God’s Work Comes to Light – Genesis 42 – 47
Genesis 42 – 47
God’s Work Comes to Light
What will we see as we look back?
After, COVID, whenever that might be, what we will see, as we look on these days?
I’ve noticed that there’s a whole lot less talk about life “getting back to normal” than there was, even a couple of months ago. We’re not really sure what life on the other side of this looks like,
But whatever it is, I wonder how we’ll look back on this experience?
Will we see, a kind of natural disaster?
Or government failures around the world?
Will we remember this as a season of incredible hardship? The impact on my finances, my family, my mental health?
Maybe, in God’s kindness, COVD hasn’t been the significant trial for you that it has been for many, but perhaps there’s some other situation, a source of pain, that you’re facing now;,
Stresses at work,
Mistakes you’ve made,
The way others have treated you,
When you look back on that, in 5 years, 10 years, what will you see?
Georg Hegel, the German Philosopher once wrote, “the only thing we learn from history, is that we don’t learn anything from history.”
Is that all we’ve got when we look back at our lives?
Or is it possible, that we might see more?
Is it possible, that, with the right perspective, we might see God at work, even in the hardest, darkest, and most hurtful experiences of our lives?
And is it possible, that even while acknowledging sin;, ours or others’ still recognising, that whatever comes to us, comes from God’s hand?
We’ve got 6 chapters of the story of Joseph tonight, which offer to teach us this perspective.
With such a long section we’re going to be a bit like a learner driver that first time on the road;, speeding up, slowing down, speeding up, slowing down, so let’s get started!
You might remember that Joseph is the great grandson of a man named Abram, or Abraham, to whom God had promised, many descendants,
Who would inhabit the land of Canaan,
And who he would bless, and use to be a blessing to all the world.
Joseph’s life though, hasn’t really looked like one of blessing.
He was his dad’s favourite son, but that meant his brothers hated him, and planned to murder him, before eventually deciding it was cleaner, and more profitable, to sell him as a slave.
Joseph ends up in Egypt,
He’s falsely accused of rape,
Languishes in prison for a few years,
But then God enables him to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, predicting 7 years of plenty, and 7 years of famine, and so Joseph is elevated to the second-highest office in the land,
Basically he’s vice-president, and in charge of food supplies.
Joseph’s brothers have an obvious need and an invisible need (ch 42 - 43)
And we see as chapter 42 opens, that the famine was severe, not just in Egypt, but also in Canaan, where Joseph’s family were.
So there’s an obvious need;, They need food.
Verse 1, When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” 2 He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”
And so ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him
Here’s a glimpse of the invisible need this family has. This is a broken, damaged family, that needs reconciliation.
Jacob’s not worried that harm might come to his other 10 sons, but because of what they had done to Joseph, even though he doesn’t know it was them, he’s worried for Benjamin.
And it starts to feel like this is a set up for the same thing all over again. If the brothers were ready to kill Joseph because he was Dad’s favourite, and got treated special, what are they going to do to Benjamin when the time comes?
But, in order to eat, they have to go.
Verse 6, 6 Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.
Now, this was Joseph’s dream, remember?
Back in chapter 37, Joseph had 2 dreams about his family bowing down to him.
What God had said would happen, is happening.
And Joseph knows it!
See verse 9, 9 Then he remembered his dreams about them, and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
God’s promises are being fulfilled!
So our spidey senses should be tingling, and even more so because just as all the world is being blessed through Joseph and his distribution of food, as God had promised, these men too, are about step into this sphere of blessing.
This thing about being spies is Joseph’s way of getting the facts about his family;,
Is Benjamin now at risk?
Have they repented of their sin towards him, or are they still trying to cover it up?
And so notice their protest in verse 11;, Your servants are honest men, not spies.”
Well, they may not be spies, but they’re definitely not honest men, are they?
They’re still clinging to that appearance of decency and righteousness.
So Joseph throws them all into prison for 3 days.
Then verse 18, 18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God:
one brother stays here in prison,
20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.
Joseph has the power of life and death over them.
