"Unreserved readiness to change is an indispensable precondition of the conception (formation) of Christ in our souls and it must endure with undiminished vigor all along the path of our transformation. The significance and the value of such an attitude also appear from the fact that the better a man's inward condition and the more he feels touched by God, the wider the doors of his heart will be opened and the readier he will show himself for being changed." (Transformation in Christ by Dietrich von Hildebrand)
They had changed!! The first test the brothers passed was a test of spiritual conviction to sin, even “buried” sin. If we harden our hearts to the Holy Spirit’s convicting work in our lives we sear our conscience (1 Tim. 4:2) and cannot hear God speak to us. (Hebrews 3) From chapter 42 we learned: “If believers have unresolved guilt in their lives, God will stir up their consciences to see if they are spiritually sensitive enough to share in His program (His on-going purposes for His kingdom). If people are fit for His service they will have to prove that they are sensitive to their guilty consciences, that they have changed to become honest people, and that if put in similar circumstances, they can be trusted to act righteously.” A. Ross – Creation and Blessing A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis.
We see in these next chapters how the Lord used Joseph to test his brothers in two more areas: a test for jealousy/envy toward Benjamin. (They greatly failed that test some 20 plus years earlier with envy against Joseph); and a test for loyalty; they proved loyalty toward Benjamin, Jacob and even each other and ultimately to God. They could be trusted. At last there was unity among the twelve tribes of Israel as God begins to build this nation for His plan to reach the world through them and their descendents (Jesus Christ). This is a lot of material to cover in these chapters but it fits together as a unit and comes to a wonderful climax. I will point out the key lessons and how they apply to us.
43:1-14 – We see the on-going sin of Jacob in his favoritism toward Benjamin (as with Joseph earlier) and his seemingly lack of concern for his son Simeon who is stuck in prison in a foreign land and at the mercy of what appears to by a tyrant (Joseph). He also is jeopardizing all of his family’s welfare as they are running out of food by the day. It is not stated how long he waited but it seems to have been a year or longer. Simeon knew Benjamin had to come back with them for his release and probably suspected his father’s unwillingness to risk Benjamin’s life to save his; thus more opportunity for bitterness toward his father and Benjamin. (“Jacob’s responses mirror our responses to God’s providential disciplines: “Everything is against me!” (42:36); “Why didn’t you do it differently?” (43:6); “Take a gift along” (43:11 [always the schemer!]); “If it has to be, it has to be!” (43:14). From pessimism to fatalism, and very little faith.” – With the Word –Warren Wiersbe) Jacob at least prays a good prayer – for mercy from God Almighty. Application: Our children (or loved ones) can become idols and favoring one over others is sin. God does not show partiality. Acts 10:34
43:15-34 – The test of jealousy/envy – We already see evidence of the change in Judah and will see even more later. He convinces his father to trust Benjamin to his care and takes full responsibility. Now the eleven sons find themselves in Joseph’s house and are frightened (guilt from past sins) and their money had been put back in their sacks (part of Joseph’s test for honesty). "How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?" 28 They replied, "Your servant our father is still alive and well." And they bowed low to pay him honor.” (Joseph’s dream is coming true) At this point Joseph only showed his interests in them and “their” father and then “met” Benjamin his full brother who he had not seen in 20 plus years. This is when he had to hide his emotions. He then had the brothers seated in exact order of their ages (“they looked at each other in astonishment”); how did he know, they must have thought, and the mystery of all this had them concerned. But the big test came when: “Benjamin's portion was five times as much as anyone else's.” But there was no sign of envy over this as seen in the next verse: “So they feasted and drank freely with him.”
In chapter 44 the verb “to find” (as in being found out) occurs eight times (vv. 8, 9,10,12, twice in 16 and then 17 and 34) as the brothers’ past sin is coming home to roost. Application: “You may be sure that your sin will find you out.” (Num. 32:23) ; “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Gal. 6:7)
44:1-17 –The test for loyalty – Now the bigger test comes over their real feelings for Benjamin: “Joseph gave these instructions – put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one's sack. Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, 'Why have you repaid good with evil? 5 Isn't this the cup my master drinks from…” When the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack the other 10 brothers were released to freedom but this time they thought of their brother and their father, not themselves: “Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame." And the cup was found in Benjamin's sack. 13 At this, they tore their clothes. Then they all loaded their donkeys and returned to the city.” What a powerful change we see here compared to their envy, hatred and banishment of their brother Joseph and their indifference toward their father that we saw in chapter 37. All of them were willing to suffer and sacrifice themselves for Benjamin and Jacob. 16 "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." The brothers unite in loyalty to Benjamin, Jacob and even each other and ultimately to God. They could be trusted. Not one of them took the freedom offered to him by the steward (v. 10). Application: “God requires self-sacrificing love among believers and because of past failures God may have to test His people to see if they have love and concern for others.” A. Ross – Creation and Blessing A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis.
44:18-34 – "Now then, please let your servant (Judah speaking) remain here as my lord's slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. 34 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 upon my father." Compare this “Judah” to the one in chapters 37 and 38 and you will be amazed. God is in the business of changing our lives to look more and more like His Son Who said (and did it): “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Application: God’s purpose for our lives is to conform us to the very likeness of His Son Jesus Christ and He uses trials and blessings (all things) to that end. (Rom. 8:28-29) So the question in every trial and every blessing is how can I use this to become more like Jesus Christ?
45: 1-15 – “Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” Joseph is a type of Christ in many ways and here we see the gospel so clearly. God sent Jesus to “save lives” and He suffered for us as Joseph did for his brothers and forgave us as Joseph did his brothers and now Jesus even calls us His brothers. (Heb 2:11) "Come close to me" Joseph says, and so does our great God and Savior. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:13) And like Joseph, Jesus reveals Himself to those who obey God. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (See John 14:21-23) (“The ten brothers had sinned against both Jacob and Joseph, but they thought that Joseph was dead and their sin was safely hidden. Joseph had to deal with them patiently, honestly, and decisively, just the way the Lord works with us when we have tried to cover our sins.” – With the Word – Warren Wiersbe) Application: Like Joseph we must have a robust faith in the good purposes of God even in the midst of great suffering and confusion. As we live by faith in His ultimate triumph over evil (in our own lives and in the world) we can forgive our enemies and like Joseph be ministers of reconciliation to God and man. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:18-20)
"Unreserved readiness to change is an indispensable precondition of the conception (formation) of Christ in our souls.” What is the greatest character change you have seen in your life since the Lord saved you?
Have you ever had envy toward someone and if so how did it affect you and them?
What has been your greatest test of loyalty?
God’s purpose for our lives is to conform us to the very likeness of His Son Jesus Christ and He uses trials and blessings (all things) to that end. (Rom. 8:28-29) So the question in every trial and every blessing is how can I use this to become more like Jesus Christ? What trial or blessing are you dealing with right now that you can use to be changed more into Christ’s likeness?
Based on the following verse, is there someone with whom you need to live out the ministry of reconciliation? Scripture memory verse: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5: 18)