May 13, 2019

Moral Courage, part 1

By: Larry Shaffer

Me and my mom in 1982. Happy Mother’s Day!

Moral Courage, part 1 

Genesis 42 

Joseph, lesson 21 

When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, ‘The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly with us and took us for spies of the country. Be we said to him, we are honest men, we are not spies. We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no longer alive, and the youngest is with our father today in the land of Canaan. 

The man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I will know that you are honest men; leave one of your brothers with me and take grain for the famine of your households, and go. But bring your youngest brother to me that I may know that you are not spies, but honest men. I will give your brother to you, and you may trade in the land. 

But Jacob said, ‘My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow. 42:29-38 

Joseph, I believe, wants to reconcile with his family. But he is no longer a boy. He is a seasoned, experienced leader of many and lord over the land. He has grown into the position Pharaoh gave to him. He is now shrewd enough to know that he shouldn’t take the word of his brother’s at face value. With God’s providential wisdom upon him, he creates multiple tests for his brothers.  

The essence of the tests is to answer the question, ‘are the brothers now honest men as they claim to be?’ 

  1. Is Benjamin really alive or did the brothers kill him as well? 
  2. Joseph tells them that one of them should volunteer to go get Benjamin. None of them speak so Joseph throws them in prison. 
  3. After three days in prison, Joseph tells them that one of the brothers should volunteer to stay while the brothers go to get Benjamin. 
  4. None of them volunteer so Joseph keeps Simeon in prison as collateral and sends them all to get Benjamin. Will they come back to save Simeon? Or will they protect their own skins? 
  5. Joseph will find out if the brothers have improved their relationship with their father. Joseph knew that Jacob didn’t trust them many years ago. Has anything changed? 

The sad reality is that, besides the truth about Benjamin being alive, the brothers failed all the other tests. Some twenty years after Joseph was sold, he had grown to be more noble and God-fearing than ever. But the brothers were the same despicable and morally weak men they had always been. None of them stood up to volunteer for the moral tests that Joseph presented them. Additionally, their father didn’t trust them and didn’t respect them. This is emphasized when Jacob states,  

‘My son (Benjamin) shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead (Joseph), and he (Benjamin) alone is left. 

What a slam to the brothers. In Jacob’s pain, he states openly that he only considers Joseph and Benjamin as his worthy sons. (Recall, Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of his wife Leah, the love of his life. The brothers were sons of other wives of Jacob). 

Seems the only lesson they learned over the last twenty years was that it wouldn’t pay to kill the other brother, Benjamin, out of jealousy, like they wanted to do to Joseph They didn’t want to experience the heavy personal guilt of killing again. 

The moral principle that is missing from the brothers is the conviction to do the right thing in all situations, regardless of the difficulty. More next time. 

Why is it that some mature and grow throughout life with wisdom, courage and integrity? And others often do not. It’s a mystery. We can’t change others but we can examine our own hearts today. Just as the apostle Peter prayed, may we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.