The Final Test – Genesis 44

Final Test Genesis 44 12/15/19
As we now turn our hearts to God’s Word, please look with me in your Bible to Genesis 44.
The 44th chapter of Genesis features a profound test of character.
Friends, testing is such a pivotal part of any endeavor.
Beginning in grade school, teacher’s give students tests. The goal is to measure and reward good performance.
And if you’ve gone to the hospital with a serious health concern, they run a bunch of tests on you. The aim of doctors: to figure out what’s wrong in your body and help you.
And the car you drive or ride in- there were thousands of tests before it was ever made.
Some of our engineers here can tell you about tests for performance, safety, and fuel economy.
There’s a far more vital area of testing- that’s a test of character. God loves to test our character to reveal to us areas of growth that have taken place and areas where growth still needs to take place.
God uses one primary and effective means for testing us: trials.
Sure, trials hurt. But trials help. They help us grown in greater godliness. That’s why we read in James 1:2–3, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
And further down in verse 12: Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
And in the very next N.T. book, in I Peter 1:6–7 we find this great encouragement related to trials: “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
So trials and tests are the refiner’s fire that burns away dross in our lives so we reflect His nature.
As we approach Genesis 44, here’s the big picture: a final test is necessary before the brothers can be reconciled to Joseph.
Let’s remember where things are at.
Joseph’s brothers are down in Egypt for grain the second time.
On their first visit they meet with the vizier of all Egypt in charge of distributing food during that 7-year famine.
They didn’t realize he was their brother Joseph whom they assumed had died more than 20 years before. That was when they sold him to cruel slave traders.
Yet that powerful Egyptian accused them of being spies. And he held Simeon hostage in Egypt and promised to let him go if the brothers brought back their younger brother.
So, when they get home and pass that news on to their father Jacob, he’s upset at them.
He wants more grain but won’t let them take his beloved Benjamin down to Egypt.
Only after much pleading by Judah does Jacob let Benjamin go.
On their second visit to Egypt, they all stand before that great Egyptian ruler. And when Joseph sees his brother Benjamin, he has to hurry out of the room before breaking into tears of joy.
Well, the first test, not forsaking Simeon in prison, the brothers passed.
And the second test, not being envious when Benjamin was given a portion five times the size of the rest, the brothers passed.
That brings us to the third and final test of those brothers by Joseph.
A. The arrest 1-13 Look at verse 1:
Then he commanded his house steward, saying, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack.
Here we see the heart of Joseph as he sets up the ultimate test for his brothers.
He’s not filling their sacks with trash or worm-infested grain to get back at them for their hatred.
And Joseph is not giving them the bare minimum. He tells his steward to pack their grain sacks to the maximum capacity.
But he goes far beyond that. Joseph also has his steward hide in their grain sacks all the silver they had given to pay for the grain.
O what’s a beautiful illustration of grace upon grace. For that’s how God poured out on us His greatest gift in Christ- fully!
The apostle John announces of Christ who came into our world, “For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” John 1:16
That’s the fulness of grace we will celebrate together this evening. God lavished His love on us in giving His Son to be our Savior!
Now watch the wisdom Joseph shows as he sets up the character test for his brothers:
Verse 2: “Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his money for the grain.” And he did as Joseph had told him.”
Joseph chooses to hide something valuable in one of their grain sacks- his precious silver cup.
Instead of drinking from common pottery, royal officials would drink from fine silver cups.
Those represented kingly status and power.
Now it seems the 11 brothers spent the night at Joseph’s house.
Then at the crack of dawn, they hurry north to Canaan with their fresh supply of grain. Verse 3: As soon as it was light, the men were sent away, they with their donkeys.
That makes good sense. If you are leaving for a long trek (over 450 miles), it’s wise to get an early start.
I picture those brothers on cloud 9, beaming with joy as all 11 of them now head home. For they have just been treated with amazing kindness and hospitality by this exalted ruler of Egypt!
Imagine how they can’t wait to get home with the supply of grain and tell their wives and children (and their father) about all they have experienced.
Yet, it’s at this point, the trial strikes like a dagger.
4th verse: They had just gone out of the city, and were not far off, when Joseph said to his house steward, “Up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? 5 ‘Is not this the one from which my lord drinks and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done
wrong in doing this.’ ” 6 So he overtook them and spoke these words to them.
Now those brothers are at their wits end. For they are barely out of that Egyptian city, and they hear hoof beats from behind them.
Joseph’s steward chases them down. And he charges them with theft against a man equal in power to Pharaoh!
But it’s even worse. He confronts them with this accusation: “how could you dare treat my master so wickedly? He showed you kindness and you turn around and steal his silver divining cup! How could you bite the hand that feeds you?”
Watch the baffled brother’s response, 7TH verse:
They said to him, “Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing. 8 “Behold, the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks we have brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house?
