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Feb
15

Making Peace with Your Past: part 2

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What does guilt do? How does it impact our lives? Last weekend I highlighted implications of guilt from Genesis 42:1-28.

First, guilt limits us to the point of emotional paralysis (Genesis 42:1-2). Jacob knew there was food available in Egypt, yet the sons weren’t doing anything about it. The effects of the famine had reached the land of Canaan, yet the narrative reveals this family, slowly starving to death, standing and staring at one another. Purchasing food from a food source is a routine act each of us take for granted. Yet guilt had such a powerful grip on Jacob’s family that they couldn’t do simple and obvious tasks.

Second, guilt distorts our vision (Genesis 42:6-8). Having arrived safely in Egypt, Joseph’s ten brothers didn’t recognize him, but he immediately recognized them. Guilt has a way of preventing us from seeing things as they really are. Guilt can cause us to become self absorbed, making it hard to see others as they are. One can lose objectivity and miss things as they are right beneath their own noses.

Third, guilt can blind us from the truth (Genesis 42:9-13). Notice the two affirmations the brothers made to Joseph: “we are honest men,” and “one is no more.” The brothers had been telling those lies for 25 years, so long that they had begun to believe them. But what was the truth? The truth was that God had placed his hand on Joseph, as revealed in the dreams of the sheaves and the stars. The truth is that they had premeditated murder, sold Joseph as a slave, then conspired to cover it up Joseph’s brothers were farther from the truth than they acknowledged, yet closer to the truth than they realized.

Next, guilt can chain us to the past (Genesis 42:14-24). Notice how the brothers are gripped by fear and paranoia. Although Joseph had spent time in prison, he was never a captive in the way his brothers had been. They say that circus trainers will begin their training baby elephants by chaining them to a small stake to keep them in place. The baby elephant will strain against the chain until it learns that it cannot escape. Now elephants are not necessarily known for their intelligence, but they are praised for their memories. The memory of the stake becomes so powerful, that even as a full grown adult it will not pull at the simple chain and stake. Unfortunately, our memories are often no different

Finally, guilt distorts our view of God (Genesis 42:15-28). As Joseph sent his brothers away, he quietly had returned their money and provided supplies for their journey home. I think this is a simple act of grace. After all, what kind of brother would Joseph have been to take money from his starving family? But upon discovering the money on the return trip, the brothers exclaimed, “What has God done to us?” Guilt has many negative implications on our lives, but perhaps the worst of all is that it distorts our view of God to the extent that we cannot comprehend his simple grace in our lives.

Tomorrow I’ll finish up Making Peace with Your Past and post three ways that we can deal with buried sin and the guilt that accompanies it.

Categories : Genesis, Guilt, Joseph, Peace

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