Press of Solitude

Monday: When the Spirit Moves

Genesis 42:17-23 In this week’s studies, we learn the importance of solitude for our relationship with the Lord.
When the Spirit Moves

During the years my wife and I spent in Switzerland we spent all the time I could afford away from my graduate work in the mountains. The high mountains of Switzerland are wonderful at any time of the year—in summer when fields of alpine flowers blanket the mountain pastures and small clusters of edelweiss cling to the bare granite peaks and outcroppings, and in winter when the peaks, pastures and even the lower mountain valleys are covered with a thick, silent carpet of snow. But the most wonderful time of all in the mountains is spring. In spring, the hard, harsh grasp of snowy winter weakens and the glories of summer begin to push their way up the rugged valleys to the heights. If you are high in the mountains during that wondrous passage of seasons, you notice that little trickles of water begin to flow beside the paths and roadways. Then the snow becomes softer, melting. Patches of gray stone or brown earth appear. Here and there deep blue gentian or red alpine roses appear beside the rocks. At last the snow retreats to the most distant heights and warm restoring breezes sweep over the lush green meadows. 

Something like that happens when the Spirit of God begins to blow upon sin-hardened consciences. At first there is a mere trickle of recognition of wrong done. But as the breath of God grows warmer, the trickle becomes a torrent of remorse and confession, the ice of rebellion melts, and the miracle of forgiveness, cleansing and new life engulfs the tender soul. 

This was beginning to happen with Joseph’s ten brothers. They had come to Egypt out of sheer necessity, remembering only what they had done collectively to their brother and dreading the possibility that they might meet him in some dark habitat of slaves. Still they were hardened men. It was only as God added the harsh words of Joseph (whom they did not recognize) to the pain of material want that the trickle of confession began. At first it was just a small flow. They said, “Your servants were [actually, “are”] twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more” (Gen. 42:13). They meant that so far as they knew, Joseph was probably dead, yet they felt compelled to mention him as their brother. “Joseph . . . our brother!” Earlier, when he had approached them while they were with the sheep at Dothan, he had been “that dreamer” (Gen. 37:19). Now he is “our brother” (Gen. 42:21; cf. v. 13) and even “the boy” (v. 22) or “the child” (KJV). 

In this next section of the story the guilty memory of the brothers becomes an open confession for the first time. They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us.” Reuben chimed in, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood” (vv. 21-22).

Study Questions
  1. What circumstances did God use to soften the consciences of Joseph’s brothers?
  2. What do we find out the brothers are thinking in response to God’s working in their lives?

Reflection: Recount your own conversion experience. What were the circumstances, and who were the people, God used to soften your conscience?

Prayer: Ask the Lord to continue to make you aware of any sin in your life that must be eliminated, and also for the grace to repent of it.

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Alone but for the Lord.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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