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Genesis 43:15-34 and 44:1-17

Slowly but surely the famine was doing its work.

Joseph's brothers, who thought they could hide their sin, had received a wakeup call.

Yes, their dramatic experience in Egypt had awakened their sleeping conscience.

And even Jacob had been awakened from years of spiritual lethargy.

Israel , (a prince with God) and the inheritor of the Abrahamic Covenant, had been living below the poverty line spiritually.

When he lost Joseph, his whole world had fallen apart.

His life had been wrapped up in Joseph, and now that he was gone, it was wrapped up in Benjamin.

Granted, he didn't have much to encourage him as far as the rest of his family were concerned, but he still had God's promises, and he still had God Himself. 

Certainly our loved ones are a gift from God, and we should treasure them, but even so, the gift should never supplant the Giver.

However, that seems to have been Jacob's problem.  "Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me."

The thought of losing Benjamin had filled him with despair. "If mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave."

Jacob wasn't holding onto God, no, he was holding onto Benjamin.

And now it seemed he couldn't even hold onto him!

The Governor's demand and the dwindling food supply were dragging Benjamin away also.

Surely this would be the final blow. 

But this time, tribulation brought him back to God, and this wasn't the first time that this had happened.

In his extremity, Israel laid his dearest possession on the altar, and just trusted God:  "If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved."

He finally committed his children into the Lord's hands, and you know what?  That’s exactly where they had been all the time.

Not only would he get Simeon and Benjamin back, but he would soon be embracing his dear Joseph.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now, God didn't enjoy putting Jacob through this dilemma any more than Joseph enjoyed the process he was engaged in, but they were both necessary.

Jacob's sons needed to repent of their sin, and Jacob himself needed to repent of his unbelief.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

♫♪When thru fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;

The flame shall not hurt thee – I only designed

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well, Jacob, or Israel, as the Holy Spirit was now calling him, had decided to listen to reason.

He would commit Benjamin into the Lord’s hands, but he would put his best foot forward.

Just as he had sent a present on ahead before confronting Esau and his 400 armed men, so he sent a gift to the Governor of Egypt to solicit his favour.

Was that a lack of faith?

No, I don't think so.  He was simply using common sense.

And sometimes I think there is nothing as uncommon as common sense, so I'm glad Israel was using it.

V 11-14 "And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds:
12: And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight:
13: Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man:
14: And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved."

One wonders where Israel got such a present in a land that had been ravaged by famine for two years now.

Probably he was taking them from his carefully preserved stores, with no idea how he was going to replace them.

Yes, I'm sure it was a great sacrifice on his part, and you will notice that the operative word here is a little-- "carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds."

However, although this present was small, it was quite valuable.

In fact, three of the items, that is, balm, myrrh, and spices, were the very same products that the Ishmeelites had been carrying when Joseph was spirited away. 

We see that back in Genesis 37:25 "--and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt."

So at least three of these items, if not all six, would have been desirable imports, valuable commodities not grown in Egypt.

Also, because Gilead was experiencing famine, these commodities would no longer be available to Egypt. 

Yes, it had cost Jacob dearly to provide such a gift, but he was quite sure it would be appreciated by any Egyptian.

However, he had no idea just how much it would be appreciated, or how much this gift would remind the Governor of home.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

V 15 "And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt , and stood before Joseph."

Isn't it amazing how God causes "the wrath of man" to praise Him?

Here they stood in complete subjection before the mighty Governor of Egypt.

And yet they were the very ones that had put him there.

And they started him on his rise to power with the words, "and we shall see what will become of his dreams."

Oh, yes, God was working "all things after the counsel of his own will.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

V 16-18 "And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon.
17: And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph's house.
18: And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph's house; and they said, Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses."

Had Joseph planned to invite them to dinner, or was it simply a snap decision?

It almost seems that the sight of his brother Benjamin had prompted a spontaneous response.

After all, it had been over 20 years since he had seen his brother.

