Young men don’t often see the weight of their sins until they are older. I remember being in seventh grade telling my mom that I didn’t think my dad loved me because he wouldn’t let me stay out past 10 pm. The reason I remember this is because of the way my mom rose up with a fiery rebuke that let me know I had crossed a line. I didn’t know then what that line was, or how hard my dad worked, or how much he had sacrificed out of love for me—I just knew I’d said the wrong thing at the wrong time. I couldn’t really see my sin—not with any clarity, anyway.
Time has a way of bringing clarity. Now that I have an adult relationship with my father, and now that I have children of my own, I understand better the depth of my father’s love. I needed an awakening. Today’s passage reads like an awakening.
Joseph set his brothers up. There is no other way to say it. He set them up. He hid his gold cup in young Benjamin’s saddlebag just before he and his brothers departed for their journey back home. He then sent members of his guard to chase them down and conduct a mock search, knowing it would rattle them.
Why did Joseph do this? We’re not given a clear reason, but when we read how the story unfolds, we see that his plan woke something up in them. When Joseph told his brothers he was going to take young Benjamin and make him his slave, the men began to plead for Benjamin’s return—not for Benjamin’s sake so much as for their father’s.
Their father loved the boy, they told Joseph, and he’d already lost his other favored son. Jacob said the other son (Joseph himself) born to him by the same wife (Rachel) had left and was probably torn apart by beasts. If he lost Benjamin, too, he believed it would bury his sad heart in hell (Genesis 44:29).
As the brothers pleaded for Benjamin’s return, they wept because of their father’s sorrow. This display of love for Jacob broke Joseph’s heart because it was a love he shared with them. This was when he revealed his true identity—which terrified his brothers even more.
When the brothers recognized Joseph, they trembled because young men don’t often see the weight of their sins until they are older. Now they all saw the mess they had made of their family. They understood better what their jealousy cost.
It took a calamity (famine) to bring the awakening, but that calamity ended up saving their lives. I like how Joseph sent for his father and told his brothers to stay close to him because there would be another five years of famine.
Sometimes our own awakenings come years before the real trouble subsides. It is like Christ to stir us awake to sins we didn’t have eyes to see when we were younger. But it is also like Christ to tell us to draw near to Him while the restoration process takes place—which sometimes takes years.
Christ does not abandon us to our own spiritual poverty. He draws us to Himself. But in that process, He often mercifully decides to show us depths of our need we could not have seen when we were younger. When He does this, it is not because He is ruining us. It is because He is saving us.
Written By Russ Ramsey