I have a most favorite cup. I like the shape of it. I like the size of it. I like the feel of it. And I like the look of it. My most favorite cup is crimson red with white letters forming two words: Indiana Hoosiers. I drink out of it every Sunday morning and every evening at dinner. And although I possess four of these cups, I really do not like to share them. Oh, I will allow my family to use a cup or two, but I keep my eye on them and the cup. But guests, well, they are not given these cups. And each cup is stored carefully, in pairs, in the same spot, on the same shelf in the same cabinet…always.
Genesis 44 is about a cup. It was a most favorite cup. This most favorite cup was silver. Oh, and it was truly one of a kind. But most important about this cup is that without it, there is no Genesis 44. And we need Genesis 44.
But Joy Comes With The Morning
As we begin, I want us to write down something, something to engrave on our minds and on our hearts. Here it is: joy comes with the morning. Genesis 43 and Genesis 44 and Genesis 45, those three chapters, are all part of something, something big and something wonderful. Now these three chapters, we know, are part of the closing section of Genesis called the generations of Jacob. And by now we should have pretty well rehearsed what are the generations of Jacob (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah; Dan, Naphtali; Gad, Asher; Issachar, Zebulun; Dinah; Joseph and Benjamin). But out of these thirteen kids, only two are given much attention. Joseph is given a lot of attention. Of these final fourteen chapters, thirteen are pretty much all about him. This leaves one chapter in which there is no mention of Joseph, but just his brother Judah. We asked many weeks ago, why is that? Why do Joseph and Judah matter so much to this record of this family?
Genesis 43 and Genesis 44 and Genesis 45 are part of something and are part of something that involves Joseph and Judah and their brothers. What is that something? Biblical restoration when relationships have been broken. It reminds me, and means so much to me, of one of the first things that Paul pleads with the local church in Corinth. May there be no divisions among you (1 Corinthians 1:10). Jesus preached to his disciples the importance of biblical restoration (Matthew 5:22-24; Matthew 18). We see in Genesis 45 these brothers and this broken relationship restored (vv. 4-15). And when it is restored, Joseph falls upon his little brother’s neck and weeps and Benjamin weeps. And then Joseph kisses all of his brothers and weeps. There was forgiveness. But how did it all happen?
It happened after their dad prayed. In Genesis 43, as Jacob gets ready to send his sons back to Egypt to buy a little food, he prays for them. And as Genesis 43 begins to unfold, we get a glimpse that God in answer to Jacob’s prayer is doing abundantly more than Jacob could have asked or imagined. Listen to this father’s prayer. “May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin” (43:14). Who is that other brother? I am sure Jacob is thinking about Simeon, but it is interesting that he is unnamed. And it is because God will do more than imagined. Joseph, too, is the other brother.
But we are talking about how to get to Genesis 45 and restoration. It starts with prayer and here it will happen after this dad prayed. The next thing that takes place and it is in answer to that prayer is hospitality. Joseph has his brothers ushered to his home. And it is in his home that Joseph will shower his brothers with hospitality. He puts on a feast and in that feast boiling compassion is demonstrated (43:30).
There are two things I want to point out regarding this hospitality. First, part of what Joseph is doing is trying to figure out his brothers. And this pours over into Genesis 44. In Genesis 44, he will still be trying to figure out, testing, his brothers. Are these the same kinds of men from thirty years ago? Have they been treating Benjamin as they treated Joseph? He begins to test this by treating Benjamin with more favor than the rest. He ordered that Benjamin be given five times as many portions as the other brothers (43:34). But also in this hospitality, Joseph seeks a place to weep. Now I love this; Genesis 43 is the afternoon and evening and night before Genesis 44. And in that afternoon and evening and night before Genesis 44, Joseph weeps. Listen to Psalm 30:5b. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Genesis 44 takes place in the morning (44:3)! And what happens in the morning? What happens in Genesis 44? Repentance which always leads to joy (Genesis 45)! And this is all to emphasize that we need repentance.
What is Repentance?
In short, repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning toward God. Listen to Romans 2:4. “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness [hint: hospitality] and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” The gospel, that good news which causes great joy is about Jesus the Christ and Jesus preached repentance (cf. Matthew 4:17). Charles Spurgeon defined repentance as “a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved.”
And do we see, even a hint of repentance in Genesis 44? Yes! It begins in Genesis 44:16. “God has found out the guilt of your servants” (cf. Numbers 32:23). And for what are these brothers guilty?
