Sunday, 30th May 10.30 am Order of Service

WELCOME

HYMN There’s a wideness in God’s mercy

1 There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,

like the wideness of the sea;

there’s a kindness in his justice,

which is more than liberty.

2 There is welcome for the sinner,

and more graces for the good;

there is mercy with the Saviour;

there is healing in his blood.

3 For the love of God is broader

than the measure of our mind;

and the heart of the Eternal

is most wonderfully kind.

4 If our love were but more simple,

we would take Christ at his word;

and our lives would be illumined

by the presence of our Lord.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,

like the wideness of the sea;

Frederick William Faber (1814-1863)

PRAYER

READING Genesis 44:1-34

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. 2 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.

3 As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. 4 They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, “Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil? 5 Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done.’”

6 When he caught up with them, he repeated these words to them. 7 But they said to him, “Why does my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do anything like that! 8 We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? 9 If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.”

10 “Very well, then,” he said, “let it be as you say. Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame.”

11 Each of them quickly lowered his sack to the ground and opened it. 12 Then the steward proceeded to search, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 At this, they tore their clothes. Then they all loaded their donkeys and returned to the city.

14 Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him. 15 Joseph said to them, “What is this you have done? Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?”

16 “What can we say to my lord?” Judah replied. “What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves—we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.”

17 But Joseph said, “Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.”

18 Then Judah went up to him and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, let me speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself. 19 My lord asked his servants, ‘Do you have a father or a brother?’ 20 And we answered, ‘We have an aged father, and there is a young son born to him in his old age. His brother is dead, and he is the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.’

21 “Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me so I can see him for myself.’ 22 And we said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father; if he leaves him, his father will die.’ 23 But you told your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.’ 24 When we went back to your servant my father, we told him what my lord had said.

25 “Then our father said, ‘Go back and buy a little more food.’ 26 But we said, ‘We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother is with us will we go. 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 One of them went away from me, and I said, “He has surely been torn to pieces.” And I have not seen him since. 29 If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in misery.’

30 “So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father, and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, 31 sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. 32 Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!’

33 “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. 34 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.”

SERMON The silver cup

God’s hand is leading towards a gracious goal. Joseph provides the right atmosphere which enables his brothers to prove their hearts are melted before God.

1-13 Once more Joseph tricked his brothers by having his cup and Benjamin’s money returned in Benjamin’s sack of grain. Joseph’s question appears to include the issue of the brothers’ treatment of him in ch. 37, which raises again the matter of their guilt in their treatment of Joseph. There is still the matter of guilt which hung over their heads; and almost everywhere they turned, they heard an echo of their mistreatment of Joseph.

Joseph’s plan worked as if every detail had been carefully planned out ahead of time. Not knowing that the cup and money were in Benjamin’s sack, the brothers made a rash vow, putting the life of Benjamin and their own freedom in jeopardy. When the cup was discovered, their response was one of complete hopelessness. “They tore their clothing in a rage” and returned to the city. There was nothing else to do. Curiously, their response mirrored their father’s response to hearing their earlier report of the loss of Joseph (37:34).

The grief they had caused their father had returned on their own heads.

14-17 While it had looked as if Joseph was working a slow revenge on his brothers, his purpose was not revenge but repentance. Through his schemes his brothers were coming to an awareness of their guilt and were ready to acknowledge it. Their utter frustration is expressed in their questions and their expression of guilt. The rhetorical answer to their questions is that they have nothing to say or cannot show themselves to be right. Thus the conclusion they drew was that “God has uncovered your servants’ guilt.”

In his response Joseph steered the matter in a direction that even more closely resembles his brothers’ treatment of him. The young lad was to be sold into slavery in Egypt, and the brothers were to return to their father.

18-34 In Judah’s final speech, he retold the whole of the Joseph story. His own retelling reveals the brothers’ perception of the events as well as the hopelessness of their situation. The overall sense of Judah’s version is that the brothers have been mistreated. He implies that if anyone was to blame, it was Joseph. According to Judah’s version, Joseph had initiated the series of mishaps that led to the present predicament. All the brothers had done was follow his instructions and the instructions of their father. Judah’s words, however, reveal something more to the reader than even he intended; they show that the fault did not lie with Joseph but with the “evil” intention of the brothers toward Joseph. Once again his words raised the issue of the brothers’ mistreatment of Joseph.

Curiously, at this point Judah said of Joseph, “[He] is dead,” rather than what was said of him on other occasions, namely, that “[he] is no more” (42:13). The meaning of “he is no more” does not imply that one is dead (cf. 5:24; 42:36). Thus, in retelling the story Judah added a dimension that was not previously there. The story now resembles the original intention of the brothers (37:18), and it corresponds to the story that the brothers gave to Jacob. What in real life would have perhaps been a “slip of the tongue” is a clue to the state of mind of the brothers as well as to their guilt.

But Judah’s account raises even further the issue of the brothers’ guilt regarding Joseph when he recounted Jacob’s response to the demand that Benjamin be taken to Egypt. But to tell the story the way it actually happened would be to admit to a guilt even greater than that of which they were presently accused. Thus even when retelling the story to demonstrate his own innocence, Judah gave testimony of his own guilt and the guilt of his brothers. Though it is through Judah’s speech that the reader is again reminded of the brothers’ guilt, it was Judah who intervened on behalf of Benjamin and ultimately his words that saved the day.

After this speech Joseph could contain himself no longer. He felt compelled to unveil his identity to his brothers.

Joseph being sold into slavery for 20 pieces of silver reminds us of Someone who had to endure the cruelty of men to bring salvation.

But Judah, too, reminds us of Someone. Judah, the first person in Scripture to willingly offer his own life for the life of another.

This morning we remember Jesus – sold for 30 pieces of silver (the price of a slave). We remember Jesus who was not only willing to lay down His life for others – but actually DID lay down His life for us.

PRAYER

Hymn Out of my bondage

1 Out of my bondage, sorrow and night,

Jesus, I come; Jesus, I come;

Into Thy freedom, gladness and light,

Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of my sickness into Thy health,

Out of my want and into Thy wealth,

Out of my sin and into Thyself,

Jesus, I come to Thee.

2 Out of my shameful failure and loss,

Jesus, I come; Jesus, I come;

Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,

Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm,

Out of life’s storm and into Thy calm,

Out of distress to jubilant psalm,

Jesus, I come to Thee.

3 Out of unrest and arrogant pride,

Jesus, I come; Jesus, I come;

Into Thy blessèd will to abide,

Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,

Out of despair into raptures above,

Upward for aye on wings like a dove,

Jesus, I come to Thee.

4 Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,

Jesus, I come; Jesus, I come;

Into the joy and light of Thy home,

Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of the depths of ruin untold,

Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,

Ever Thy glorious face to behold,

Jesus, I come to Thee.

William T Sleeper (1819–1904)

Benediction

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