Compensating Grace

“And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.” Gen. 41:51

Preachers frequently talk about the happy themes of “electing grace”, “redeeming grace”, and “preserving grace”, but it would be none less Biblical to emphasize the principle of “compensating grace”. Scripture teaches the principle that God frequently compensates His faithful servants in the great losses they incur in life.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb “to compensate” like this: To counterbalance or make up for; to neutralize, requite or remunerate for loss or damage. There is arguably no clearer illustration of this principle of compensating grace than the story of Joseph. Joseph suffered great losses, but God gave him grace to compensate for his losses.

The life of Joseph is poetically summarized in Genesis 49:23-24: “The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.” The rich imagery of this passage indicates that the story of Joseph is the narrative of a man weakened and assaulted by the enemy but strengthened and supported by God. 

The archers grieved him. The arrows aimed at his life brought him great pain and anguish. First, he was targeted by the arrow of rejection and mistreatment (Gen. 37:3-4). His brothers hated him without a cause, conspired to kill him, and put him in a pit. Next, he experienced the arrow of loneliness and change (Gen. 37:25ff). When his brothers sold him to a traveling caravan of Ishmaelite traders, this teenager was forcibly removed from his home and cut off from every familiarity. It wasn’t long before Joseph encountered yet another assault on his life – the arrow of temptation (Gen. 39:7-12). Targeted by a seductress, Joseph determined to live by moral conviction instead of emotional impulse and resisted her advances. The scorned woman, however, turned the tables on him and took from the quiver yet another arrow – the arrow of false accusation (Gen. 39:13ff). Convicted of a crime he did not commit, Joseph suffered a still further blow in prison when the butler failed to remember his kindness and Joseph felt the sting of the arrow of isolation and abandonment.

Joseph suffered a sequence of great and significant losses – the loss of personal security, the loss of the sense that he was loved, the loss of family fellowship, the loss of domestic familiarity, the loss of honor and reputation as a young man of virtue and integrity… Indeed, the archers sorely grieved him.

But that is only one-half of the story. In spite of these many losses and setbacks, God gave Joseph grace to compensate for what he had lost. First, Joseph experienced God’s Compensating Presence. Three times in Genesis 39 we read the happy refrain, “But the Lord was with Joseph”. When creature-helps failed him, the Lord faithfully stood by his side.

Then, one day, God gave him a Compensating Blessing. The birth of his firstborn son marked a turning point in Joseph’s life. I can almost hear him breathe the kind of sigh that says “It’s o.k. now” when Manasseh is born and Joseph says, “God has caused me to forget all my toil.” One glimpse at that little fellow and Joseph realized that all of the pains and heartaches of the past were just that – past…forgotten…over and done. He would not live henceforth in the kind of incessant inner turmoil of lost love, disappointed dreams, and painful perplexity that had so long dominated his thoughts. It was o.k. now. A new chapter of his story had opened. God had caused him to forget about the archers.

Have you learned to recognize God’s compensating grace? Whatever you have lost—a job, a loved one, an opportunity, a relationship, some prized possession or object of importance to you—God is faithful to counterbalance the loss with other, equally satisfying (and equally undeserved) blessings. His mercies are new every day. May God help you to notice your Manasseh and to contentedly acknowledge, “It’s o.k. now…I can move forward because of His compensating grace.”

– Michael Gowens