Genesis 44: Lessons from Joseph’s Brothers on the Meaning of True Repentance

Introduction: In Genesis Chapter 44, God gave Joseph’s 10 brothers His final test to reveal the transformation that He had already brought about within them. God’s final test for these brothers can be compared to His final test of Abraham. God orchestrated 10 tests of faith for Abraham. He tested Abraham to perfect his faith. A faith that is never tested cannot be trusted. His last and final test for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac was not a test that God meant for Abraham to actually perform. Instead, it was a test that God designed to reveal the faith that He had already perfected in Abraham. God also tested Joseph’s 10 brothers to bring them to repentance and remold them. Through Joseph, God could have had the brothers apologize for their sins at their first meeting. But, contrary to what many think, an apology and repentance are not the same thing. An apology is an expression of regret for the harm caused by a person’s sins. Repentance is more than that. It is the transformation that causes the sinner to both hate the sin and turn away from engaging in the sin in the future. Like Abraham, God’s final test here was not designed to change the brothers. God had already done that. Instead, His final test was designed to reveal the true repentance that He had already perfected in them. Like a person’s faith, God may test a repentance to verify if it is genuine. As men transformed by the Spirit, the brothers now saw themselves as equals, even while their father sinned by favoring one. Instead of feeling resentment toward Benjamin, they were now willing to sacrifice their freedom for him.

God’s transformation also changed Judah from one of the worst sinners in the family to the future leader of Israel. The man who (1) proposed selling Joseph into slavery, (2) participated in looting Shechem with his brothers, (3) disregarded God’s laws by marrying a Canaanite, (4) engaged in temple prostitution, (5) failed to raise his children to fear God, (6) violated God’s laws for providing an heir for Tamar, and (7) was a moral hypocrite with Tamar now led the family by confessing their sins against God and offering himself as a substitute sacrifice.

Repentance is not a popular subject in the Church. The modern Church likes to think of itself as a safe and welcoming place where people can come and feel uplifted. For those churches who practice altar calls, few begin with a call for repentance. But John the Baptist and Jesus both began their ministries with calls for people to repent. God frequently must bring a sinner down before He can lift the sinner up through His mercy and grace. Here, through God’s final test of Joseph’s 10 brothers, He reveals seven lessons on the meaning of true repentance.

First, through Joseph, God tested the brothers by giving them an opportunity to have Benjamin turned into a slave the same way they gave up Joseph. God had already transformed the brothers through His many prior tests. This final test revealed the repentance that He had perfected. From this, God reveals that a repentance that is never tested cannot be trusted. Second, when falsely accused of theft, the brothers argued that they could not do such an evil thing. They had already shown their honesty and integrity by returning the monies that did not belong to them. From this, God reveals that true repentance produces the fruit of honesty and integrity. Third, when confronted by the servant, the brothers made a mutual pledge. Instead of thinking of themselves as they did in the past, the brothers vowed that all would be sold into slavery for the sins of another. From this, God reveals that true repentance leads to a change in the sinner’s behavior. Fourth, when Joseph’s servant took Benjamin, the brothers could have left him and been freed of the brother that they resented. Instead, as changed men, they risked their own freedom by returning to save Benjamin. From this, God reveals that true repentance causes the sinner to place the needs of others (including those they don’t like) above their own needs. Fifth, when Judah appeared before the disguised Joseph, he did not plead their innocence for the crime they did not commit. He instead confessed their sins against God for the bigger sins that they did commit. From this, God reveals that true repentance is never self-righteous and instead confesses sins against God. Sixth, as the transformed future leader of the family, Judah led the brothers with an emotional appeal for the disguised Joseph to show love and compassion for their elderly father, a victim of their prior sins. He asked for compassion even though it was against Judah’s self-interest. From this, God reveals that true repentance produces the fruit of compassion for the victims of sin. Finally, Judah concluded his appeal to the disguised Joseph by offering himself as a substitute slave for his brother Benjamin. From this, God reveals that true repentance produces the fruit of self-sacrifice for others, including those you do not like.

