Genesis – First, God
“There is ground for declaring that modern man has become a moral idiot.”
Those words were published in 1948 on page 1 of “Ideas Have Consequences” by Dr. Richard M. Weaver, then professor of English in the College of the University of Chicago. His book dropped like an atomic bomb on the postwar academic community and was called by one reviewer “a profound diagnosis of the sickness of our culture.” The message of the book was simple: If you don’t live according to the truth, then you must suffer the consequences.
Dr. Weaver should see the moral situation today! Not only has society rejected truth, but also it no longer believes in consequences. In today’s world, truth is whatever you want to believe, and if you believe the wrong thing, you don’t have to worry about the consequences. There are none. Since moral absolutes simply don’t exist, you can do whatever you please and get away with it. “Be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23 NIV) no longer applies.
No truth–no consequences.
For twenty-two years Joseph’s brothers had followed that philosophy and carefully covered their sins. They hadn’t told the truth and apparently had reaped no serious consequences. Furthermore, they weren’t afraid of being exposed because the only person who could witness against them was Joseph, and they were sure he was dead (Gen. 44:20). But the truth had to come out, both for their good and the success of God’s plan of salvation for the world.
This is part one of the continuing saga of how God reveals the brothers’ sin against Joseph. The story also reveals how God works all things for good for those who love and obey Him. Remember that as we read…
Genesis 44, The Message
1-2 Joseph ordered his house steward: “Fill the men’s bags with food—all they can carry—and replace each one’s money at the top of the bag. Then put my chalice, my silver chalice, in the top of the bag of the youngest, along with the money for his food.” He did as Joseph ordered.
3-5 At break of day the men were sent off with their donkeys. They were barely out of the city when Joseph said to his house steward, “Run after them. When you catch up with them, say, ‘Why did you pay me back evil for good? This is the chalice my master drinks from; he also uses it for divination. This is outrageous!’”
6 He caught up with them and repeated all this word for word.
7-9 They said, “What is my master talking about? We would never do anything like that! Why, the money we found in our bags earlier, we brought back all the way from Canaan—do you think we’d turn right around and steal it back from your master? If that chalice is found on any of us, he’ll die; and the rest of us will be your master’s slaves.”
10 The steward said, “Very well then, but we won’t go that far. Whoever is found with the chalice will be my slave; the rest of you can go free.”
11-12 They outdid each other in putting their bags on the ground and opening them up for inspection. The steward searched their bags, going from oldest to youngest. The chalice showed up in Benjamin’s bag.
13 They ripped their clothes in despair, loaded up their donkeys, and went back to the city.
14 Joseph was still at home when Judah and his brothers got back. They threw themselves down on the ground in front of him.
15 Joseph accused them: “How can you have done this? You have to know that a man in my position would have discovered this.”
16 Judah as spokesman for the brothers said, “What can we say, master? What is there to say? How can we prove our innocence? God is behind this, exposing how bad we are. We stand guilty before you and ready to be your slaves—we’re all in this together, the rest of us as guilty as the one with the chalice.”
17 “I’d never do that to you,” said Joseph. “Only the one involved with the chalice will be my slave. The rest of you are free to go back to your father.”
18-20 Judah came forward. He said, “Please, master; can I say just one thing to you? Don’t get angry. Don’t think I’m presumptuous—you’re the same as Pharaoh as far as I’m concerned. You, master, asked us, ‘Do you have a father and a brother?’ And we answered honestly, ‘We have a father who is old and a younger brother who was born to him in his old age. His brother is dead and he is the only son left from that mother. And his father loves him more than anything.’
21-22 “Then you told us, ‘Bring him down here so I can see him.’ We told you, master, that it was impossible: ‘The boy can’t leave his father; if he leaves, his father will die.’
23 “And then you said, ‘If your youngest brother doesn’t come with you, you won’t be allowed to see me.’
24-26 “When we returned to our father, we told him everything you said to us. So when our father said, ‘Go back and buy some more food,’ we told him flatly, ‘We can’t. The only way we can go back is if our youngest brother is with us. We aren’t allowed to even see the man if our youngest brother doesn’t come with us.’
27-29 “Your servant, my father, told us, ‘You know very well that my wife gave me two sons. One turned up missing. I concluded that he’d been ripped to pieces. I’ve never seen him since. If you now go and take this one and something bad happens to him, you’ll put my old gray, grieving head in the grave for sure.’
30-32 “And now, can’t you see that if I show up before your servant, my father, without the boy, this son with whom his life is so bound up, the moment he realizes the boy is gone, he’ll die on the spot. He’ll die of grief and we, your servants who are standing here before you, will have killed him. And that’s not all. I got my father to release the boy to show him to you by promising, ‘If I don’t bring him back, I’ll stand condemned before you, Father, all my life.’
33-34 “So let me stay here as your slave, not this boy. Let the boy go back with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? Oh, don’t make me go back and watch my father die in grief!”
