“The greatest want of the world is the want of men – men who will not be bought or sold; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall. But such a character is not the result of accident; it is not due to special favors or endowments of Providence. A noble character is the result of self-discipline, of the subjection of the lower to the higher nature—the surrender of self for the service of love to God and man.”*
He will take our donkeys! This statement caught my attention as I reviewed the story of Joseph in Genesis 42-44. The brothers had just returned to Egypt. This time with Benjamin. They were being ushered into a banquet. They were terrified. And so, they thought because of the money that was placed in their sacks when they left Egypt the first time, they would be seized, made slaves, and their donkeys taken away (Gen 43:18). Certainly Joseph could do with a few more donkeys. Really? What will happen to my donkey? A real thought of a real man. When I’m gone, what will happen to my Lexus?…I actually don’t own one. 🙂
‘And now, my lord, I cannot go back to my father without the boy.’ Genesis 44:30
How did we get here in the story of Joseph?
In Genesis 42, Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to buy food. They met Joseph. He recognized them but they did not recognize him. Joseph accused them of being spies. They vehemently denied. Joseph took Simeon hostage so that they could prove their innocence by bringing Benjamin. So, they left Simeon and returned to Jacob. By the time they arrived home they realized that their money was returned to them. They shared with Jacob the instructions of Joseph. Reuben proposed that his two sons be used as security. Jacob responded that Benjamin will not be sent.
In Genesis 43, as they faced starvation, Jacob reluctantly let Benjamin go with the brothers back to Egypt. Joseph is overwhelmed with emotion as he sees Benjamin. He then seemed to gauge the reaction of the brothers by giving Benjamin five times as much to eat than the rest.
In Genesis 44, the brothers tried to return home, but Joseph ‘said’ not yet. They only got so far. Joseph’s silver cup was used as a tool to bring them back. Then they were accused of stealing.
Have you ever traveled and been asked, ‘Did you pack your own bag?’ Or, ‘Have you been in control of your bags the entire time?’ You never know what could happen when you leave your bag unattended! 🙂
Nevertheless, when approached, the brothers declared innocence. After being ransacked poor Benjamin was found ‘guilty.’ And so, the brothers had to return to Egypt. Joseph said he would keep Benjamin as a slave and the other brothers could go back home. It was then Judah stepped forward to ‘take a hit for the team.’ Here we saw a ‘true’ and converted man. (Be sure to read Genesis 44: 18-34.)
Three takeaways from this part of the Joseph story:
- ‘Old habits die hard’—learn from your mistakes
Why wasn’t Benjamin with the brothers when they went to Egypt the first time? Hadn’t Jacob learnt to be impartial? I guess he never found out what really happened to Joseph. Not at that point anyway. But here again we see a continuation of Jacob’s preferential treatment to his children. A no-no if ever there was one in parenting. The story does not say that the brothers had a dislike of Benjamin, or Jacob for that matter. Nevertheless, our behavior requires introspection and evaluation if we are to identify and learn from our mistakes.
As I think of my own shortcomings, I’m reminded of Jeremiah 17:9 which says, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Also, the psalm of David, Psalm 139: 23-24 which says, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” This is a prayer we all need to pray at times.
2. Be wise rather than presumptuous.
What an incredulous proposal by Reuben! Jacob was right to ignore him. Reuben proposed slaying his two sons if they did not bring back Benjamin. See Genesis 42:37. What sense would that have made? Why would Jacob agree to have his grandsons slaughtered? It seems that Reuben was trying to get back into Jacob’s good graces. But what a foolish proposal! Rather than take personal responsibility, he offered his offspring.
A good choice deserves another. A bad choice should end there….
3. Take responsibility
So, Judah stepped forward. Notice the difference in his proposal versus what Reuben proposed. Judah took responsibility for taking Benjamin to Egypt and he followed through when given the test (Gen 43:9). Judah could not bear the thought of hurting his father a second time.
At some point in our lives we may be challenged to do something that requires us to sacrifice our own wants and desires. Can we pass that test? Judah was willing to become a slave to let his brother be free. He sought to deliver on his promise. And in the end convinced Joseph of their change.
Being truthful, are we willing to do what is right regardless of the consequence?
A Prayer for Today
Lord, open my eyes, help me not to be predisposed to negative hereditary tendencies. We plead for wisdom to make good choices. Help us to be responsible in our actions and to be willing to do what is right regardless of the outcome. We pray this prayer in your Son’s name. Amen.
*(EGW, Education, p. 57)
Photo: The Stoll Brothers: Lloyd, Kennard, Romeo, Mervyn