If he wants them dealt with, the Secret Service take them out the back and no one even finds the bodies!
But even though his brother had wanted to kill him, Joseph’s working towards this greatest need, of reconciliation.
And so through all this their brave façade is crumbling. Through Joseph’s actions, God is bringing them face to face with their sin.
They need reconciliation and forgiveness, but that can’t come until they acknowledge their sin, and repent.
See, verse 21, 21 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 on us.”
First hint that they acknowledge; there’s something in our lives that needs to be dealt with.
And so Simeon stays in Egypt while the others go back. But
Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, verse 25, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey,
Which they discover on the way home.
28, Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?”
They’re starting to see God’s hand at work, aren’t they?
But they’re afraid.
For them, to be where God is at work is a frightening thing.
So much so that they misunderstand Joseph’s act of blessing, returning their money, as something terrible.
But remember the promise to Abram? One of his descendants would be a source of blessing.
We’ve seen little bits of that being fulfilled.
Here’s the next stage.
Not only is God’s promise to Joseph coming true; his family bowing down to him,
But those really big promises that drive the storyline of the Bible through to Jesus, they’re being fulfilled as well.
But Jacob, who has led his family so badly up to this point, continues in poor form. He can only think of himself when the boys tell him that Joseph had demanded they bring Benjamin to Egypt.
Verse 36, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!
And verse 38, My son, Benjamin, will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left.
Well, no, actually, you’ve got 11 sons left Jacob, that you know about! But it’s the favouritism at play again, isn’t it?
The brothers’ response, earlier on, “What is this that God has done to us?” is a better response to trouble than “everything is against me” isn’t it?
At least they recognise, “yes God is in control, even when I can’t see any good in it at all.”
Even when it looks like life is falling apart, we can still recognise that God is behind it all, working his purposes out.
The brothers are afraid of God and his purposes, because they’re starting to be confronted with their sin, but isn’t it reassuring to know that God’s in control, rather than blind fate or even, the government, or, whatever.
When it comes to coronavirus,
When it comes to the circumstances of our lives,
This is the perspective that offers hope.
Of course, if we’re living at a distance from God, or if we know that we’re not acknowledging God, then for God to be in control isn’t an especially comforting thought, is it?
If God has power over me, but I’m treating God like rubbish, there’s no reason for confidence, is there?
No, if this is true, If God is working his plans and purposes out in the lives of people, then it presses me to make sure I’m in a right relationship with God.
I need to make sure that the sin that spoils my relationship with God, and makes me his enemy is dealt with.
If God is active in the world, and he cares about sin, as the brothers are learning he is,
Then we need to be reconciled to God,
We need someone who can deal with our sin.
We need a Saviour.
So the visible need has been met, for a time.
The blessing that comes through Joseph has begun.
But more is still needed.
Simeon is still languishing in prison in Egypt, while the famine continues, and Jacob’s family can’t put off buying more grain any longer.
Still Jacob can’t bear the thought of his favourite son being taken from him.
8 Then Judah said to Israel his father, that’s just another name for Jacob, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. 9 I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him.
If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.
And we think, did we read that right?
This is Judah!
The rottenest apple of the whole rotten bunch!
Previously he was happy to lie to his dad, make him believe that a wild animal had killed Joseph, now Judah and Reuben, are willing to bear the cost of loving their dad.
Through the first steps of being confronted with their sin, their conduct towards their father is starting to change.
Oh, and God is still at work!
There’s another reminder for us that God is still at work in all this, in something as simple as the way Jacob speaks of God in verse 14.
Do you see it there, may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you.
As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”
He’s a little bit mopey, like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh, isn’t he?, but God almighty is the Hebrew title El Shaddai. It’s the name by which God revealed himself to Abram in Genesis 17, where he institutes the covenant of circumcision, and re-states those important promises.
Exodus 6 points out that this is the name God used to reveal himself to the various generations of Abram’s family, and so for it to be used here, reminds us of God’s special relationship with this family.
Some of you will have a family nickname, where only people in your family call you that. That’s kind of what’s going on here.
The name emphasises God’s commitment to this family.
