“What is this that God has Done?” – Genesis 42:1–38
Listen to the Sermon:
Hear now the word of the Lord from Genesis 42,
42 When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” 2 And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” 3 So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him. 5 Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.
6 Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. 7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8 And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. 9 And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them. And he said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land.” 10 They said to him, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies.”
12 He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.” 13 And they said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.” 14 But Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you. You are spies. 15 By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.” 17 And he put them all together in custody for three days.
18 On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me. So, your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so. 21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” 23 They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. 24 Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. 25 And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. This was done for them.
26 Then they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed. 27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money in the mouth of his sack. 28 He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!” At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”
29 When they came to Jacob their father in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, 30 “The man, the lord of the land, spoke roughly to us and took us to be spies of the land. 31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we have never been spies. 32 We are twelve brothers, sons of our father. One is no more, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.’ 33 Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, and take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way. 34 Bring your youngest brother to me. Then I shall know that you are not spies but honest men, and I will deliver your brother to you, and you shall trade in the land.’”
35 As they emptied their sacks, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack. And when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid. 36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.” 37 Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”
Genesis 42:1-38, ESV
My wife and I regularly go to the chiropractor to deal with the various aches and pains that arise and pop up various forms in our bodies. Now if you’ve been to a chiropractor before, you know that they apply pressure to different parts of your body and sometimes it’s not very comfortable. Sometimes it can be downright painful. What we have found is that overall, these treatments help they help to address the big issues of pain in our lives.
There’s a part of these visits that I really enjoy, it’s when they explain to me in great detail what I don’t understand about the different reasons behind the location of my pain. What I’ve learned is that the source of your pain is sometimes a very different place than the location of your pain. For example, once I went into the chiropractor and I was having this sharp pain in the middle of my chest, I’d breathe in deeply and I’d feel the sharp pain. Well. you never want to have a pain in your chest, but what the chiropractor explained to me was that in fact I had a rib in my back that was out of place. Once he realigned that rib right back into place, a little bit of pain, but then the rest of the pain suddenly vanished. I felt better, I could breathe again, it was wonderful!
I find that so interesting because our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made. What the chiropractors have explained to me is that when any part of our body experiences some kind of stress or comes under some kind of attack, our bodies are made in such a way where they don’t just fall apart on the spot. No, what happens is the rest of our body rises up in a certain way to try to compensate for the stress that’s being put on the one part of the body, to protect the rest of the body. Now that protects the whole structure, the structure of your body. That keeps that all intact.
That compensation, that contortion of the rest of your body to support the part that’s under stress, brings about these aches and pains that you feel as byproducts, as symptoms of the other stress that’s the source of the issue. So, to address the pains that you feel, you’ve got to go beyond the symptom and to really get to the underlying issue.
Well, our Lord is the Great Physician, he is not only the one who has knitted together our bodies in such a wondrous way where they can handle a great deal of stress and strain and attack that can be put on our bodies, but our Lord is also the one who has knitted together the intricacies of our souls. When our Lord therefore puts us in painful stressful situation, when he puts pressure on some part of our lies. He wants us to know that he’s doing this, not to torment us. Rather as the Great Physician, he is seeking the source of the sickness of our souls.
In this story we are seeing two kinds of soul sickness. The first kind has to do with Jacob, which we see in the beginning of this story and it carries through to the end of this story. Jacob is drowning in his fear. It’s dominating everything he is doing right now.
The second soul sickness we see is Jacob’s sons. Twenty years ago, they had sold their brother into slavery and now we are seeing the sickness of their soul as they are experiencing an ongoing amount of guilt and shame over their sin. So, to address these soul sicknesses, the Great Physician is recommending a remedy that will be uncomfortable, a remedy that will apply significant pressure to their lives, but a remedy that will result in their healing.
Our big idea today is that our Lord tests his people to confront their sins and overcome their fears.
Three parts, first we see the text himself.
1. The Lord Tests His People
2. The Lord Tests His People’s Sins
3. The Lord Tests His People’s Fear
The Lord Tests His People
Let’s start with the first test, in the first 17 verses, The Lord Tests His People.
