The Path of Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Act 2
The men who had callously imprisoned Joseph in the empty water cistern in the desert now find themselves in prison. During these few days their thoughts troubled them deeply. Their father thought Joseph was dead. He had kept Benjamin at home and let the other ten sons go to Egypt. What would Jacob do if only one were to return and demand to take Benjamin away so that he ran the risk of losing all twelve? Jacob would never let Benjamin go under such perilous circumstances. And if he didn’t, the future of the nine men left in Egypt in prison was an unthinkable nightmare. Throughout history espionage has been regarded as a traitorous offense often punished with torture and death. These men were in deadly trouble.
Joseph had been through the fire of testing himself: “The word of the Lord tested him” (Ps. 105:19). He was applying pressure to these men, to test them to see if their words were true. At this point Joseph put his brothers to the test by afflicting them with what they had done to him. They had oppressed him; now he oppressed them. They had accused him of spying; now he accused them. They had thrown him into the pit; now he tossed them into prison. And most of all, he called them to bring forth their youngest brother, the favorite of their father who now occupied the place in their father’s heart that had once been his.
Yet there was still more probing that he had to do – a further test. He let them stew for three days, a very short time compared with the years Joseph himself had spent in a prison because of their hatred of him. He then had them brought out, and he made a conciliatory gesture. In a generous move, he ordered only one brother to be kept hostage, while the remaining nine could return with food and fetch the youngest.
Their consciences had been active over the preceding days, and they started to talk among themselves in their own language, unaware that Joseph could understand every word (42:21-23).
Under the pressure of the situation, their long-buried guilt broke the surface, and they admitted it openly among themselves as they recalled Joseph’s distress when he had begged them to free him from the cistern years before.
Circumstances can force guilt to the surface in any of us. We know that Joseph’s actions do that in his brothers, but one cannot help thinking that there are times when God does the same thing to us. In his providential care, he so arranges our circumstances that we are forced to face things we have suppressed or tried to forget that we need to deal with in order to grow as believers both morally and spiritually. Looking back over life, can you think of instances when you were brought to face and deal with guilt through circumstances for which you now thank God?
As we gather this Lord’s Day to look at this portion of the story of Joseph, I pray that the Lord is working in your life, especially spiritually.
I cannot see your heart, and therefore, I do not know what it conceals. I do not know whether you are hiding unconfessed sin. I do not know whether God is working through the pinch of want, the pain of harsh treatment, the press of solitude, or the circumstantial proof of his presence to bring some sin to light and lead you to a saving repentance.
But I do know this. If God is working, there will be confession. Sin will be repudiated. You will be growing in an honest life marked by the highest commitment to truth. And you will be thinking of and working for other people and their happiness rather than your own.
Why? Because Jesus is like that, and this is what Jesus did for you. He did not come to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his life for many. Praying for you as the Lord is doing His work.
This Sunday we have the wonderful privilege of hearing two of our little ones confess their faith to the Lord. Please Keep Major Thomas and Karis Butts in prayer as they commit their lives to becoming faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God!