Posted in burden, joseph, old testament, sin

Who was the real prisoner?

We know the story of Joseph and his brothers. Genesis 37 to 47 recounts Joseph’s two dreams of superiority over his elder brothers, his coat of many colors, the murderous plot to kill Joseph (Genesis 38:18) and his sale into slavery in Egypt. (Genesis 38:28)

We know that Joseph’s faith was great, and that despite arriving in Egypt as a slave, God was with him. Joseph rose to a place of prominence in Potiphar’s house, (Genesis 39:2), was then unjustly accused of rape and thrown into jail. Even in jail, Joseph’s faith was great and he rose to a place of authority within the jail, (Genesis 39:23) then to a place of prominence in all of Egypt. (Genesis 41:40). Twenty-four years or thereabouts pass before Joseph’s brothers return to Egypt a second time.

Initially the brothers had plotted to kill Joseph. But Judah said “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites…” (Genesis 37:26a).

Indulge your sin of jealousy, conspiracy, fratricide, anger, AND profit from it.

So they did, they waffled on killing their brother, they ended up stuffing Joseph in a pit but then dragged him out when the caravan passed by so they could sell him into slavery. And that seemed to be the end of Joseph for the brothers, for all they knew.

Decades later, the famine had become very severe in all the surrounding region. Unbeknownst to the brothers, Joseph had foreseen the famine coming, thanks to a dream the LORD had sent to Pharaoh, and which Joseph and interpreted by His grace. Facing starvation, the brothers decided to travel to Egypt to buy grain, and they were of course faced with Joseph who had become vizier to Pharaoh, second most powerful man in all of Egypt. The brothers did not recognize Joseph, but Joseph recognized the brothers. Joseph accused the brothers of being spies and held them in custody. He told them to return to Canaan and bring back Benjamin, the youngest, to him. The brothers huddled and said to one another,

In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” (Genesis 42:21-22).

Reuben was referring to the death penalty for taking a life, but there is also a spiritual aspect to this.

Source Wikimedia

Joseph had been in actual prison, and no doubt had some dark days. But the LORD was with Joseph, it says so during the recounting of Joseph’s life, many times. (Genesis 39:2, Genesis 39:21, Genesis 39:23…). When the LORD is with you, no matter the circumstance, one can dwell in joy and peace. (Philippians 4:4). Being “in the Lord” brings with it a sphere of peace that is unrelated to the circumstances of this worldly life. Being in the Lord means you possess an unchanging, invincible bubble of joy that none can penetrate. (Philippians 4:7).

Contrast Joseph’s spiritual success with his brothers’. When accused, they crumbled at once under the weight of their collective guilt. They’d been carrying this tremendous burden of guilt since the day they rode off, deaf to the pleas of the teenager they conspired to sell. It was their prison.

The scriptures declare we are all prisoners of sin, release only comes in faith in the Lord Jesus. (Galatians 3:22, John 8:34, Romans 7:14).

That is why Joseph, though imprisoned, was free; and the brothers, though free, were imprisoned. The burden of sin is heavy, but a clean conscience is light.

The solution:

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24–25).

Are you like Christian, the man in the allegory Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan? Christian was weighted by a burden on his back of which he could not rid himself and was causing much distress.

Christian: I cannot go as fast as I would, by reason of this burden that is on my back.
Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk, they drew nigh to a very miry slough that was in the midst of the plain: and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was Despond. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.

Slough of Despond, Dyer Library, Saco, Maine

Evangelist explained to Christian why the ground was so bad at the Slough of Despond:

‘This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.

Are you sinking deep into guilt and shame, as were Joseph’s brothers, weighted in guilt by their heinous acts? Do you long for freedom from sin and a cleansed heart, forgiven of the sins which are burdening you? Only Jesus can provide that, and He has.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).

THE GOSPEL

Posted in burden, guilt, sin, weight

The burden of sin and its heaviness upon the earth

Psalm 38:3-4 speaks of the burden of sin. Sin is heavy. It weighs on a person. David certainly felt the weight of his sin, he wrote about it in Psalm 38. Here are verses 3-4

“There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.”

