Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Humanity in Sin Part 53: The Silver Cup

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 4th May 2008 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 44

When we read the difficulties the brothers went through, we started wondering why Joseph brought so much problems on their brothers. He put back the money in their sacks on their first journey, hence the brothers could not return in peace. The second time, he also put back their money, but in addition he added his silver cup into their sack, so that this time the brothers really could not go home in peace.

Joseph did not have intention for revenge. Joseph was really lonely and wanted to have more moments with his brothers but he still could not reveal his identity. Hence he swallowed his own sufferings and did not reveal his feelings to his brothers. We need to train ourselves to wait on God’s timing.

Joseph was a very special person. He was only 17 when he was sold to Egypt. He had no friends there and did not know the culture. He entered Egypt with the lowest status as a slave. In this difficult situation, he maintained his integrity.

Joseph used some words that belonged to the Gentiles. Israelites are the people of God and should not use the word “divination”. But Joseph was using the words of the Egyptians so that the brothers would not suspect that he was a Hebrew. He could not reveal his identity until God’s timing came. His brothers did not check the content of their sack before they left. Joseph planted the cup in Benjamin’s sack and then asked his steward to chase after them. He did not want to them to leave him.

The brothers bravely said that whoever was found with the silver cup would die and the rest of them would become his slaves. They did not steal the cup but had been rash with their words, not realizing that it was a set-up. We should not easily tie ourselves with covenants. People who do no wrong could be very brave to declare their innocence but forget that others might set trap for them. When they found that the cup was with Benjamin, they were astonished and tore their clothes, and went back to the city.

Judah spoke up and begged to take the place of Benjamin. Judah was more righteous than his brothers in this matter. He had a lot of mistakes but he was self-sacrificing and stood forth when there was great trials. Although he had adultery with Tamar, he immediately repented when he knew he was guilty. God would later send the promised Christ through his lineage. Joseph was the most righteous and examplary of all Jacob’s sons, but it was Judah that God blessed the most. This is the mystery of God’s grace.

Judah explained to Joseph about his covenant with his father that he had made himself a surety for Benjamin. His words moved Joseph deeply. After these words, God’s timing had come for Joseph to reveal his identity.

My Personal Note:

From Calvin’s commentary, Joseph’s motivation in all those actions was to test his brothers’ character. Since his brothers did such wicked thing as to sell him to Egypt many years ago, it was necessary to put them to the test to find out if they were still the same way. It was Judah’s words that finally convinced him that they had changed. Regarding the term ‘divination’, Calvin believed that Joseph sinned greatly in this matter. As a man who feared God and gave all the glory to God before Pharaoh even when all Egyptians believed he interpreted dreams by divination, Joseph failed here by claiming to use divination to find out that his brothers had stolen the silver cup. In his plot, he combined falsehoods to make his story sound more convincing to his brothers, but it was wrong for a man of God to attribute something to divination.

On the motivation of Joseph’s actions, and his error in claiming to use divination, and Judah's words convincing Joseph that the brothers have repented and he could finally reveal his identity without fearing their pretension, I am more inclined to Calvin’s interpretation.


At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Baraholka said...

Joseph was torn between the desires of revealing his identity to his brothers and his deep pain at their betrayal and inhumane treatment of him.

Joseph, like most of the other Patriarchs was an emotionally damaged individual. It took God to do a mighty work in him to help Jospeh forgive his brothers and hence allow Jospeh to play his part in the continuation of the Abrahamic blessing.


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