1. God May Test the Sincerity of Your Repentance So You Can Trust It. Gen. 44:1-5.

  • Joseph’s final test of his brothers’ jealousy over Benjamin. After he had convicted his brothers’ hearts through kindness, Joseph set in motion his final test to see if his brothers, who betrayed him more than 20 years earlier, would do it again to Benjamin: “1 Then he commanded his house steward, saying, ‘Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack. Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his money for the grain.’ And he did as Joseph had told him. As soon as it was light, the men were sent away, they with their donkeys. They had just gone out of the city, and were not far off, when Joseph said to his house steward, ‘Up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? Is not this the one from which my lord drinks and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.’” (Gen. 44:1-5). Joseph controlled the details of the test. But God prompted him to test his brothers. His testing allowed both the brothers and Joseph to see how their hearts had already changed.

Joseph’s servants filled the brother’s sacks with food, the purchase money, and Joseph’s silver cup in Benjamin’s bag1

  • Don’t skip the requirement of “repentance” when counseling a seeker or new believer. The entire purpose of this final test was to determine if the brothers had truly repented of their old ways. Today, it is the rare church that includes a call for the congregation or a person responding to an altar call to publically “repent.” Many worry that this might offend a seeker or a new believer looking for an uplifting message. Yet, John the Baptist did not worry about offending when he proclaimed “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:2). Jesus also did not worry about offending the “seeker crowds” when He proclaimed at the very beginning of His ministry: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matt. 4:17; Mk. 1:15; Rev. 2:4-5). The 12 disciples preached a gospel of repentance: “They went out and preached that men should repent.” (Mk. 6:12). “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38). “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3:19). Paul also called upon people to “repent.” “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,” (Acts 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). In fact, it would be impossible to find a New Testament book that supports the present refusal of many churches to include calls to repent. Are you telling sinners to repent? If not, by whose authority?

  • When you repent, God may also test you to see if you have in fact changed. In addition to testing your faith, God may also test your sincerity after you repent of a sin to show you if the same sin still lurks unresolved inside you: “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” (Jer. 17:10). “You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” (Dt. 8:2). When God tests you, do you repent of any hidden sins that He reveals?

  • God’s testing to reveal if a repentance can be trusted also may involve trials. Like Joseph’s brothers, His testing of your repentance may also involve uncomfortable trials. “For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.” (Ps. 66:10). “. . . for the righteous God tries the hearts and minds.” (Ps. 7:9(b)). “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Is. 48:10). “And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” (Zech. 13:9). When your testing involves a trial, you are called upon to still find joy in the character God is building in you: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (Ja. 1:2-3). When God tries your heart to reveal your hidden sins or an insincere repentance, do you complain?

  • Invite God to test your repentance. In addition to accepting God’s testing, you should also invite it to expose if your repentance is in any way lacking: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts;” (Ps. 139:23). “Examine me, O LORD, and try me; test my mind and my heart.” (Ps. 26:2). When you repent, do you also invite God to test your heart and your mind to make sure it is genuine?

  • Joseph’s sin in lying. Joseph used a silver cup as part of his test. He had the servant claim that it was for divination (Gen. 44:5). When the brothers returned, he repeated this claim. “Joseph said to them, ‘What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?’” (Gen. 44:15). Joseph’s gift was in interpreting dreams, and he gave credit to God alone for this gift (Gen. 41:16). God further would not have blessed Joseph the way He did if he had been consulting with demons through the evil practice of divination: “You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying.” (Lev. 19:26). “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you.” (Dt. 18:10-12). Thus, we can conclude that Joseph told a “white lie” with the goal of testing his brothers. He might have assumed that he needed to say these things to convince the brothers that he knew of both the alleged theft and their hidden sins. But “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; . . .” (Nu. 23:19). “[I]t is impossible for God to lie . . .” (Heb. 6:18). “God, who cannot lie, . . .” (Titus 1:2). The ends never justify the means with Him, and He never wants you to lie. You are Christ’s “ambassador” (2 Cor. 5:20). As His ambassador, you malign His holy name when you lie. He warns not to “swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God.” (Lev. 19:12). He instead wants you to restore others with love. (Gal. 6:1). Are you telling lies to others?

