Sometimes we meet a person we have not seen for a long time. Usually the meeting is pleasant, but sometimes it can trigger unpleasant memories of situations we had forgotten about. We may think that is the type of situation that is described in Genesis 42. Yet as we read it we see one major difference. The brothers of Joseph had been unable to forget that they had sold him into slavery.
We can see this was the case by their response to Joseph’s decision to arrest them for spying. ‘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.” 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.”’
Of course, we are not surprised that they were unable to forget what they had done – after all, their decision to sell Joseph was a most callous one. Their conscience would have reminded them continually of their cruel behaviour. Perhaps they imagined that there was no way by which they could be forgiven.
Yet they were ignorant of the fact that the one who could forgive them was with them and was fully aware of their dilemma. Joseph could have forgiven them at that moment, but he was also aware of the falsehood they were claiming when they claimed to be honest men. They found themselves claiming something that he, of all people, knew was totally false. Sometimes we do this and forget that God knows we are not telling the whole truth, and a failure to do so deprives us of forgiveness.
Joseph, despite their false claims, still does them good when he gives them back the money they had used to buy grain. But they could not see that he was being good to them. Instead everything seemed to be getting more and more confusing. Yet if they had told the truth to Joseph, they would have received his forgiveness and would then understand why he had given them their grain without price. This situation can be like what happens to us when we fail to confess the truth about ourselves – life becomes confusing and we cannot recognise God’s grace.
Their failure to confess also meant that what should have been a joyful arrival home became instead a difficulty for the future. If they had confessed their fault, then they would be able to tell their father about Joseph and what he could do for them. But because they continued to hide their sin, they concluded that the future was threatening, and caused their father to maintain a pessimistic outlook. Failure to confess our sins also blinds us to what God can do for us in the future.