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Gen. 44:1-34 - Repentance & Forgiveness - Part Two
Last week we left off from vs. 14-16. Now the brothers were faced with a familiar situation. Benjamin, Jacob’s beloved son, was in their care, far from Jacob’s protection. He was accused of a terrible crime for which there was no opportunity to prove his innocence. Without any real guilt, they could choose to merely walk away and enjoy their freedom at Benjamin’s expense. They could return to their father, just as they had done so long ago and break his heart with the news that his other son was “no more.”
More than 20 years later, the same temptation faces these brothers. Will they evidence a change of heart, or will they act in self-interest? This is what Joseph must know, and the moment of truth has arrived.
A principle recorded later in Israel’s history finds its application here:
Deut. 28:66-68 - “You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening, “If only it were morning!”—because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see. The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.”
God told his people that when they obeyed him, he would pour out his blessings upon them in Deut. 28:1-14, and that disobedience would bring discipline Deut. 28:15.
Like Joseph’s brothers, those who choose to disobey the will of God bring upon themselves the appearance of being in constant danger of extinction and annihilation. How true this appeared to be at this time in the life of Joseph’s brothers. Their life seemed to hang by a thread, oh but how strong the thread!
Now this confession that follows from the mouth of Judah is amazing to me! But this was just what Joseph had been waiting for, this was why he had given them this exam! And they passed! In fact, all the brothers made straight A’s on the first part of the test. In speaking for his brothers, Judah didn’t attempt to justify himself or the others, nor does he try to pass the blame off on Benjamin. Unlike before, they didn’t turn on Benjamin and reject him as they did to Joseph so many years ago. Judah says they were ALL guilty!
Given these guy’s history, this admission is amazing! A real change had begun in their attitude. Let’s think about the fact that these words were coming from the mouth and heart of JUDAH!
Joseph wanted to know whether his brothers were able to read the hand of God into daily life, even in things that seemed unfair. Even in misfortune and death. He wanted to see if they were at all in tune with their vertical scope! And now he heard this confession coming out of Judah’s mouth, who laid the guilt on all their shoulders.
I believe that in this confession Judah was actually going back over 20 years earlier and was referring to those days when they not only hated their brother Joseph, but turned against him and sold him into slavery. Had it not been for Reuben, they would have murdered him. Maybe this was now haunting these men? Judah had begun to realize that God did not overlook an unrepented offense.
Vs. 17 - “But Joseph said, ‘Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.”
This was Joseph’s second part of the final exam. First came the vertical test. Had his brothers gotten to the place where they read the hand of God into their daily life? Yes! They had shown this in their attitude. Next came the horizontal test. Which would they choose, themselves or Benjamin? Had there been any change in their hearts over the years?
And following Joseph's pronouncement comes a shocking speech...
Vs. 18-34 - “Then Judah went up to him and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord,let me speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants,‘Do you have a father or a brother?’ And we answered, ‘We have an aged father, and there is a young son born to him in his old age. His brother is dead, and he is the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.’
“Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me so I can see him for myself.’ And we said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father; if he leaves him, his father will die.’ But you told your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.’ When we went back to your servant my father, we told him what my lord had said.
“Then our father said, ‘Go back and buy a little more food.’ But we said, ‘We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother is with us will we go. We cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’
“Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. One of them went away from me, and I said, “He has surely been torn to pieces.” And I have not seen him since. If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in misery.’
“So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father, and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!’
“Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.”
Do you realize who is saying this!? Again, it’s JUDAH! These words were coming from the same man who, twenty years earlier, said without remorse: “Here comes that dreamer, Joseph. Let’s kill him and say that a ferocious animal devoured him.”
And shortly after that cold-blooded proposal, he rationalized, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Let’s sell him to the slave traders instead.”
Yet here he was, pleading for his youngest brother. Added to that, he was pleading on behalf of his father. A few years earlier, Judah couldn’t have cared less what his father thought, since his father had always shown favoritism to Rachel’s sons. In fact, the violence and cruelty Judah and his brothers perpetrated against Joseph was an indirect act of cruelty committed against their father.
Now, of all things, this man is showing a sacrificial attitude. “Take me instead. But send Benjamin back home. I cannot bear to see this evil overtake my father.” Nope, this is not the same man. He has changed! No doubt about it, Judah and his brothers were becoming transformed men, and Joseph recognized this.
Repentance had done its work. They had passed both parts of the final exam. I believe this explains why Joseph decided at this moment to finally reveal himself which we will see next week.
So we all know what happens next. Joseph will identify himself as their brother, but that is the subject of our next message. Join us next week when we conclude this message and talk about what repentance is. Blessings to you all.
We have seen that the reason Joseph had waited until now to reveal himself is because, up to this point, there had been no evidence of repentance. In previous chapters we have seen that Joseph’s brothers recognized their sufferings as the result of their sin, but at best, they only felt regret. Maybe they wished they didn’t sell Joseph into slavery. Maybe they were even sorry that their father had to suffer as he did. And they regretted that they had to endure the consequences of their sins. This was a good beginning, but it was not enough.
Regret is no more than what we would expect from anyone who is faced with the unpleasant consequences of their sin. Most prisoners regret their crime, or at least the fact that they were caught. But true repentance is more than regret. The regrets of Judah and his brothers had not brought them to the point of confessing their sin to Jacob nor of making any attempt to find out the fate of Joseph.
But now, given the opportunity to repeat their sin, there is a major change of heart and action on the part of the brothers as demonstrated by Judah.
In the past they had planned to do away with Joseph regardless of how it would affect their father, Jacob, in order to seek revenge and avoid coming under the headship of Joseph. Now, just the opposite was true. Judah was willing to become the slave of Joseph, even though he was declared innocent of the theft of the silver cup. He could not stand the thought of causing any further suffering.
And that, my friends, is genuine repentance!