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Genesis 44:14-23 (ESV)

When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph's house, he was still there. They fell before him to the ground. Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that a man like me can indeed practice divination?” And Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; behold, we are my lord's servants, both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found.” But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the man in whose hand the cup was found shall be my servant. But as for you, go up in peace to your father.”

Then Judah went up to him and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother's children, and his father loves him.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’

Joseph’s use of the word “divination” is part of his strategy. He’s hinting at divine revelation. He wants his brothers to think that God is angry at them.

And that’s exactly what they are thinking. Judah says, “God has found out the guilt of your servants,” and he proposes that they should all become slaves. Then Joseph tightens the vise by saying only the thief who stole his cup should be enslaved. That’s the perfect nightmare scenario for Judah and he panics.

But in his panic, Judah does something that wrecks Joseph’s plan. Judah went up to him. Joseph has been keeping his distance, but now they’re close. Judah doesn’t recognize Joseph but he might.

Joseph’s plan is backfiring. Concealing his identity is essential. Given that he has had trouble controlling his emotions, having Judah right up in his face is a problem. Then Judah launches a groveling, rambling plea for mercy.

It’s more powerful than he realizes.

Judah’s sincerity in coming before this lord is a perfect model for how we should be when we come before the Lord. Too often we offer up stoic prayers as if that’s what God wants.

No. God’s servants scream and cry. The book of Lamentations is part of scripture for a reason.

Ever wonder what in the world Jesus was talking about when he said, “I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers.”? – Matthew 7:23b (NIV)

How’s He going to know you if you’re never yourself when you talk to Him?

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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