“Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren.” Gen 44:33
The story of Joesph demonstrates the true test of brotherhood. Could Joseph’s brothers overcome the demon of jealousy and rejoice when others were honored? Could the brothers come to the aid of a brother in need? This is the true test of brotherhood.
On their second trip to Egypt to purchase food from the ruler of the land, the brothers dined in the house of Joseph. They were seated in birth order. Joseph sent portions from the head table to the brothers. When the younger brother, Benjamin’s portion was five times the other boy’s portion, the brothers were merry.
If you cannot rejoice when your brother is blessed, you do not possess the quality of true brotherhood. You do not have to understand why he is blessed to rejoice with him, but you will have to overcome jealousy. Jealousy and envy will rob you of the ability to behave in a brotherly way as well as robbing your victory! The spirit of brotherhood rejoices when brothers and sisters are blessed.
True brotherhood will break the bondage of depression. This is because caring for and loving others gets one out of the fixation on self. Taken a step further, ministering to others helps us overcome depression even faster because it causes us to make an investment in others. If we invest of ourselves into others, when they are blessed, we have part ownership in their blessing because of our investment.
The second and most telling test of brotherhood is coming to the aid of a brother in need. When the need is severe, brotherhood takes the form of intercession. The highest expression of brotherhood is that of sacrificial substitution. Love has no higher expression.
This is the final expression of love that tipped the balance and brought restoration in Jacob’s family. The true expression of brotherhood paved the way for healing in the family and broke a three-generation long curse. Brotherhood was what enabled Jacob’s family to get back on course and to fulfill God’s plan for the family. When brothers learn to truly love one another, God can use the family to be a blessing to others outside the family of faith.
A Silver Cup
“And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every man’s money in his sack’s mouth. And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses.” Gen 44:1-3
As the brothers were preparing to depart Egypt and return to Canaan, Joseph set the stage for the final test. The question was would the brothers take up for Benjamin or allow the youngest to become a slave. The test was prepared using Joseph’s silver cup. Joseph had this significant article placed in Benjamin’s sack and loaded on his donkey. The next morning, the eleven brothers rose early and began the journey home.
Shortly after they departed, Joseph told his servant to overtake the strangers and search them for the silver cup. Somewhere on the way home, the brothers ran into trouble. They were accused of stealing the ruler’s silver cup and one by one their possessions were searched. Of course, they claimed total innocence in the matter and were shocked when the cup was found in Benjamin’s corn sack. It appeared that Benjamin was caught red-handed with the stolen goods.
God forbid that this should happen to you. Somewhere along the road from Egypt to the Promised Land you might be detained and searched. What would happen to you if the silver cup were found in your corn sack? How would your brothers react if you were caught red-handed with stolen goods? When a brother is in need, the question is not one of right or wrong – the question is about brotherhood.
“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Prov 17:17
Often, we seem to believe that a friend is only required to love when it is convenient. By our actions we reveal that we believe a brother is born for good times, but adversity is an area for mercenaries.
The brothers were placed under arrest and returned to Joseph’s house. How would they react to the accusation against their younger brother, Benjamin? Would they kiss and hug him and wish him well, as they marched home to Canaan? Would they sacrifice their credibility by insisting on his innocence? They had been with Benjamin the entire time and knew he had done no wrong. How does brotherhood respond to such a crisis?
Understand that Joseph created this crisis to observe his brother’s reaction. More was involved here than some sort of silly cat and mouse game. The question Joseph wanted answered was: Had his brothers really repented for the sin they committed against Joseph over twenty years ago. Even though Joseph had truly forgiven them, reconciliation must involve a godly response from the brothers. Had the brothers really changed? Would they behave like true brothers in this manufactured crisis?
This is where believers sometimes get bogged down in emotional drivel and miss an important truth about reconciliation. More is involved in true reconciliation than repentance of the guilty and forgiveness from the victim. Both of these actions focus upon the past only. Reconciliation deals with the past but must also look at the present and toward the future as well. The issues and attitudes that caused separation must be addressed or the schism is likely to happen again. Joseph, as well as his brothers, needed to know if the spirit of jealousy and envy had been overcome by love and brotherhood. The silver cup was used as a test.
Let’s examine what the family situation would have been without complete reconciliation. Joseph had already forgiven his brothers, but he would never be able to trust them and would hold them at arm’s length without complete reconciliation. The brothers had already repented but would live in fear that the past would be used against them going forward. So often believers focus only on forgiveness and repentance instead of making complete reconciliation the goal.
- “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Matt 5:23-24
Repentance and forgiveness deal with the sin of the past. Reconciliation deals with the relationship between brothers at the present and going forward.
It is in the role of intercessor that Judah excelled and was able to break through to reconciliation. This is the “silver cup” test of brotherhood. The silver cup test is when one takes up for a brother to the extreme point of becoming an advocate and an intercessor. When Judah ceased being an accuser and took on the role of intercessor, he stepped to the forefront in his family and among his brethren. Let’s look at some things about intercession as demonstrated by Judah.
The Ministry of an Intercessor
“And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.” Gen 44:16
An intercessor does not deny or minimize sin.
