Blame Shifting

Today’s verses come out of Genesis 42 as we continue the story of Joseph. Genesis 42:21 says, “Then they said one to another, ‘We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his should when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore, this distress has come upon us.'” Then Genesis 42:28 says, “So he (Rueben) said to his brothers, ‘My money has been restored, and there it is, in my sack!’ Then their hearts failed them and they were afraid, saying to one another, ‘what is this that God has done to us?'”

Anyone who has a sibling can laugh at this story, because it is Joseph messing with his brothers. The dream that Pharaoh had in Genesis 41 was that God was going to give a bountiful harvest for seven years, and then a severe famine would follow that would last for seven years. At this point in Genesis 42, they are into the seven years of famine. The famine isn’t just in Egypt, it has spread to the entire region, including Canaan where Jacob and his 11 sons live. Jacob sends 10 of his sons down to Egypt to buy food, because they have heard that somehow Egypt has food in the midst of this severe drought. Jacob keeps Benjamin back with him. He does this because Benjamin is the last surviving son, at least he thinks he is, of Jacob’s true love, Rachel. As the 10 brothers arrive in Egypt and go to handle the business of buying some food to take home, they encounter Joseph. At this time, Joseph had been elevated to second in command in Egypt. Here is the kicker, Joseph recognized his brothers, but they didn’t recognize him. Joseph appears to have a little fun with them, in giving them a hard time by accusing them of being spies, and then before they left, Joseph had their money put back in their money sack without their knowledge. Upon finding their money back in their sack, they flip out. What is truly amazing is the shift that happens in the brothers. When they first arrive at Egypt and Joseph is giving them a hard time, they take the blame. Rueben says that all of this is because of what they did to Joseph. However, out in the desert on the way home, after discovering their money is back in their sack, they blame God. Getting talked to roughly and being accused of being a spy was something they thought they deserved. But they didn’t think they deserved to die for what they did; therefore, in their mind, it must have been God’s fault.

I think it is worth reminding ourselves here of something important. Throughout Joseph’s story, he is constantly pointing us to Christ. In fact, Joseph is a type of Christ in the Old Testament, or a foreshadow of Jesus to come in the New Testament. Joseph’s brothers on the other hand, truly represent all of humanity, not just the Jewish race. It is in reminding myself of this that I unfortunately must see myself as being more like Joseph’s brothers than I am like Joseph. There have been times in which I have done things that I knew I shouldn’t have done, and when I experienced the consequences of those actions, I wanted to act like a victim and to blame God or others for what was happening. What about you? The overwhelming majority of the time, when we are suffering, it isn’t because of what someone else did to us. Rather, we are simply experiencing the consequences of the choices that we have made. James 4:1-3 clearly tells us that our sinful, selfish desires are to blame for most of what we experience. As hard as it is, when we find ourselves suffering or going through a difficult trial, the first question we should ask ourselves is this, God, is there a sin in my life that has brought this on? Sometimes, it won’t be because of a sinful choice we have made. Sometimes, others will be to blame and we are simply getting caught up in their stuff. There are other times in which God allows difficulties in our life to draw us closer to Him. But instead of jumping to one of those last two conclusions first, we need to make sure that it isn’t because of our sinful desires and choices. As I have preached many times through the years here at Westlake, my greatest enemy is the inner me. May we no longer blame God or others for the choices we are making.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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