We should remember from where we stopped in chapter 41, that Joseph had previously interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh. There would be seven good years of plentiful production years in the land and those years have passed. They have instead entered the second set of seven years, where there will be seven years of disastrous famine in the land. What we see in verses 56 and 57 of chapter 41 the previous chapter the last two verses before our chapter, is this famine isn’t restricted to Egypt alone, rather it stretches over all the land. All the earth is coming to Egypt to buy grain, and that includes people from the land of Canaan. If you look at verse 5, we see a very plain statement that the famine was in the land of Canaan.
So, this brings us to the story of Jacob and his sons who are in Canaan. We read that Jacob learns that there is grain for sale, and he’s frustrated because his sons haven’t done anything about it. He rebukes them and says, “Why do you look at one another?” Then in verse two we see a little glimpse into how serious this situation is. In verse 2 he tells them to go down and buy grain for us in Egypt that we may live and not die. This is a situation that is life and death. If they get the grain they will live, if they don’t get the grain they will die, that’s how serious this famine is in the land of Canaan.
Now what we should remember is that this is not the first time that Canaan has suffered because of a famine, or the people of God in Canaan have suffered from a famine. Jacob’s grandfather Abram was the first one to move to the land of Canaan. God commanded him to go to the land of Canaan and told him that it would be a fruitful land that it would be a blessing to him and by that he would bless the whole world.
When he arrived in the land of Canaan, and almost immediately we read in 12:10, that there is a famine in this supposedly fruitful land of Canaan. So, Abraham, rather than trusting the Lord, he sinfully distrusts the Lord and goes down to Egypt. You can read about Abraham’s sin in Egypt in the second half of Genesis chapter 12. Then Jacob’s father Isaac, Abraham’s son, we read in Genesis 26:1, he also suffers a famine in the land of Canaan during his time and like his father he begins to go down to Egypt to try to find food there, but God stops him. He says, don’t go to Egypt, stay here in the land of Canaan.
Well by the time we come to the third generation Jacob, again he is experiencing like his father and his grandfather this famine in the land of Canaan. He doesn’t even try to go down to Egypt, he rather sends his sons to go to Egypt to buy food to bring it back. Notice in verse 4 that Jacob does not send all of his sons, he keeps back Benjamin. Why? For he feared that harm might happen to him.
From the beginning we are seeing the role that fear is playing in Jacob’s life. Now why does Jacob care so much about Benjamin? Well Benjamin is Joseph’s brother, that is he is the full brother of Joseph. Jacob had a preferred, a beloved wife, among his wives, Rachel. Rachel had two sons, one of them was Joseph and then she also gave birth to another son Benjamin and then died. So, these were the two sons given from his preferred wife. Jacob loved Joseph, but Joseph he believes to be dead. Now because of what happened, he believes, to Joseph, Jacob is going to do anything he can to protect Benjamin and to keep him out of harm’s way. He lost one beloved son he refuses to lose another.
So, then the other brothers, not Joseph and not Benjamin, but all the other ten go down to Egypt. When they get to Egypt, in verse six, who should they meet but their long-lost brother Joseph. Remember 20 years ago they had sold this brother into slavery, but when they got there, they don’t recognize who he is.
So, we read in verse 6, “they bow down before him with their faces to the ground.” Now if you remember Genesis chapter 37, this was exactly what Joseph had dreamed about 20 years earlier. This was one of the reasons that his brothers hated him and sold him into slavery in the first place. They hated him for his dream and in his dream, he dreamed that he and his brothers were out gathering sheaves of grain and his sheaf of grain stood up straight while his other brother’s sheaves of grain bowed down to his sheaf of grain. He foresaw, by God’s Holy Spirit, that he would be bowed down to by his brothers, and it would have something to do with sheaves of grain. Here are the brothers seeking to buy sheaves of grain and to do so they are bowing down to Joseph, just as he saw in his dream 20 years earlier.
In verses 7 and 8 we see that the brothers do not recognize Joseph. Joseph recognizes them but they do not recognize Joseph. Now Joseph doesn’t know where his brothers are, he doesn’t know what they’re thinking, he doesn’t know what’s happened over these last 20 years. He doesn’t know if they remain as cruel to him now as they were then.