2. True Repentance Produces the Fruit of Honesty and Integrity. Gen. 44:6-8.

  • The brothers’ honesty and integrity in returning monies that did not belong to them. As transformed men, the brothers pointed out that they could not commit evil against their Egyptian master. They had already shown their honesty and integrity by returning the monies which did not belong to them: “So he overtook them and spoke these words to them. They said to him, ‘Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing. Behold, the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks we have brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house?’” (Gen. 44:6-8). Upon their return to Egypt, the brothers reported to this same steward that they had brought back the money that they received during their last trip by mistake: “and it came about when we came to the lodging place, that we opened our sacks, and behold, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full. So we have brought it back in our hand.” (Gen. 43:21). These same men looted the town of Shechem years earlier (Gem. 34:27-29). Their honesty and integrity in returning the money was the fruit of their prior repentance.

  • Your honesty and integrity also reveals if your repentance is genuine. Like the brothers of Joseph, your repentance should be evidenced through your honesty and integrity when faced with similar temptations. Honesty is important because you represent Christ’s light. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;” (Matt. 5:14). Because you represent God, your integrity is also important to Him. Thus, He prohibits things like partiality in decisions and bribes. “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.” (Lev. 19:15; Dt. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:17-19). “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.” (Ex. 23:8). “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.” (Dt. 16:19). C.S Lewis stated that “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”2 Are your practices always an honest and ethical light to others to follow?

3. True Repentance Produces a Change in the Sinner’s Behavior. Gen. 44:9-10.

  • The brothers’ collective vow to be bound as slaves for the sins of another. Each brother had no way of knowing if another secretly stole the silver cup. Based upon how they lived their entire lives, it was reasonable to assume that one had stolen the silver cup. But, as transformed men, they made a joint vow that all would be sold as slaves if one stole from their Egyptian master: “With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves. 10 So he said, ‘Now let it also be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be innocent.’” (Gen. 44:9-10). If Jesus has transformed you, your old ways of the flesh should also be unthinkable to you. Others should also be able to fully trust you in your transformation. Do others look at you and see a transformed person?

  • Jesus freed you from your bondage to sin. God told the Jews never to forget that He delivered them from bondage: “. . . do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Dt. 6:10-12). Jesus also delivered you from bondage to sin: “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (Jo. 8:36). “The spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed,” (Lk. 4:18; Is. 61:1). “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Ro. 8:2). “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Ro. 6:14). “and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” (Ro. 6:18). Are you living as a free person from your old sins? Or, are you returning to your bondage?

  • As a freed person, let your old desires of the flesh die. Today, the idols most people struggle with are wealth, power, the flesh, drugs, alcohol, and themselves. You are called upon to let these idols of the flesh die in your life: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5). “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Eph. 5:5). “The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of man’s hands.” (Ps. 135:15). Have you let the idols of the flesh in your life die?

  • The fear of God should motivate you to turn away from your old sins. Fearing God will help you to stay free of your old desires of the flesh: “You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.” (Dt. 6:13-15). “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; . . .” (Prov. 1:7; Ps. 111:10). “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”’ (Job 28:28). The fear of God is to hate evil: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;. . ..” (Prov. 8:13). Do you hate evil enough to turn from it?

  • Without a change in behavior, true repentance has not happened. Jesus says that you will know a person by their fruit (Matt. 7:16). Without a change in behavior, true Spirit-led repentance has not taken place: “For Christian and non-Christian alike, repentance is a step beyond recognition of sin and regret of its consequences; it is the decision to turn from sin to Him who is sinless and whose way is that of righteousness . . . Repentance, penitence, and conversion are closely linked. Whenever someone gives his thought and life a new direction, it always involves a judgment on his previous views and behavior. This process is expressed in the NT [New Testament] by three word groups which deal with its various aspects: epistrepho, metamelomai, and metanoeo. The first and third both mean turn round, turn oneself round, and refer to a man’s conversion. This presupposes and includes a complete change under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Metamelomai expresses rather the feeling of repentance for error, debt, failure and sin, and so it looks back. Hence, it does not necessarily cause a man to turn to God. Epistrepho is probably the widest conception, because it always includes faith. We often find pisteuo, believe, expressly used with metanoeo, since faith complements repentance. . . .” (Bob Deffinbaugh, 44. “The Final Test: (Genesis 44:1-34),3 If you find yourself returning to sin, pray for the Spirit to guide you.

