CDPCKL · The Faith of Reuben (Genesis 41:53-42:38)

The Faith of Reuben (Genesis 41:53-42:38)

In the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve, he made them in his image and crowned them with glory and honour.

And those crowns — that image of their Father that they contained — were all the clothing they needed: Moses told us that Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

But then Adam and Eve gave away their crowns of glory and honour: they gave away their authority to rule over creation. And immediately they realized they were naked.

So the first thing they did was try to create clothing for themselves out of leaves: the first thing they did was try to hide the truth about their guilt and shame from one another.

But of course the clothing they tried to make for themselves was not very effective. So, before their Father sent them out of the garden into the wilderness, he made clothing for them out of animal skins.

And then this concept of nakedness and clothing disappeared from the story of Genesis: for more than half of the book clothing was not mentioned at all.

And so we forgot all about it. Because for us, clothing is an ordinary part of life. We don’t sit around thinking about the deep symbolism contained in what we wear!

But then, in the second half of Genesis, Moses began to sneak the concept back in:

First, Rebekah put on a veil when she met Isaac, her future husband. And we didn’t see anything especially theologically significant about that.

Then Jacob used his brother’s clothing to hide the truth from his father Isaac. But again: this did not inspire us to think deep theological thoughts.

And then, with the beginning of Book 12, references to clothing started to arrive thick and fast: Jacob dressed his son Joseph in robes of glory and honour. Judah stole those robes from his brother and used them to hide the truth from his father Jacob. Tamar used clothing — a veil in particular — to hide the truth from her father Judah. Potiphar’s wife stole Joseph’s shirt and used it to hide the truth from her husband —

And it was only at that point, two episodes ago, that we noticed how many times Joseph got his clothing torn off. And we began to suspect that Moses was weaving a deeper symbolic theme into the narrative.

Well, last week, that deeper theme was finally unveiled for us: we saw Joseph raised up out of the pit and crowned with glory and honour, robed with authority over all the land of Egypt. He had been found guilty of attempted rape; he had endured the shame of prison — but last week we saw his guilt wiped out, his shame washed away.

For Joseph there will be no more guilt, no more shame. For Joseph, God has finished his work of redemption: his identity — his image — as the Adam of God has been restored.

And so now it is Joseph’s job to continue that work: it is Joseph’s job now to be God’s second Adam, to be God’s messiah. It is his job now to extend his God’s redemption to all nations, to undo the guilt and shame that Adam brought upon mankind.

And last week Joseph made a good start. He was hired as Prime Minister of Egypt to save up all the nation’s surplus and store it away to be re-invested in the people when the years of famine arrive. And he is doing just that!

But Moses, as always, was a bit clever in the way he wrote it down; he told us that Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because was beyond measure.

And so far in the Book of Genesis, there is only one other thing that has been described as “like the sand of the sea” that is beyond counting”: the promised nation that will come from Abraham.

So when Moses wrote that sentence he was actually winking at us and saying, “Pay attention! Joseph is gathering his grain into his barns right now — but that grain is actually a metaphor! Soon Joseph will also be gathering people into his barns, including his own family, the family of Jacob, the family of Abraham.”

And sure enough, as the story continues we are told that when the seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, [54] and the seven years of famine began, the people of Egypt quickly ran out of food. They ask their king for help. He points them to his Prime Minister, and so Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians.

But he didn’t stop there: [57] all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.

And here, again, Moses is winking at us and saying, “Do you recognize these key words? Do you recognize this pattern?”

Because a long time ago God made a promise to Abraham that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” And then he commanded Abraham to start gathering people together into a covenant family, so that they might be saved from judgement.

And even earlier in Genesis we were told about a time when all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God chose one, special, righteous man named Noah and commanded him to build a large container. And he particularly said, “You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for all creatures that move along the ground,” so that they might be saved from judgement. 

Last week we discovered that Joseph is Adam, Abel, and Enoch all rolled into one. But now Moses wants us to understand that Joseph is also Noah and Abraham: it is his job to build a safe space where people and animals can come and be saved from judgement, this famine that is sweeping all the world.

So Joseph really has now begun to gather people into his barns, just as Moses hinted he would.

But what about his family, the family of Jacob, the family of Abraham?

Moses is so glad we asked:

[1] When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “What are you sitting around looking at each other? Get off your butts and get down to Egypt and buy us some grain, so that we may live and not die!”