So, Joseph puts them to the test. He accuses his brothers of being spies and they denied it, in verses 9 through 11. Then Joseph redoubles his statement, “no it’s the nakedness of the land that you have come to see,” verse 12. So, they give a little bit more information about their family, they say they are the sons of one man in the land of Canaan. They say, “the youngest is this day with our father and one is no more.” Well Joseph says, “it is as I said to you. You are spies.”
Joseph insists that they must be thoroughly tested. Joseph says he’s going to imprison all of them, except for one brother who is going to go back to Canaan to fetch Benjamin and to bring him back to the land of Egypt, to prove their story. To see whether their words are true or not. So, he puts them in prison for three days.
Now the brothers must have been absolutely shocked by all of this. They came to buy grain and they end up in prison. How does that work? I mean if you think about their lives, certainly they never wanted this famine to come in the first place, no one wants a famine to come into their lives. It sounds like they didn’t want to go down to Egypt. They’re just standing there looking at each other twiddling their thumbs, might be a good way to paraphrase that, when there’s grain to be bought in Egypt. Jacob has to push them out the door to get them to go buy grain for them in Egypt.
So, they don’t want the famine, they probably didn’t want to go down to Egypt, but here they are, and now they find themselves falsely accused of something and imprisoned. Why is one bad thing after another happening to them?
Now when we’re the ones who are experiencing setback after setback, it’s so easy to get bitter about this, to think why has God turned against me? Why is he so mean to me right now? We have this story in the Bible because it helps us to take a step back out of our own circumstances, our own aches and pains, to learn how our Great Physician goes about his work. How he addresses the root causes and the sources of our soul sicknesses when he applies pressure, even uncomfortable, painful pressure like this to our lives.
To to recap right in this first section, we see these two soul sicknesses introduced: Jacob’s fear and the brother’s guilt. We see how God is using this situation to test his people. In the second section we are going to see where the test really begins, it begins by testing the brothers for their guilt for their sin.
The Lord Tests His People’s Sin
So, here’s our second section, that the Lord tests his people’s sin, in verses 18 through 28. Joseph comes in, and for whatever reason he takes a kinder, gentler, approach rather than insisting that all the brothers must be in prison and only one could return. Now he says only one must be kept back so that I make sure that you do return someday, but the rest of you can go free and then bring Benjamin back to me. Look at the way he frames this, he says in verse 18, “do this and you will live.” Then at the end in verse 20 he says, “so your words will be verified, and you shall not die.”
Do this and you will live, do this and you shall not die. He’s echoing the words that Jacob had spoken to the son his sons earlier in the story. Jacob had said go down to Egypt and buy grains that we may live and not die. Now Joseph says, here’s what you’re going to do so that you may live and not die. Joseph explains further the reason the reason for the change of plan, the reason for letting most of the brothers except for one to go back to Canaan. In this time, he says in verse 18, “for I fear God.”
I fear God, that’s true for Joseph. We’ve seen Joseph time and time again fearing the Lord, trusting the Lord. As Joseph mentions this, this seems to be the phrase that pricks the consciences of Joseph’s brothers. It sends them into a tailspin where they start to wrestle with their guilt and their shame over what they had done 20 years ago to their brother.
This idea of fear God probably has something to do with it, because when we think about fearing God, we are reminded that God is a God who will by no means clear the guilty. God doesn’t ignore sin, he doesn’t sweep it under the rug, he doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin. God will visit the iniquity of his people to the third and the fourth generation. God is a holy, righteous God who will, who must punish sin.
In verses 21 and 22 the brothers just begin to process through their guilt and their shame over their sin. What’s remarkable is they do this right in front of Joseph. You’d think you’d want to have a private conversation about this, but they don’t think that this is Joseph, and they don’t think that he can even understand them, because in verse 23 they’re talking to him through an interpreter.
So, what do the brothers say? Well, they acknowledge that they are guilty, verse 21,
21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” Genesis 42:21, ESV
Because they ignored Joseph’s distress this distress has now come upon them. Now what’s interesting about them telling this story is that if you go back to Genesis 37 and read the story of how they kidnapped Joseph and sold him into slavery, we did not hear in that telling of the account a word about Joseph’s begging his brothers for his life. We don’t hear a word about it there because the narrator wants to introduce that detail here. Why? Because we see that while we didn’t know anything about Joseph begging for his life from his brothers, it seems that his brothers have never been able to forget. It’s haunted them for 20 years that their brother begged him for his life and they ignored that.