  • Let the Spirit renew your mind each day. To keep yourself pure, you should also allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse and renew your mind each day: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:1-2). Do you spend time in prayer each day asking the Spirit to renew your mind?

4. True Repentance Places the Needs of Others Above the Sinner. Gen. 44:11-13.

  • The brothers’ willingness to risk their freedom for Benjamin. When the brothers found that Benjamin was the alleged thief, they could have washed their hands of the last brother that they all resented. They might have thought that the brat got what he deserved. Instead, they risked their own freedom by returning to the Egyptian master to appeal for Benjamin’s freedom: 11 Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. 12 He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city.” (Gen. 44:11-13). The tearing of clothes was a sign of mourning and regret (cf., Gen. 37:29; 37:34; Nu. 14:6; 2 Sam. 1:11; 2 Kgs. 11:14). The brothers were filled with genuine grief for the plight of their half-brother. Thus, they all “hurried” back in an effort to free him.

Alexander Ivanov 1806 – 1858 (The Silver Goblet is Found in Benjamin’s Sack) (painting 1831-1833)4

  • Place the needs of others above your own. A sinner is typically focused on his or her own needs. By contrast, a transformed believer places the needs of others first: “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:7). “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12; 14:26). Out of love, do you place the needs of others above your own?

5. True Repentance is Not Self-Righteous and Confesses Sins Against God. Gen. 44:14-16.

  • Judah’s confession of the brothers’ collective sins against God. When the brothers returned to the disguised Joseph, they could have pleaded their innocence of the charge of theft. They were innocent of this crime. Instead, Judah assumed the leadership mantle of the family by humbly confessing their even greater sins against God: “14 When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there, and they fell to the ground before him. 15 Joseph said to them, ‘What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?’ 16 So Judah said, ‘What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found.’” (Gen. 44:14-16). The bowing of the brothers to Joseph again fulfilled the prophecy that God gave Joseph in a dream of his brothers bowing to him (Gen. 37:7). But the brothers did not merely bow. They prostrated themselves. The brothers were broken of their self-righteousness. They were finally at a place where they could fully confess their sins and be freed and restored.

Joseph’s brothers appeared before him to face his potential judgment5

  • You cannot hide your sins from God. Just as Judah came to understand, you cannot conceal your sins from God. “For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecc. 12:14). “. . . but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5). “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good.” (Prov. 15:3). “For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes.” (Jer. 16:17). “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Heb. 4:13). “For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He watches all his paths.” (Prov. 5:21). “For our transgressions are multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities:” (Is. 59:12). “But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out.” (Nu. 32:23). You may be able to sin without others detecting you. But do you believe you can hide your sins from God?

  • Confess your sins against God. Like Judah, David recognized that his sins against other people were in fact sins against God. “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.” (Ps. 51:4). Joseph also turned down the advances of Potiphar’s wife as a sin against God: “There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). Jeremiah made the same confession for his nation: “Although our iniquities testify against us, O LORD, act for Your name’s sake! Truly our apostasies have been many, we have sinned against You.” (Jer. 14:7). In the parable of the prodigal son, the prodigal son also confessed his sins against both his father and heaven: “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’” (Lk. 15:21). Have you confessed your sins against both those you have wronged and God as well?

  • Without your confession of sin and faith, you will remain bound in your sins. A humble and genuine confession of sin made in faith is necessary for true repentance to take place. Without it, you will carry your sins like Judah did for more than 20 years: “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin.” (Prov. 5:22). Are you ready for Jesus to cut you free of your burdens from sin?