What’s their claim to innocence? “If we were thieves, why would we have returned the 20 pieces of silver we found in our bags on our first trip home?”
Then they make a bold wager: 9 “With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves.”
Scripture warns us of making rash oaths. Here, these brothers are so sure none of them took the official’s silver cup that they are willing to have the thief killed and the rest made slaves if the cup is found among them.”
Don’t forget, just the before, those 11 brothers when brought to Joseph’s house feared he would make them his slaves (43:18)!
Well, the steward now replies, and what he said no doubt came from Joseph: v. 10 So he said, “Now let it also be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be innocent.”
In other words, “the deals on!” But the steward knows what they don’t know- he’s planted Joseph’s cup in Benjamin’s sack.
And so he shrewdly reduces the penalty but sharpens the test: only the culprit found with the ruler’s cup would be kept as a slave.
O wow! Moses the inspired narrator helps us feel the tension grow as those brothers are in for the shock of their lifetimes.
V. 11: Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack.
They lift their heavy grain sacks off their donkeys for inspection. And they are convinced no cup will be found.
Yet, they must have been taken aback by how the steward carried out his search for the cup. It was like a catch 22 from the day before.
For we are told, (v.12): He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest
Reuben was first. The steward runs his hand to the bottom of his sack of grain- no silver cup there.
Simeon is next, then Levi, Judah and Dan. Nothing!
Then he sifts through the sacks of Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar and Zebulon. Still nothing!
The brothers are ready to breathe a sigh of relief. For there’s only one sack left: Benjamin’s.
Lastly, the steward thrusts his arm into Benjamin’s grain sack. And when he pulls his arm out, he’s got ruler’s silver cup in hand!
O those brothers are astonished beyond words. Their eyes are filled with terror as their whole world comes crashing in on them.
For we are told “the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack!”
They are stunned. And they are speechless.
Verse 13 reports: “Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city.
I find it fascinating that the brothers don’t interrogate Benjamin right then and there:
“Do you know anything about this? Did you have the audacity to sneak that cup into your sack? Fess up Benjamin!”
Some Bible commentators believe the brothers thought Benjamin actually stole the official’s cup.
I don’t think so! For who in their right mind would steal from a ruler you know could kill you and your family if he caught you!
And the brothers don’t say to the steward “We’ve been framed. You or someone else messed with our bags like the first time we came down to Egypt!”
No, they are crushed! And as an expression of their grief, they tear their clothes.
Following on the heels of the arrest of the brothers comes their
2. Admission of guilt 14-17
It’s here we see how those 11 sons of Jacob, now in their 30s and early 40s, own up to their sinful past.
Verse 14 tells us, When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there, and they fell to the ground before him.
Listen, Joseph doesn’t just happen to be home when those brothers show up.
Like the father of the prodigal, Joseph has nothing in his empire more important to do than wait until they return to his house. It’s all part of his plan of reconciliation with his brothers.
Remember, Joseph as prime minister in Egypt looked, dressed and spoke Egyptian. So, they don’t recognize he was the one who told them years before they would bow before him!
Now, filled with fear, all 11 do just that- they prostrate themselves before Joseph!
At that point, (v.15), Joseph said to them, “What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?”
Now what are to make of Joseph’s statement that he can practice divination through the silver cup?
No doubt about it, divination was common in ancient Middle Eastern cultures.
In fact, Joseph’s great uncle Laban had used the same root word in Genesis 30:27 in telling Jacob, “I have divined that the LORD has blessed me on your account.”
Here’s how it may have worked with the silver cup. And by the way, historians consider Egypt as the home of astrology and divination
Egyptians would take a cup and pour water into oil (hydromancy) or oil into water (oelomancy).
Sometimes they would toss in fragments of gold and silver and watch the movement of the liquid.
From the design forming in the cup, they would try to predict the future.
It would be akin to the Chinese practice of reading tea leaves.
So, what is Joseph doing with that silver cup?
Let me suggest 3 possibilities:
First, he’s practicing a pagan ritual and depending on demon influence like other rulers of the day did. I don’t believe this fits the character and impeccable spiritual track record of Joseph.
Or second possibility, Joseph did not use the cup for divination and only deceived brothers in saying that he could. If that’s the case, it’s a ruse and makes Joseph out to be a liar.
Third possibility, Joseph used the cup to discern God’s will in a way that was not sinful.
Seen in this light, it would be akin to Gideon’s fleece (Judges 6:36-40) through which he discerned the outcome of a future battle.
We must keep in mind that God did not give any prohibitions against divination until nearly 500 years later through Moses (Lev. 19:26, Deut. 18:10).
So, Joseph may have received revelation from God at this time in this way.
What’s certain is this. Without the cup, God had already given Joseph the supernatural ability to know the future. For we know that he has already interpreted 6 dreams (2 as a young boy, 2 for the butler and baker in prison, and 2 for Pharaoh).
