“The United States government has something called the Federal Conscience Fund, which collects money people send in because they know they cheated the government in some way. People have sent in money because they took army blankets for souvenirs, for cheating on postage, or on income tax. But our consciences are notoriously weak or corrupt. One man wrote the IRS and said, ‘I cheated on my taxes and can’t sleep at night. Here is a check for $100. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send the rest I owe.’” (David Guzik – Enduring Word Media)
“What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt.” (44:16)
What guilt? They hadn’t taken anything but the cup was still found in the bag. Judah’s conclusion that God had done it was actually true. He had used Joseph who had in turn commanded his steward to put the cup there. As we have seen, God was bringing the brothers to a place where they could repent. Judah’s confession pointed to the cup but it was also a realisation that they were guilty of a terrible sin against Joseph years earlier.
The change of heart was by no means complete. There were things in Judah’s plea that were not true. The brothers had previously described Joseph as ‘no more’ (42:13) whereas now he states ‘His brother is dead’, (44:20), perhaps they have been lying for so long they now believe it themselves. He also recounts Jacob’s words; ‘He has surely been torn to pieces’ (44:28), which they knew to be not only untrue but the result of their own deceit. Jacob having brought up his children in a climate of deceit is now once more a victim of deceit;
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)
Whatever their shortcomings, we can see change in the brothers. When Joseph was led weeping into slavery they had refused to listen;
“We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen.” (42:21)
Now when Benjamin is about to be made a slave their response is very different;
“At this, they tore their clothes. Then they all loaded their donkeys and returned to the city.” (44:13)
In the past they had been prepared to let Jacob suffer for their own selfish ends; they had deceived him and allowed him to believe the lie for years but now Judah places his own interests behind those of Benjamin and Jacob. In a selfless act, he offered to take the place of the guilty one – could this be a faint shadow of the perfect sacrifice of someone from Judah’s tribe hundreds of years later? God will break down our pride and arrogance before we can receive his grace. It he didn’t we’d be tempted to think we could earn it.
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
By grace alone somehow I stand, where even angels fear to tread.
Invited by redeeming love, before the throne of God above.
He pulls me close with nail-scarred hands into His everlasting arms.
(Boldly I Approach – Rend Collective)