Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants.”
—Genesis 44:16

As we read the story of Joseph in Genesis 44, you have to admit it’s a little weird. I mean, it doesn’t seem right that Joseph would wrongly frame his brothers and then blame his brothers. It only seems odd until you understand what Joseph is up to. Why did Joseph concoct this scheme? It’s not because he was trying to punish his brothers. If Joseph’s interest had been vengeance, if he had wanted to punish his brothers for what they did to him, he could have had them executed immediately. No, this was all part of his plan to bring about reconciliation. Even though Joseph had already forgiven his brothers, he knew they would not be in a position to receive his forgiveness unless they had truly changed and repented of what they had done. And that is the key to receiving forgiveness–repentance.

We will never be in a position to receive God’s forgiveness–or forgiveness from others–until we have repented. That word “repent” in the New Testament means a change of mind that leads to a change of direction. It pictures a person who is walking one direction, changes his mind, does a U-turn, and starts walking in another direction. That’s what repentance is.

What does repentance look like? First of all, genuine repentance requires an admission of our sin. We can never be forgiven until we admit that we have sinned. In verse 16, Judah said to Joseph, “How can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants.” You know, the brothers weren’t guilty–not of this sin anyway. Judah was saying, “You’re right; we are guilty. Perhaps not of this particular sin, but of a sin we committed years ago when we sold our brother into slavery.” Sometimes the suffering we are going through is not because we are guilty of what other people are saying is true about us, but for something we have yet to confess before the Lord. That’s what was going on here. Judah said, “We are guilty.” In order to receive forgiveness you have to admit your sin.

First John 1:8-9 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Repentance means admitting our sins.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Life’s Most Important Choice” 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.