So they do. But only ten of the eleven brothers make the trip: Jacob holds Benjamin back because he was afraid that harm might come to him.

And this suggests to us that Jacob still has not learned his lesson about how bad favouritism is: he loved Joseph more than all his other sons, and now — it seems — he loves Benjamin more than all the others.

So the ten brothers go down to Egypt, they bow down to the Prime Minister with their faces to the ground

And Joseph recognizes them at once. But he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.

From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.”

And we can understand Joseph’s harshness, I think. Last week we learned that he had named his oldest son Manasseh, which means “Forgetfulness”: he was thanking God for helping him heal from the trauma of being sold into slavery.

But now, suddenly, out of nowhere, here are the guys who sold him into slavery looking up at him from their kneeling positions on the floor!

But then, we are told, he remembered his dreams about them.

Remember those? The first dream predicted that one day, Joseph’s brothers will bow down to him. The second dream predicted that one day the whole family — eleven brothers and their elders — will bow down to him.

With a shock, Joseph realizes that his first dream has now been fulfilled.

And all at once he realizes what the dreams actually meant. At the time everyone assumed the dreams were about Joseph ruling over his family. And that was correct. But on a deeper level those dreams were not really about Joseph ruling over his family, they were about Joseph saving his family.

And so now, in this moment, after 21 years without answers — from age 17 to age 38 — Joseph finally understands why God put him through hell and raised him up again: so that he would be in a position now to gather his father’s family into the barns of Egypt, into the ark of Egypt, and save them from judgement and death along with the rest of the nations of the world.

And so, with a shock, Joseph realizes that it is now his job, as God’s messiah, to fulfill his second dream. Somehow he needs to persuade his ten brothers here to go back, collect his father and his 11th brother — and everyone else in the family — and move them down to the land of Egypt so that they might be saved.

But how is he going to accomplish this? He cannot simply tell them the truth and send them home to collect the rest of the family, it would never work!

Why not?

Because in order for the brothers to collect the family and bring them to Egypt they will first have to tell the truth themselves. They will have to tell their father what actually happened to Joseph.

And Joseph knows that his brothers are liars. They are now the fourth generation of a family of liars, going all the way back to Abraham. These are men who have murdered whole cities in order to cover their family’s disgrace.

Somehow, Joseph is going to have to convince his brothers to tell the truth, because telling the truth is the only way for them to save their families. But this is going to be a delicate process! So he starts by testing them: giving them an opportunity to tell the truth.

He accuses them of being spies. And they say, “No, my lord! We are honest men, not spies.”

Oops. They just failed their first test: “honest men” do not sell their little brothers into slavery.

So Joseph presses them further: “No! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

[13] But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.”

Oops. They just failed their second test: their missing brother did not simply “pass away”, like they suggest.

But they did tell the truth about having a younger brother, and this gives Joseph an opening.

So he sets up a third test for them: “You choose one of you to go and get this ‘younger brother’ — while the rest of you stay back in prison here. Prove that you are telling the truth about having a younger brother, and maybe I’ll believe you are telling the truth about not being spies!”

And then Joseph drops them into a pit, just like they did to him.

So: poetic justice there.

And [18] on the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear The God

— notice how he drops a hint here that he is not an ordinary Egyptian, that he actually shares their faith?

[19] “If you are honest men — yeah right! — let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. [20] But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.”

During the last three days, Joseph has thought things through and realized that the best way to test his brothers’ committment to deception is by putting them in the exact same position they were in 20+ years ago: he is forcing them to choose one brother to leave in the pit — while he gives food to the rest of the brothers and sends them on their way.

Joseph wants to see if they will abandon yet another brother to slavery and death, and lie about it to their father.

So naturally the brothers start to quarrel about which one is going to stay behind.

And they also realize that this situation is somehow a judgement upon them: [21] They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”

And then Reuben, the oldest, speaks up and tries to take charge, just like he did on that day 20+ years earlier: “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.”

And Reuben is not just saying, “See? I told you so!” He is also saying, “I’m not staying back here! This whole thing is not my fault! I am not going to pay the penalty for your sins!”

[23] They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter. [24] He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.

Reuben, the first-born, has refused to step up. And since none of the other brothers are volunteering to stay back, Joseph decides that the responsibility should fall upon the second oldest brother in the family: Simeon.

And then [25] Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain — but he secretly puts each man’s silver back in his sack and sends them on their way.

