Change Is Possible
This devotional is part of a series through the story of Joseph. You can read the whole series here.
A key Hebrew phrase appears in Genesis 44: mazoth asith. It means, What have you done? It’s the question that Joseph asks his brothers in Genesis 44:15 as he is testing them. The phrase is also very important for understanding the entire message of the book of Genesis, because it appears eight times in total at very important points in the story.
The first time the phrase appears is in Genesis 3:13, when God questions Adam and Eve for eating the forbidden fruit. Adam and Eve’s response to God’s questioning of them is to blame shift: Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the Serpent.
The second time mazoth asith appears is in Genesis 4:10, when God questions Cain for killing Abel. Cain responds to God’s inquiries and his punishment (e.g. being sent away) by stating that the punishment was too hard for him to bear (Genesis 4:13).
The phrase also appears in Genesis 12:18, 20:9, 26:10, 29:25, and in 31:26. In each of these instances, Abraham, Isaac, Laban, and/or Jacob have lied about something profound but have been found out. And in each of these instances, the men who have been found guilty try to justify their actions rather than to ask forgiveness or to try to make amends. This is a pattern in Genesis which displays for us how sin operates within the human heart.
But Genesis 44 is different. Here we see Judah and the rest of Joseph’s brothers eager to atone for their wrongs and being truly sorrowful for their actions. We also see the love they have for their father and the regret they have for selling Joseph into slavery long ago. This is what Joseph clearly wanted to find out by testing them in this chapter. Were they the same as they were then? Did they regret their actions in any way? Have they been humbled?
The answer is clearly yes. Joseph’s brothers were different people. In truth, as the brothers had sat with their sin, over the years it produced a change in them. Much like Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 7:9, a type of “godly grief” had led them to repentance.
Within the story-arch of Genesis, Genesis 44 teaches us that real change is possible. It teaches us that people who we don’t expect to change can change. It also teaches us the path we must tread in order to change ourselves: the path of repentance.
As we read the story of Joseph, we ought to see ourselves in Joseph’s brothers. Like them, we are sinners in need of grace and forgiveness. Like them, we are called to repent of our sins and to ask for forgiveness when we sin against others. Like them, we must own our mistakes and seek to make amends for the harm we so often cause.
At the same time, we ought to see Jesus in the person of Joseph. Like Joseph towards his brothers, Jesus extends grace to us though we have sinned so greatly against him. Therefore, we can approach Jesus with our sins and our shortcomings with complete confidence that he will receive us.
Adam Smith is a Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.