No child of God needs to fear a horrible harvest for past sins. God specializes in crop failures. Sure, there are consequences for sin sometimes, but God promises to turn even those to our good if we “have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) John Newton wrote, “We serve a gracious Master who knows how to overrule even our mistakes to His glory and our own advantage.”
The Journey // Focus: Genesis 42:28 & 36
Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?’ … ‘Everything is against me!”
If you’ve been around the Bible much, you know this story well. Joseph’s brothers, out of envy, anger and hatred, sold Joseph into slavery to nomads travelling to Egypt. A decade or two later, unknown to the brothers, Joseph has made an improbable rise to power, and now sits as second in command of the most powerful nation on earth.
Now forced to scrounge for food in Egypt during a severe famine, the tables are turned on the brothers: they stand face-to-face with Joseph, first bowing before him (a fulfillment of Joseph’s dream; the one that originally got him into hot water with the brothers), then begging for food, and ultimately begging for their very lives. And all the time their minds cannot fathom that it is actually Joseph with whom they are pleading.
There are so many things we could say about this chapter and its larger context: Like the sovereignty of God that allowed Joseph’s mistreatment in prior years as the very means to preserve his family down the road. Or how God always squeezes good out of evil for his children. Or how Joseph remains faithful and useful to God even when the evidence suggested that God had abandoned him. Or how Joseph left retribution, revenge and judgment in God’s hands, even when the best of men would have been tempted to exact a pound of flesh from these ornery brothers once Joseph had them dead to rights.
And don’t miss the application in all of those relevant truths: God will do that for you, too, if you will trust him with your life—both in the good times and especially in the bad when the evidence seems contrary to a loving God who is supposed to be in control.
But the one feature of this particular part of the story that intrigues me is the load of guilt this family carried for all those years, obviously paralyzing them with regret, the fear of receiving their just desserts and the onerous sense that they will have to pay an impossible price to make up for their evil actions in the past:
Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?” (Genesis 42:26)
Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!” (Genesis 42:36)
Then Reuben said to his father, “You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring Benjamin back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.” (Genesis 42:37)
So what are the take away’s for you and me from the story of these messed up brothers?
First, as it relates to the brothers, no sinful action is worth the temporary satisfaction or pleasure it falsely promises—ever! The guilt, harm and forfeiture of God’s blessings are a horrible crop to reap at some point, either sooner or perhaps later down the road.
Second, as it relates to Jacob and his lingering dread, no child of God needs to fear a horrible harvest for past sins. God specializes in crop failures. Sure, there are consequences for sin sometimes, but God promises to turn even those to our good if we “have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) As John Newton so profoundly wrote, “We serve a gracious Master who knows how to overrule even our mistakes to His glory and our own advantage.”
Third, as it relates to Reuben’s assumption that he could assuage divine punishment, no personal sacrifice for sin will be needed for the child of God to cancel his punishment since God sent his very own Son, of whom Joseph was a type, to once and for all pay the price to satisfy God’s righteous wrath rightly directed at our sin. (Hebrews 10:8-14)
I’m so glad to be a follower of Jesus and not a child of Jacob, aren’t you! God’s unlimited, unmerited grace, purchased by Christ’s sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, is a far better way.