“What shall we say unto my lord? What shall we speak?” (Gen 44:16)
The two tactics of self-justification are to deny sin and to minimize sin. Neither tactic is compatible with intercession, nor are they fair toward the victim. All that an intercessor can do is acknowledge the wrong committed.
An intercessor identifies with the accused concerning guilt. Judah included himself among the guilty – “God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants” (Gen 44:16). Even though Judah did not admit to stealing the silver cup, he admitted guilt from the past. Judah was referring to how the brothers had treated Joseph without speaking directly about the event. You cannot be an intercessor unless you are willing to identify with and acknowledge guilt on some level.
An intercessor identifies with the accused concerning punishment. “…behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found” (Gen 44:16). This is the hardest step in the process of intercession, yet it is important.
Notice that each of these three steps are necessary to establish “standing.” Standing is an important legal consideration in a court of law. Standing must be established before one is able to bring a civil case to court or to address the court during a trial. An intercessor establishes standing by 1) acknowledging the serious nature of the crime; 2) identifying with the accused by association; 3) identifying with the accused through shared incrimination. Many fail in intercession because they fail to establish standing.
After establishing standing, Judah presents his plea for mercy on behalf of Benjamin. A plea for mercy is different from a plea for justice. Don’t bother to ask for mercy if you are unwilling to admit guilt. Judah’s plea for mercy toward Benjamin is because:
- Benjamin is the child of Jacob’s old age – Vs. 20.
- Benjamin is the only remaining child of Rachel – Vs. 20.
- Jacob, Benjamin’s father, was reluctant to release Benjamin for this trip – Vs. 22.
- It was Joseph’s demand that persuaded Jacob to release Benjamin – Vs. 23.
- The heartbreak of losing Benjamin would cause Jacob’s death – Vs. 29-31.
- Judah would stand as surety for Benjamin – Vs. 32.
- Judah pleaded to become a substitute for Benjamin – Vs. 33.
The second and most telling test of brotherhood is coming to the aid of a brother in need. When the need is severe, brotherhood takes the form of intercession. The highest expression of brotherhood is that of sacrificial substitution. This is the ultimate intercession, the silver cup intercession. Judah pleaded that he might become a substitute for Benjamin out of brotherly love and love for his father. Love has no higher expression. Judah was a different man after wrestling with his role in Joseph’s treatment. This time, Judah would not fail his brother.
A Legacy of Leadership
When Judah stepped forward to become an intercessor, he stepped into a position of leadership in his family.
“And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph’s house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground.” Gen 44:14
Judah’s act of intercession became a legacy of leadership among the sons of Jacob. From this moment on, Judah became the preeminent tribe of Israel.
Jacob spoke prophetically shortly before his death in Genesis 49. He spoke of Judah and his legacy of leadership among his brothers.
“Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.” Gen 49:8
“Judah,” means, “praise of the Lord.” Leah named her son in gratitude toward God, who gave her strength to conceive and give birth. But an intercessor is one whom the brethren shall praise. An intercessor is one whose hand is around the neck of the enemy. The enemy tries to divide God’s family, but an intercessor ushers in reconciliation. An intercessor is one who excels among the Father’s children.
Joseph set the stage for one of the brothers to step forward and claim a legacy of leadership among the father’s sons. Who would intercede for Benjamin? Who would accept Benjamin’s punishment? Who would make the sacrifice of substitution and bring about reconciliation? It was a sinner named Judah. Would you believe that the very one who over twenty years before suggested Joseph be sold into slavery now became his brother’s intercessor? The one who caused his brother to become a slave was now willing to become a slave on behalf of another brother. God accepts genuine repentance and he delights in restoration.
When God sought for a son of Jacob to represent the cause of reconciliation, he chose an intercessor named Judah. It was when Judah bowed his knee in intercession that God gave him the legacy of leadership. When Judah expressed the highest form of brotherly love, that being sacrificial substitution, the Lord marked him to become the preeminent tribe and the father of Messiah.
Another intercessor would be born from the loins of Judah – a sinless intercessor. The Lord Jesus became our brother, inasmuch as he was born of a woman and took upon Him the form of a man. He never denied or minimized the awfulness of sin. If you want to know what God thinks about sin, go to Calvary. If you want to know if God loves the sinner, also go to Calvary. The Lord Jesus identified with the sinner by taking our guilt upon Him. And when He took our guilt, He also accepted our punishment. He became the ultimate sacrificial substitution. Judah was willing to become a sacrificial substitution, yet he had sin. Jesus became our sacrifice and accepted our punishment, and He had no sin.
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:6-8
He alone was perfect and sinless. He went to Calvary as the Lamb of God; He arose from the grave as the Lion of Judah. His hand is firmly around the throat of Satan, the accuser of the brethren. And it is Christ Jesus that all the brethren shall praise, and the Father’s children bow before.
The heart of an intercessor is the heart of a leader. Intercession is at the heart of reconciliation and therefore close to the heart of God.
Intercession is the expression of brotherly love. God does not bestow a legacy of leadership upon the most “successful”; the Lord seeks out those who possess brotherly love.
The ultimate expression of brotherly love is also the peak of intercession – sacrificial substitution.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
This is true because even in our imperfect state, when we demonstrate sacrificial love, we are demonstrating the spirit of Christ. Reconciliation is the essence of the Gospel.
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” 2 Cor 5:18-20