Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Genesis 44:14-34

Yesterday we finally saw a turning point in this family, when the brothers united around Benjamin and turned back to Egypt to face their Egyptian accuser. The unity of these brothers, and of all of Jacob’s descendants would be crucial for their survival in Egypt and beyond. God had told Abraham in Genesis 15:13 that his descendants would be slaves in a foreign country for 400 years. After 400 years in a major nation it would have been nearly impossible to maintain their identity as a people and not be completely assimilated into the Egyptian culture. But the mistreatment they received in Egypt solidified their unity that began right here in chapter 44. Even to this day the Jews continue to maintain their unique identity within a world that has attempted over and over to annihilate them. What more evidence do we need of God’s divine plan for these people?

It’s this same characteristic of unity that Jesus said would identify his disciples. He prayed for this unity of purpose:

“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. . .

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:11,20-23)

Please read those verses in the context of all of John 17 which is His precious prayer for Himself and for His disciples and for us! Our unity is a sign to the world that we are in Christ. So, we can’t overemphasize, in this chapter of Genesis, how important it was that these brothers were finally coming together. Notice how Judah steps forward here as the leader when they return to Joseph’s house:

Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him. Joseph said to them, “What is this you have done? Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?”

“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.” (Gen. 44:14-16)

Joseph indicated that he knew by divination that they had stolen the cup, when, in reality, he knew because he had the cup planted in Benjamin’s sack! Beth Moore points out that Judah showed more integrity than Joseph here by accepting full responsibility for the theft and by his willingness to receive consequences. Joseph told Judah that it was not necessary for all of them to remain, only the one who had possession of the cup. After all, he wanted to keep Benjamin, but why would he want the others who had so mistreated him? But Judah again stepped forward and proved his concern for their father. It is this plea that proves the tipping point for Joseph. After relaying the story of his father’s losses (leaving out the minor detail of the brothers’ guilt in that), Judah makes this final argument:

“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 upon my father.” (vs.30-34)

Judah was offering to be the substitutionary payment for the debt owed, just as Jesus, who was from the tribe of Judah, would become for all of us. Meanwhile, the emotional wall of defense that Joseph had tried to maintain is finally breached here. Tomorrow we see the amazing unveiling and the miraculous reunion!


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