Summary: how Joseph’s brothers’ finally had to come to grips with their guilt
July 28, 2002 Genesis 42:21-24
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 upon 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.” They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter. He turned away from them and began to weep, but then turned back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
When you leave church this morning, I want you to look at the front lawn of the church. There are two kinds of grass there, bermuda and fescue. One kind is green, and the other is brown. When we go through dry streak like we have been going through, the fescue goes dormant while the bermuda stays green and plush. It looks pretty right now, but it tends to turn brown earlier in the fall and green up later in the spring. Although the fescue doesn’t look as pretty right now, we had intended only fescue to be planted. The bermuda started as a very small patch, and several members tried to get rid of it several years ago. But much to their chagrin, it came back. Since it is a vine-like kind of a grass, it spreads and takes over not only other grass but also weeds as well. So it is starting to cover our whole front yard. There’s not much we can do about it, so I guess we’re just going to let it go. It reminds me of a clover like weed that came up in my yard when I was back in Norton. No matter how much I tried to keep it out of my yard, it just kept on popping up.
Like a weed in our hearts, guilt does the same thing to you and me, popping up at different times and places. Your face turns red when an old friend reminds you of how drunk you got in high school once. Your eyes close and you shake your head when you happen to think about how you lost your cool with your daughter once and yelled at her when you really shouldn’t have. You hang your head and kick at the floor when you come face to face with the fact that you didn’t respect your parents last night by talking back to them. Like a weed in a yard, we have a hard time dealing with all of this guilt. But what do we do?
In God’s Word this morning, Joseph’s brothers also had guilt. Twenty years had gone by since they had sold their own brother into slavery for twenty shekels of silver. But what could they do? That’s the question we’re going to answer today -
How Do I Deal With Guilt?
I. Man’s way
Twenty years is a long time. In the last twenty years, many of us have gained wrinkles, bought houses, changed jobs, had kids, grown into adults, and lost our youthful vigor. It’s amazing to think about the amount of change that has taken place in the past twenty years. Twenty years had now gone by since Joseph had last seen his brothers. Things had changed. He now spoke fluent Egyptian. His face was changed. He had gone from being a young 17 year old slave to a 37 year old governor of a mighty nation. Joseph had changed. What about his brothers. Had they changed? According to their own description, they were different. They said, “Your servants are honest men, not spies.” 12 “No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.” 13 But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.” Looking at this response positively, it appears that his brothers were more humble at this point, no? They referred to themselves as “your servants.” They told the truth about once being 12 brothers. Those were positive signs.
But was this being completely “honest,” as they said they were? Not exactly. Instead of telling Joseph that they had sold their brother into slavery, all they said was that “one is no more.” For twenty years, they had kept SILENT about the fact that they had sold their brother into slavery - that he hadn’t actually died. Therefore, for twenty years they continued to be liars - lying to themselves, their father, their mother, and their God. They hadn’t changed much at all. They were selfish liars to begin with, and still twenty years they continued to lie with silence and half truths. In order to keep their “good reputations” with their father, they tried to deal with their guilt by being SILENT about it, and not saying a thing. Even though they felt guilty about it, and even though their father had to live twenty years in sorrow, they never said a thing. And what happened in the end? Their guilt carried on with them, throughout the silence. Whenever something bad happened to them, they thought for sure they were being punished for something they had done.