What do you feel like you must make sure other people know about you? What is your most valued personal trait? Do you get upset when people think the opposite of you?
You may remember that in past posts I've shared that I want to be seen as dependable and faithful. It upsets me if someone thinks I don't keep my promises. I've also shared that the vow to be seen as dependable and faithful resulted because I lied in third grade. I determined that keeping my promises and being perfect would prevent people from knowing the horrible truth: I'm a liar.
It's interesting that Joseph's brothers had a similar desire. Read what happens in Genesis 42:8-11:
But Joseph had recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him. Joseph remembered the dreams which he had about them, and said to them, “You are spies; you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land.” Then they said to him, “No, my lord, but your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man; we are honest men, your servants are not spies.”
"We are honest men!" What? Honest? The fact is they are liars and human traffickers. They sold their brother into slavery and they fabricated an elaborate lie to cover up their hatred and envy. Now to protect themselves from a false accusation (of being spies), they insist they are honest men. They will go to any degree to guard their lives from danger.
The Lord is putting them in a position where their response pricks their conscience. As they say those words, "We are honest men," they are being drawn deeper into repentance by verbalizing the very thing they aren't. The truth is no longer just in the recesses of their minds, buried under the passage of time. Now, the inconsistency of their thinking and beliefs are exposed. What they haven't faced honestly and clearly for decades is brought to the light in all its ugliness.
God is doing a cleansing work, yet from their perspective, it has to feel so horrible. And dangerous. Their very lives are in danger because they are being accused of a capital crime. And again, they are feeling what Joseph experienced so that they can become truly repentant of the pain they caused.
On a different note, are you curious about why the brothers also answered, "We are all sons of one man"? I was. Why would they say that?
My research reveals that Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible gives this insight: "We are all one man's sons,.... Therefore not likely to be spies; it could hardly be thought that a single family should engage in such an affair; or that one man would, send his sons as spies, and especially all of them, it being a dangerous affair, and they being liable to be taken up and put to death; and as more families than one must be concerned in such an enterprise, it is reasonable to suppose, that if they had been spies they would have been of different families, and also not together, but in different parts of the kingdom, to observe the fittest place to enter in at and execute their design".
That sounds reasonable, doesn't it?
I asked you some questions in the beginning of this post. What did you answer? Is it possible that the very trait you value in yourself, that you want everyone to see in you, is actually that which was developed because of a wound which dealt with that very thing?
I felt condemned as a liar and so I perfected a quality of dependability.
Jeni was always blamed for the fights with her brother as they grew up. Today she is paranoid about being seen as never making a mistake.
Sam was told he would always fail. Today, he won't abandon a project even if it's obvious it won't succeed.
Claire actually once stopped her step-father from beating her mother and she felt powerful. Today, Claire's heart is hard because being emotional speaks of weakness.
It's true that God wants us to develop good qualities in His power. But sometimes those qualities become idols because we feel worthless unless they are seen and acknowledged. Instead, God wants us to depend upon His view of us, which is always good because He sees us through Jesus's robe of righteousness. Our own good qualities fluctuate. But God's stamp of approval because we are "in Christ" never varies.
Which do you think is better to depend upon?
God is working in Joseph's brothers's hearts to clear away their guilt so that they will depend upon God for their value. How is He doing that in you?