So, suddenly when this trouble comes upon them, the first thing they think is that this distress has come upon us because we ignored our brother in his distress. Reuben gets right to the point he says, “so now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” Well, the brothers say, notice in verse 21, we did not listen to Joseph, but when it says in verse 23, “that they did not know that Joseph understood them”, that word is actually listen. They did not know that Joseph listened to them, listening in the sense of understanding.
So, they did not listen to Joseph and ignored him they were callous to his suffering, but Joseph is listening to them. We read in verse 24, that he’s not callous to what they’re going through. He is so moved by it that he turns away to weep over what his brothers are saying. It’s only after he can compose himself that he returns and speaks to them.
Now he does bind Simeon, he stays to the plan that he’s just laid out. He wants to make sure that they have a reason to come back to him. Then he commands for his people to fill their bags with grain and to replace every man’s money in a sack and to give them provisions for the journey. This is exactly what was done.
So, when they go on their way relieved but still burdened by what’s happening, at some point they stop to feed their donkeys. One of the brothers opens the bag and sees at the top the money is right there still in the bag. Now what’s interesting is even after this strange encounter with Joseph, their first thought isn’t it must have been that weird dude in Egypt who has done this to us. They don’t think about Joseph, or at least they don’t mention him. Rather, their thoughts instantly go to God. In verse 28 we read, “what is this that God has done to us?” They realize that they are being tested by God himself.
The greatest stress that we can put on our souls is when we sin. Now God has so fearfully and wonderfully knitted together, not only the various parts of our bodies, but also, he has knitted together our souls. He has done so in such a way that even the stress, meaning the humanizing stress of sin, when that’s placed on our souls it doesn’t cause us to drop dead on the spot. Rather our souls contort themselves, they twist themselves, they try to find a way to compensate, to deal with that horrifying stress that we introduce to our souls because of sin.
Sin is not what we were created for. It is unnatural for our souls to rebel against God in sin. When we compensate for sin, our soul experiences the byproduct, the symptoms of guilt and shame. We see that here and we see that in our own lives.
Indeed, one of the most profound scenes in in all of literature is reflecting on this kind of idea. It comes, I would argue in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth in act five scene one. If you’re familiar with the play of Macbeth, it’s about a man named Macbeth who conspires with his wife, Lady Macbeth to murder the king of Scotland. Macbeth then becomes the king, that was why they wanted to murder the king of Scotland, so Macbeth could become the king of Scotland. By all accounts they get away with it, just like the brothers by all accounts got away with what they had done to Joseph.
Macbeth completely gets away with it, no one suspects him. Yet he knows what he has done, and this begins to weigh on him more and more and more. It especially weighs on his wife, Lady Macbeth. In act five at scene one, we find Lady Macbeth sleepwalking. She’s awake, but sleep walking and she’s washing her hands again and again and again and again, washing and washing and washing, trying to get clean but she can’t.
So, she asks when will these hands ever be clean? Then she says, all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. It’s defiled, it’s foul, because of the murder that she helped to accomplish. There’s a doctor who’s monitoring the situation and he sums it up this way he says, “More needs she the divine than the physician.” She needs the divine, she needs God more than she needs a physician or a doctor. In other words, this is not a medical problem, this is a spiritual problem.
As much as our souls might try to contort themselves and twist, to try to come to the rescue and come to the aid and make it okay that we have suffered the strain and the stress of sin, our souls simply weren’t created for that. Now we often try to do this, we often try to ignore our sin, to brush it off, to move past it, to ignore it into oblivion. That only leads to the suffering of guilt and shame, and it weighs on us so heavily in our bones. God is the one here who is putting pressure, painful, uncomfortable pressure, on the brothers to force them beyond trying to compensate in their own souls for their sins just by not talking about it. Instead, they need the divine. This is not a medical problem, it’s a spiritual problem. God does so by ratcheting up the pain, making the pain unbearable so that they will turn to him and find forgiveness and freedom.
The Lord Tests His People’s Fear
The Lord uses the situation to test the brothers, but this doesn’t stop with the brothers. As a second part to this test when they get back to the land of Canaan, we see that the Lord carries this test forward to address the fears of Jacob. This is the third section of this story in verses 29-38, that the Lord tests his people’s fears.
