JOSEPH’S BROTHER’S REPENT
Key verse 44:33
“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.”
For the past few weeks we have been studying about the life of Joseph recorded in the book of Genesis. Joseph has been called the fruit of Genesis because his life in one sense imitates that of Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, Joseph was mistreated by his brothers, beaten and hurt; misunderstood by people and became a servant for all kinds of people. Like Jesus, God used Joseph to save many lives. And like Jesus, Joseph became a source of blessing no matter where he was and no matter what human circumstance and situation he was in. When he named his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh, he was honoring God who helped and was with him and made him fruitful in the land of his suffering. Joseph suffered far more than any of us ever will, yet he was not bitter or angry towards God or anyone, because he had accepted the love of God for him.
This passage shows Joseph’s redeeming love for his brother’s. It teaches us that God’s love is to bring us to repentance and to redeem us from our sins. It is a picture of Jesus’ redeeming love for us. Just as Joseph suffered to help his brothers to repent, Jesus also suffered much to help us to repent and accept the grace and mercy of God the Father In this way, God may make us fruitful and a source of blessing to those who are suffering in their sins and who are in desperate need of the Savior Jesus.
Through this passage, may God help us to accept that repentance is what our souls need and repentance is the best medicine for sin sick souls. .
Part 1. Joseph Remembers His Dreams(42)
At the end of chapter 41 the famine that Joseph had said would come had now hit the whole world. Now people from all over the world were coming to Egypt and to Joseph to buy grain because of its severity. God had been faithful to his word about 7 years of abundance followed by 7 years of famine. Look at verses 1-5. Joseph’s brothers did not want to go down to Egypt. It might have reminded them about Joseph being sold as a slave and brought to Egypt.
Their father Jacob had to push them out of the house to go and buy some grain for them so they would not starve. As they went to Egypt, Joseph’s brothers did not know that he was the governor of the land as they came to him expecting to buy grain and then leave as soon as they could to go back home. When Joseph’s brother’s arrived they bowed down to him. When Joseph saw them, he recognized them. Look at verse 7, “As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. ‘Where do you come from? He asked. From the land of Canaan, they replied, to buy food.”
Look at verse 9, “Then he remembered his dreams about them, ‘You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.” Joseph remembered his dreams means that God helped him to remember God’s vision and plan for his life. The dreams were given more than 20 years earlier, but Joseph had hidden them in his heart, not understanding what they meant at that time. But nevertheless, he paid attention to them.
This gave Joseph direction on what to do in this situation. Deep in his heart God had planted those dreams as God’s revelation to him. Now over 20 years later he sees the reason why God gave them. Without these dreams, he could not have acted in the way God wanted him to in order to help save them. Instead he might have acted out of emotion and even anger and said, “You guys thought you got rid of me when you sold me. Well look at me now! I made it big time! I’m the ruler of this land! It’s pay back time!” Sometimes when we read the Bible we can’t see how it applies to our circumstance and situation. It all sounds nice, but it doesn’t seem to apply.
This is true in many instances. However, over time, God will help you to see that his word is applicable to your situation and will be the true source of hope and strength and joy throughout your life as long as you keep on reading, meditating and listening carefully to his words in the Bible. Over time we personally experience that God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. As the writer of Psalm 119 said of God’s words to him in verse 24, “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”
Joseph accused his brothers of being spies. This accusation meant that they could have been executed on the spot. The brother’s were shocked to hear this. Look at what they said in verses 10-11. They stressed that they were honest men. Were they really honest men? They might have been telling the truth that they were not spied, but in reality they were great sinners who had committed many wicked acts . In chapter 34, Simeon and Levi had attacked the city of Shechem out of vengeance and killed all the males in the city. In chapter 35, Reuben committed adultery and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah. In chapter 38, Judah had slept with a prostitute, which was really his dauther-in-law. Then he had broken his promise to her. In fact, the rest of Joseph’s brother’s were full of hatred, jealousy and anger. They were insensitive, disrespectful to their father. And of course they were willing to kill their 17 year old brother.
There was no social program, psychologist, or anger management class that could change these men. What they needed was God’s divine help through Joseph to lead them to repentance. This is because sin was the root of their wicked and evil behavior. How could these guys become the leaders for a nation of faith that God had planned? How could they influence their children and their grand-children with such godless and insensitive behavior? They definitely needed God’s help and Joseph was put there right in God’s history to help save them from disaster.
