Then he commanded the steward of his house, "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, and put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain." And he did as Joseph told him.
As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their donkeys. They had gone only a short distance from the city. Now Joseph said to his steward, "Up, follow after the men, and when you overtake them, say to them, 'Why have you repaid evil for good? Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he practices divination? You have done evil in doing this.'" (Ge 44:1-5)
I don't know if you have ever wondered about this passage. Did Joseph really use a cup for divination? Had he been led astray by the practices of the Egyptians to the extend that he forgot the one who had revealed to him the future on many occasion through dream and interpretation? Had he sunk to pagan rituals and practices to try to gain knowledge that can only be found in God?
Or was it a ruse? Was he still playing the part of the stern foreign ruler, who had set himself against the brothers from a foreign land? A deliberate deception to play his brothers into his hands?
I don't believe the former, and while the later is certainly true to an extent, I don't think it captures the full significance of this passage. To divine, was to predict the future, by the means of interpreting signs. Now, if Joseph had used the cup to peer into and make predictions based on the shape of the residue left in the bottom, he would clearly have strayed into pagan ritual. But what if the cup itself was the sign, the means by which he prophesied what God would do in the future.
The problem is there is no record of how Joseph used the cup to communicate what would happen in the future... or is there?...
You see, there is something powerful here. A first mention of a "prophetic cup." One that was hidden to be revealed at the right time. One that was found with the grain to make the bread they needed to live. One that spoke of a sentence of death, that was lifted because Judah offered himself willingly as a substitute for the punishment that should have come.
Joseph's cup is indeed a prophetic cup for it speaks of Christ's cup. One from the line of Judah who would offer himself willingly for those of whom he is the first of many brothers. One who took fully the punishment that was rightfully ours, because of the sin found in our own sack. One who took a cup that spoke of the Lord's wrath and drained it to the bottom, so that what comes to us is instead a cup of blessing, of reconciliation, of joy and of peace.
Jesus himself used a cup to prophesy what was to come. For although we now drink this cup to remember his death, his resurrection, the sealing of the New Covenant in his blood, and the unity of his body, the church, brought forth from his sacrifice; Jesus when he took the cup was prophesying and declaring the things that were yet to come.
And the cup of Christ is still a prophetic cup. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that the blood of Christ still speaks; it speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. It declares the "Yes, and Amen" of God to all the promises of God in Jesus. It prophesies the blessing of God to those still living in the residue of the curse. It prophesies health to those who are sick. It prophesies the abundance of God's rich provision to those who are in need. It prophesies fruitfulness to those who are barren. It prophesies that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives. It prophesies of a bride who has made herself ready to drink the cup with joy in the wedding banquet of the Lamb.
Down through history, men have been in search of the true cup of Christ. The vessel imbued with the virtue of Christ himself, a means of blessing to all who find it, and a source of eternal life to all who drink of it. But it was never to be found in the Grail, it has been hidden all along within the Church and the gospel message she carries, waiting to be revealed! We are now the Lord's prophetic cup. A sign to the world though which he chooses to speak of what is to come.
One day every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. One day the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God. One day God's kingdom will be established and his will done on earth as it is in heaven. But in the church these future hopes are a present reality. The church is the community of those who bow the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord. The church is the place where the knowledge of God's glory is revealed. The church are those who have submitted themselves to his rule and bring the will of heaven down to the earth.
The church is God's precious chosen vessel through which he continues to speak to this world of what is to come.
What is true on a corporate level is also true on an individual level. The Lord's house contains a treasure of precious cups, just as it did under the Old Covenant. We are all vessels in the master's hands, chosen for his service and pleasure. The only question is what sort of vessel do we desire to be? Are we content to sit on the shelf until he comes, or do we want to be those precious cups, kept clean and ready for his use? Not those who are looking inward at the dregs of the flesh and trying to bring forth something to fill the air, but those full of the new wine of the Spirit, overflowing with the joy of the Lord - willing to be used to speak on his behalf: the Lord's precious prophetic cups.
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honourable use, some for dishonourable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonourable, he will be a vessel for honourable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (2Ti 2:20-21)