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THE CASE OF THE MISSING SILVER CUP
Intro: God uses strange ways to speak to the hearts of people. The Bible is filled with story after story in which God used unusual methods and means to get the attention of certain people. Consider the following cases:
· Moses – God used a burning bush to speak to this disgraced prince, Ex. 3:1-10.
· Balaam – God used a donkey to speak to this pagan prophet, Num, 22:28-31.
· King Saul – God used the bleating of some sheep to speak top this wayward king, 1 Sam. 15:14.
· The Widow Of Zarephath – God used an empty meal barrel and a dead son to speak to this poor widow, 1 Kings 17:9-24.
· Elijah – God used a touch, a meal and small, still voice to speak to this discouraged prophet, 1 Kings 19:1-18.
· Naaman – God used an Israelite slave to speak to this great general, 2 Kings 5:4.
· Simon Peter – God used a rooster to speak to this fallen preacher, Matt. 26:69-75.
This list could go on for quite a while, but those few instances are enough to prove my point. God will use whatever means necessary to penetrate the heard heart of humanity with the message He wants a person to hear.
This passage teaches us the same truth. As the story of Joseph and his brothers continues to unfold, God uses a simple silver cup to open the door to forgiveness and reconciliation. After all these years, God brings the guilty brothers of Joseph to a place of repentance through the ministry of Joseph’s silver cup.
I want to preach about the events of this chapter for a few minutes today. As I do, I want you to keep this truth in mind: God also knows how to speak to you and me.
This chapter unfolds like a mystery. I want you to see how God used a simple silver cup to soften the hearts of Joseph’s brothers. I want to preach on The Case Of The Missing Silver Cup. I want you to notice that this incident involved a Conspiracy, a Confrontation and a Confession. Notice the three parts of this story as it unfolds before us today.
I. v. 1-9 IT INVOLVED A
· Joseph and his brothers had just enjoyed a time of celebration, Gen. 43:31-34. The brothers still do not know who Joseph is, but he is dropping hints here and there. For instance, when he seats the brothers at the table, they are seated in birth order, Gen. 43:33. Also, Benjamin, Joseph’s only full brother, is given five times as much as the rest of the brothers during the meal, Gen. 43:34.
· Now, the meal is over and the next day has dawned. The brothers are feeling pretty good about things. They have convinced the Prime Minister of Egypt that they are not spies. They have rescued the brother Simeon from prison. They are about to return home with more grain for the family, all their money and, most importantly, they are returning home with Benjamin, just as Judah had promised his father, Gen. 43:3-10.
· So, the morning dawns and the men take their grain and their animals and they set out toward home. No doubt they are filled with excitement about going home to their families and their children. No doubt they are congratulating themselves over their successful mission to Egypt. But, what they don’t know it that God is working behind the scenes to being them face to face with a sin some 22 years old.
· While the men are preparing to leave, Joseph tells the steward of his house to prepare the grain they need. His order it give them “as much as they can carry”, v. 1. He tells the steward to give them their money back also. Then, Joseph tells his steward to do something very strange. He tells the man to take his personal cup and place it in the sack that belongs to Benjamin, v. 2.
This is done and the men set out toward home. When they have been gone awhile, Joseph set the steward after them to stop them and to confront them about the cup in Benjamin’s sack.
The steward follows them and accuses them of “rewarding evil for good.” He accuses them of stealing Joseph’s silver cup, v. 6. The brothers deny the charge and seek to defend their honor, v. 7. They remind the steward that they have plenty of money, so it isn’t likely that they would steal a cup, v. 8. They are so sure of their innocence that they make some strong promises. They swear that if the cup is found among them, the guilty brother will die and the rest will become slaves to the Egyptians, v. 9.
· This is a strange way for Joseph to treat his brothers. In this passage, God uses Joseph as His instrument to draw these men to a place of repentance and restoration. Years before, these men had conspired against Joseph in an effort to get rid of him, Gen. 37:19-35. They had conspired to Joseph’s harm. Now, the tables are turned and Joseph conspires against them. But, unlike his brothers, Joseph is not conspiring in an effort to harm them. He is conspiring for their good.
· We need to remember that there are no accidents in life. If you are a child of God, every event in your life is a product of divine providence, Rom. 8:28. God is working out His will in your life in ways that you and I cannot begin to comprehend, Isa. 55:8-9. This even includes the way God deals with our sins.
There are times when we allow sin to abide in our lives. After awhile we can grow used to sins presence to the point where it no longer bothers us. Or, we may come to think that we have gotten away with some sin or the other, because we have not faced judgment or chastisement over that sin. The fact is, God knows exactly when and how to speak to our hearts. When the time is right, He will touch all the right buttons to humble us and to bring us to a place of repentance.
· Ill. Absalom had killed his brother Amnon because Amnon had raped their sister Tamar, 2 Sam. 13. This murder in the family had created a rift between David and Absalom, as you might imagine. David banished Absalom from his sight for 2 full years, 2 Sam. 14:24. Absalom, in a effort to reconcile with his father, approached David’s general Joab, but Joab refused to heed Absalom’s calls to come to his house. So, Absalom commanded his servants to set Joab’s barley fields on fire. They did and it got Joab’s attention and he came to see Absalom, 2 Sam. 14:28-33.