In verses 29 through 34, we see the same story told. We already saw this story once, we saw it happen live so to speak, before us. Now we are seeing the retelling of the story, and it’s the exactly the same, as they tell their father everything that had happened, with one important difference.
Wen they are telling this man about the other two brothers who are not with them, in verse 32 they mentioned Joseph first and then Benjamin in their telling of the story. Retelling the story, in verse 32, they say,
32 We are twelve brothers, sons of our father. One is no more, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.’
Genesis 42:32, ESV
If you look back to verse 13, the order was slightly different. They said,
13 And they said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.”
Genesis 42:13, ESV
Now it’s possible they were simply trying to deliver this news to their father tactfully. By the way we mentioned Benjamin this weird man, and now he wants us to bring him back to Egypt for some reason. However, probably what’s really happening here is that they are more and more grappling with the guilt and the shame that is weighing down on their consciences, because of what has been brought up and dredged up by this experience where they have been literally face to face with their long-lost brother.
Well, when Jacob hears about this, and when he sees that the money is still in their bags, both they and their father are afraid. Jacob, his fear just vents all over his sons. We see it in verse 36, the word order in Hebrew brings out the depth of the pain that Jacob is suffering here. He accuses his children he says, “Me, you have bereaved of my children. Against me all this has come.” Jacob is so concerned that he’s going to lose not one beloved son, but two beloved sons.
Then Reuben, trying to smooth things over, offers to give his own children as his pledge. Yet no grandfather would be comforted by the idea that if one of his sons died, he would be able to put two of his grandsons to death.
So, this story ends on a moment of tension. It ends with Jacob drawing a line in the sand, he’s saying in no way, and essentially, he says over my dead body, will Benjamin go down to Egypt. You would bring my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol, over my dead body will this happen. He is controlled by his fears, and he refuses to risk harm to Benjamin. What we will see is that it will take more time and it will take less food to force Jacob to change his mind.
Well, although Jacob did engage in his own share of deception and scheming earlier in his life, Jacob is not the one who sold Joseph into slavery. Here he is innocent. These fears came from a from a circumstance, a situation, an event in his life that he had nothing directly to do with. So, while God is not necessarily confronting Jacob’s sin here, God is nevertheless applying a remedy. He is trying to heal the sickness of Jacob’s soul in his fears. The pressure then, the Great Physician, is applying to Jacob is pushing Jacob beyond his comfort zone, to trust the Lord in a way that Jacob would never have come to trust in the Lord apart from the pressure of this painful uncomfortable remedy. Through this make no mistake, God is not tormenting Jacob. The Great Physician is healing Jacob.
Well how then do we apply this story to our own sins and our own fears?
1. The first application is this, do not try to bury your sin. In many ways, Joseph’s brothers bury their sin for 20 years, they get away with it by all accounts. Yet they cannot run from their sin forever because God knows what they have done. God works through a number of situations and circumstances in our lives to bring our sin to mind. He uses tests and trials in our lives to put pressure on our souls, to bring our sin to the surface. We can’t bury it God wants to bring into the surface.
God through all of our circumstances, is using his word to call our sin to mind. Why? Because when we are confronted with the presence of the Lord, with the holiness of the Lord, with the radiance of God, the weight of his glory, we cannot help but feeling compelled to do something with our sin. It’s not something that we can ignore anymore.
When you stand face to face with a holy, holy, holy God, the question is not whether we will feel the need to do something with our sin, but what we will do with it. Our souls will contort themselves in some way to try to compensate with it and essentially that’s what all man-made religions and philosophies are telling us to do, to try to find a way that we ourselves can contort our souls in some way to deal with our sins. Either by offering some way that we can atone for our sin or to pile up good deeds that hopefully will help us to do away with the bad.