In response to Joseph’s pressing question, “What is this deed that you have done?” one bold brother steps forward as spokesman: Judah.
We saw in the last chapter (43) Jacob’s wimpy leadership. Here in contrast we see Judah’s winsome and courageous leadership.
1. First, a courageous leader takes full responsibility for failure.
Verse 16: So Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves?
Judah doesn’t blame Benjamin, the steward nor Joseph for hiding the silver cup.
He doesn’t try to weasel out of the situation and justify himself. In fact, Judah says nothing in defense of himself.
2. Second mark of a courageous spiritual leader, he acknowledges sin before God.
Judah continues (v. 16b) and says, “God has found out the iniquity of your servants.”
You say, “Hold on Judah, what sin are you confessing that God has found out?”
Stealing the silver cup? No. He’s thinking back to over 2 decades before when he and his brothers hated Joseph, sold him to the slave traders, and then lied to their dad that wild animals killed him.
Here’s the issue. Judah knows God’s judgment on their sin has caught up to them. And he, on behalf of his brothers, fully acknowledges their guilt.
Fellow believer, here’s what you need to grasp at this point. True repentance doesn’t look for small areas to plead innocence but admits larger area where you are guilty before God.
Policeman routinely pull drivers over to check their headlights or registration. And in that stop, there are often serious crimes detected like a stolen car or driving under the influence.
When the driver goes to court, the judge doesn’t want to hear about the lights or registration. He wants the driver to face up to the crime.
3. A spiritual leadership accepts the consequences of failure and sin.
Look at what Judah tells Joseph: “behold, we are my lord’s slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found.”
Judah makes it clear. Not just Benjamin, but I and the rest of my brothers will stay in Egypt as your slaves. One stays, we all stay- that’s his point.
But Joseph doesn’t agree: Verse 17: But he said, “Far be it from me to do this. The man in whose possession the cup has been found, he shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father.”
Now that’s better than a “get out of jail free card.”
Because the brothers now have a perfect opportunity to leave Benjamin.
Think about the temptation. All the conditions are present for betrayal at a far more compelling price than 20 pieces of silver- they are offered liberty.
They could have rationalized it saying, “Our wives and children are hungry and need grain.
And this ruler, could he be God’s voice telling us to “go up in peace to your father.”
O, the offer must have sounded so attractive.
And all Judah has to say is, “Sorry Benjamin. I wish we didn’t have to leave you here. But let’s be practical. There are 10 of us. We tried our best. Hope to see you again some day!”
No, Judah won’t budge.
4. 4th mark of a courageous spiritual leader. He refuses to take the easy road of compromise.
Think of Joshua the faithful leader who followed after Moses. God tells him in Joshua 1:7 how he must lead:
“Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.
In other words, don’t cave into pressure. Don’t cop out when someone tries to get you to go with the flow and forsake God’s way.
If you haven’t heard yet, there has been a recent movement that has infiltrated churches in America. It’s called the Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality.
Both of these are godless theories that uphold postmodern and relativistic understanding of truth.
In short, they divide humanity into two groups: the oppressors and oppressed. And the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is sidelined as secondary and insufficient.
Just this last June in Alabama, over 800 delegates gathered from the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. They represent over 47,000 churches with a total membership of 15 million people.
As they prepared to vote on adopting the Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, one upset pastor from Florida (Tom Aschol) grabs the mic.
With nerves of steel he warns the group saying: “Critical race theory and intersectionality are godless ideologies that are indebted to radical feminism and postmodernism, and neo-Marxism.”
He further clarifies, “Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality emerged from a secular, worldview and are rooted in ideologies that are incompatible with Christianity. And he urges the room full of Christian leaders to make the following resolve: “repudiate all forms of identity politics and any ideology that establishes human identity in anything other than divine creation in the image of God and, for all redeemed humanity, our common identity, together eternally united to Christ.” Well the godless resolution on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality was overwhelmingly adopted. Yet, that pastor showed fearless leadership and spoke the truth. And friends, so must we. We must like Judah and like that pastor refuse to capitulate to compromise. Back to our text. We have seen the arrest of the brothers, the admission of guilt. And that brings us to the
3. Appeal of Judah 18-34
Here we see one of the manliest and most moving speeches in the Bible. It also ranks as the longest speech in all of Genesis.
As we move through Judah’s appeal, I want to keep the story line before you and also give you a couple more traits of a courageous spiritual leader.
5. The fifth mark is that a courageous leader speaks humbly yet confidently (in God).
Watch that in Judah’s reply: 18th verse: Then Judah approached him, and said, “Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh.
When Judah uses that phrase “your servant,” he’s referring to himself.
