But they said, “Your servants are twelve brothers in all, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no longer alive.”
—Genesis 42:13

God sometimes brings adversity to reactivate our consciences. God brought adversity to Joseph’s brothers through the famine, but that wasn’t enough. Joseph said to his brothers, “You are spies” (Genesis 42:9). They explained, “Your servants are twelve brothers in all, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no longer alive” (v. 13). This is the first time they have acknowledged they have a brother who is no longer there.

This leads to the second stage God will use to reactivate our conscience, and that is embarrassment over our sin. When we sin we tend to cover it over. Sometimes we try to do that with God. But unconfessed sin is like a cancer that will eventually destroy us unless we let God heal it. Many times before God can heal that sin, the sin we have tried to hide has to be exposed.

But you can be embarrassed about your sin and still that’s not enough to receive God’s forgiveness. There’s another stage we have to go through in order to have a reactivated conscience, and that is realizing that we are responsible for our sin. Joseph’s brothers kept saying to him, “We are not spies. We are brothers who came from Canaan.” And Joseph replied, in essence, “Okay, if that’s really the case, I’m going to keep you all in prison, and I will let one brother go back and bring your other brother, Benjamin, and your father back to Egypt. If they come back with you, then I’ll know you are not spies.”

Joseph put his brothers in prison for three days. Then he said, “I’m changing the terms. I’m going to keep one of the brothers here. We’ll send you all back to get the old man in Egypt and if you all come back, you can retrieve your brother.” When the brothers heard that, notice their response. They said to one another—not realizing that Joseph understood Hebrew—“Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us” (v. 21).

This is the first time in the Bible when anybody admits their own guilt for sin. Some of you have been living apart from God or maybe you have never become a Christian. Yet now you realize there is a connection between the adversity you are experiencing and the fact that you have sinned and need to come to a right relationship with God. Did you know that realization is a sign that God is working in your life? You don’t just awaken one day and say, “You know what? I think I’m going to repent of my sins today.” The Bible says God grants repentance as a gift.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Value of a Clear Conscience” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.