Today’s portion of Joseph’s story is about a final test for his brothers and the big reunion. The first time I really studied Joseph’s story was a little over two years ago. I remember when we got to this part of the study feeling a little put off by what Joseph does in this part of scripture. Why plant the cup and falsely accuse them –especially in light of the fact that Joseph knows what it is like to be falsely accused!
In case you didn’t have an opportunity to read the portion yet, Joseph has seen Benjamin, released Simeon, fed the brothers and filled their sacks with food and allowing them to return to their home. He instructed his steward to fill their sacks with as much food as they could. In addition to each man’s money returned to them, he ordered his own silver cup to be placed in Benjamin’s sack. He ordered his steward to follow them and overtake them with the accusation of the stolen cup. The steward was to ask them, “How could you repay kindness with evil?”
The steward did as he was instructed. When the steward accused the brothers of stealing the silver cup they reacted with disbelief and basically refute the accusation and add that if they did find the cup that brother would be a slave to Joseph!
They were not considering the option of the set-up, were they? Nope.
Of course the cup is found in Benjamin’s bag and they all load up and return to the city to have a chat with Joseph.
The Bible says their reaction was….
“…they tore their clothes.”
That is a level of frustration and sorrow I have never known. But in that moment they knew that past sins were coming back upon them. Look at verse 16
And Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found.” ESV
Judah answered, "Oh, my lord, what can we say to you? How can we explain this? How can we prove our innocence? God is punishing us for our sins. My lord, we have all returned to be your slaves--all of us, not just our brother who had your cup in his sack." NLT
"What can we say to my lord?" Judah replied. "What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants' guilt. We are now my lord's slaves--we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup." NIV
(Emphasis is mine) but look at the underlined portion of that verse. I didn’t catch it the first time but I think this line is a guilty conscience. Not for stealing the silver cup, but for what had been done to Joseph. I think, Judah had been living with the results of his hatred and jealousy of Joseph by having to see what his actions did to their father. He knew Jacob would not survive the loss of Benjamin too. All of the years of what they had done, Judah is now feeling the full weight of it. And this time Judah doesn’t think of himself but of his father and his brother.
I guess that is what Joseph wanted to see all along. Are they changed? Would they make a different choice given similar circumstances? Joseph needed to know.
The last part of chapter 44 reads like a re-cap on a tv show. Previously on ….
Judah recaps the events to try to show they wouldn’t do what they were accused of but then explains that he cannot hurt his father, Jacob, by leaving without Benjamin and pleads to be able to take his place for the sake of Jacob.
Upon hearing this, Joseph can’t keep his identity hidden any longer!
How I wish the Bible gave us a detailed description of what each brother’s face looked like upon hearing the news AND what thoughts were running through their heads! I also wonder over the twenty years since they last saw Joseph if they ever thought about him or thought they saw him out and about?
Not long after my dad died, maybe 9 months or so, I remember being in a bank parking lot and seeing a man that looked exactly like my dad. I was 16 and hadn’t spent a lot of time with my dad before he died but it stopped me in my tracks. The hair on my neck stood on end and I remember crying. I knew it wasn’t him but for a few moments it was him.
I wonder if they ever had moments like that.
My verse for today comes from the portion of scripture where Joseph is assuring his brothers that he is not angry with his brothers for he knows it was God at work, divinely placing him in a position to help many during the famine.
And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. Genesis 45:5 ESV
Can you hear the grace and mercy and forgiveness in Joseph's words?
I know I have said this before, but I think it bears repeating because it is repeated so often through Joseph's story. We are called to have a good attitude. Really our good attitude should be a natural outpouring of our faith in Jesus. We have to remember circumstances change, but Christ's love and the gift of the Holy Spirit never change. Because of that we should be able to find God's hand in our circumstances and be able to forgive, and extend grace and mercy.
Many years ago I worked in a position where I helped supervise a large group of customer service representatives. It was in a call center and one of my duties was to take over calls that were problematic or if they were requesting to speak to a supervisor. There was this one young woman in the group that didn't like me. The first time I took a call for her I remember she complained to my boss that I touched her keyboard. Which was funny because I have to plug into her system and computer in order to take the call. Anyway, I remember feeling really frustrated with the situation and not liking her very much for being so unreasonable! I was sharing with my mom about it and my mom suggested I try to lightly touch her when the opportunity presented itself. I did. And over the course of several months two things began to happen. She softened towards me....AND I softened towards her. I began to understand her a bit better and see how her circumstances made her react a certain way. I also learned that by extending her grace and kindness she was able to do the same. By the time I was leaving that job, that young lady had invited me to her wedding and help throw a going away party for me. She also gave me a very thoughtful gift that I had for the longest time. I kept it to serve as a reminder that MY attitude can make all the difference in other's attitudes.
Chuck Swindall says this about Joseph, "He was great because of his faith in God, which manifested itself in a magnanimous attitude toward others and his magnificent attitude toward difficulties. A strong faith leads to a good attitude. When those two essentials are in place, troubles become challenges to face not reasons to quit."
How great is that???? I rambled on and on, and Chuck said it perfectly!
The remainder of the portion is Joseph saying come and live with me... I will set you up ...famine is going for another 5 years....bring father...
I imagine there was a lot of excited energy in the air. The reunion with the brothers, helping them in the difficulty of the famine, the anticipation of being reunited with Jacob...exciting times!
The next portion of Joseph's story will be Genesis 45:16 -46:29
Sorry this post was late. It is a busy week in our household. My baby had a birthday and I am celebrating my anniversary with my hubby this week. He is home on vacation.