In verse 8 David says the guilt associated with his sins have crushed him. Sin is heavy.

Some women feel the weight. As 2 Timothy 3:6 reminds us, “For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses,”

“Weighed down” indeed.

In another verse we see the weight of sin upon a nation, not just an individual, as Ezra desribes.

Ezra felt the weight of sin. He prayed to God in Ezra 9:7, saying: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.”

Again, we read the allusion of sin piling up to over our heads. As MacArthur explains of the verse, “Even though Ezra did not participate in Israel’s sins, he understood that the sins of the few contaminate the many.”

The sins of the few contaminate the many… hold that thought.

Individuals feel the burden of sin, nations feel the burden of sin, and the world feels the burden of sin. See this next verse:

“The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again.” (Isaiah 24:20)

Sin is heavy!

EPrata photo

Now, I am not saying that sin is literally heavy, though it feels that way sometimes. It’s like when we say “He has a heart of stone”. His heart is not actually stone.

We see snow-laden branches struggling to remain attached to the tree. Each snowflake is light but an accumulation of them will bend and break even the strongest of branches.The weight of sin is a weight of guilt, of conscience, of a burden carried within, metaphorically. Or IS it only metaphoric?

Martin V. Day of the Department of Psychology, Princeton University, and D. Ramona Bobocel of the Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada conducted an experiment. Their findings were released in July 2013. The thrust of the experiment was along the following lines:

“In everyday language, guilt is treated as a tangible substance—people bring guilt upon themselves, carry it, or are weighed down by it. Similarly, feelings of guilt can be expressed as a “weight on one’s conscience.” Such metaphoric language suggests that guilt has properties similar to an object with real weight. On the one hand, weight-related adjectives may merely represent traditional descriptions of guilt. On the other hand, guilt is a real emotion, and the heaviness of guilt may be embodied as a feeling of weight. In this paper, we tested whether the experience of guilt is grounded in sensations of increased weight.”

The researchers screened out variables regarding weight and perception, and masked the purpose of the study. They found some interesting conclusions. Guilt was the only negative emotion which significantly raised the subject’s perception of heaviness. For example, those subjects feeling emotions of disgust, sadness, pride did not report any attendant feelings of weight. Their conclusions were that…

Encased even 1/4 inch of ice,
branches snap like matchsticks.

“…participants who recalled an unethical act reported significantly more weight compared to those who recalled an ethical memory or an unethical memory of a distant other person … the present research revealed that personal experiences of immorality can be partly understood by sensations of weight, and that guilt appears to have some responsibility for this effect. Although guilt is literally weightless, we demonstrate that the embodiment of guilt can have consequences as if it does indeed have weight.”

You can read their study here. It isn’t long and they use plain language for the most part.

So I got to thinking…individuals feel the weight of guilt, and nations feel the weight of guilt, the world feels the weight of guilt….and the world will stagger under the weight of the guilt at the end of the last days… is THAT the feeling I’ve been feeling lately?

I am serious. Recently I’ve been feeling the weight of…something. I always feel the weight of my own guilt, and that weight gets heavier the more I am grown by the Spirit in Christ-likeness. As my sanctification increases, so does a super-sensitivity to my own sin.

source

But it’s more than that. It feels lately as if the very air has grown thicker. As if the very world has grown heavier. It feels like I’m in an antique diving suit, trying to walk through mud and molasses.

I got to thinking about the weight of sin, and David’s anguish over his guilt…and the women loaded down with sins…and Ezra’s burden of the nation’s sin… and Isaiah’s expression of the world tottering under the transgressions that have piled up. Some days it seems like a lead blanket has been shaken out and is settling slowly on the world, weighing down all peoples. Like Ezra, who understood that the sins of the few contaminate the many, we also feel the weight of the world’s guilt and are contaminated by it. If Ezra felt it when ‘few’ were sinning, how much more weighed down do we feel now, when so much of the entire world is rebelling against the LORD and weighed down with guilt for their sins? It’s like that lead apron they put on you when you go for an X-Ray.

O Lord, please release us from having to move in this ponderous world laden with an atmosphere of a murky soup of sinful souls.