a father fold a small child in his arms to protect him from harm and danger or to keep him from doing wrong. It is easy to see that the Father wants his child to be the best he can be and wants him never to be harmed in any way. In 1 John 2:1, we see this same analogy used for God’s spiritual children. By this, we feel assured that our Father in Heaven loves us very much. His focus is for us to be clean, pure and without sin. We are His children taken into His bosom for assurance of His love and concern for our eternal souls. The apostle Paul stated the same thing another way: “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
“I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake” (1 John 2:12). Verse 12 informs us that God’s children are forgiven. They have their sins washed away and stand clean before Him. They have made a covenant with the Father. If there were no forgiveness with God, there would be nothing but damnation for all of us. “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psalm 130:3-4). “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Notice the second part of verse twelve is very clear about why they are forgiven. “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” On Judgment Day, we will be happy to confess that Jesus is Lord! King David prayed, “For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great” (Psalm 25:11). Another time David stated, “Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known” (Psalm 106:8). Paul told the Ephesians, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
First John 2:13 reads, “Children, your sins are forgiven you and ye have known the Father.” What a beautiful picture of the family of God! Christ’s words bear the same message. “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
The context of 1 John 2:12 is in an immediate context of children, young men and fathers.
I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. (1 John 2:12-14)
The children have not grown to the point where they are strong enough to do what the young men are able to do – overcome the wicked one (stated twice). The fathers are further developed in that they know the Father or the Son (repeated). The children are undoubtedly thankful to have their sins forgiven so that there is no barrier between them and the Father. The Father will work with His faithful children if they are walking in the light.
The hope of all men is that there is forgiveness with God (Psalm 130:3-4). Our sins would otherwise hide His face from us that He would not hear us (Isaiah 59:1-2). He further notes in Psalms 130:4 that God’s willingness to forgive makes it possible for men to fear him. The fear of the Lord is to depart from evil (Proverbs 3:7; 16:6, 17). If there were no forgiveness, what hope would any man have? What could righteous men do if their foundations were destroyed (Psalm 11:3)? Man cannot create himself or his world. Without God and without His law nothing could exist. In the same manner, if God did not forgive sins, what could the righteous do? One sin destroyed Paul’s spiritual life (Romans 7:7-9). He was dead in his sin (Colossians 2:13). Unless there is forgiveness, there could be no life, no hope (Ephesians 2:12-13). With no spiritual life, what could Paul do?
Surely the children of whom the apostle John wrote in 1 John 2:12 had hope because their sins were forgiven. If sins were not forgiven, there would be no spiritual life, no eternity and no church. Over what would Christ be head if there were no forgiveness? Over what would Jesus be king if there were no forgiveness? The children’s sins are forgiven for Christ’s name’s sake.