He hasn’t forgotten his promises, to bless them, and to use them as a source of blessing to the world.
Even if it looks a bit to us like God’s kind of forgotten, or lost control.
And maybe you think that looking at your life.
There was an opinion piece in the New York Times with the headline ‘God Created CoronaVirus. But Now He Has Lost Control.’
Maybe when things are hard, that’s the only explanation we can see.
But here we’re reminded of El Shaddai, the God who promised to bless the world through this family.
It’s almost like God’s saying, “remember me? I’m still here,
This is all still part of the plan!
And so let’s just pause and remember that even today, names speak to us of who God is.
Before Jesus’ birth, he’s given 2 names, Immanuel, which means “God with us”, and Jesus which means “God saves.”
See, even to say the name, “Jesus”, is to remind ourselves of God’s commitment to us,
To remind ourselves that God saves,
That God is in the business of rescuing people who are in awful situations.
And so they saddle up their donkeys, and head back to Egypt.
But already these men who were happy to take 20 pieces of silver for Joseph’s life a few years ago, they’re being changed.
Verse 15, they took the gifts and double the amount of silver, and Benjamin also. They hurried down to Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare a meal; they are to eat with me at noon.”
Once again, Joseph’s kindness makes them afraid. They think they’re going to be attacked for stealing the silver, and so they try and explain themselves to Joseph’s steward
23 “It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.”
And he’s exactly right, isn’t he?
In a way that they don’t understand, God has given them their silver.
Joseph’s concern though is about his dad,
27 He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?”
28 They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him.
It’s happened again, hasn’t it?
Joseph’s dream keeps coming true. They speak the truth; Jacob is now Joseph’s servant.
What God said would happen is happening
And so 30 Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.
But there are more surprises when they sit down to eat. Verse 33 33 The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment.
34 When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s.
So they feasted and drank freely with him.
You can hear them wondering, can’t you? “How does this Egyptian know, the order that we were born in?” Its not like they had to get their passports scanned!
There’s this feeling of divine intervention, “God is at work here!”
And, of course, that’s true! God is at work, but not in some mystical way, making secrets known to the Egyptians,
God is at work, and has been at work throughout all the events of this story, even though they’re only just beginning to see it now.
They think they’re dealing with some unknown Egyptian official, but in reality they’re dealing with the living God, who is bringing them slowly to a realisation of their sin.
Joseph’s brothers repent; A change of mind leading to a change of behaviour (ch 44)
And so as the brothers prepare to return home in chapter 44, Joseph’s plan becomes more apparent;,
He’s testing his brothers.
All along Benjamin’s been treated special, and Joseph wants to see, if, given the opportunity, his brothers treat Benjamin, the favourite, the way the way they’d treated him when he was the favourite.
He’s just given a feast where Benjamin is given 5 times as much food as his brothers.
I mean, when you go to one of those restaurants with a buffet, you always hope that no one really notices how much food you’ve put on your plate!
But five times as much as anyone else’s? That’s going to be noticed.
Then Joseph gives this instruction 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.”
So that’s what happens, and when Joseph’s steward catches up with the brothers, and asks where the cup is, they all deny knowing anything about it!
Verse 9, 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.”
It’s like at customs at the airport, “Did you pack this bag yourself?”
It’s quite a strong position to take, especially since they’ve already had their silver turn up in their bags!
But the steward, probably on instructions from Joseph, gives them an opportunity; Verse 10, Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame.”
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.
When they face Joseph, Judah says to him, verse 16 “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.”
“God has uncovered your servants’ guilt.”
It’s not that God has only just realised what they’d done. God had known all along,
It’s the brothers who are just now being confronted with the horror of their sin.
And so Joseph gives them a way out, or a choice to prove that they are genuinely repentant.
Verse 17, 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.”
The last time they were offered a deal like this, they sold Joseph as a slave, the price they got was only 20 pieces of silver.
This time it’s their freedom.
You wonder, how much deja vous they had.
Did they remember standing around the pit arguing what they’d do with Joseph?,
Do they recall the feelings of jealousy and hatred?,
Does Judah remember, that it was his idea to sell Joseph as a slave in the first place?