He is making the test as difficult as possible: he wants to see if, once again, these brothers will take the money in exchange for their brother and run.

But that night, when they stop, one of the brothers discovers the cash in his luggage. And once again, these men make an immediate connection between this moment and their sin from 20+ years earlier: their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?”

They have just lost Simeon, and now it looks like someone is setting them up to lose a second brother. If the Egyptian police come after them and accuse that brother of being a thief, they will have no choice but to leave that him behind also!

The only conclusion they can draw is that God himself has turned against them — and in the back of their minds, they know why.

But they get away clean: no one chases after them. So when they finally get home they tell their father the whole story, point for point, ending with the bad news: they need to go back and rescue Simeon, and to do that they need to bring Benjamin with them.

Meanwhile, they are emptying their sacks, and there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver! And when they and their father saw the money pouches, they realized they were well and truly screwed.

Because this virtually guarantees that, if they ever return to Egypt, they will all be arrested as thieves — and then what will Benjamin do, travel back home by himself?

And Jacob finally explodes. “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!”

And this outburst reveals that, for years, Jacob has had some nagging suspicions about Joseph’s disappearance:

Once, long ago, he sent his sons away on business. Some weeks later they came back with one brother missing…and yet somehow they had picked up some extra cash along the way.

Well now, here, again, he has sent his sons away on business, and here they are back with one brother missing…and this time their bags are full of extra cash! And on top of all this, they are trying to get him to believe some crazy story about how it was the Prime Minister who stole Simeon away and now wants to see Benjamin…!?

And we really can’t tell if Jacob made these connections consciously or sub-consciously. We don’t know if he suddenly realized in this moment what really happened to Joseph. All we know is what he said. And what he said was: You have deprived me of my children!” He is accusing them of losing both Simeon and Joseph. Exactly how it happened doesn’t matter anymore: maybe both were accidents, maybe both were on purpose. Maybe his sons are all murderers, or maybe they are just really really careless, or just really unlucky! Either way, Jacob has decided that his sons are all responsible for both disappearances.

But Reuben take this accusation personally, because — as the oldest son — it really was his responsibility to make sure all his brothers came home from both trips.

For 20 years he has carried the guilt of knowing that he could have done something to save Joseph: he could have told his father the truth when he got home. They could have sent out a rescue party, just like Abraham did once when his nephew Lot was carried away into slavery. Instead, out of fear and cowardice, Reuben refused to take responsibility for had what happened, and so he lost Joseph.

Now, history has repeated itself. Reuben could have volunteered to stay behind in Egypt, and if he had: Simeon would have been saved! But once again, out of fear and cowardice, Reuben refused to take responsibility for what had happened, he spent his time pointing his fingers at everyone else — and so he lost Simeon as well.

Jacob’s words here cut into Reuben like red-hot arrows, exposing his guilt, exposing him for the failure that he is. Just like his brother Judah, Reuben has spent a lifetime trying to hide the truth about himself from himself and from everyone else, and to be stripped naked now in front of everyone is just more than he can bear!

And so now it is Reuben’s turn to burst out: 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.”

Reuben is desperate to prove to the whole family — and to himself! — that he is worthy of leadership. He is desperate for one more chance to take responsibility. He is willing to sacrifice everything — even the lives of his own two sons! — to save Simeon from prison and be the hero of the family.

— actually, I should say: he is willing to sacrifice everything…except the truth. Even now, Reuben could tell his dad, “Listen, Dad, I did lose Joseph, but it wasn’t by accident: we actually sold him into slavery. And I can swear to you — we will all swear to you now — that we will not do that to Benjamin. Just, please, for now let us go and save Simeon and I will pay whatever penalty I need to pay when we get back!”

But he doesn’t. He is not ready yet to tell the truth.

So in the end Jacob says, “No way! My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow.”

At the beginning of this episode we suspected that Jacob is still practicing favouritism. Well, here, he has just said out loud that Benjamin is his only remaining son: the only son he really cares about.

So what we are seeing here is that Joseph’s plan to persuade his brothers to tell the truth and bring the family down to Egypt has hit yet another snag: his own father’s sin of favouritism. Long ago, God cured Jacob of his deceptive ways, but still the sin of favouritism is very much present. It was Jacob’s favouritism of Joseph that first shattered the family 20+ years ago, and now it looks like his favouritism of Benjamin is going to finish the job.

An we’ll have to come back next week to find out what happens.