That morning when he left home to seek his brethren, little Benjamin was just a toddler, and now he was a strapping young man.

So Joseph "said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon."

He had provided the meal freely, and out of a heart of love, but his generosity had only produced fear.

Certainly it would be unusual for shepherds and mere strangers to be invited to a Governor’s house. 

Yes, it looked very suspicious, and besides that, they were suspected of spying, and perhaps thievery.

No, you can't blame them for being fearful, but, in fact, they were completely wrong.

Joseph's invitation had been prompted by love, but he was suspected of treachery.

"Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses."

Their situation is not unlike the sinner's sad dilemma.

Because of fear, their sin continues to weigh them down in spite of God's love and provision.

They are afraid that Jesus will take away their joy and put them into bondage, while all the time there is nothing but a feast ahead. 

In His "--presence is fullness of joy," and at His "right hand there are pleasures for evermore," but they continue to shrink back.

What a cruel master fear is!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Joseph longed to forgive his brethren and to make himself known unto them, but they simply weren't ready yet.

No, they knew not Joseph, and they knew nothing of his grace.

V 19-22 "And they came near to the steward of Joseph's house, and they communed with him at the door of the house,
20: And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food:
21: And it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight: and we have brought it again in our hand.
22: And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks."

Then the steward said something that was very unusual, at least coming from an Egyptian.

V 23 "And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them."

I'm sure they were puzzled by his words, not only by the statement, "I had your money," but by his reference to their God.

Why would an Egyptian give credit to the God of Israel?

Perhaps Joseph had been sharing his faith with him.

And being his steward, he couldn't help but notice the way Joseph conducted his life.

Yes, Joseph's life did affect those around him. 

And in a certain sense, the steward's words were true, even though we all know how the money got there.

Under the hand of God, His chosen deliverer was already providing for their needs freely.

And not only were they to receive free corn, but they were to be treated as honoured guests.

V 24 "And the man brought the men into Joseph's house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses provender."

They had expected to be taken as bond men and their animals confiscated; instead they were given water to wash their feet, and their animals were fed. 

And because of Jesus Christ, that's how God's provision has always been.

Yes, we are the recipient's of free grace.

Though we provide double money, we cannot buy His favour, for it is freely given.

V 25-30 "And they made ready the present (that is the spices etc.) against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they should eat bread there.
26: And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth.
27: And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?
28: And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.
29: And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son.
30: And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there."

Again his brothers had fulfilled Joseph's dream.

However, his thoughts weren’t taken up with his own glory, but the welfare of his father.

"Is your father well"?

At this point, his heart was almost breaking, a mirror of the Lord's heart that day when He looked down on Jerusalem.

I'm sure the tears were streaming down His face when He cried--"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"

Alas, their stony hearts had cut them off from the Lord's heart of compassion.

And Joseph was greatly moved also. 

His brothers’ anxiety must have affected him greatly, but it was Benjamin that nearly did him in.

How he longed to throw his arms around his brother and cry, I'm your brother,  Benjamin!--but he could not!

No, he couldn't reveal himself, and he couldn't refrain himself, so he left in hast.

He could control a nation, but he couldn't always control his emotions.

Hard times often produce bitterness and hatred in men, but that wasn't true of Joseph.

His heart was still tender, and his love was still strong.

More than anything, he wanted to help his family, but he must refrain himself until they repented.

Certainly fear would have driven them to repentance immediately.

If he revealed himself as the brother they had sold into slavery, they would certainly repent.

But that wouldn't do.

He must wait upon God to work true repentance in their hearts.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And Christ walked the pathway of God's will in spite of the longings in His heart.

At the beginning of His ministry, and having the natural desire to be recognized by Israel, He spurned Satan's suggestion to cast Himself down from a pinnacle of the temple and prove once and for all that He was the Messiah. 

Likewise, when He wept over Jerusalem’s rejection, He never considered the fact that He could overwhelm them by His Majesty.