And I think he does, based on what he says here.
Judah’s speech in verses 18 to 34 is the longest speech in the book of Genesis
Mostly he recaps the history we’ve already covered tonight, so we won’t go into the detail.
But the speech reaches a crescendo with Judah’s request to take the place of Benjamin.
Verse 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.”
Martin Luther, the church Reformer wrote, "I would give very much, to be able to pray before our Lord God as well as Judah prays here before Joseph. For this is a perfect pattern of prayer, yes, of the true feeling which should be in a prayer."
It is a genuine impassioned plea, for the sake of someone else.
What a change we’ve seen in this man!
From “let’s get rid of Dad’s favourite, Let’s sell him as a slave”, to “Let me be the slave, to spare my father the misery.”
Judah is the first person in Bible, to offer to die in the place of someone else.
Substitution;, one person offering their life for another, central theme in the Bible begins here.
But we would hardly have expected it 3 chapters ago!
Look how much he’s changed! as God has confronted him with his sin.
The Bible uses the word “repentance” to describe this kind of change. It means a change of mind.
And of course, a genuine change of mind, will be accompanied by a change in behaviour.
And here, even though the cost is high, a life of slavery, and even though the offer for the others to go and Benjamin to remain behind was made not once but twice, Judah’s change of mind and heart, his repentance . sticks.
And even though Judah’s doing all the talking, the others seem to be in one mind with him.
They’ve also changed,
They’re not trying to punish Benjamin,
They don’t think “let’s leave him and escape with out lives.”
Remember out on the road when the cup was discovered the steward had said “the rest of you are free to go,”, but they’d all packed up and returned to the city.
Of course, it’s not just that they’ve changed, but that God has changed them.
They’ve seen God’s hand at work. They’ve been reminded of their sin,
And now as Joseph tests them, though they have ample opportunity to repeat that sin, throwing the young favourite under the bus, and having some deniability “well, what could we do, Dad, 10 of us against the Egyptian army?”, no this time, they choose to do what’s right.
The events of chapters 42 to 44 have highlighted the brothers’ sin.
And they’ve been forced to realise, not only the effect their sin has had on Joseph, but also on their father, and on their life together as a family.
Joseph is about to reveal himself to them, but before that can happen, before there can be reconciliation, there had to be repentance.
If Joseph just said, “hi guys, it’s me, Joseph!” the first time they came to Egypt, their behaviour would change because they’re afraid of him, and the, first chariot division of the Egyptian army.
But that change of mind and heart wouldn’t have happened.
But because they’ve been confronted with their sin, they’ve repented, and acknowledged;, “our sin is known by God,
It affected our father,
It destroyed our brother,
It has consequences that have caught up with us,
We’ve seen the terrible cost of sin.”
And now they’re making choices shaped by that realisation.
We’ve noted at a few points in the story, that God is fulfilling those promises he made to Abram back in Genesis 12, and in particular, we’ve seen that promise of blessing being fulfilled in different, small ways.
Here we see it happening again, but perhaps in a way we don’t expect.
Here the blessing, is becoming aware of your own sin.
Doesn’t sound like much of a blessing, though, does it?!
When you pray, “bless me Lord”, this is probably not what you had in mind!
And yet this is God’s work for their good.
It’s only ever in the kindness of God that we’re confronted with the reality of our sin, so that we can repent.
My reaction when my sin is exposed, is generally to be defensive, or angry, or make excuses,
And yet as long as I’m doing that, there’s no repentance, and no chance of reconciliation.
The only thing better than learning from your mistakes, is learning from someone else’s mistakes!
Are we willing to learn from these men, of the need to see our sin for what it is, in order to move towards forgiveness and reconciliation, both with another person and with God?
When someone points to sin in our lives, are we willing to take that as a kindness of God to us, in order to bring about the change that he wants, rather than trying to ignore it or dismiss it?
God’s providence is revealed – (ch 45)
And so we come to the big reveal in chapter 45.