So: what is going on here? What are God’s people supposed to learn from this?

Well, as we realized some time ago, Moses is giving his readers — the ancient people of Israel — a preview of God’s plan, so that when God finally sends his Messiah to save them they will recognize him and come to him for salvation. Last week in particular Moses showed his people how, sometime in the distant future, the Messiah will be raised from the dead and crowned with glory and honour, and given the authority to launch Phase 2 of God’s plan: the part of the plan where all the world will be brought under his protection and provision.

And the way the Messiah is going to do this is by building an ark like Noah did, a family like Abraham did. Like Joseph, he is going to start gathering the wheat into his barn, drawing people in from every nation on earth.

And so this week is just a continuation of Moses’ preview, a more detailed look at what is going to happen during Phase 2, after the Messiah is crowned and begins his rule. So:

Joseph — the last and greatest Messiah of Genesis — has been crowned. He is now the Lord Joseph. And Moses started today by showing us how the gospel of the Lord Joseph is being preached to all the world: the Good News that there is salvation available in the land of Egypt. And all the world is beginning to come.

Then Moses zoomed in on how the Good News came to one particular family, far away in the land of Canaan: the family of Jacob. And he showed us how that family responded: how Jacob sent ten brothers to go and buy some of that salvation and bring it back, “so that we may live and not die!”

But when those brothers arrived before the Lord of Egypt, the Messiah of Egypt, and tried to pay, they discovered that the price of their salvation is actually out of their reach.

Because, although they do not know it yet, this Lord and Messiah is the very brother they betrayed and murdered. They appear before him with their bags of silver, claiming to be honest men, but this Lord and Messiah knows the truth about them! He sees all their secret guilt and shame, he knows they are murderers. And the penalty for murder is: a life for a life. So even if these brothers brought everything they owned with them it would not be enough to bring their lost brother back from the dead, it would not be enough to wipe away the reality of their guilt. If they want to bring life back to their families, they are going to have to pay first with their own lives — but then how will they bring life back to their families if they are dead?

And so this Lord and Messiah did not demand that they pay with their lives, even though he could.

Because, although they do not know it yet, this Lord and Messiah is also bound to them — and to their families — by a covenant, the covenant of brotherhood, the covenant that comes from being the sons of the same father. These sons deserve death. But this Lord and Messiah is obligated by his covenant relationship with his own father to provide these brothers with life and salvation.

And yet, this Lord and Messiah does not simply give them life and salvation and send them home to their families, even though he is obligated to.

Because, although they do not know it yet, if this Lord and Messiah simply gave them the blessings of the gospel without also leading them to confess the truth, two things will happen: first, they will never know that their sin against Joseph has already been atoned for, and so they will continue to live in guilt and shame for the rest of their lives. Second, they will never be able to preach the gospel of the Lord Joseph to their families, so that they can all come to Egypt and be saved.

In short, this is the situation:

These brothers cannot afford to purchase life from this Messiah because this is the Messiah they murdered.

However, because this is the Messiah they sinned against, this Messiah is actually the only one on earth who has the authority to forgive them and restore their lives. And, in fact, he has a covenant obligation to restore their lives.

However, if he simply gives them life without truth he will actually be giving them…death. He will not be removing their guilt and shame, he will be extending it. The Messiah’s situation is similar to God’s situation in the beginning, where — if he had let Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Life — they would have lived forever in misery: a kind of eternally living death.

Therefore, since this Messiah is obligated to give his brothers life and not death, he is also obligated to cure them of their commitment to deception, so that they can receive true salvation and become sources of true salvation. Until they learn to admit the truth about who they are, until they learn to confess their guilt and shame to the one who knows it anyway! — they will never truly receive the gospel of the Lord Joseph, nor will they be able to truly preach it.

So what Moses wants his people to understand is this: sometime in the distant future, Phase 1 of God’s plan will end when his Messiah is betrayed and put to death. Phase 2 will begin when that Messiah is raised from the dead and crowned with glory and honour. During Phase 2, the gospel of the risen Messiah is going to be preached in all the world: the Good News that there is life and salvation available to everyone who asks. And during Phase 2 all the world will come.

And, Moses says, during Phase 2, we — the descendants of Jacob — will also hear this Good News, and we will also go to receive the salvation our God has promised us. But when we arrive in our Messiah’s presence, we are going to find that this is actually the Messiah we rejected and betrayed. We are going to find out that, in Phase 2, there are no more sacrifices left to atone for our sins, except one: the sacrifice of admitting the truth, the sacrifice of confession and repentance and throwing ourselves entirely on the mercy of the Messiah.

