Saturday, July 02, 2011

Joseph’s Brothers Agree To Grave Consequences If Found Guilty - Genesis 44:9-10

“With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves.”  So he said, “Now let it also be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be innocent.”

So sure were the brothers of their honesty and the false accusation against them that they offered to have any one of them with whom Joseph’s cup was found to be put to death and the rest of them would serve Joseph or perhaps his house steward as slaves.  Clearly this was an instantaneous and emotional reaction to the accusation.  They did not think of the consequences if this ‘one’ they thought did not exist ended up being their father’s youngest child, Benjamin.  So sure were they of their innocence that they didn’t stop to think of what would happen to their father Jacob and to their own families if they all had to serve Joseph or his steward as slaves.

To be fair though, their willingness to include themselves in the potential penalty were this accusation proven to be true does indicate their ownership of any such potential crime, not to mention the unity of the brothers at this point in time.  Clearly they were acting as one.

But let us also consider the steward’s response to their offer before we arrive at any guidance for living this portion of scripture may provide us.  The steward indicated that there should indeed be a penalty if the accusation was true, but he makes some major changes.  First, the one who is guilty would not die, but only serve the steward as a slave.  Second, the rest of them would not be his or Joseph’s slaves, but will be deemed innocent and free to go on their way home.  Were these the words of a kind and gentle steward or did they come from the mouth of one who knew the truth and wanted to be fair?  I suggest both.  The steward was surely in on his master’s plan for having the brothers being falsely accused, though he may not have known the exact reasoning behind it.  Keep in mind that to our knowledge, Joseph had not indicated what the penalty should have been when the cup was to be found in the youngest brother’s sack.  So the steward had lots of leeway as to what punishment he may have required of the guilty party. Nevertheless, he had to walk a fine line between forgiveness and unnecessary harshness, as he was both responsible to his master and his own conscious.

So, what are indeed the lessons for us from these two verses?  I think there is a reminder to check our emotions before we quickly offer an extreme sentence on ourselves if we were found guilty, even if we believed we were totally innocent.  What we do not know is that sometimes our enemies may actually frame us.  They may set a trap that will indeed ensnare us without our knowledge, just as the brothers experienced in this case.  That does not mean that we should not be totally relying on God to prove us innocent, but it does mean that we should utilize the ability to think and the wisdom He has given us to be reasonable in how we offer to make recompense in the event we are entangled in an ugly web of the enemy.

Second, when more than just we alone are party to an event, even though only one of us is being accused of the actual wrongdoing, do we stand with that person?  Are we united as a group?  Can every one in the group count on us?  Or do we run for the nearest exit?  This past week a police officer in our area was killed when a car driven by an unlicensed 15-year old driver with at least three other passengers, ran him down.  It will be interesting to see if those passengers take any ownership for what happened or whether they claim they were just innocent onlookers to an unfortunate act of the driver.  When it comes to matters involving your church, do you stand with those that you have been a part of when times were good, or do you run away when times are tough?  Yes, there is honor among thieves as the old adage goes, but there should also be ‘trust and reliance’ among true brothers and friends.

There is also something we can gain from the chief steward.  He had every opportunity to accept the terms of consequence suggested by the brothers if they were guilty, but he did not.  They were too extravagant and did not fit the potential crime.  The consequences to the men and their families and their father would have been too great and he understood that, as he too may have been a family man.  Put another way, there was no need to extract that extra ounce of blood from this stone.  Do we know when we have been offered more than enough in exchange for a wrong done to us?  Do we know when to say, “look it’s okay; you’ve done enough; thank you; I’m fine”?  Recently I had the misfortune of bumping into the back of someone’s car with my own vehicle.  Regardless of the circumstances of how it happened, the legal error would fall on me.  The driver involved, for his own reasons, did not want this to go through his insurance company.  I agreed and offered him a certain amount that more than covered his damages.  Graciously he said, “This happened to me before and I was able to fix the similar damage for half that amount.  Just give me half of it and I will be very satisfied.”  Are you willing to do that when it comes to others making good for the damage they’ve caused in your life?  I hope we all are.

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