Speaking among themselves, they said, “This has all happened because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his terror and anguish and heard his pleadings, but we wouldn’t listen. That’s why this trouble has come upon us.” - Genesis 42:21
Guilt feelings do not go away easily. They are perfectly capable of raising their heads throughout a lifetime.
This was certainly the case with Joseph’s brothers. Years had passed since they had treated their brother so badly. While they continued to look after their flocks, battling the elements and coping with the vicissitudes of their rugged lifestyle, Joseph had gone on to become the prime minister of Egypt. Famine had spread to his brothers’ land, and they were powerless to stop its ravages. In fact, they seemed to have become so totally depressed and immobilized that their aged father rebuked them: “Why are you standing around looking at one another? I have heard there is grain in Egypt. Go down and buy some for us before we all starve to death” (Gen. 42:2).
In desperation the brothers arrived at Pharaoh’s court and unwittingly encountered their own brother. Joseph promptly recognized them, although they did not recognize him. Joseph’s treatment of them, including a brief jail sentence and strident charges that they were spies, led them to say to each other, “This has all happened because of what we did to Joseph years ago. We saw his terror and anguish and heard his pleadings, but we wouldn’t listen. That’s why this trouble has come upon us” (42:21). Under the pressure of their circumstances, it did not take long for their guilt and shame to surface. And they quickly assumed that there was a real connection between their previous behavior and their subsequent difficulties, and that the link between the two must be God himself.
God was very much in the center of the brothers’ thoughts when they eventually were allowed to return home, minus Simeon. On the way, they discovered to their horror that the money they had paid for the grain was still in the neck of their sacks (42:25). They realized that they would be charged with theft. Their immediate response was, “What has God done to us?” (42:28). They recognized their guilt before God, they felt his displeasure because of their actions, and they rightly saw their predicament before God as the consequence of their sin.
Guilty men are in deep trouble when they are no longer troubled by their misdeeds. They may have stuffed in their guilt feelings and gotten on with their lives to their own satisfaction, but the unresolved guilt will do its work in their souls nevertheless, haunting and harassing them at the most unexpected moments, depressing and debilitating them at others.
For Further Study: Genesis 42:1-38
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
For more from Stuart Briscoe, please visit TellingtheTruth.org.