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Gen 44:1-34


Rev (Dr) Paul Ferguson Calvary Tengah Bible Presbyterian Church Shalom Chapel, 345 Old Choa Chu Kang Road, Singapore 689485 February 2011

One Final Test (Genesis 44:1-34) Joseph had one more strategy to bring his brethren to repentance. He knew that there could be no genuine reconciliation without true repentance. Like King Solomons judgments, these final tests are a masterstroke of wisdom. These tests were born out of love to his brothers and especially to his younger brother Benjamin. The brothers still do not know who Joseph is or what he is seeking to find out about them.
And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the mens sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every mans money in his sacks mouth. And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sacks mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses. (v1-3)

When the eleven brothers left Josephs house they were no doubt in buoyant mood. They had every natural reason to feel relieved and confident as both Simeon and Benjamin were with them, they had been fed of the finest food in midst of a famine, their bags were full of provisions for their families, and they were on their way back to their loved ones in Canaan. However, they will discover how quickly events can turn on you.
And when they were gone out of the city, and not yet far off, Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, W herefore have ye rewarded evil for good? Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing. And he overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words. (v4-6)

If the words of the steward shocked them, then a greater one was in store after he began the search.
And they said unto him, W herefore saith my lord these wo rds? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing: Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks mouths, we brought again unto thee out of the land of Canaan: how then should we steal out of thy lord's house silver or gold? W ith whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lords bondmen (v7-9)

They plead their honesty based upon their past experience. In their confidence they rashly go further than natural justice, as they are willing for all to suffer for the crimes of one. Their consciences are working right in this particular matter, but not so well yet in regard to their past sins. Deffinbaugh comments of their self-confidence, Slavery was what these men had most feared (cf. 43:18), and yet they were willing to risk it because they were certain of their innocence.
And he said, Now also let it be according unto your words: he with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless. Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack. (v10-11)

We can see this is a wise test that Joseph puts them through. Would they denounce Benjamin as a thief and then abandon him to his fate, as they had done to him 22 years previously? Would they simply attribute the false charge as Gods judgment on Benjamin or would they see their own guilt? This was a prime opportunity for them to get rid off another of Jacobs favorite sons. No one would know the real truth and they could come up with another false story to confuse their father. After all Jacob had endured other heartbreaks in the past. This was a defining moment.
And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamins sack. Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city. And Judah and his brethren came to Josephs house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground. (v12-14)

Their world comes crashing down. The anguish of rending their clothes is heartfelt. When Joseph was declared lost, it was only Jacob who tore his clothes (37:34). They know the evidence is overwhelming and that the Egyptians had all the power and were merciless. They are under the principle of chastisement espoused in Deuteronomy, And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: (Deut. 28:55-56) In v7-9, these men were looking for justice, now they are looking for mercy. They witnessed that Joseph proved to be a man of integrity and that feared God so their only hope is to go there and plead for mercy. They do not abandon Benjamin but demonstrate their unity and care for him by all returning together. Something has changed in the lives of these men.
And Joseph said unto them, W hat deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that s uch a man as I can certainly divine? And Judah said, W hat shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord's servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found. (v15-16)

Doubtless, Joseph was eagerly waiting to see whether they all would turn up. There seemed no real hope now for them from a human perspective. It appears they all must have now acknowledged and agreed that this blow was the Hand of God on them for their previous sins. They are now willing to do the right thing irrespective of the personal consequences. They now see the truth of Proverbs 28: 13 that, He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. These brothers knew God was exposing their guilt. God knows where all of our

skeletons are buried and in His Sovereign timing He will bring them to the light. As Carr observed, God knows how to get our attention and He is not afraid to touch or take what He pleases to speak to our hearts. He has a silver cup that He can place in our lives to open our eyes when we have walked away from Him. Sooner or later, the silver cup will end up in your sack! Judah speaks collectively God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants. They now are convinced that God is allowing them to reap what they had sown 22 years earlier (incidentally, God always does). This is the first public confession of their past and they make no cover up or seek to deflect the blame. They do not blame Benjamin for his failure to check the sack, Jacob for his partiality to Benjamin or a conspiracy against them. Lewis Johnson makes a pertinent application, Tens of years may pass over your life and like these brethren you may be congratulating yourself that the sin is forgotten and you are safe, and then a train of circumstances, little suspected, but manipulated by divine hand will suddenly bring the truth to light and write Gods sentence in flaming characters upon the walls of the house in which you rot in careless ease. The unforgiven sinner is never safe. The father of the royal tribe begins to look regal for the first time here. Judah shows his leadership and integrity in this most difficult and trying of circumstance. He shows humility and courtesy in his approach to Joseph by using my lord 9 times and thy servant 14 times. People can change by the grace of God. Matthew Henry put it well, We cannot judge what men are by what they have been formerly, nor what they will do by what they have done: age and experience may make men wiser and better. Did Judah pray on the way? Certainly the Sovereignty, Omniscience, and Justice of God are tied up in his words of confession. Certainly, this is what Joseph had been waiting for, as he knows they are innocent of this crime. It showed him that his brothers were willing to bear the penalty of being guilty of the false charge, in order to show the Lord that they were guilty of the true charge of their sins of the past. God had been pursing these men for 22 years to confess their sin and truly repent. Pride and stubbornness held them back. However, when God comes after you eventually men are broken to submission (Num. 32:23. One very remarkable thing about the Bible is its realism. There is no cover up of the lives of the tribal patriarchs. This is very different from the way in which we describe human affairs.
And he said, God forbid that I should do so: but the man in whose hand the cup is found,

he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your father. (v17)

