Summary: It was an awful ordeal Joseph put them through, but it was worth it, for Joseph learned that people can change. God knows this and that is why He is long suffering and puts up with people for a long time.
Children often obey the Bible even before they know there is a Bible. Paul
said in I Thess. 5:21, "Test everything, hold on to the good." Babies are
testing everything by putting everything in their mouth, and as they get older
they begin to test adults. Our little granddaughter Kelly came up to me one
day and bopped me on the head with a plastic toy. It was so funny that I
laughed and so did everyone else in the room. That sounded like approval to
her, and she started hitting everybody in the head, and this was even more
hilarious. But then it dawned on me that we were in the process of training a
sadistic child. Our emotions were leading us to motivate dangerous behavior,
and so I stopped the laughing and we took the toy away.
It didn't hurt any of us, but the next thing she started bopping heads with
could be wood or metal, and the poor innocent child could be confused by a
severe scolding for what she had previously received approval for. It is so
hard to prevent your emotions from leading you to teach bad habits to
children. When I was 13 years old we had a neighbor in our duplex with a 3
year old girl who swore like a trooper. Her family thought it was just
hilarious, and I have to admit a cute little girl talking like a grown adult is
funny. But this child got so much approval for her swearing that she became a
foul mouthed kid who was repulsive to those outside the family. She tested the
family and said you are wonderful when you swear.
The point is, children are testing us all the time. They are saying things and
doing things to get our reaction. That is how they test all things. They learn
by this what is approved or not, and the limits of what adults will put up.
When you are a parent you are in school all the time, and everyday is test day.
Now testing has never been a popular part of education. We don't like tests in
school, or in life. A Sunday School teacher taught her class that God tests our
faith to give us a chance to grow stronger. A 7th grader said, "I thing
sometimes God over does it." Many feel this way about God's testing, but C.
S. Lewis pointed out that testing is not meant to be pleasant. Students always
complain about a test, and they ask what good will it do?
C. S. Lewis wrote, "But surely to demand that the test should do the boy
good is like demanding that a thermometer should heat the room. It was the
reading of the book which was suppose to do the boy good. You give the test
to find out if he had read it." The test itself can be unpleasant, but if you pass
the test because you have done what is required, then there are pleasant
This is precisely what we see in Joseph's dealings with his brothers. He is
putting them to a test, and it is very unpleasant, for they are made to feel like
ungrateful scoundrels. Joseph has treated them to a royal feast and they
thank him by stealing his very special silver cup. We know it was a plant, and
that they are being framed, but they are feeling so shocked and so ashamed.
Have you ever left church with a hymnal, and when it dawned on you, you felt
like you had stolen it? Or have you ever opened somebody else's mail by
mistake and felt like you violated their property? If you have, you can feel
partially at least the depth of their humiliation and embarrassment when the
silver cup was found in Benjamin's sack.
Benjamin was the baby of the family, and now it looks like he is a common
thief. It would be like coming home after a great evening at a friend's home
and discovering your child has their remote control in his pocket. You know
you would call them immediately and explain what happened. The brothers of
Joseph would have set the record straight as well as they found the cup at the
end of the day, but Joseph sent the steward of his house to find it on them
before they did. This was the ultimate in embarrassment, and it was all done
deliberately to put the brothers to a test. If they passed this test which was so
unpleasant, then they would have future pleasure that would make the pain
insignificant in comparison.
Joseph had to find out if these brothers of his had changed. Were they still
the cruel and envious lot that had cast him into a pit and then sold him into