And so we are going to have to make a choice: are we going to move beyond Phase 1? Are we going to set aside our system of sacrifices, confess our unworthiness, and admit that God’s Messiah alone has the authority to undo our guilt and shame? — or are we going to cling to our belief that we can cover ourselves through our religion, that we can atone for our own sins through continued sacrifice without actually telling the truth and submitting to the Messiah our God has provided for us?

So this preview of the coming Messiah was intended for the ancient people of Israel, to prepare them for Phase 2 of God’s plan.

What does it have to do with us, today?

Well, in this case the only real difference between Moses’ people and us is that they lived in Phase 1, looking forward to Phase 2, whereas we live here in the midst of Phase 2, looking back at the moment when God’s Messiah was raised from the dead and crowned Lord over all. We live during the time when the gospel of the risen Lord Jesus is going out to all the world.

Other than that, the experience of these ten brothers today is really a preview of everyone’s experience in coming to Jesus Christ, God’s Messiah:

At some point, we hear the Good News that there is life available in Christ. Perhaps we hear this from our parents. Perhaps we experience compassion from a Christian neighbor, or we read a Christian book, or maybe we pick up a bible and realize that the Christian faith is actually very different from the one we were raised in.

So we come, ready to purchase life and salvation, because that is just how the world works.

But then we discover that, actually, salvation is out of our price range. Our guilt is greater than we knew, our shame is not so easily covered: we cannot afford life!

Ironically, however, the Messiah gives us life anyway. He begins to pour out some of the benefits of the gospel into our life, even though we do not deserve it. He sends us back home with the beginning of salvation, and he sends back the money we thought we would need to pay for it. Even more ironically, this freaks us out! We do not usually think, “Oh, wow, that is so gracious!” Instead Jesus’ kindness just makes us feel even more guilty!

And this is because, in our heart of hearts, we know that the blessings he gives us in this life will never be complete until we are able to somehow undo our guilt and shame. We know that our lives will never really be restored until we are able to put these burdens down.

We are not often very aware of it in those early days of our faith, but the Spirit of God is actually whispering to us in those moments, telling us that the only way to be saved, the only way to save our families, is by leaving our homelands and joining the kingdom of the Lord Jesus. If we want our lives truly restored we need to move back to the source of life, back to the garden where the Tree of Life grows.

But that will mean living in the presence of our Messiah. And here is our problem with that: lies cannot live in the presence of the One who sees everything!

And the truth is, friends, we all start out like Reuben: we continue to deny the truth, resist the truth, even when we are confronted with it, even after our Lord has blessed us and given us every opportunity to confess. And the reason we are like this is because — just like the sons of Jacob — we are all liars. We all come from a race of liars, going all the way back to Adam.

And the reason Adam became a liar, the reason he tried to create clothing for himself to cover his own guilt and shame, is because he was afraid that he could not be forgiven. He was afraid of the consequences of his sins. So he committed himself to deceptive actions and deceptive speech, and he passed that inclination on to all of us.

So we resist the gospel. We resist moving permanently into our Messiah’s presence because…he makes us uncomfortable! We do not want to be seen for who we really are, and we certainly do not want to admit it out loud. We want the blessings of the gospel! — but we do not want the relationship.

So it is very common for us, in the early days of our faith, to draw near to Christ…and then go away again, carrying some of the blessings of the gospel with us but haunted by the sneaking suspicion that what we have been given is not actually enough, that one day we are going to have to go back for more, and that on that day we are going to have to make a hard decision: are we going to finally tell the truth, confess our sins, and move into the Church, the kingdom of Christ? Are we going to actually stay in the “barn” with Jesus — in the ark with Jesus — so that when the door is closed and Judgement Day begins in earnest we will be saved? — or are we just going to collect a few more blessings and then go back and take our chances on the outside?

Okay. So, practically speaking now, what are we supposed to do about all this? How should we apply this to our lives?

Well, if you are here today and all this is new to you, if you are meeting Jesus for the first time here, I want you to know that you will be blessed because of your contact with Christ here today. Jesus said it very clearly: he sends his rain upon the righteous and the unrighteous. But I also want you to know that, as you begin to experience his blessings, those blessings are also going to become reminders of your guilt and shame, your unworthiness to receive such blessings. You may experience feelings you have never encountered before.