If you think about what our society tells us to do, our society tells us to follow the path of Joseph’s brothers. What you need to do is ignore your guilt and shame, you need not God’s forgiveness, you just need to forgive yourself. You need to get over these outmoded notions of morality. Our souls, at the end of the day, cannot really do that. We were not created to treat sin as something light. It deforms us, it contorts us, it brings about these aches and pains of guilt and shame. That’s God’s grace to us. If we didn’t feel that pain, we’d be comfortable, never doing anything with it.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is fundamentally different from this. The gospel announces that God is not waiting on you to clean yourself up before you can enter into his presence. The gospel first condemns you, that doesn’t sound like good news. It starts with a condemnation of your sin, that your sin is impurity, that it is evil, that it is guilt in the sight of a holy, holy, holy God. Your sin is so evil that you could never do enough to cleanse yourself or to offset your sin with good, neat deeds or to bury your sin deep enough to get rid of it. On your own you are without hope.
The other thing the gospel tells us is wonderful news that God himself has accomplished for you what you could never do for yourself. That God sent his only beloved son into the world to die in your place. Where Jacob feared to send his son Benjamin to Egypt because of the harm that he worried might come to him, God on the other hand knew exactly what the sons of Israel would do to his own beloved son. That they would beat him. That they would spit upon him. That they would crucify him and put him to death. God loves you so much that he nevertheless sent his son to do exactly that, to die for you.
What this means is that you don’t have to bury your sin. The gospel says that in fact you need to bring your sin into the light. The gospel says if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness through Christ’s shed blood for us at the cross. Don’t bury your sin.
The gospel announces a different way for your sin to be buried. The gospel says that if you are looking to Christ in faith, your sins were crucified, nailed to the cross and buried with him never to emerge from that grave. Christ who died and was buried for you is now raised from the dead, and he stands ready to save sinners who turn to him in repentance and faith. Don’t bury your sin, look to Christ in faith.
2. The second application is this, do not live in captivity to your fear. We’ll talk more about fear as we work our way through the rest of this story, as Jacob is forced eventually to let Benjamin go down to Egypt out of necessity of finding more food. For now, let me say just this, God knows your fears. More than that God knows why you are afraid of the things that you are afraid of, even if you don’t know why you are afraid of the things that you are afraid of.
God knows, he is the Great Physician, the one who knitted together the intricacies of your souls. More than this, the Great Physician knows how to heal your fears. God knows that when he puts pressure on points of fear in your life, uncomfortable, painful pressure, he knows that this will bring about a remedy a healing. He’s not tormenting you; he is rather teaching you to trust him.
So, I want to encourage you this way. This is an illustration that a pastor in our presbytery gave a few years ago and it stuck with me, and I think about it a lot with my own sin, especially the sin of fear. To think about especially the sin of fear and falling into fear again and distrust again and again and again, think about your sin as a bat. Maybe you know baseball, maybe you don’t, but basically a good baseball player really only hits the ball about three out of every ten time he stands up to the plate. They’re not looking for a huge amount of success, but an amazing one can do it. About three times out of ten.
The worst thing a baseball player can do, since he’s going to experience all of this failure in his life, the worst thing he can do is to spend all of his time thinking about all the ways he’s failed in the past. I struck out, then I grounded up, then I flew out that time. Instead, he needs to look at every at bat as a fresh opportunity.
For us that doesn’t mean that we can bury or ignore our sins. It means that if we confess our sins, those failures, those sins against the Lord are taken away through Christ. Then we need to forget our sin, just as God truly forgets our sin as well. He promises that because Christ was punished, God will never bring it to mind again.
So that every time we come up and we fail to trust him in the past, every time we have an at-bat an opportunity to trust him, it’s a fresh opportunity to say, “Lord I didn’t do so well last time, but would you please help me to trust you now. Fear kept me from trusting you yesterday, let me by your grace trust you today.” Brothers and sisters do not live in captivity to your fear, trust him that you’re next at bat.
This story helps us to see the work of our Great Physician. Wherever you are today, let the story challenge you to do business with God. To bring your sin before him rather than trying to continue to bury it. To recognize that God is putting pressure on you through his word and through the circumstances of your life to surface that sin, so that you will confess it. God promises to forgive it through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Let me ask you and encourage you to look at this story as an encouragement to trust, even in the midst of great fears.
Let’s pray. Father, we pray that you would give us grace. We need so much of it; we need an infinite store of your grace. We pray that by your grace you would lift us up from our sin and from our fears, to look instead fully to Jesus Christ in faith. To trust him for our salvation and to trust him with our lives. In his name we pray. Amen.