Joseph does not reveal himself here. He still needs to test their repentance with one final test. It takes discernment to detect when true repentance has been achieved as soon as that is realized Joseph will reveal himself. REGRET vs REPENTANCE Repentance is more than simply expressing regret over your sins. The Greek word literally means a change of mind. Repentance is when a man or a woman has a change of mind about God and his sins against God. It is not simply a regret for the consequences of sin but the sin itself. Also it means that you have a hatred of sin and a new course of life is sought. A changed mind and life demonstrates that a person has biblically repented. The Larger Catechism gives an excellent definition, Repentance unto life is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and the word of God, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, and upon the apprehension of Gods mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, he so grieves for and hates his sins, as that he turns from them all to God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with Him in all the ways of new obedience. A classic example of this was the evident changes in the life of the swindler Zaccheus in Luke 19. His desire to repay all ill-gotten gains was fruits of genuine repentance. Sadly today many want to be Christians without having to change their lives. They dabble in religion but ultimately never truly repent. We must return them to a gospel that says Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lords ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh. M y lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother? And we said unto my lord, W e have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him. And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him. And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die. And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more. And it came to pass when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. And our father said, Go again, and buy us a little food. And we said, W e cannot go down: if our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down: for we may not see the man's face, except our youngest brother be with us. And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons: And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since: And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lads life; It shall come to

pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave. For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever. (v18-32)

Here was a second opportunity for the ten sons of Jacob to walk away from Benjamin. Repeated temptations are harder to resist. However when provided a golden chance to repeat their sin of abandoning their brother for self-interest, they all manifest a significant change of heart and action. The once hearts of stone had become hearts of flesh. The brothers who had lied to their father, now plead for mercy on his behalf. They, who had exclaimed, in their pride, shalt thou indeed have dominion over us now offer themselves as slaves. In this final test, Judah stands head and shoulders above the rest of the brothers. He gives one of the most moving and passionate speeches in all of history. It has humility and simplicity yet tact also considering he is pleading before the second most powerful official in Egyptian Empire. He began his speech in the most respectful manner. Luther called this speech a perfect model of prayer. H.C. Leupold wrote, This is one of the manliest, most straightforward speeches ever delivered by any man. For depth of feeling and sincerity of purpose it stands unexcelled. It truly reveals a new Judah. 22 years previously, the brothers hated the partiality of Jacob to Joseph. Now they wish to protect the favourite of their father and highlight his special love by their father toward Benjamin.
Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father. (v33-34)

Joseph knew this offer was not just cheap talk having been a slave himself. He was immediately cognizant of the reality of Judahs repentance over his past sins, his faith in God, and his sacrificial love for his father and Benjamin. From being the one who concocted the plan to sell Joseph into slavery, Judah is offering to be the slave instead of his fathers favourite son. He would rather perish as a slave in Egypt than see the sorrow of his father Jacob. Once Judahs relationship and view of God has changed, then his relationship to others follows. Steve Cole comments on the change, The cocky man of Genesis 38 now humbles himself. The greedy man is willing to become a slave so that his brother can go free. The man who lived a sensual, pleasure-oriented, self-centered life now offers to deny himself any pleasure, any rights, any personal freedom, in exchange for his brothers freedom. The man who had closed up his heart against his brothers anguish and against his fathers grief says

here that he cannot bear to see the pain that his father would go through if Benjamin did not return with them. This last verse is so full of emotion and love for Jacob. That love proved its reality when he offers to switch places with Benjamin. In Genesis 49:8 his father later paid Judah this prophetic tribute, Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise. It took many years, but the grace of God transformed this hard and stubborn sinner into a praiseworthy brother. Cole adds, Judahs appeal is encouraging because it shows us that change is possible when we are willing to own up to our sin with genuine repentance. Judah the hardened sinner becomes Judah the compassionate son and brother, willing to sacrifice the rest of his life, as far as he knew, on behalf of his father and brother. The key element in this change is Judahs submission to God and his accepting full responsibility for his sin. The sacrificial love shown by Judah was ultimately personified in his greatest descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ. The greatest tribute we could pay to Judah in this chapter is that he reflects the image of Christ. Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer, This is my constant longing and prayer; Gladly Ill forfeit all of earths treasures, Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear. Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee, Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art; Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.