Genesis 44:16 – “And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.”
Due to the extreme famine in Canaan, the sons of Jacob came to Egypt to buy corn. Joseph was the governor of Egypt and recognized his brothers, but they did not know him. As the brothers dealt with Joseph, facing problems each time they sought to obtain food, they spoke privately of their guilt in the mistreatment of their brother. Though many years had passed and they did not expect to ever see Joseph again, they knew in their hearts they had done wrong and this matter had never been made right.
In the text, Judah is the spokesperson as they stand yet again before Joseph. They were defending themselves because Joseph’s silver cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. Judah asked Joseph, whom he still did not recognize as his brother, “how shall we clear ourselves?” They did not know how to clear their names in the accusation of stealing the silver cup, but they had other things they needed to get cleared up. They had the unresolved guilt over selling their brother into slavery. They carried the guilt of lying to their father, of telling him they found Joseph’s bloody coat, and of allowing Jacob to believe that his favorite son had been killed by wild animals
The question is a valid one for all: “how shall we clear ourselves?” How can we get peace in our hearts that our sins have been forgiven? How can we have a clear conscience? Thank God there is forgiveness through the mercy and grace of God and the gift of eternal salvation. We can know that our sins are forgiven and that we are justified before God. We can have peace with God through the blood of Jesus Christ.
But, what about the guilt we feel about wronging another person? The sons of Jacob had wronged their brother and their father, and their conscience would not excuse them. We must be willing to go to those we have sinned against and ask their forgiveness. It is not impossible to clear ourselves, but it may not be easy. We must humble ourselves, admit where we have been wrong, and seek to make things right.