by Ken Weliever
The last chapter of Genesis records the death of the patriarch Jacob and his family’s procession from Egypt to Canaan for his burial. As they returned to Egypt, Joseph’s brothers were afraid. Now that their father was dead, would Joseph take revenge on them for selling him into slavery?
The brothers sent a messenger to Joseph to remind him of their father’s desire for Joseph to forgive them of their terrible wrong toward him. “His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants’” (Gen 50:18).
How would you react in such a situation? How do you suppose most people would react, especially if they were in a position of power? These men could be imprisoned by Joseph’s decree. They could even be executed if he so commanded.
But 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.” (Gen 50:19-21)
Joseph’s response provides a wonderful insight into his character and speaks volumes to us about how to deal with those who wrong us. Joseph wasn’t going to hold this over their heads for the rest of their lives. He didn’t blame God, nor was he going to seek revenge. It’s worth noting that Joseph didn’t deny he had been hurt. He didn’t sugarcoat the fact that his own brothers had intended evil against him. God’s providential care of Joseph did not eradicate the sin they had committed. But, Joseph was humble enough to ask, “Am I in the place of God?” That’s a great lesson for us to learn today. We need to be careful of not assuming God’s place.
It’s not our place to exact revenge on others for their wrongs.“Do not repay anyone evil for evil… Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’ says the Lord” (Rom 12:17-19). I once heard a fellow speak in a seriously threatening way about someone who’d wronged him, “I don’t get mad. I get even.” Charles Spurgeon correctly observed that “revenge, lust, ambition, pride, and self-will are often exalted as the gods of man’s idolatry.” When it comes to revenge, am I in the place of God?
In justifying a course of action or a decision that is at best questionable, and at its worst wrong, some folks say, “I think this is what God wants me to do.” Others say, “I know God wants me to be happy,” or “I feel like this is the will of God for me.” We would do well to remember the words of God recorded in Isaiah 55:8-9: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Our knowledge is finite, our perspective is limited, and our wisdom is easily flawed by worldly influences. Proverbs 3:5 admonishes, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Am I in the place of God?
Some religious leaders put themselves in the place of God by issuing edicts, making rules and enforcing regulations on others that God has not revealed or required. In some circles, men have even elevated themselves to a God-like position before their followers. Paul warned of this attitude when he condemned “the man of sin… who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thes 2:3-4).
Let’s not be guilty of presuming we know God’s mind beyond what He has revealed. Let’s never place ourselves in a position that supersedes, circumvents, or supplants God’s Word. Am I in the place of God? I most certainly am not, and neither are you.