A Changed Man
“Please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.” – Genesis 44:33 NLT
When we last left Jacob’s brothers, they were taking part in a sumptuous feast as the guests of Pharaoh’s right-hand man. Little did they know that they were actually eating with their long-lost brother. They were too busy enjoying the grace and mercy of this powerful, yet beneficent dignitary. They were happy to be alive and not in prison. But to be eating great food as the guests of the one man they thought was going throw them all in prison when they returned – that was too good to be true.
Now we come to chapter 44. And in no time at all their feasting will turn to fear. Joseph is about to give them yet one more test of their integrity. He has his steward fill their sacks with grain and hide a valuable silver cup in the sack belonging to Benjamin. Joseph is going to see just how honest these guys really are. Have they really changed? Or are they the same brothers who sold him into slavery out of jealousy for the favoritism that Jacob had shown Joseph all those years ago (Genesis 37:18-24). Just look how Joseph set all this up. At the feast, he gave Benjamin five times the amount of food than he did the brothers (Genesis 43:34). He was showing this younger brother favoritism. And in doing so, he was testing the reactions of his older brothers. How would they respond? What would they do?
After the brothers left to return home, Joseph sends his servant after them. When he found them he was to accuse them of stealing a valuable silver cup. They would end up denying the accusation, but upon searching their belongings, it would be found in Benjamin’s sack. Just imagine how this must have hit these guys. In a matter of hours they had gone from a time of feasting to a time of fear. They must have been devastated. They were so sure of their innocence that they had vowed to surrender the life of the one caught with the cup and turn themselves over as slaves for life. Now they stood before his powerful Egyptian dignitary with no hope and the painful reality that they had just become slaves for the rest of their lives. But Joseph is not done with his test. Now he tells them that they can all go free – except for the one in whose sack the cup was found – Benjamin. This was their chance! They could all walk away as free men. All they had to be willing to do was sacrifice the life of their youngest brother.
But Judah spoke up. He recounts their trip home after their first journey to Egypt. He tells how his father had initially refused to allow Benjamin to accompany them on their return trip. But when they ran out of grain, he finally gave in – with much fear and heartache. Now Judah tells Joseph that he cannot return to his father without his younger brother. Even if it meant giving up his freedom. So he makes an astounding offer. He gives himself as the substitute for Benjamin. He will take the penalty intended for his younger brother. What makes this so unique is that years earlier, Judah had been the one to come up with the idea of selling Joseph into slavery. “‘What can we gain by killing our brother? That would just give us a guilty conscience. Let’s sell Joseph to those Ishmaelite traders. Let’s not be responsible for his death; after all, he is our brother!’ And his brothers agreed” (Genesis 37:26-27 NLT). He was quick to sell his brother up the river. Now, when confronted with the chance to do it all over again, he came up with a different solution. He would sacrifice himself. Judah was not the same man. He had changed. He now had a love for his father that he hadn’t had before. He had seen the pain his first decision had caused his father. He had witnessed the loss and knew that to subject his father to that same thing again would kill him. Rather than obsessing about himself and his own needs, Judah put others first – maybe for the first time in his life. He was living out the very words that Jesus would speak years later: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 NASB). Judah passed Joseph’s test. He did what Joseph was hoping he would do. Joseph knew that God was behind this whole story of his life. We will see that clearly in the chapters ahead. He knew that God had orchestrated this whole situation in order to put him right where he was. But he wanted to see that his brothers had also learned from their mistake. He wanted to see that they had changed. And they had. God had been working in their lives as well.
God is great. God is good. He is above and beyond all our circumstances – working behind the scenes in ways that we may not initially see or comprehend. But He is there. He was working in Judah. And He changed his heart. Circumstances have a way of doing that. Especially when we see that God is in the midst of them.
Father, You are in control. You always are. I just don’t always see it. You are even working in the lives of others in ways that I can’t see. I may expect them to be the same old person I have always known them to be, but You have a way of working in ways that are out of my sight and beyond my ability to understand. Thank You for reminding me through this story that You are in the life-changing, heart-transforming business. You always have been. And You are in the middle of changing me. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men