Here’s the point of my sharing that story with you: you have a heartstring. There is something in your life that, if God were to touch it, or even take it, it would get your attention. For Joab, it was his barley field. For David, when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, it was their infant son. For Abraham, it was his son Isaac.
God knows how to get our attention and He is not afraid to touch or take what He pleases to speak to our hearts. He has a silver cup that He can place in our lives to open our eyes when we have walked away from Him. Sooner or later, the silver cup will end up in your sack!
We have come to believe that we can get away with sin. Like Adam and Eve, we think we can cover it up with the flimsy fig leaves of our own making. God, however, will settle for nothing less than total confession and repentance. Like Achan, we think we can hide our sin, but God knows where all of our skeletons are buried and He will uncover them in His time, Num. 32:23.
· The best think a believer can do with sin is to get it out into the open as soon as possible, Pro. 28:13. The best thing we can do with sin is hate it, forsake it and confess it to Him, 1 John 1:9. When we refuse to, there will be a high price to pay for our disobedience, Heb. 12:6-11; Pro. 13:15.
· We may not understand it all, but that is what is happening in these verses! God is in the process of burning the barley fields of these brothers of Joseph. God is in the process of getting their attention. He is conspiring to bring them back to Him!
II. v. 10-13 IT INVOLVED A
· The sacks are opened and searched. These brothers know that they have done nothing wrong. Can you see them standing there with smug expressions on their faces? As each sack is opened and the silver cup is not found, they grow more and more confident. But, when they opened Benjamin’s sack, the sun glints off a piece of highly polished metal. To their disbelief, there in Benjamin’s sack is Joseph’s silver cup.
· This is the moment of truth! This is Joseph’s final test of his brothers. All this time, Joseph has been testing them to see whether or not they have changed. They have passed several tests already.
Ø They brought Benjamin as Joseph had requested, Gen. 43:15-16.
Ø They returned for their brother Simeon, Gen. 43:23.
Ø They even returned all the grain money they had been given back, Gen. 43:20-22.
This is the ultimate test! 22 years earlier, they had hated Joseph so much that they had attacked him, cast him into a pit and sold him into slavery. They had broken their father’s heart by lying to him about what had happened to Joseph. They had maintained that lie for all these years. Now, they have the opportunity to get rid of the other son of Rachel.
It is clear from the text that Jacob loves Benjamin. It seems clear that Benjamin had replaced Joseph as his father’s favorite son, Gen. 42:36; 43:13-14.
All they have to do is allow Benjamin to be arrested and taken back to Joseph. They can simply go home. It would break the heart of their father, but he had endured other heartbreaks in the past! This is the ultimate test. These men do not know it, but they are about to reveal to Joseph what kind of men they have become.
· These men pass the test with flying colors! They do not know how the cup got into Benjamin’s sack. At this point that particular fact doesn’t even matter! But, they are determined to face whatever comes together. They tear their clothes as a sign of grief and they go to face the music as one.
There are no accusations thrown at one another. There are no compromises. There is simply a unified resolve to stand by their brother.
· What we see here is a picture of ten men who are finally ready to do the right thing. Here are ten men who have finally grown up and who are willing to face whatever consequences there are together. These men have grown to the point that they can see beyond themselves. They have a desire to do right, regardless of the personal cost!
· That’s the place God wants us to reach as well! He wants us to come to the place where we stop making excuses for our behavior. He wants us to come to the place where we are willing to own up to our sins.
God wants us to stop pointing the finger at others. My sins are not my parent’s fault! I can’t blame my evil on my wife or on my surroundings. If I am going to enjoy cleansing and forgiveness, I have to deal with my sins openly and honestly. If I am going to have the power of God on my life, then I have to do the right thing. If this church is going to have God’s power on it, I need to stop waiting on you to get right and do right, it is up to me to get right and do right!
God wants us to reach the place where we are willing to do the right thing regardless of the personal cost. Have you reached that place? Have I reached that place? We can, with His help! I don’t know about you, but I want to get there.
· God is not afraid to confront us at the very point of our sins in order to open our eyes to our need of repentance. These brothers are facing the things they are facing because God is determined to get their attention and bring them back into a right relationship with Him. He will do the same in your life and mine. The best thing we can learn to do is to keep short accounts with God.
Sin should be confessed immediately, completely and honestly. When it is, it can be forgiven and the blessings of God can freely flow into our lives.
III. v. 14-34 IT INVOLVED A
· When the brothers arrive back at Joseph’s palace, they find him still there, v. 14. No doubt Joseph was waiting to see who would show up. Would it be Benjamin alone, or would the rest of the brothers be with him? By the way, this little trick might have been Joseph’s way of protecting Benjamin from his brothers.
