The Path of Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Act 1
Prior to Advent, we were studying the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. As you may recall, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and taken down to Egypt. While in Egypt he served as a slave in Potiphar’s house and was ultimately imprisoned on false charges. From the pit we find him lifted up to the pinnacle of power as the prime minister under the Pharaoh of Egypt. It was in his role under Pharaoh that the famine crisis erupted upon their world. By God’s grace, Joseph had prepared Egypt for the worse, and thus would be used by the Lord to preserve Israel.
The story of Joseph now changes to focus on Joseph’s brothers. In God’s providence, they will appear before Joseph without knowing his identity. He will use this opportunity to test his brothers to observe their character. Are they the same brothers who selfishly sold him to Egypt? Do they look out for their own interests or are they willing to sacrifice for each other? How do they treat their youngest brother Benjamin? God uses these events to expose the guilt of the brothers for what they did to Joseph and to change their relationships to each other.
James Boice notes that the Lord exposes the guilt of the brothers through the conscience. He writes, ‘The human conscience is a strange thing. Considering how evil men and women are, it is surprising that we have a conscience at all.’ Yet we do. Citing one of his resource books, Boice quotes:
“Since 1811 the U.S. government has been receiving anonymous sums of money as self-imposed fines for a variety of offenses, such as taking army blankets for souvenirs, deliberately failing to put the correct postage on a letter, or cheating on one’s income tax. A widow was looking over her late husband’s books and discovered that he had cheated the government out of fifty dollars the year before; she promptly mailed a check for that amount to the Treasury. These monies have been placed in a special account named the Federal Conscience Fund, which now totals over three million dollars.” (Joseph Flynn: God’s Man in Egypt, 93)
George Washington called conscience ‘that little sparkle of celestial fire.’ Lord Byron, who needed but seemed to profit little from his conscience, called it ‘the oracle of God.’
But here is the problem noted Boice. ‘It is true that we have something called conscience that sometimes makes us feel guilty for past wrongdoings. But conscience is often far from overwhelming in its effects, and it is tragically possible for us to kill it or at least to put it very soundly to sleep.’
One man who was obviously struggling to put conscience to rest wrote to the government, saying, ‘I have cheated on my income tax. I can’t sleep. Here is a check for seventy-five dollars. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the balance.’
The conscience can be a dangerous guide, as we’ve seen. There is only one way in which conscience can be a sure guide to right conduct, and that is when the light of God’s Word is shining on it. Boice declares,
“When the light of God shines on the sundial of your conscience, you get the right time. But apart from that the conscience is like a trained circus dog. You whistle once, and it will stand up. You whistle twice, and it will roll over. The third time it will play dead.”
In Genesis 42 we come to this matter of the conscience. With a series of tests, through Joseph, the Lord puts the conscience of the brothers to the light. In this and the next several messages we are going to see how God shines upon a darkened conscience, stirs it, and brings repentance. In this account, we will see the path of forgiveness and reconciliation. Don’t miss this section of the story.
For His Glory,
** ATTENTION **
Join us this SUNDAY AFTERNOON, JAN 8, @ 4:00 here – at the CIVIC CENTER – for our celebration service as Redeemer becomes a particular church, our officers are ordained, and our pastor is installed. Bring your family and friends and let’s celebrate what God is doing in our community.