Summary: Notice God’s gracious methods of awakening the conscience of Joseph’s brothers.
“When Life Is the Pits”
A Study of the Life of Joseph
Sermon # 6
“Dealing With A Seared Conscience”
Are there things that happened in the past that the mere mention of creates a new sense of pain in your life? Are these things in your past unconfessed, undealt with sin that with the proper trigger can flood your conscience with a sense of guilt? Notice with me this morning God’s gracious methods of awakening the conscience of Joseph’s brothers. It may seem at first that Joseph is playing mind games with his brothers, but he is not. He is trying to get them to face themselves and put away this treacherous trait they have.
I. Sometimes To Reach A Seared Conscience We Must Be Put In A Position Of Extreme Need. 42:1-5
[These principles are set forth by James Montgomery Boice. Genesis: An Expositional Commentary Vol. 3, Gen. 37:1-50:26, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987) pp. 113-136]
“When Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, Jacob said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” (2) And he said, “Indeed I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down to that place and buy for us there, that we may live and not die.”(3) So Joseph’s ten brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. (4) But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, “Lest some calamity befall him.” (5) And the sons of Israel went to buy grain among those who journeyed, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.”
Joseph’s brothers were reluctant to even think about Egypt, because it caused them to think about their past sin. Over the course of the years they had lulled their consciences to sleep. But now God put them in a position in which they had to face the very place that troubled their guilty consciences.
The “seven years of great abundance” have come and gone in Egypt and the “seven years of famine” have hit full force. This famine, which had been predicted in Pharaoh’s dreams, created an international disaster, for the famine, had not only affected Egypt but also the surrounding regions. People from the surrounding regions heard that Egypt alone had provisions enough to survive the famine that was ravaging all of that part of the world.
Their father seems to see something strange in the way that they are behaving, for he says, “When Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, Jacob said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” Even he seems to be some significance in the way that they kept looking at one another. The fact that they kept looking guiltily at each other instead of taking decisive steps when they heard that their was grain available in Egypt shows that still were struggling with a sin that is over two decades old. Joseph’s brothers are forced to consider traveling down to Egypt for food. With the famine God gets their attention. God provokes a crisis in their lives.
Sometimes God has to bring the pinch of material want into our lives to cause us to reevaluate our condition and cause us to confess our unconfessed sin. Jesus told a story young man who had to be put through just such a circumstance in the story of the Prodigal Son. It was only after the son found himself in very deprived circumstances that he came to his senses and returned home.
II. Sometimes To Reach A Seared Conscience We Must Be Put Through The Pain Of Harsh Treatment 42:6-16
“Now Joseph was governor over the land; and it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the earth. (7) Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he acted as a stranger to them and spoke roughly to them. Then he said to them, “Where do you come from?” And they said, “From the land of Canaan to buy food.” (8) So Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.”
On day Joseph looked up and who should arrive to buy provisions but his brothers, who had thrown him into the pit to starve, while they ate their lunch, oblivious to his cries for help. Can you imagine the thoughts that would go through your mind if you were in Joseph’s position.
Ten of Joseph’s brothers arrived in Egypt along with many hundreds of others to buy grain from Joseph. Without even realizing they were fulfilling the prophecy of Joseph’s two dreams of years before (37: 6-11) they bowed low before him, in expression due one of such a high office.
When the brothers came into Joseph’s presence they did not recognize him. After all, he was only seventeen when they last saw him and now he is nearly forty. There is also a deliberate play–on-words in the original Hebrew here, some translations put this way, “they were recognized but he made himself unrecognizable (disguised himself).” All they saw was an Egyptian governor named Zaphnath-paaneah (zaf’-nath-pa’-ne’ah) and Joseph acted as a stranger and spoke harshly to them through and interpreter.