BAD NEWS AND GOOD NEWS
Joseph had one more strategic move in his wise plan for bringing his brothers to repentance, and this one involved his own beloved full brother, Benjamin. Once Jacob’s sons had faced their sins and repented, Joseph could reveal who he was, and they could be reconciled.
When the eleven brothers left Joseph’s house, they had every reason to be joyful (43:34). They hadn’t been arrested for stealing the grain money, Simeon had been released, Benjamin was safely traveling with them, and they were going home at last.
But their joy was only a mirage. Authentic joy and peace can never be based on lies; they must be founded on truth. The brothers must have been surprised when they saw Joseph’s steward and his guard following them, little realizing that their sins were about to catch up with them. But the biggest shock came when he announced that one of the brothers was a thief who had stolen his master’s special silver cup.
So sure were the brothers of their innocence that they defended themselves passionately.
When the steward searched the sacks, he heightened the tension by working his way from the eldest brother to the youngest (44:12). This was the second time the brothers wondered how the Egyptians knew their birth order (43:33).
Wouldn’t this drama make a great movie or play? (Smiling)
Once again, each man’s money was found in his sack, but nothing special is said about this in the text.
Two passages of God’s Word come to mind:
“If you repay good with evil, evil will never leave your house.” Proverbs 17:13 NIV
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
1 Peter 3:9 NIV
Back to the story….While the steward was looking for the silver cup, the presence of their money in the sacks must have frightened the men. When the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack, the brothers were sure that this was the end.
The brothers showed genuine grief and distress by tearing their garments as if someone had died. Imagine the thoughts that raced through their minds as they traveled back to the city. How could they prove their innocence?
What would Judah say to his father when he returned home without his youngest brother? Since their money was found in their sacks, would all of them be condemned as thieves?
Since he was responsible for Benjamin, no doubt Judah was preparing his appeal and perhaps praying that the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob would give him success. His speech indicates that Judah decided to tell the truth and confess his sins and the sins of his brothers.
“…you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” Numbers 32:23 NIV
The phrase “Judah and his brothers” (v. 14) alerts us that Judah was now the spokesman for the family. True, it was Judah who suggested they sell Joseph (37:26-27), and it was Judah who unwittingly committed incest with his daughter-in-law (chap. 38), but by the grace of God, people can change and make new beginnings. Let’s remember Judah for his courageous and compassionate speech and not for his foolish sins.
““Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” says Jesus,
Matthew 7:1 NIV
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
Joseph was on hand to meet his brothers, for this was the occasion he’d been anticipating for years. When they arrived, his brothers didn’t merely bow before him; they prostrated themselves on the ground, eleven frightened and broken men. This was the third time they had bowed before him (42:6; 43:26), so Joseph’s prophetic dreams had more than been fulfilled.
In his opening words, Judah made it clear that he wouldn’t even try to defend himself and his brothers, for what could he say? It’s when guilty sinners’ mouths are shut and they stop defending themselves that God can show them mercy (Rom. 3:19).
The phrase “God is behind this, exposing how bad we are.” (Gen. 44:16) doesn’t refer only to the discovery of the grain money or to the silver cup. The statement also refers to their hidden sins, the way they had treated Joseph and their father years before.
Before telling them who he was, Joseph wanted to discover their attitude toward Benjamin. Thus he announced that Benjamin would remain in Egypt as his slave while the rest of the men returned home. It was then that Judah came to Benjamin’s defense in the longest speech by a human found in the book of Genesis, and one of the most moving speeches found anywhere in the Bible. Eight times in this defense, Judah called Joseph “my lord,” and thirteen times he used the word “father.” Little did Judah realize that each time he used the word “father,” or referred to his brother Benjamin, he was reaching the heart of the man who held their future in his hands.
That Judah should declare himself a savior for his youngest brother (Gen. 43:8-10) and willingly offer to take his place surely touched Joseph’s heart. Judah was certain he’d been the cause of Joseph’s death, and he didn’t want to be the cause of Jacob’s death.
It was indeed a new Judah who stood before Joseph, a man whom Joseph knew could be trusted. The time had now come for Joseph to reveal himself to his brothers.
We need to remind ourselves that Jesus Christ is THE SAVIOR for those who have trusted Him (Heb. 7:22). He has assumed the responsibility for us to make sure that we will come to the Father (John 14:1-6). Jesus is “bringing many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10), and He will see to it that each of them arrives safely.
Judah was willing to take Benjamin’s place and separate himself from his father, but Jesus actually took our place and died for us on the cross, crying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46 NIV). He is our Savior and He cannot fail.
God’s story doesn’t end here…part two tomorrow!
Lord, God of All,
Thank you for taking our place and paying our debt of sin. Thank you for being with us. Thank you for teaching us and daily transforming us to be more and more like you in all ways.
In Jesus Name, Amen