In that way, wisely honors this powerful prime minister as his superior. He asked the right to be heard, and then he goes for it. Verse 19:
“My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ 20 “We said to my lord, ‘We have an old father and a little child of his old age. Now his brother is dead, so he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.’
O the irony here! Judah and his brothers think their brother Joseph is dead. But there he is standing right in front of them!
Judah continues in verse 21: “Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me that I may set my eyes on him.’ 22 “But we said to my lord, ‘The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ 23 “You said to your servants, however, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.’
Why does Judah bring up these details of their first negotiation with Joseph? Does he think the ruler has a memory lapse? Certainly not!
Judah wants to make it clear to Joseph that they have done all he requested of them.
And by the way the word “father” is the key word in Judah’s appeal. He uses it 14x in his words to Joseph! Here’s why: Judah wants Joseph to realize the deadly consequences of what will happen if Benjamin is held in Egypt.
That why Judah goes on to tell Joseph, verse 24: “Thus it came about when we went up to your servant my father (now that’s Jacob), we told him the words of my lord. 25 “Our father said, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.’ 26 “But we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’
Judah plead to be able to take Benjamin to Egypt.
And he wants Joseph to know why it would pain Jacob so much to lose Benjamin:
Verse 27: “Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; 28 and the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn in pieces,” and I have not seen him since. 29 ‘If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.’
This is amazing. Judah knows it would literally kill Jacob to lose a second son. He would die of a broken heart.
Don’t forget. Judah can empathize with his dad. For Judah himself, remember in chapter 38, lost two sons to death, Er and Onan.
6. This gives us our sixth trait of a spiritual leader. He feels the pain of others and cares when they are hurting.
Whom does that sound like? Our Lord Jesus. For He feels our pain like none other.
Hebrews 4:15 consoles us saying, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
And Isaiah 53:4 “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried.”
Christ not only knows our sin and sorrow. took that on Himself on the cross!
Would you look Jacob’s final passionate plea to Joseph?
V. 30 “Now, therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, 31 when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. 32 “For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame before my father forever.’
Do you see the change in Judah’s focus? Now Judah is not relating the words from his father. He’s interceding man-to-man.
And the 7th aspect of a courageous spiritual leader we see here: he does everything possible to keep His word. He keeps his commitments to God and others. Judah promised his father he would bring Benjamin back, and he fully intended to keep His Word.
All of Christians need to be faithful to our word.
If you say you are going to pray for someone (and you should) keep your Word and pray for them.
If you tell someone you are going to have them over, follow through with it and keep your Word.
Christian, Christ calls us to keep our commitments.
8. One final trait of a courageous leader: he embraces personal sacrifice for the sake of others.
There in verse 33, Judah says, “Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. 34 “For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me—for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?”
O what a heart Judah has! He can’t stand the thought of going home to his dad without Benjamin. He can’t handle the thought of dishonoring his father in such a way.
And that’s why he offers himself in place of Benjamin.
He is saying, “O ruler, I will gladly become your slave for the rest of my life if you will let me brother go free.”
Friends, that’s the language of substitution. He is pleading to suffer vicariously.
Bruce Waltke writes, “Judah…is the first person in Scripture who willingly offers his own life for another.
One chooses to become a slave who will suffer so another is set free.
What Judah offers here wonderfully prefigures one who come in his line, the Lion of Judah.
For God gave Christ who stepped forward and took the penalty of sin and gave us freedom.
I Peter 3:18 describes that divine substitution on our behalf: For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
Well, those 11 brothers of Joseph represented by Judah, passed the final test with flying colors.
They refused to abandon Benjamin as they had once abandoned Joseph.
God gave grace, they turned from their sinful way, and receive pardon.
Beloved, God would have me place 2 tests before you. First, the 2 Corinthians 13:5 test for salvation: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”
In other words, look at your life from God’s Word and see if Christ is truly in you by repentant faith. If he is, then you pass the test. If not, cry out to God for mercy, leave your life of rebellion and trust in Christ.
The second test is for the true Christian. Paul tells the Corinthian church, “Be let a man examine himself” (I Cor. 11:28). The idea is, take a
careful look at your life to be sure you are dealing with all areas of unconfessed sin.
Christian, don’t tolerate any skeletons of sin hidden in the closet of your heart.
Don’t try to keep Jesus at arm distance like the church at Laodicea. Christ’s words to them speak with power to us:
Revelation 3:19–20 ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20 ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.’
Pray with me:
The Final Test Genesis 44
Hope In Christ Bible Church 12/15/19
Intro. James 1:2–3; I Peter 1:6–7
A. Arrest of brothers 1-13
John 1:16; Gen. 43:18
B. Admission of guilt 14-17
Gen. 30:27; Judges 6:36-40; Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:10
Marks of a courageous leader:
Joshua 1:7
C. Appeal of Judah 18-34
Heb. 4:15
Isa. 53:4
I Peter 3:18
Being a doer of the Word who passes the test: