Scripture Based on Genesis 44:13 - 45
JOSEPH'S STORY chapter #7
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Ask children if they remember what happened last time - what was the decision that the brothers had to make?
Joseph paced the floor back and forth, back and forth. He knew he would see at least his brother Benjamin within the hour - his steward would make sure of that. That was not why he was pacing the floor. He was far more worried that his other brothers would not show up. He was worried that they would do again what they had done to him 20 years before - he was worried that they would let Benjamin, the favourite son, become a slave while they went home free. How he desperately hoped they had changed. But he did not know... he was still there in his mansion pacing - until the steward knocked on the front door. There was the steward - with all of his brothers together.
They rushed into the mansion and each of the brothers fell down before Joseph - pressing their forheads against the cold stone floor - not daring to look up at the man who had caught them stealing his very special silver cup.
Joseph questioned in a commanding voice...
"Quibus ille ait cur sic agere voluistis an ignoratis quod non sit similis mei in augurandi scientia?"
The brothers shock before this powerful man in his many coloured coat. It was only when the interpreter spoke that they understood him.
"What is this you have done? Don't you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?"
Judah had become the spokesman for the group - after all, his ability to persuade had won before with his own father and with this governor. He tried again - except this time he fumbled - he had no defense - all the brothers felt it - it was like God was after them for what they had done so many years ago - God was finding them out - pointing out what they had done to Joseph, their brother.
"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." Dan and Zebulun caught the fumble - Judah offered all of them as slaves - far worse than just Benjamin becoming a slave. If they all became slaves, Jacob their father would have no one to take care of him. But Judah had spoken.
Joseph saw his opportunity to see if his brothers had really changed. Oh, how he had hoped they had changed, longed to see them deal with each other differently. Oh how he hoped that for once, they would be a family to each other, rather than sacrifice one for the benefit of the rest.
"Absit a me ut sic agam qui furatus est scyphum ipse sit servus meus vos autem abite liberi ad patrem vestrum"
The interpreter spoke - "Forget that, I have no wish to make you all my slaves. Only the one with the cup will be my slave. The rest of you go back to your father in peace."
Joseph's heart raced, even as he heard the words in his own language through the interpreter. What would they do - would they go, and leave Benjamin as a slave - or would they all stick together this time...
The brothers looked at each other - all their eyes focused on Judah - and one more time Judah spoke - this time telling their story, as truthfully as he could to this powerful ruler of Egypt. He explained how his Father had had two wives, how his favourite wife had passed away after the birth of the youngest son, how he had had another son from that wife Rebeccah, but he had died, torn apart by wild animals and now if he lost his youngest son, their Father certainly would die. He told the Egyptian governor how he had taken personal responsibility for Benjamin and how, if Benjamin did not return - it would be the brothers together and especially himself who would be responsible all his life for the grief that would kill their father. And then Judah did something that shocked all of the brothers - he offered himself in the place of Benjamin. This same Judah who at one time argued that they should sell their brother Joseph to Midianite slave traders, now offered his own life, so that a brother would not become a slave. And this all for the sake of his father - it had seemed in the past that this Egyptian ruler had been interested in their father. Maybe he would be kind to them for the sake of his father.
Joseph heard his older brother's impassioned plea. Now, as he heard his brother's plea, his desire to forgive and set his brothers free from what they had done in the past burst his capacity to restrain himself. Oh how he had longed for this day, when his brothers would demonstrate in their actions that they had changed their ways - now in Judah he saw it with his own eyes.
"Egrederentur cuncti foras" Joseph barked. Instantly, Egyptians filed out of the room. All that was left was Joseph and his brothers. What he wanted to say to them, he wanted to say in private.
The brothers all still had the foreheads pressed to the stone floor. First there was silence but then this Egyptian ruler burst out crying - not crying - wailing, loudly - embarrassingly loudly. So loudly, it echoed around the walls of the room, so loudly, it could be heard through heavy closed doors. And then Joseph spoke - no longer in a language that his brothers could not understand - now in their own language.
"I am Joseph! Is my father still living?"
But the brothers - confused, terrified still had their foreheads pressed to the ground. Everything was going wrong. Now the governor of Egypt was wailing away - certainly this could not be a good sign. Now he was speaking in their own language - how could this man know so much? "I am Joseph!"did not even sink in.
"Come close to me."
This man knew their language like it was his own. Trembling on their knees they crawled closer to this weeping sobbing governor. He said it again.
"I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that Elohim sent me ahead of you."
Simeon trembled at what he heard. This man in his many coloured coat even knew the truth about what they had done to Joseph - that they had sold him as a slave to Egypt - and now he had used the name of Elohim again. And now he claimed to be Joseph.
One at a time - they dared look up at him. First his feet, then his coat - his arms - finally they dared look him straight in the face - it was vaguely familiar - but clean shaven - even the top of his head was bare. But the face, the chin had the sharp lines - the same as Benjamin's - and the eyes, strong, perceiving - with a beauty all their own - like they had heard about their father's first wife. They trembled as they knelt before him, listening to Joseph, now the ruler over them too, explain. They had nothing they could say or dared to say. Joseph explained to them that God had sent him ahead of them all to help the nation of Egypt survive 7 years of famine, and also especially to help his own family survive 7 years of famine. Because Elohim had a special interest in their family, God was using Joseph to preserve them. Yes they sold him as a slave to Egypt, they had made their 20 pieces of silver, but it was God who was using the brothers to send Joseph to Egypt to save Jacob and his family.
To Joseph's brothers, Joseph words were sweet words, words that took the wounds of guilt and washed them clean. His voice they started recognizing - so different now from when he was an overweight teenager crying out for help and mercy from the bottom of a cistern. But it was still the same voice. They with him started crying - sobbing for what they had done, weeping from regret, yet bursting into tears from joy because the worst thing they had ever done had turned out so well.
Joseph continue with instructions that they were to go tell their father that he was now ruler of Egypt. They were to go home, get their father and return - Joseph would take care of them in the land of Goshen until the famine was over. And then he invited them to arise and look at him closely. Benjamin and Joseph stood side by side - they were astounded at the resemblance - they looked just like each other.
Now it was not just one person crying, they all were. They hugged each other crying. They kissed each other, and the crying came and went in waves, mixed with times of joy and celebration. Finally the brothers dared to talk. They talked about old times. They asked for forgiveness for the way they had treated each other. Never had they been so close as a family.
Meanwhile, Joseph servants who had overheard the crying and the conversation quickly went to Pharaoh and let him know that Joseph's brothers had arrived. Pharaoh who owed the well being of his entire kingdom to Joseph quickly gave orders that Joseph's family would be special guests to the entire land of Egypt and that the best of the nation would be theirs to enjoy. And so they did that.
Leaving their belongings in Egypt - they started their journey back to their father - with extra carts to carry their families, with gifts for their father, and Benjamin too - Benjamin who had received from his only full brother 300 pieces of silver and 5 sets of colorful clothing - they set out to return to their father with the good news.
As they left - Joseph gave them one last instruction for the journey - guess what the instruction was ....
"Don't quarrel on the way!"
Joseph had only memories of his family fighting. Now they were getting along. Now it was all for one and one for all. Now they were sticking together like families should stick together. And he wanted them to keep it that way. To hold on to the wonderful sense of family they now had - it was worth so much. "Don't quarrel on the way!" Joseph had given them a gift - the gift of family - the gift of reconciliation, Keep it that way.
- Joseph is a picture of Jesus - his desire to be reconciled a picture of God's desire to reconcile with us - his tears our tears.
- Judah offers himself on behalf of his brother - Jesus - the lion of the tribe of Judah offered himself in our place.
- help us to maintain family, not to quarrel on the way - in our homes, in our churches, in light of the reconciliation that God has given us.