young man January 29 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading: Genesis 42, 43, 44

Tests of Genuine Character

Are you genuine? If we want to know for sure if someone is genuine in his character, beliefs, or feelings, it is sometimes wise to have a period of testing. Though these times are often trying and unpleasant, they prove character.

In the Biblical account of Joseph his faith was tested three times. He was favored by his father Jacob, and when he was but seventeen he had a dream that someday he was to rule over his brothers and his parents. This created animosity in the family. His brothers were jealous of him because of his favoritism and dreams. One day when he was sent on an errand to them, they seized him, put him in a dry well, and then sold him to traveling merchants. He was then re-sold as a slave to Potiphar, an official in the court of Pharaoh, king of Egypt (so much for Joseph’s dreams of greatness). Next, though Joseph was a very responsible worker, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of rape when he refused to go to bed with her. For that accusation Joseph went to prison. This must have been deflating to Joseph. After a while, a cupbearer and baker of the king had displeased the king, and he put them into the same prison with Joseph. When they had dreams, with God’s help, Joseph was able to interpret them. Unfortunately, that kindness was forgotten when the cupbearer returned to his duties. Though Joseph may have been discouraged, he was not dissuaded. His character was tested and proved faithful.

Joseph’s faithfulness was rewarded. Two years later Pharaoh had strange dreams, and the cupbearer remembered Joseph was able to accurately interpret them. Joseph was called up from the prison to interpret Pharaoh's dreams. Pharaoh was so impressed with him that he made Joseph second in the kingdom to prepare for the times that were prophesied in the dreams. Joseph passed a test of integrity and wisdom. As we saw in our last Bible study, there were to be seven years of agricultural abundance followed by seven years of drought and blight. Joseph stored up very large amounts of grain to be used during the first seven years so that Egypt would have food to eat and to share (for a profit) in the next seven years.

Soon the seven years of plenty were over and the seven years of famine began. Jacob and his sons were also affected by the blight on their crops, so Jacob sent his sons to get grain in Egypt. When Joseph met them he spoke harshly to them in an Egyptian tongue, accusing them of being spies (Genesis 42:7-9, 14-20). Perhaps he thought that the brothers might expect this of an Egyptian prince, but more likely he was testing them to see if they had changed. They insisted that they were honest men, but he put them all in custody for three days.

On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” (Genesis 42:20, NIV)

This they proceeded to do. They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that's why this distress has come upon us."

Reuben replied, “Didn't I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn't listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” (Genesis 42:17-22, NIV)

The brothers never realized that Joseph understood them. From their conversation Joseph learned that his brothers were truly sorry for their former actions against him.

Joseph put money back into the grain sacks of his brothers. It was a test of their honesty. When to their dismay the brothers discovered this, they demonstrated their honesty by returning double the money for the grain, presenting Joseph with a gift, and by telling the truth Genesis 43:11-22. Have you ever been tested in your honesty? Assuming you were honest, how did you demonstrate that?

After this test, there was another test: Joseph's silver cup was placed in Benjamin's grain sack. The results of this test revealed that there was no longer any more jealousy against Rachel's sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Their concern was for the welfare of their father, not themselves. Their hearts had indeed changed (Genesis 44:17-31). What about our hearts; can people tell we have changed? Do people see by our behavior that we are indeed Christians who are characterized by love? Or, are we afflicted with jealousy and bitterness? Let's not let the root of bitterness eat us up and affect others (Hebrews 12:15). Let's confess our sins and live lives of love toward one another. True genuine character begins with humility and is possible through a personal relationship with God. He offers you forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...).

Lessons to live by:

  • If we want to know for sure if someone is genuine in his character, beliefs, or feelings, it is sometimes wise to have a period of testing. Though these times are often trying and unpleasant, they prove character.
  • Faithfulness is rewarded.
  • If we have sinned, times of testing are meant to bring us to genuine repentance (more...). This is shown not only with our words but also our actions.
  • A Christian’s life should be characterized by love, not unrepentant jealousy and bitterness.

Today’s Bible Memory Verses:

1Chronicles 29:17a, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” (NIV)

1John 4:11-12 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. (NIV)

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