When the brothers appear before Joseph, they bow themselves to the ground before him. Again, this fulfills the dreams Joseph had as a young man, Gen. 37:5-11. Joseph confronts his brothers about the silver cup. He leads them to believe that he was able to see what they had done because of his ability to “divine”.
Divination was very popular in ancient Egypt. Sometimes diviners would take a silver cup, put wine in it, along with jewels, and they would “read” the jewels like some people try to read tea leaves. Of course, divination does not work, and Joseph did not practice black magic. He was merely turning the screws on his brothers.
· At this point Judah steps forward and delivers one of the most profound and eloquent speeches in the Word of God. A careful examination of this speech reveals just how far Judah has matured.
Ø v. 16 – Judah confesses their sin. He doesn’t name names, but he does confess the fact that they had sinned and that God was punishing them for their sin. He seems to believe that what they are about to face, slavery in Egypt, is a direct result of their unconfessed sin. He offers himself, along with all the rest of the brothers as Joseph’s servants.
Ø v. 17 – Joseph refuses Judah’s offer and tells him and the rest of the brothers to go home. He also tells him that Benjamin will have to stay as a slave.
Ø v. 18-34 – These verses are the heart of Judah’s speech. He reminds Joseph that the only reason Benjamin had come with them was because Joseph demanded it, v. 19-23. Judah then tells Joseph that Jacob will die if anything happens to his youngest son, v. 24-31. Next, Judah offers himself in Benjamin’s place. He offers to stay in Egypt as Joseph’s slave so that Benjamin can return to Canaan with the other brothers, v. 32-34.
· This is the moment that Joseph has been waiting and working for since his brothers showed up in Egypt. He sees that they have changed.
He sees that the brothers are willing to stand together as one man. They had the chance to turn their backs on Benjamin, but they didn’t, v. 13. Judah stands up and puts his father, Benjamin and the rest of the brothers ahead of himself.
This is a major turning point in the story. When Joseph hears Judah’s confession and sees his love for the family in action, it is more than he can stand. Joseph breaks down before his brothers and reveals his identity to them, Gen. 45:1-4. We will look at that moment in our next study.
· Today, there is a lesson here that we need to take to heart. Judah shows us how sin is to be handled. His actions also remind us of the very nature of sin. Let’s consider these two thoughts before we stop today.
Ø Sin, by its very nature, is a very selfish thing. When sin entered the world, it entered because Eve was selfish. She chose herself over the Lord, Gen. 3:1-6. When sin entered the universe, it entered through selfishness, Ill. Isa. 14:12-15. Every sin we commit is still rooted in selfishness, 1 John 2:16.
Our sins are all about us! When we sin we choose ourselves over every other person and over every other thing. We are saying, “I want what I want and I do not care about the consequences!” Sin is a very selfish act! When we sin we are choosing ourselves over God, over His will, over the church, over our families, over everything but our own selfish wants, desires and wishes. Sin is rooted in selfishness!
When our hearts are as they should be, the Lord, His will and the needs of others will come before our own desires. You know you are making progress in the Lord when you refuse to sin because of how it will affect the Lord’s work and because of how it will affect others.
Most people turn away from sin because they are afraid of being caught. A mature believer looks at sin and sees the damage it can do to the church, the community, the Lord’s work, the family and others.
Ø The only way to get passed sin is to deal with it honestly. Like Judah, we have to come to the place where we confess our sins and get them out before the Lord and before those we have sinned against.
I have already dealt with this issue earlier in the message, but sin must not be hidden! It must be confessed openly and early. When it is, the Lord can extend forgiveness and restoration. The sin and be put behind you and you can move on in the Lord.
Conc: in 3 John verse 4, John says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” John was saying that his greatest joy as a preacher and an Apostle was to see the people he ministered to growing and walking in the truth he had taught them. I know how he felt!
That is the same feeling that must have gripped the heart of Joseph as he looked at, saw his broken heart and heard his heartfelt words. The brothers of Joseph had finally grown up and they were ready to make things right.
As I bring these thoughts to a close today, let me ask you a couple of questions.
1. Are you growing in the Lord? How would you know? You can know that you are growing in your relationship with the Lord when you begin to hate sin. You know you are growing when you are willing to tell the truth about your sins. You know you are growing when reach the place where you are more concerned about others than you are about yourself.
2. Are their sins in your life that need to be confessed? Maybe you need to get before the Lord today and deal with some sin in your life. Maybe you need to go to someone you have hurt and confess that hurt to them. Things will never be as they could be until you do.
3. Are you afraid that there may be a silver cup in your future? If you know that there are areas of your life that are not where they need to be with the Lord and you fear that He might resort to drastic measures to get your attention, you need to come to Him and deal with the matter now. Did you know that, if that sin is on your mind today, it is the Holy Spirit calling you to come to God to deal with the matter? In my opinion, it is far better to come before the Lord in humble repentance than it is to wait for Him to burn your barley fields.
If the Lord has spoken to your heart on any level, you need to come to Him today and do what He is telling you to do. You do what He would have you to do!