Summary: If we were doomed to live the same life over and over again for eternity, would we choose the life we are living now? If not, then how can we make real change? We do it when we submit to God’s discipline. Then with Christ’s help, admit and quit our sin.
William Alexander, in his book The $64 Tomato, asks the question, “If you were doomed to live the same life over and over again for eternity, would you choose the life you are living now?” It’s a thought-provoking question, but not so much as the implied follow-up question: “If the answer is no, then why are you living the life you are living now?” William Alexander says, “Stop making excuses, and do something about it.” (William Alexander, The $64 Tomato, Algonquin Books, 2007, p.245; www.PreachingToday.com)
But that’s the 64 million dollar question: what do I do about it? If I don’t like the life I’m living now, what do I do to change it?
Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 44, Genesis 44, where we see Joseph’s brothers undergoing some very real change in their own lives. They have been jealous and bitter for most of their lives. Their families are starving, and wow for the 2nd time, they have gone to Egypt to buy food from a very powerful Egyptian ruler.
They don’t know that this Egyptian ruler is their brother, Joseph, whom they betrayed and sold into slavery more than 20 years previously, and they don’t know what he’s up to. He has accused them of being spies, but he fed them from his own table. Now, he sends them away with some very unusual instructions for his steward.
Genesis 44:1 Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. (NIV)
This is the silver they used to buy food.
Genesis 44:2-12 Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.” And he did as Joseph said. As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, “Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done.’ ” When he caught up with them, he repeated these words to them. But they said to him, “Why does my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do anything like that! We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.” “Very well, then,” he said, “let it be as you say. Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame.” Each of them quickly lowered his sack to the ground and opened it. Then the steward proceeded to search, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. (NIV)
Benjamin was their father’s new favorite son since Joseph had disappeared. Are they going to betray him too and go free at Benjamin’s expense? No.
Genesis 44:13 At this, they tore their clothes (a sign of extreme distress). Then they ALL loaded their donkeys and returned to the city.
Instead of returning home with another lie for their father, they ALL returned to the city with Benjamin to face the music together.
Genesis 44:14-16 Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him. Joseph said to them, “What is this you have done? Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?” “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.” (NIV)
They are innocent of stealing Joseph’s cup, but they are not innocent of stealing his freedom more than 20 years previously. In fact, Judah himself was the one who suggested that they sell Joseph into slavery. Now, it is Judah himself who, on behalf of his brothers, admits their guilt and accepts the consequences of their own sinful behavior. They had sold their brother into slavery. Now, it’s only right that they all serve as slaves. Judah didn’t protest being treated “unfairly.” Rather he admitted, “We are only getting what we deserve.”