6. True Repentance Produces Love and Compassion For the Victims of Sin. Gen. 44:17-31.

  • Judah’s selfless plea for compassion for his father to be restored with the son he loved. The old Judah would have left Benjamin as a slave the way he proposed selling Joseph (Gen. 37:26-27). The transformed Judah instead appealed for compassion for a father whose blind favoritism caused him to value Benjamin over his 10 other sons: “17 But he said, ‘Far be it from me to do this. The man in whose possession the cup has been found, he shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father.’ 18 Then Judah approached him, and said, ‘Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh. 19 My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ 20 We said to my lord, ‘We have an old father and a little child of his old age. Now his brother is dead, so he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.’ 21 Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me that I may set my eyes on him.’ 22 But we said to my lord, ‘The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ 23 You said to your servants, however, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.’ 24 Thus it came about when we went up to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. 25 Our father said, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.’ 26 But we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ 27 Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; 28 and the one went out from me, and I said, ‘Surely he is torn in pieces,’ and I have not seen him since. 29 If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.’ 30 Now, therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, 31 when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow.” (Gen. 44:17-31). Judah’s speech is the longest in the book of Genesis. God apparently views his speech as one of the most important events in the entire book. Judah began by appealing to Joseph’s greatness. Only in the throne was Pharaoh greater in power (Gen. 41:40). He then used the same humility that Abraham and later Aaron and Gideon used in speaking to God: “Then he said, ‘Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; . . .’” (Gen. 18:30, 32; Ex. 32:22; Jdgs. 6:39). Against his own self-interest, he then appealed for compassion for a wayward father who loved Joseph and Benjamin more than his other sons (Gen. 37:3, 37:33; 42:13; 42:38). In Judah’s repeating of Jacob’s words, we learn that Jacob sadly only acknowledged one real wife: “‘You know that my wife bore me two sons”’ (Gen. 44:27). In his sorrow, Jacob effectively told the other sons that they were illegitimate children in his eyes. But despite the hurt that this would have caused Judah, he appealed to the disguised Joseph for compassion for Jacob. You should also follow his example.

  • Love one another. Like Judah, you are called upon to love and show compassion for the victims of sin. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jo. 13:34; 15:12). “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;” (1 Jo. 3:11; 4:7). Is your heart filled with love and compassion for those trapped in sin?

  • Love even though who has hurt you. Judah could have easily told his father that Benjamin was responsible for his alleged crime. Judah resented Benjamin. Thus, this would have been an easy decision to make. Yet, like Judah did here, God calls upon believers to show love to even their enemies: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44; Lk. 6:27). Like Judah, you should also love those who have hurt you with no expectation of a reward: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Lk. 6:35). Do you love and pray for your enemies and those who have hurt you?

7. True Repentance Produces the Fruit of Self-Sacrifice for Others. Gen. 44:32-34.

  • Judah’s selfless offer to be the substitute slave for Benjamin. As a transformed man, Judah pleaded for the disguised Joseph to trade his freedom for Benjamin’s freedom: “32 For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame before my father forever.’ 33 Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. 34 For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me—for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?’” (Gen. 44:32-34). Judah previously offered to endure life-long shame if he failed in returning Benjamin to Jacob: “I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever.’” (Gen. 43:9). For a man that he most likely resented, Judah was now willing to bear more than life-long shame. He was now willing to become a life-long slave to free Benjamin.

Arent de Gelder 1645 – 1727 (Judah and Joseph) (painting 1680-1685)6

  • Christ submitted on the cross, even for His enemies. Like Judah, Christ was willing to sacrifice Himself for others. He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8). “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (Jo. 10:11). “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (Jo. 10:18). He willingly died for all, even for His enemies (Ro. 5:10).

  • Sacrifice your needs for the needs of others. Like Judah and like Christ, you are also called to sacrifice your own will for others. Moses offered to have his name blotted out of the book of life to save the Jews from their judgment in building the golden calf (Ex. 32:32). Paul also wished that he could become cursed if doing so could save his brethren (Ro. 9:3; Philemon 1:18-9). He also encouraged others: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4). Will you sacrifice yourself for others?

  • Never write off a sinner. When selecting a leader, God passed over Jacob’s first three sons. Based on Judah’s role in selling Joseph, his marriage to a Canaanite, and his temple prostitution, few would find any reason to let the family leadership rest with him. He was the worst sinner in every sense of the word. But he showed genuine repentance. In God’s eyes, that was enough for Judah to become the leader of the family. That was also enough for Jesus to draw His lineage through Judah and proudly wear the label: “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” (Rev. 5:5). Peter and Paul could have likewise been easily written off because of their sins. But they became some of the most powerful voices in proclaiming the Gospel. Each knew the value of true repentance. Have you written off a sinner? Instead, lead them to repentance. Or, have you written yourself off because of your sins. If so, repent and your sins will be forgiven (1 Jo. 1:9).