And their hearts sank, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?” (42:28).
God had been there all along, with them, revealing Himself, orchestrating events; and it was not until they were in this dismal state, this place of despondency, that the brothers turn their attention to God. And more accurately, they turned their attention to “this that God has done to us.”
Such a precise portrayal of the human condition, clueless and content to manage things ourselves… until we can’t!
There are no references to the brothers considering God before this:
In Genesis 34, they did not consult God regarding their plan to take revenge on behalf of their sister.
When Joseph shared his dreams in Genesis 37, there is no record of them seeking God’s wisdom for the interpretation. Only Jacob “kept the saying in mind”, after he had rebuked him, (37:11).
We definitely don’t read about a prayer meeting before the brothers threw Joseph into the pit and then sold him into slavery. Even Reuben’s appeal to rescue Joseph seemed birthed out of a concern for his earthly father rather than for Holy God, (37:22).
And Judah’s plan of action to spare Joseph from death was not enacted by his desire to contemplate God in extending mercy; rather his strategy considered the opportunity of killing two birds with one stone, get rid of their brother and make a profit, (37:26-27).
And, when the brothers “saw the distress of his soul” and heard his cries “when he pleaded” with them, God was not invited to prick their conscience…“yet we would not listen,” (Genesis 42:21).
But now, when their lives are in peril, when their future hangs in the balance, their thoughts turn to God. And it is their guilt that drives them to question, “what is this that God has done to us?”
Consider “This That God Has Done”
“This That God Has Done” brought them to their place of need. “Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, ‘Why are you staring at one another?’ 2 He said, ‘Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, so that we may live and not die,’” (42:1-2).
“This That God Has Done” brought them to the only place of provision. “Then ten brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt… 5 So the sons of Israel came to buy grain among those who were coming, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also,” (42:3, 5).
“This That God Has Done” brought them face to face with their guilt. “Then they said to one another, ‘Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us.’ 22 Reuben answered them, saying, ‘Did I not tell you, “Do not sin against the boy”; and you would not listen? Now comes the reckoning for his blood,’” (42:21-22).
“This That God Has Done” brought them to the place of dismay. “Now it came about as they were emptying their sacks, that behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack; and when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed,” (42:35).
“This That God Has Done” was just THIS: He brought them to the place to experience grace, as never before!
How shall we respond to “This That God Has Done”?
- Before we come to Him as our Deliverer, we must first recognize our need. It is just THIS, the realization that we are spiritual paupers and spiritually dead apart from Him that drives us to seek Him as Savior. It is His Grace that brings us to THIS, our need.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, (Matthew 5:3).
- He has provided our only hope for salvation. He is also our only provision for sanctification (the process of being set apart for Him and becoming more and more conformed to His image). We cannot do anything to make ourselves acceptable or more righteous in His sight. Let us be wise to understand it is always THIS, His gift of grace that redeems, sanctifies and keeps us.
- and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls, (1 Peter 2:24-25).
- Guilt can be a good thing; it can be the very thing that drives us to question THIS, our condition before God. Jesus died to cleanse us of our sin and our guilt. Our past guilt has been paid for in full, as long as we have placed our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. As believers, our guilty conscience can be a gift, to turn our thoughts to the LORD, but we are not to be governed by guilt. When bouts of guilt barrage us, let us be quick to confess our sins, receive His cleansing and remind ourselves, and the enemy, that we are no longer under condemnation.
- Therefore there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,(Romans 8:1).
- When we find ourselves in those dark places, those places of dismay and on the verge of despair, look for Him! Dismay is often a prelude to a spectacular revelation of God, to a new understanding of His grace and majesty as we dig in by faith. Let us refuse to allow a place of dismay to lead us away from Him. In these times it is critical to trust Him, to hold on to Him in His Word and prayer and believe we will again see His goodness; that we are being prepared for THIS, to see Him as never before!
- I would have despaired unless I had believe that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living, (Psalm 27:14).