I have always liked words and enjoy their ability to express and communicate. I really like how language is an organic, growing, changing thing. It is dictated by rules that it then constantly bends and breaks and rewrites as people use it. I’ve not always found spelling and grammar particularly natural or easy (indeed my English language was so weak that my school refused to let me study literature) but I do enjoy reading up on word origins and meanings. Take for example the word sincere. The dictionary defines it as: free from pretence or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings, (of a person) saying what they genuinely feel or believe; not dishonest or hypocritical. When you dig a bit deeper you can read about speculations as to how the word came about. The all-knowing internet tells me that many scholars claim that the word comes from the Latin word sincerus meaning clean, pure, sound. Sincerus may have once meant “one growth”, from sin- (one) and crescere (to grow). But there is another popular story about the word having come from the Latin sine = without, cera = wax. The story goes that marble sculptors would use wax to repair mistakes when carving statues – this was all good and nobody was any the wiser until the sculpture was exposed to heat at which point the wax melted and the flaw was exposed! Sometimes the only way to know if someone is sincere, if they are really what they appear to be, is to apply some heat!
So that is what Joseph does – he devises a test to find out whether his brothers really are who they appear to be. Have they really changed from the young men who treated him so badly all those years ago?
Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: ‘Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.’ And he did as Joseph said. Gen 44:1-2
The brothers set out for home feeling relieved that they are free to go and that they have successfully got the food that their family needed. They had not gone far before they are chased down by Joseph’s steward who accuses them of having stolen from the man who had shown them such kindness. They are obviously oblivious and of course deny such actions but when the sacks are opened Benjamin is found guilty. They return to Egypt to face the music and stand before Joseph once again to show who they really are. When it is decided that Benjamin must stay in Egypt to pay for his crime Judah asks to talk to the Egyptian ruler in private;
“Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.’ v33-34
See how Judah passes the test with flying colours (or at least silver) by insisting that Joseph take him in place of his brother! Two things stood out to me from this story; firstly Judah had been through the refining process just like the silver cup when it was formed. He was no longer the same person as the one who had betrayed Joseph as a young man. The years of regret and hardship and grief and famine had transformed him to the extent that he now was willing to lay down his life for his brother, and to spare his father more pain. Jesus said;
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
I was also thinking about his plea “please take me instead”. It reminded me of another test and another cup and another “take me instead.” You see it’s always about Jesus.
“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” – Luke 22:41-42
When I stood accussed, and I was guilty, deserving judgement and death, Jesus stepped forward and spoke for me. He said “take me instead” and received all the heat that I deserved. I get to go free. To go home. Everyday I’m grateful that He took my place.
My prayer this week is that we would be like Judah when life tests us. That when the heat is on we wouldn’t melt and show our flaws but we would respond like Jesus – the one who took our place. I want to be sincere – one growing as the branches of a vine, abiding and bearing fruit that tastes like Him. Thanks for reading, much love Rach x