So this is why Joseph called them “spies!” And this is why he began to treat them so harshly. Their consciences needed to be stirred. Their hearts needed to have a spiritual revolution. They needed freedom from their sins that had enslaved them. They needed to be saved from their sins. They needed to come to God and have salvation. The Bible tells us in Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous, not even one” and in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Joseph gave them such a hard time, not one time, but many times. He made them go through so many difficulties. He persisted to keep calling them spies (verses 14 and 16). He then locked them up in prison for three days (verse 17). Then he gave them a strong and stinging ultimatum on the third day. Look at verses 18-20, “On the third day, Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you will live, for I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and you may not die.”
Let’s now look at how Joseph’s brothers reacted to this harsh treatment. Let’s read verses 21-23, “They said to one another, ‘Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us.’ Reuben replied, ‘Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an account for his blood.’ They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.’”
Here we see that there is no peace for the wicked who sin against God and against man. Sin demands a wage. That wage is death. Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death…” Joseph’s brothers were dead spiritually because of their sins. They had not confessed their sins and now they felt God’s punishment laying heavy on them. Their distress was greater than the distress they had caused their younger brother Joseph. When one sins, there is no escape from God. God lays a heavy guilt on the sinner, pushing and prodding for the sinner to repent. This is our conscience that God tries to talk to. But think about how burdened and full of anxiety the brothers were! They knew that they had committed a terrible act against Joseph. They knew that they had caused their father Jacob endless grief, but they acted as if nothing happened! In the world, people commit sin everyday. Some sin is greater sin than other sin. Without repentance, the burden of sin grows and grows. People think they can forget about their sins or they try to justify their sins. They make excuses and defend their reason. They even blame others, like Adam who blamed God for putting the woman in the Garden of Eden, for committing the first sin. We try to pass the buck on someone else. But without repentance, the burden of sin, the guilt and the shame, lays heavy and it beats louder and louder. People lose sleep, take drugs, fall into bitterness and sarcasm. Fear grips them and they become paranoid. But Joseph had now touched their sin problem. This was their first step towards their salvation.
Recognizing and realizing one’s sins is the first step towards salvation and redemption, that means forgiveness of sins by God. We see here that we can’t just sweep our sins under the carpet and try to forget them and pretend that they don’t exist. This is because when we sin, we sin against God and our and our souls can find no rest until we confess them to God. King David recognized his sins when he sinned against God. In Psalm 32 he describes how he felt when he did not confess his sins to God and then what happened when he did. Psalm 32:3-5 says, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of the summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord---and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
We might think that it was easy for Joseph to do this to his brothers. But he was not seeking revenge. Verse 24 says that he began to weep. This means he suffered with them. He was like a mother who weeps for her sick child when she sees him suffering. This was like Jesus who wept over the unbelief of Jerusalem and the imminent destruction that was waiting for them (Lk.19:40-44). Joseph’s heart was true and sincere towards his brothers. He only wanted them to have God’s forgiveness. He only wanted them to be right with God and have freedom from sin. However, even in this time, God was working! God gave Joseph this wisdom and his brother’s consciences were being awakened.
Joseph did not think that they were ready to reveal himself to them. So he gave them more trouble. He put back their silver in their sacks. Look what happened when they discovered the silver in one of their sacks as they stopped for the night. Look at verses 27-28. We see in this situation that their hearts sank and they began to tremble. They said, “What is this that God has done to us?” This looks like the first time that they mentioned God’s name. Joseph made them conscience of God. The fear of God began to knock loudly at the door of their hearts. Perhaps their knees began to knock in fear and their palms of their hands became sweaty. When they finally came home, they told their father Jacob what had happened. They mentioned the importance of having to bring Benjamin back to Egypt. And as they were emptying their sacks in verse 35, there in each of their sacks was each man’s pouch of silver! This made them even more frightened.
This caused Jacob more grief and heartache. Look at verse 36, “Their father Jacob said to them, ‘You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!” This family really needs help. Sons should bring their father joy and satisfaction. But Jacob could only pull the hair from his head in anger and in frustration.
