Repentance Over Time, Part 2
Genesis 37:27 Come and let us sell [Joseph] to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.”
Genesis 42:21 Then [Joseph’s brothers] said to one another, “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.”
Genesis 42:28b Then their hearts failed them and they were afraid, saying to one another, “What is this that God has done to us?”
Genesis 43:33-34 [Joseph’s brothers] sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another. Then he took servings to them from before him, but Benjamin’s serving was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.
Genesis 44:16a Then Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants….”
Genesis 44:34 For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?
Genesis 45:3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence.
Genesis 50:15-18 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.”’ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
As He did with John Newton, God used a good deal of time to bring Joseph’s brothers to repentance. Read the Scripture story above carefully to see the small but real changes that occurred over time. Genesis 42 displays the first expressions of guilt over selling their brother years before, and they bring God into that process in v. 28. We can see at the dinner where little brother Benjamin was preferred that some kind of progress had been made in their hearts: “They drank and were merry with him.”
As time and circumstances went by, they were dismayed in Joseph’s presence, obviously feeling guilt at the uncovering of their sin. They probably made up the story about Jacob’s message, but it indicates a growing sensitivity to the wrong they had done. We can’t know the depth of genuine repentance in each brother’s heart, but they end up falling before him, and declaring themselves his servants.
It took years and a series of devastating events, but over time, repentance was worked into their hearts. We can’t forget that repentance is always God’s intention, and He is always working it into all our hearts. He works through time and He knows what He’s doing—in us and in others.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the incredible model of Joseph’s brothers. I see that You use time and circumstance to draw the sinner to righteousness, and me to repentance. Help me to remember that you are doing this with others and forgive me for judging You just because I often can’t see it happening. Help me to be responsive to what You’re doing in my own heart.