He could have overpowered the Romans, and by the sheer magnificence of His glory, compel Israel to repent of their unbelief.

And when He was in the Garden, He could have called "more than twelve legions of angels?
54: But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?"

No, that was not God's way, so it would not be Christ's way.

Israel had already rejected His words, His miracles, His Father's testimony, and the testimony of John the Baptist, and that's as far as He would go.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So Joseph must wait and weep.

V 31-33 "And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.
32: And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.
33: And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marvelled one at another."

And well might they marvel!

If you multiply all the numbers from 1 through 11, you'll find that there are no less then 39,917,000 different ways that 11 individuals can be seated, and only one of them will be in the correct order by age.

But, you know, it never occurred to them that this Governor might be their brother.

It was simply impossible!

And it was just too scary to consider.

No, he couldn't possibly know, and they certainly weren't going to tell him!

But Proverbs 28:13 says, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." 

Yes, they could still enjoy their privacy, or at least they thought they could, but as long as they covered their sin, they could not enjoy his blessing, his fellowship, or his salvation.

They must continue to trudge back and forth with a few bags of corn, living in fear and want, and plagued by a guilty conscience, while all the time they could have been living in Goshen.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And then Joseph did something that showed a great deal of favouritism.

V 34 "And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin's mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him."

I don't think Benjamin's meal was actually five times as big as the others.

If that were true, he would have been asking for a doggie bag!

Actually V 34 tells us "he took and sent messes unto them from before him.”

So that would indicate that Joseph sent portions from his own table, rather than a full meal, and Benjamin got five times as much.

However, Joseph was showing favouritism.

And actually that wasn’t too surprising.

Benjamin was his full brother, while the rest of them were only half brothers.

And not only that, but Benjamin was the only one among them that had no part in selling him into slavery.

However, Joseph was showing the same kind of favouritism that his father had.

And as we all know, this was the very thing that had turned his brothers against him.

So what was he doing?

Well, I'm sure Joseph had his own reasons, and I'm doubly sure he was watching his brothers very carefully.

Would their reactions, however subtle, show that they were jealous of Benjamin?

Well, scripture doesn't indicate that there was any hint of animosity. 

Perhaps they had learned their lesson.

But what would they do when the rubber really met the road?

What would they do if they had to choose between their own personal safety and Benjamin's welfare? 

Yes, more testing was absolutely necessary.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well, the meal was over, and they were still free men.

They left the dining room with a sigh of relief, but they were certainly not at ease.

Too many strange things had happened during that meal.

No, they just couldn't understand what was going on.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I don't know where they slept that night, but I'm sure they didn't sleep very well.

Indeed, if they had known what was going on in the granary, they wouldn't have slept at all. 

Genesis 44:1-5 "And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every man's money in his sack's mouth.
2: And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack's mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.
3: As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses."

The further away they got, the better they felt.

It was so good to be on the road again!

V 4-5 "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, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?
5: Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing."

Knowing Joseph, I'm sure he never used that cup for divining.

No, this little story was just another way of reinforcing his disguise.

Apparently it was very common among the magicians of Egypt to use a goblet to communicate with the spirits.

They looked at the reflections in the water, or sometimes they would sprinkle small particles of gold and silver into a cup of water and look at the patterns that formed.

It was a little more expensive than reading tea leaves, but about the same thing, and, of course, it was of the devil.

These magicians, with their supposed powers, were much looked up to, and probably many Egyptians had incorrectly attributed Joseph’s ability to interpret Pharaoh's dreams to these mystic powers.

And even Joseph’s brethren, although they believed in the one true God, were quite unnerved by the Governor's uncommon knowledge.

Yes, there was something really scary about this man.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So Joseph’s steward, no doubt with a band of armed men, headed out the gate in hot pursuit.

V 6 "And he overtook them, and he spake unto them these same words."

They had great respect for the Governor's ability and discernment, but this time his accusations seemed absolutely ridiculous.