If this happens to you, do not be afraid: that is the Spirit of God whispering to you, telling you that your life can be truly restored to its original glory if you will only come, and confess your unworthiness, and entrust your life to our Lord and Messiah.

But, of course, you are afraid even to do this. Like Adam and Eve you are afraid of the consequences. Like Reuben, you are afraid of what will happen to your relationships if you actually tell the truth. Like all of us, you have spent a lifetime using deception to preserve your relationships and your own self-image.

But the Book of Genesis has shown us, again and again, that actually deception destroys relationships. Falsehood within a family turns that family into a false family. And quite obviously relationships that have been destroyed by deception are not going to be restored through continued deception!

It is a painful truth, but I am obligated to tell you that confessing the truth is the only path to life and true relationship. But I am also obligated to tell you another, greater truth: when you do finally come, in fear and trembling, and kneel before Jesus, and confess your unworthiness to receive what he has to give — that is the moment he will give it to you. That is the moment he will raise you up, and cover your nakedness with the robes of glory and honour, the restored image of our Father in Heaven.

So if you are here today and that is you, then that is what you should do. All you have to lose is your misery. All you have to gain is life and freedom!

But what about the rest of us, who have already knelt and been restored: what is our takeaway?

Well, this episode today is a reminder that, every time God’s people hide the truth from themselves and others, they turn God’s blessings into a curse, they bring death and destruction into the world instead of life. As we just noticed: deception destroys relationships. The gospel depends on relationships. Therefore deception destroys the gospel. Falsehood within the family of God turns the gospel into a falsehood.

But as Christ’s people we are supposed to be sources of life and blessing for the nations around us. Which means that we must make every effort to be people who speak the truth, who live the truth. If we do not live lives of confession and repentance, we are going to find it impossible to even preach the gospel to our own families, much less the rest of the world!

As Christ’s people, our duty is to set aside our old self-protective patterns of guilt and shame. We don’t need them anymore: we have been clothed in the glory and honour of Christ! Our guilt and our shame are gone. It is our duty to become a truthful people: truthful about our own sins, and truthful about the incredible mercy of our God. This is the only way we will become a blessing to the world around us.

But how can, ah? When deception is so deeply woven into our lives and cultures?

Here is the Good News: our Lord and Messiah is committed to curing us of our deceptive patterns. And here again, Joseph’s work in his brothers’ lives is a model for how Christ works in ours:

By God’s grace Joseph was a man who passed every test, who told the truth at every turn, and he was rewarded with a crown of glory and honour. Now he has begun the process of testing his brothers in the same way, so that they can lead their own families to salvation!

In the same way, our older brother Jesus passed every test, told the truth at every turn, and he is now ruling from his Father’s right hand, crowned with glory and honour. And he has begun the process of testing us, his little brothers and sisters, refining us so that we can become like him: sources of life and blessing and truth in the world.

But what if, as a Christian, I continue to really resist the Gospel of Truth, what if I continue to really struggle to become an honest person…does this mean I am not saved?

Well…no. Not necessarily. Learning to tell the truth is a process. Some Christians come from cultures that value honest speech, so they have been taught from young to obey Christ in this area. But some Christians come from cultures that punish honest speech, so they have been trained from young to resist obedience to Christ in this area. This means that some among us are going to run this part of the race quickly and easily, while others are going to struggle for every step.

So allow me to say this very clearly: just because you run slowly does not mean that you are lost! It is not how fast we run that matters, what matters is that we are running in the right direction.

How can we tell we are running in the right direction?

Like this: we repent of our dishonesty. And every time we are given an opportunity to tell the truth and we fail, we repent again. We do not try to justify dishonesty in ourselves and in one another as if it is no big deal — because it is a big deal! Dishonesty devours the gospel and destroys relationships. Many Christian children leave the faith because their parents are hypocrites, liars. Many Christian marriages fail for the same reason. So if we do not want our church family ruined by misery and broken relationships — like Jacob’s family was — if we want to become true preachers of the gospel to one another, to our children, and to all the world, we have got to do this: admit that we have a problem! And then pray that the Holy Spirit will work strongly in our lives to cure us of it!

Friends, let us keep running. Let us keep learning from God’s Word and from those who do run faster in this area. Let us not give up on Christ, or give up on each other! — because we know have been already been crowned with glory and honour by a Messiah who never gives up on us.


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