16 So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.” ‘ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him (Genesis 50:16–17, NKJV).
There are few more poignant scenes of merciful forgiveness in the Bible than Joseph toward his brothers. They had hated and envied him (Gen. 37:3-11). Some of them wanted to kill him before agreeing to sell him to traders (who sold him into slavery in Egypt). Then, they lied about his death to their father and silently watched him grieve (Gen. 37:12-36). Now their father was dead, and they feared retribution (Gen. 50:15). In contrition, they fell before Joseph, entirely at his mercy (Gen. 50:18). Joseph forgave their sins against him with humble faith in God (Gen. 50:19-20). Instead of responding with bitter, resentful retaliation, Joseph comforted their fears with kindness and promised to provide for them and their children (Gen. 50:21). Oh, that we may forgive others this way! Surely, in Christ, this is how God forgives our sins against Him (Luke 15:17-24; Eph. 2:4-7; 4:31-32). Remember, God will not forgive us if we do not forgive each other from the heart (Matt. 18:35; 6:14-15).
9 And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him and delivered him out of all his troubles, 10 and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. (Acts 7:9–10, NKJV)
The providence of God unfolds before our eyes in the life of Joseph (Gen. 37-50). God did not create the world and then lay it up in a display case to watch what would happen next. While God has undoubtedly intervened in the affairs of this world with miracles by suspending natural processes and occurrences, He has also arranged His world in such a way that He operates in it through the course of natural events. The life of Joseph is an example of God’s providence. God was actively involved in Joseph’s life through its day to day events. In today’s passage, Stephen said God was with Joseph and delivered him, gave him favor and wisdom, and made him governor over Egypt and Pharaoh’s house. These verbs (delivered, gave, made) show God was at work, not against the free will of men and women, but through their choices and actions. God used the envy of Joseph’s brother to bring about good (Gen. 50:20). He used natural, cyclical seasons of bounty and famine to execute His plan to elevate Joseph and to save Israel. Even now, God hears and answers the prayers of the righteous, not by injecting miracles into the natural world, but by carrying out His purposes through the operation of the world according to His design and sovereign care (Jas. 5:16-18; 1:17).
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:22–23, NKJV)
Without quoting a specific prophetic reference, Matthew summarized the lowly estate of the Christ by telling of Joseph moving his family to Nazareth (Matt. 2:13-21). The prophets foretold the Messiah would be lowly, despised, and rejected by men (Isa. 53:3-6; Zech. 9:9-10). To be called a “Nazarene” meant more than someone was “from Nazareth.” It was a derogatory label of bias drawn from this insignificant town on the northern outskirts of the nation. (Only those of no consequence (like a carpenter) ever came from Nazareth.) Nathaniel expressed the prevailing contempt toward Nazarenes when Philip told him of finding the one of whom Moses and the prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” was his retort (Jno. 1:45-46). Prejudice is an ugly thing, and in this case, it led some to reject the Son of God, by using His upbringing in Galilee as proof Jesus was not the Christ (Jno. 7:41-43). Yes, Jesus was “hated without a cause” (Jno. 15:24-25). We must never be driven by prejudice toward anyone, including Jesus. Instead, we should follow the advice Philip gave Nathaniel to “come and see” that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ (Jno. 1:46).