V 7-9 "And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing:
8: 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?
9: With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord's bondmen."

They were upset all right, but they should have never made such a deal.

However, once it was out of their mouth, the steward latched onto their words.

V 10-11 "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.
11: Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack."

Probably it was with a certain amount of self-righteousness that they took down their sacks.

They put on a brave front, but at the same time, they must have been shaking in their boots.

And the steward, who knew exactly where the cup was, dragged out the suspense as long as possible.

V 12 "And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack."

Now, this is as bad as it gets!

V 13 "Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city."

V 13 reveals a lot about these men.

The fact that they rent their clothes certainly showed that they were at their wits’ end.

Yes, their whole world had fallen apart, but the situation wasn't completely hopeless.

Remember the deal?

Before the steward opened the sacks, he had said, "He with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless."

So most of them were free to go, and I'm sure they would like nothing better.

However, in spite of their desire to just get out of there, they "laded every man his ass, and returned to the city."

None of them would forsake their half-brother Benjamin.

Not one of them would abandon this brother that was obviously their father’s favourite.

No, these weren't the same men that had delivered Joseph’s bloodied coat to their father and said, "This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no."

They had been tested, and had remained loyal to Benjamin, but it wasn't over yet.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Joseph didn't go to work that day.

No, he spent his time looking out the window for the first glimpse of his steward.

What a joy it was when he saw him returning, not with Benjamin alone, but with the whole family.

Oh, how he longed to fling the door open and cry, Don't worry, fellows.  I’m your brother!

But he must keep up the pretence.

Joseph was refining the men who would become the heads of the tribes of Israel.

And God will refine the remnant of Israel in preparation for their Messiah.

Zechariah 13:9  "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God."

So in spite of their extreme anxiety, Joseph must keep the heat on a little longer.

He must "refine them as silver is refined," and "try them as gold is tried.”

V 14-15 "And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph's house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground.
15: And Joseph said unto them, What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Judah had taken the leadership when they convinced their father to send Benjamin. 

Even at that time he had shown definite signs of spiritual maturity.

Here again, at the time of their greatest extremity, it was Judah who stepped forward to represent his brothers.

V 16 "And Judah said, What 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."

Probably they were all nodding their heads in agreement.

But at the same time, every one of them knew they were innocent of the charge.

And, in spite of the steward’s assurance that "ye shall be blameless," Joseph had condemned them all.

As soon as they entered his house, he said "What deed is this that ye have done?"

So Judah could have pointed out that the cup had been found in Benjamin’s sack, and that his steward assured them that they would be blameless.

However, not one of them said, It's not my fault.

And Judah even admitted, on behalf of them all, that "God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants."

And then he formally aligned himself and his brethren with the accused:  "We are my lord's servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found."

It didn't seem to concern them that they were innocent of Joseph's charge.  They all knew they were guilty of a much greater crime, and they were willing to accept God's judgment.

Now, that's genuine repentance, but it isn’t genuine confession.

Judah didn't actually tell the Governor what their sin was.

No, he wouldn't go that far.  It would always be their secret. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

However, Joseph wasn't finished yet. 

He must give them one more opportunity to forsake their brother, and this would be the acid test.

V 17 "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."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the verses just ahead, Judah rises to his highest point spirituality.

Actually, in his appeal on behalf of his brother Benjamin, Judah becomes a type of Christ.

No, I didn’t say Joseph, I said Judah, that man who had sunk so low.

Here Judah portrays our Lord Jesus Christ at the culmination of His ministry.

Here Judah portrays Christ when He was made "sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

He had already admitted his own sin and the sin of his brothers.

And he also admitted that all of them deserved God's judgment, but Joseph had refused to punish them.

Benjamin was guilty, and he it was that would pay for his crime.

But then, and completely on his own, Judah appealed to the Governor on an entirely different basis.

What could it possibly be?

How could he possibly deliver his brother from the Governor's judgment?

We will find out next week, when Judah puts his all on the line.


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