It Is About That Silver Cup
If not for Joseph’s favorite cup, we do not get to Genesis 44:16. As the chapter begins, Joseph decides to let his brothers, called “the men”, return home. But first, before they awake, he has his steward fill each man’s sack with food, as much as a man can carry. And to put any and all money that the men brought to purchase food back in these same sacks. And to be placed in the sack of the youngest brother whose name is Benjamin, is that silver cup, Joseph’s favorite cup. The steward does as Joseph commands (44:1-2).
Then comes the morning (v. 3). And what comes with the morning? The brothers were sent away with their donkeys and their rather heavy sacks. And after not making it very far, here comes that steward. Stop! He yells. “Why you have you repaid evil for good?” Keep in mind that this is the plan and all a ruse. Joseph is testing, still testing his brothers and it is for good. It is for repentance. This shocks the brothers for they thought they left on really good terms with the man. The steward accuses the men of having taken Joseph’s favorite cup (44:3-5).
We know the brothers did not take the cup. And we know that the brothers know that they did not take the cup. But one of them is in possession of the cup. So, the brothers in agreement and in full confidence of their innocence tell the steward to search them out. “Whichever of your servants is found with it shall die, and we also will be my lord’s servants.” The steward agrees, but with a counter proposal. Only the man found with the cup will be taken into slavery, “the rest of you shall be innocent” (44:6-9) Keep in mind that Joseph was sold into slavery by these brothers for twenty shekels of silver. And whose idea was that? Judah. Here one brother will be taken into slavery over a silver cup. The men agree. The steward searches each man’s sack beginning with the oldest down to the youngest. He comes to Benjamin. As of yet, no cup has been found. The brothers are feeling good until Benjamin’s sack is opened. There is food. There is money. There is a silver cup. At this the brothers tore their clothes. It is reminiscent of Jacob when Joseph was reported lost. He, too, tore his clothes (37:34).
What will these brothers do? Will they do as they did thirty years ago and leave Benjamin to slavery in Egypt? Will they take their money and more importantly, their freedom and return home? This is great. Every brother loaded his donkey and returned…to Egypt (44:13).
God Has Found Out Our Sin
Notice verse fourteen. Judah is singled out among his brothers. “Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house.” From here on out, Judah is the one that does all the talking. Why is that? Remember a couple of things. He is the one who came up with the idea to sell Joseph into slavery. He witnessed firsthand the heartbreak of his father he especially caused. He tried to console his father, but it was refused and rejected. So, Judah left home. Then there is Genesis 38 when Judah changes (v. 26).
The brothers again bow before Joseph. It is here that Judah confesses in finding that cup, “God has found out our guilt” (44:16). Another word for guilt is sin. But what are these brothers guilty of, truly? What is Judah getting at? It is not the cup, for these brothers really are innocent regarding the cup. This cup has brought out their guilt which they have bore for thirty years. It is the guilt of hurting their dad, hurting and betraying their brother. After thirty years, their guilt is brought to light.
Joseph will not relent. He still tests them with freedom. Benjamin will be taken into slavery and the brothers can go in peace back to their dad. Will they take it? Will they take their freedom and money and be content to breaking their dad once more? Judah will not relent (44:18-34). He cannot stand the thought of facing his dad with this heartbreak again. He will not do it! Joseph hears all of it. And hear what happens. It is verse thirty-three. “Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers.” Judah, the guilty, is giving his life in place of Benjamin, the innocent. There is the repentance. The true identity of these brothers, the transformation, has been revealed. In Genesis 45, Joseph cannot take it anymore. He will excuse his servants so that he may weep before his brothers. And he will reveal his true identity. And together they will look forward to the greatest family reunion!
But there is something better. We need repentance. In God’s kindness he sent his Son Jesus the Christ as a propitiation for our sins. Jesus Christ, who is completely innocent, is put forth as the substitute. He gave his life in place of ours! Jesus the innocent gave his life in place of us the guilty (cf. Isaiah 53:4-12). “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). But do not stop there. Keep going to 2 Corinthians 6:1-2. “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
And so it is in the restoration of our relationship with God, there must be repentance. God showers his kindness upon us and that kindness is the face and life of Jesus Christ. Repentance is not merely for the unsaved, but also the saved. We need, daily, repentance (cf. 1 John 1:9). And so it is in the restoration of our relationships with one another. Repentance and forgiveness. And it is because we have communion with each other (1 John 1:3). It is because we have a partnership in the gospel (Philippians 1:5). And it is because there is a dying world around us. We are God’s ambassadors to them in this ministry of restoration (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).