Conscience and Confession

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Genesis 37:29-38:3029And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. 30And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go? 31And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; 32And they sent the coat of many colors, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no. 33And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. 34And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. 35And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. 36And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard. 1And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. 2And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her. 3And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er. 4And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan. 5And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him. 6And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. 7And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him. 8And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. 9And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. 10And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also. 11Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father's house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father's house. 12And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah's wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep. 14And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife. 15When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. 16And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? 17And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it? 18And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him. 19And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood. 20And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman's hand: but he found her not. 21Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place. 22And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place. 23And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her. 24And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. 25When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. 26And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more. 27And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. 28And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first. 29And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez. 30And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah. (Genesis 37:29‑38:30)
Reuben did not have the courage to rebuke his brothers for their evil ways. He would rather do what he knew to be wrong than “make bad friends.” How often we find young people like this, and it is so sad, for to be a friend of the world is to be the enemy of God. When Reuben came to the pit, he found that Joseph was gone, and he rent his clothes with grief. In­stead of confessing his sin as he should have done, he joined with his brothers to make a plan whereby they could hide their wicked act. They did not realize that “he that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:1313He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)). Although they hid their sin from their poor old father, for the time being at least, they did not, and could not, hide it from God.
The Folly of Deceit and Disobedience
Their plan seemed to work out well enough, and they were able to deceive their father, but God has said, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:2323But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23)). And though they kept their secret for a long time, God brought it out eventually. How foolish to try to hide anything from God! And yet how many dear young people right now are trying to deceive their parents and other Chris­tians. You may laugh, and try to “pass it off” as they say, but perhaps as you read these lines, your conscience is troubling you and making you miser­able. Remember what the Lord said to Saul of Tarsus, who was fighting against the accusings of his conscience: “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” And it is hard! How often it is just pride that keeps us from an open confession, and we remain miserable for months and even years just like Joseph’s brothers.
Then there is another lesson for us in this sad event. Many, many years before this took place, Jacob had de­ceived his own father, and here his sons did the very same thing to him. How keenly he felt it as he wept and mourned, refusing to be comforted. If you, dear young reader, are deceiving your parents, have it out with the Lord and with them right now, or you, too, will reap it, if the Lord leaves us here. Oh, the folly of trying to go on in dis­obedience to God and His Word! The law of the Medes and Persians might alter, but God’s Word never will. He has said, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:77Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7)).
Every Knee Shall Bow
We spoke earlier of how Joseph’s coat of many colors spoke of the many glories of Christ, and here they took and dipped it in the blood of a kid of the goats. This reminds us of how the Jews put the Lord Jesus to death and trampled all His glory in the dust. How little Joseph’s brothers realized that they were going to have to bow before him as he had dreamed, and that Joseph was going to have a glorious place in spite of all their wicked schemes. So God has decreed that every knee shall bow to His Son (Philippians 2:1010That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; (Philippians 2:10)). If you bow now, dear reader, you will be saved, but if you refuse, you will bow at the great white throne judgment and be lost forever.
While Joseph was the rejected one, Judah fell into sin and shame, and so today the Jews, having rejected Christ, have a still darker history. The Jews, like Judah, not willing to own their own guilt, would try to place the blame on others. How wonderful in view of all this to see the grace of God, for the scarlet thread on the hand of Zara reminds us of redemption — the only foundation of blessing for either Jew or Gentile.
Further Meditation
1. What happened when Reuben went back to the pit where he and his brothers left Joseph?
2. Jacob had deceived his father and had not yet reached full repentance. But the Lord had faithfully worked in his life. How many times had Jacob been deceived by others? How does he react differently on this occasion compared to earlier ones?
3. If you are pondering the issues of discipline in Jacob’s life, or in your own, you might find help reading Discipline: Jacob by W. Kelly. You can find it at by doing a Library Search for 65686.