Part 2. Judah’s Fruit of Repentance (43-44)
In these chapters, Judah comes forth to become a man of responsibility and repentance. As the famine became worse and as the family was running out of food, Judah approached his father and once again gave him the conditions that Joseph had stated that was necessary for them to go Egypt to get the needed grain they would need to live and not starve. Look at Judah’s plea to his father in verses 8-9, “Then Judah said to Israel his father, ‘Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.’” This plea was more convincing than Reuben’s. The reason was because Judah showed responsibility. He used the words “we” “you” and “our children.” It showed he cared about all his brothers and his whole family, especially his father. It is from his heart and Jacob recognized his sincerity. Is this the same Judah who led his brothers to sell Joseph into slavery? Insensitive and uncaring? Judah looks different then the man who appeared in chapters 37-38. Before he looked and acted like a gang leader but now he is acting like the leader of his family. Now a spiritual revolution is beginning to take place in his heart
So Judah took all the gifts that his father recommended he take and then he took Benjamin and the rest of his brothers and went down to Egypt. Joseph was ready for them and had prepared a meal for them. He would eat with them for lunch. Now Joseph was showing great kindness to them. To eat such a huge meal at the man who was governor over the whole land was indeed a great blessing and privilege. It was almost like being invited to eat dinner with President Bush at the White House. There is no better way to show love to those who have done you wrong than to feed them. Do you know anyone who has hurt you or done wrong to you? Then invite them to eat dinner and don’t take revenge on them. Romans 12:19-21 says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’, says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him: if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’”
How did his brother’s interpret this great act of kindness? Look at verses 17-18, “The man did as Joseph told him and took the men to Joseph’s house. Now the men were frightened when they were taken to his house. They thought, ‘We were brought here because of the silver that was put back in our sacks the first time. He wants to overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys.’” They interpreted Joseph’s act of kindness with suspicion. They were afraid and even terrified. Until we come to repentance and have a right relationship with God, we live in constant state of fear, anxiety and paranoia. As they met Joseph again, he asked them about Jacob and how he was doing. Then Joseph saw Benjamin. Look at verses 29-30 to see his reaction. “As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, ‘Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about? God be gracious to you my son.’ Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went to his private room and wept there.’”
After this Joseph served them the food and had them sit in their age order. Imagine this scene! There were 11 men, all looking the same to a foreigner. Joseph sat them down in age order and they were completely astonished. They looked at each other with their mouths open wide and wondered, “What is going on here?!” Ever since they had met this governor their lives had been one act of suspense after another. They probably thought if he did not execute them, they would die of a sudden heart attack because of the suspense. And to add to it all, Joseph gave Benjamin five times more food on his plate than the other brothers!
This looked like the perfect time to reveal himself to them. After all, at a big dinner the environment is good to make announcements of good news and to celebrate. Why not now? But Joseph had one more test to give his brothers. In chapter 44 he has his silver cup purposely put in Benjamin’s sack in order to frame Benjamin. When his brothers were stopped and accused of stealing the silver cup, they were shocked. They were confident that they had not taken it and made a bold statement in verse 9. This sounded good to Joseph’s steward. What happened when they searched for the cup? It was found in Benjamin’s sack!
Look at their reaction in verses 13-14, especially when they came before Joseph. This was their sign of repentance, the ripping of their clothing and their falling on their knees. Now this is a sign of repentance. But real repentance is giving your heart in action. Joel 2:13 says, “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” The brothers confessed their guilt to Joseph (verse 16). They did not blame and bully Benjamin and say to him, “Tough luck, kid. You need to stay. We will write to you.” They all took responsibility. Look at verse 16B, “…We are now my lord’s slaves---we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.” Joseph was now testing them to the limit in verse 17. Yes, they could have left Benjamin there. But this was what they would have done 20 years earlier if it would have been Joseph. But now because of Joseph’s redeeming love for them, they were ready to pay the price no matter what.
Now Judah comes forward. He had been instrumental in selling Joseph. Now he has repented. Let’s read verses 33-34. Judah was willing to give up his freedom and even his life for his youngest brother. Before, Judah was a promise breaker (chapter 38---Tamar) but now he is a promise keeper, to his father whom he had hurt and whom he caused grief for over 20 years (44:32). Judah was keeping his promises even if they hurt. The fruit of his repentance is a changed inner life. It made him a new creation because God had done a great thing in Judah’s heart through Joseph’s enduring love for his brothers.
Here we see God’s good purpose in Joseph’s life. It was stretching not only to the people of Egypt, but to his brothers. Judah’s repentance and his brother’s repentance shows that God would use them to build a nation of faith. Judah’s repentance shows us that repentance is not just a word we use to sound spiritual. It means action. It means turning from living a self-centered life to a God centered life. It means acting in love and keeping always in mind WWJD? What would Jesus do? And also what would Jesus want us to do? Joseph’s fruitful life was the blessing of seeing Judah and all his brothers to repent and become changed.