now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near shechem. and Israel said to joseph, “are not your brothers pasturing the flock at shechem? come, i will send you to them.” and he said to him, “here i am.” so he said to him, “go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.” so he sent him from the valley of hebron, and he came to shechem. and a man found him wandering in the fields. and the man asked him, “what are you seeking?” “i am seeking my brothers,” he said. “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” and the man said, “they have gone away, for i heard them say, ‘let us go to dothan.’” so joseph went after his brothers and found them at dothan. they saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. [genesis 37:12-18]
they saw him from afar
what an incredible window into temptation to sin! this sounds a lot like james chapter 1:
but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings death. [v. 14-15]
in this moment, joseph’s brothers are tempted, lured to sin by their own desire. they then feed that desire, enough that they conspire together to kill joseph. the temptation itself was not sinful, but dwelling on it led to sin.
what thoughts and desires are you feeding?
this is an extreme case; not many of you have probably conspired to kill your sibling! but this action of seeing an enticing opportunity to sin, and the following choice to feed that desire or by the power of the Spirit seek to quench it—that we all experience every day. the dim savoring of anger at that person who wronged us; the hours spent trying to control the world around us; the approval we seek to mask our guilt over that thing we won’t repent for—this habitual feeding of sinful desire does not always raise “red flags” in our mind, but it inevitably leads to the “conception” of sin, which fully grown brings death.
our choice to feed or not to feed those sinful desires in our hearts are important, but ultimately our decisions will never save us from this cycle. even if we have been saved, we need continual intervening by the Holy Spirit to succeed in any meaningful way! in addition, we can’t just stop feeding the sinful thoughts without starting to feed something else. Jesus gives only one guarantee of a way to stop bearing bad fruit and start bearing good fruit:
already you are clean because of the word that i have spoken to you. abide in me, and i in you. as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. [john 15:3-4]
as we abide in the vine, we begin to hunger for and desire Christ over our sin! as we abide in the vine, sin starts to lose its savor! and as we abide in the vine, we will produce fruit that is fitting of repentance.
Lord, teach us not to feed our sinful desires before they lead us to sin! teach us to desire you and you alone, as we abide in you and your word. we cannot do this on our own; please help!
~ stephen hall