What Can You Say When You Are Guilty?
Joseph’s brothers were in dire circumstances when they stood with Benjamin and were questioned by the most powerful man in Egypt (Gen. 41:40-42). This was not the first time they had been there to buy grain. The first time, they left and all their money was given back to them and hidden in their sacks of grain. This time, when they left and opened their sacks, they again found their money but also the royal cup of Joseph had been placed in Benjamin’s sack.
They were guilty and stood helpless before Joseph. Judah was the spokesman, but he had no defense. He said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves” (Gen. 44:16)? Their guilt was obvious to the ruler, Joseph, and it was obvious to them. What defense can there be? Hear his words, “What shall we say?”
These same words were spoken by Ezra who was part of the restoring of Israel after their seventy years in Babylon. The temple had been rebuilt by Zerubbabel, and with the return of Ezra, the priest, the people focused even more on living according to what God taught. The leaders came to Ezra and spoke of the unlawful marriages the Jews had made with the pagans. They said, “The holy seed is mixed with the people of those lands.” When Ezra heard of this he tore his garments and literally pulled hairs from his head and his beard in despair. At the time of the evening sacrifice, he fell on his knees before God and spread out his hands.
In his prayer he confessed their sins. They were guilty and stood before the holy God as sinful men. Ezra said, “O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken Your commandments” (Ezra 9:10). God knew they were guilty. They knew they were guilty. The words of the priest sum it all up—what shall we say?
These are not just two interesting Bible stories, for both illustrate the plight of all mankind who someday shall stand guilty before a holy God. To picture that day as a courtroom scene robs it of reality. In a courtroom, men stand before their peers. On that day, they will stand before the Almighty One. Those who are lost will know their destiny as they stand there. There will be no legitimate excuses. God knows they are guilty, and they know their guilt. Think about the question which could be asked, “What can we say?”
We must not forget that we shall be there. The petty excuses we offer to ourselves today will be meaningless. Faithful Christians will stand in awe with hopeful expectation. Sinful men and lukewarm Christians will cower in fear before the Almighty. If you are lost now, you will be lost on that day. You are guilty. “What shall we say to our Lord?”