Having Compassion


Path of Integrity” Week 6

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – October 28, 2012

I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. {5} “But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (GEN 45:4-5)

  1. Judah’s Plea
    1. Judah can represent love to the Lord. He can also represent the opposite loves of self and the world.
    2. Judah has inherited the role of first-born son in Jacob’s family.
      1. Leah produced the first 4 sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and then Judah.
      2. But, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi all committed serious offences against their father and had been disinherited, leaving Judah as the official firstborn, and the son who was in line to inherit all of Jacob’s wealth.
        1. It was oldest take all, no even division among the children.
      3. However, Jacob made no secret that he preferred his wife Rachel and showed Rachel’s oldest son, Joseph, preferential treatment.
        1. Judah had reason to believe that he might be pushed aside and the full rights of the firstborn be given to Joseph.
        2. He had good reason to hate Joseph because Joseph was the one son that stood between him and great wealth and power. It didn’t help that Joseph dreamed that Judah would someday bow down to him, and that he was sent by Jacob to spy on the rest of them as they went about their business. All the sons of Leah (and the handmaidens) wanted Joseph dead – but it was Judah who came up with the plan that not only got rid of him but generated some cash – sell him into slavery.
        3. The picture of Judah in the letter of the Word at the start of the Joseph story is of a very hard, murderous, selfish man.
    3. Now compare that man to the Judah that is revealed when confronted by Joseph during the second trip to Egypt.
      1. At a time when Jacob is dithering about going back to Egypt and putting his family at risk by waiting too long to buy food, Judah forces him to act for the good of all.
      2. When the question of Benjamin’s safety comes up, Judah gives his word that he will take care of his brother (even though Benjamin, as Rachel’s oldest son, is likely to get the inheritance of the first born)
      3. He says to his father Jacob, “I myself will be surety for him; from my hand you shall require him” (Gen 43:9). Judah is now a man who steps up and takes responsibility when courageous action is required.
      4. But while in Egypt, Joseph’s trap is sprung. Joseph’s cup is found in Benjamin’s sack. Joseph announces that his punishment is to remain in Egypt, a slave. The character of the man Judah has become emerges: Judah gently suggests that it is Joseph’s fault that Benjamin is on the trip at all and that losing Benjamin will kill Jacob. Then he says,
        1. For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father forever.’ {33} “Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. {34} “For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?” (Gen 44:32-34)
        2. Judah is now offering to give his own life to save Benjamin from slavery, and thus his father’s life.
  2. At this point Joseph is moved with compassion and reveals himself.
    1. {4} And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. {5} “But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
      1. He forgives them.
    2. We want the Lord to forgive us, and He tells us how we can earn His forgiveness.
      1. In the Lord’s Prayer, “and forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.”
      2. In the responsive which commonly follows, “O Lord, forgive us our trespasses. As we forgive those who trespass against us.”
      3. We earn the Lord’s forgiveness by being willing to be forgiving of those who have cause us harm.
      4. Be willing to ask for forgiveness from others – which implies a willingness to recognize that we have ourselves done things that hurt others.
    3. However, a person cannot be forgiven while they remain in the active state of whatever it is that is causing harm.
      1. JOH 5: The paralysed man by the pool of Bethesda. He had been waiting beside the pool in the hopes of being the first to get into the water for 38 years. Jesus saw him there and asked him if he wanted to be made well. He said that he did, so Jesus said, “Take up your bed and walk.” And he did!
      2. What got the attention of the chief priests was not that Jesus had healed a man that had been ill for 38 years, they were upset that He did it on the Sabbath.
        1. (John 5:10-14) The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” {11} He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’” {12} Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” {13} But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place.
      3. What’s interesting in this context is what happened next. Jesus was always tying the healing of natural diseases to the healing of spiritual ills.
        1. {14} Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”
      4. He was being warned that having been forgiven, he had better not go back to the old ways or the spiritual sickness would return with even greater power.
      5. Recall the lesson about the woman caught in adultery. The people wanted to stone her, but Jesus wanted to forgive her. But His final words to her are key: “Go and sin no more” (JOH 8:11)
  3. If you want forgiveness, you have to STOP what it is that you are doing wrong, and be willing to forgive others.
    1. We want others to assume the best of us, should we not also then make the effort to assume good motives in others? At least until proven wrong.
    2. And this leads us full circle to the topic for this week, having compassion.
    3. Joseph was in the position to punish his brothers for the wicked things that they did to him.
      1. But, he was able to see from Judah’s plea (and other elements of the story) that these were not the same men who had wished him harm those many years ago.
      2. He was able to see the big picture, see how what had seemed to be a terrible tragedy had actually played out in such a way that it saved thousands of people’s lives, including his own family.
      3. And, he was able to see that the disorders of the past were no longer active with them, and so all the elements were in place for him to be forgiving:
        1. His brothers were in a state of order, and
        2. He was stepping back from the situation and trying to see things as if through the Lord’s eyes instead of hanging on to his own anger. When we try to see things as if through the Lord’s eyes, rather than our own, we are able to feel compassion and forgiveness.
    4. And we feel blessed, we feel a sense of happiness and order that comes when we put ourselves in the stream of providence and let the Lord lead our lives.
      1. Next week, in our 7th and final sermon in this series, we’ll talk about these blessings that come to us from surprising sources. Amen.



First Lesson:

(John 8:3-11) Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, {4} they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. {5} “Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” {6} This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. {7} So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” {8} And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. {9} Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. {10} When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” {11} She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

Second Lesson: AC (Elliott) n. 5867

The previous chapter dealt with the internal man, which is ‘Joseph’ – with the initial steps taken by the internal man to become joined to the external natural man, which is ‘Jacob’s ten sons’, through the intermediary, which is ‘Benjamin’. The present chapter too deals with the internal man – with the actual joining of it to the external natural man. But since the two are not joined together except through spiritual good from the natural, which is ‘Israel’, the internal man prepares to link this good to itself first.


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