Big thank you to Stuart for this week’s notes. Most of our challenges are very different from those of Joseph but as we have seen, the lessons we have been learning form his life speak right into our lives.
It has been twenty years since the brothers sold Joseph in to slavery but the memory is still only just below the surface and they carry the guilt:
“They said to one another, ‘Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.’ Reuben replied, ‘Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.’ (Genesis 42:21-22)
Their consciences has been pricked, but then a conscience is a gift of God, as Paul wrote to the Romans, it both convicts us of sin and help steer us away from sin:
“They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” (Romans 2:15)
Later in the letter (Chapter 8:1-4) Paul tells us that Jesus was our sin offering and so as our conscience convicts us of sin and we put our trust in him then there is no longer any condemnation if we are in Christ, which therefore removes our sense of guilt:
“let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)
So we do not carry guilt in to our saved lives as the Lord Jesus has taken our sin and it’s punishment on our behalf. But then how does that square with Paul’s description of himself in 1 Corinthians 15?
“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” (1 Corinthians 15:9-11)
Although Paul carried the memory of his persecution of the church he focuses here on the grace of God – I am what I am (i.e. I’m saved) by the grace of God. However, the memory of his former life stays with him from which he remains humble and focuses on the gracious transformation God has brought to his life.
Joseph’s brothers at this stage carry a guilty conscience, but they do so before a brother who has the love of God in his heart and so he will show them grace and mercy (the full extent of which they have to wait until Jacob’s death to realise) and so they will know what forgiveness is, but they will also carry the memory which will enable them to appreciate the kindness shown to them.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)