Summary: The sixth message in a series from the life of Joseph
Trinity Baptist Church July 23, 2006
Series: Character on Display
Character on Trial
In the last century, Elbert Hubbard wrote, “the final test of greatness lies in being able to endure contemptuous treatment without resentment.” We’ll watch today as Joseph passes that test with flying colors.
We’ve been examining the life of one of the “greats” of the Old Testament. For several weeks we’ve observed the kind of character God builds into lives.
We first watched God develop Joseph’s character through excruciating experiences. Then we saw God test his character, through tough, rugged trials.
Not the least of Joseph’s experiences went on for over two decades; it was forced and long-term separation from his family and home, at the hands of his brothers. They had first meant to kill him, then they decided to sell him. The upshot, was he became a slave in Egypt, a country not known for treating slaves well. From slavery, Joseph went to prison, accused unjustly and incarcerated without a trial. Repeatedly, though, our text said, God was with Joseph. And God developed His man precisely in those harsh environments and over time. His slave days and imprisonment spanned about thirteen years.
His situation is now completely different. Now Joseph sits at Pharaoh’s right hand, as the equivalent of Prime Minister. His elevation was dramatic, as we saw. His administration of the famine relief project was very competent and good; for seven years, the surplus of the crops was gathered into storage. Granaries and even storage cities were built to hold all the surplus. Now in the throes of the predicted famine, only people in Egypt, have food.
People from all over the region make their way to Egypt to buy what they need. Among the foreigners who came were 10 of Joseph’s 11 brothers. We saw last time, Joseph recognized them, but they did not know him. And so, Joseph tested them -- first he accused them of being spies. To prove they were honest men, he sent them home, with grain for their family, but also with the orders to bring back the youngest brother they mentioned. To be certain they would, he kept Simeon in Egypt in prison; he won’t be released until the brothers return with the 11th brother.
Joseph is in control and he maneuvers the situation to bring about God’s purposes. The whole family is now in his hands -- the hands of a man who walks with God and a man God will use to save them from starvation and give them a safe haven where they can grow into a nation.
The Setting of chapters 43-45 is still the famine which exposes Jacob’s family to the threat of starvation. They made that first trip to buy food. Benjamin was left behind, because Jacob favored and loved him like he had Joseph. He was the second son of his favorite wife.
Now Simeon has been left behind in Egypt. Chapter 43 opens like chapter 42. The famine rages; it’s now described as severe. With hunger, and approaching starvation threatening, Jacob tells his sons in verse 2, go back to Egypt and buy us a little food.
Time’s up. A decision has to be made. But, immediately Judah reminds dad, that “the man” -- that Egyptian official -- told them in no uncertain terms, "you shall not see my face unless your brother is with you". He says, "send Benjamin and we’ll go. Otherwise we won’t, it won’t do any good!"
Jacob balks, he argues, he sulks. He displays the same old, self-centered uncooperative attitude. In many ways, studying Joseph’s life is studying the contrast in attitudes and character between Joseph and his father.
In verse 8, Judah steps up to the plate. He pressures his father to make a decision in line with Joseph’s requirements. Back in chapter 42, Reuben had told Jacob he’d take Benjamin and if he didn’t bring him back, Jacob could kill his two sons. Judah shows more maturity.
In verse 9, he says, "I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him." Reuben pledged his sons’ lives. Judah pledges his own life. Judah has changed dramatically.
Jacob finally consents, although you can tell, he’s still thinking of himself. Verse 13:"take your brother also, and arise, return to the man. May God Almighty grant you compassion with the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. As for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved."
The eleven of them set off, carrying gifts, and meeting Joseph’s requirement, taking Benjamin.
Remember the last chapter? Joseph instructed that the money the brothers used to buy their food be returned to them. His people put it into the sacks of grain their donkeys carried. So this trip they bring twice the money along. When they arrive, verses 20-21, they immediately seek out the house steward and tell him the story. He assures them that it’s their money, and that’s is not the reason they were brought to Joseph’s own house.