That was a question I asked in the study guide we are using for the Old Testament Survey class. It refers to whether we find it harder to believe the Law— “I am not guilty of that!” or to believe the Gospel— “What do you mean I am free? How can that be?”

We had read the story of Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37-50). Jacob the father loved Joseph more than his other 10 sons. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, even hating him, enough so that they sold him to the Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt. There Joseph experienced the the ups and downs of life, rising to prominent position in Potiphar’s house, then being falsely accused and thrown into prison. That is followed by his rise within the prison system  because of his work to help people. He interprets dreams for two fellow prisoners, with the promise that they would remember him when they were released, but they did not. Finally he rises to the second highest position in Egypt.

Joseph recognized by his brothers, by Léon Pie...

Joseph recognized by his brothers, by Léon Pierre Urbain Bourgeois, 1863

A famine causes his brothers to come to Egypt for food. While Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. And so Joseph begins speaking Law to them, trying to draw them out and admit their sin from many years earlier. Eventually through the trips back and forth to Jacob and torment of soul, they finally confess to their sins. It was a torturous affair for them. But ultimately they believed the Law, that they had indeed sinned.

But then after having been crushed by the Law, they find it hard to believe the Gospel (forgiveness). Joseph reminded them, “And now don’t be worried or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5 HCSB). After their father, Jacob, dies they still are fearful that Joseph will bring revenge on them. So Joseph repeats his statement.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people. Therefore don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:19-21 HCSB)

It appears that the Gospel is harder for them to believe.

So, how about each of us. Do we find it hard to believe that God really is condemning me for sin under the Law? Or do we find it even harder to believe that someone like me, crushed, worthless, unable to do anything, is given everything freely because of what Jesus has done?

Which is harder to believe?

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