Joseph, 45 verse 1, when he realises the work of God in his brothers’ lives, could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
“I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
So he repeats himself, verse 4, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!
It’s starting to feel to the brothers, like the set up to one, massive, final, act of revenge, and so it’s entirely understandable that they’re terrified.
But 3 times Joseph explains why he’s not bent on revenge.
Look at verse 5, And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.
And then verse 7 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
And verse 8, 8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.
It couldn’t really be any more clear, could it?
God was behind all this!
See chapter 45 is the big reveal, but it’s not just about Joseph revealing his identity to his brothers, but God’s providential hand being revealed as the driving force behind all these events.
The brothers had made, appalling decisions, sinful, selfish decisions, but actually it was God who was bringing his purposes about, leading Joseph to Egypt.
God had made those promises to Abram;, that his family would be a blessing to all peoples on earth, and yet how is that going to be possible if they die of starvation in Canaan?
No, God in his providence, has seen to this. He’s worked it out.
You’ll remember that we’ve been using a definition of God’s providence, from an old church teaching tool called the Heidelberg Catechism. It’s kind of Sunday School curriculum from 400 years ago.
And the providence of God is described like this:
The almighty and everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were, by his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth, with all creatures, and so governs them, that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, all things come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.
That’s God’s providence.
“all things, come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.”
Were the brothers responsible for their sinful choices?
Yes! We’ve just spent 3 chapters being confronted with that!
But behind those choices and events, God is over-ruling, working his purposes out, in order that his promises might be fulfilled.
And that’s why Joseph doesn’t take revenge.
Because he’s come to learn of God’s providence.
Because he knows, what he tells his brothers 3 times;, God sent him to Egypt, not them.
We want to keep reminding ourselves, “there’s more for us to learn from this story than just ‘follow Joseph’s example’”, That’s true.
And yet we don’t want to do less than follow Joseph’s example.
How do we guard against bitterness at the way others have treated us?
Is it possible to be protected from the desire to exact revenge on those who have wronged us?
Do you remember the TV show “Revenge” back in 2011, or maybe Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo is more your style. These stories of people whose whole life becomes focussed on getting revenge, to the point of taking on new identities and all sorts.
We’re probably not likely to go that far, are we? But it is still possible to be consumed by bitterness and anger at how others have wronged us.
Except if we’re convinced of this.
That all things, come by God’s fatherly hand.
If I’m convinced of this, then I can still recognise that other people’s actions are wrong, we don’t have to excuse sinful behaviour, but I know that whatever’s come to me, comes only by, “God’s fatherly hand.”
I won’t even want to get revenge, if I’m thankful for what God’s bringing me through that situation.
And it’s God’s providence that allows you and me to make sense of those situations we thought about at the very beginning.
Being sure that everything that happens to us is not by chance, not something that happens without God’s knowledge, means that God hasn’t forgotten me, and that whatever does happen to us comes “by his fatherly hand”, that is, for our good.
And this account shows us that God is able to use, even the sinful behaviour of others for our good, to make us what he wants us to be, and also for his wider purposes.
With this perspective, we can look back at, COVID, or whatever it is, and while acknowledging the hurt, or the sin, see how God was working for our good.
And while we might think, “hang on, me losing my job was a pretty big deal,
Remember what happened to Joseph, being sold as a slave and rotting in prison is a pretty big deal!
Yet as John Calvin wrote in the 16th Century,
“For in times of adversity believers comfort themselves with the solace that they suffer nothing except by God’s ordinance and command, for they are under his hand”
While we live in a broken world where we hurt and get hurt, that brokenness never outstrips God’s ability to use everything for our good.
Of course Joseph isn’t just an example of someone who learned what it is to trust in God’s providence.
He was a key character in salvation history, in the unfolding story of the Bible that centres on Christ.
God’s not planning to save the world through someone in our family line like he was in the case of Jacob’s family, and so as chapter 46 opens, Jacob sets out for Egypt and God restates to him the promises that have been driving all these events,
Verse 3, 3 “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”
See, Joseph is just, one piece of the story, one step in God fulfilling his promises to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob.
Promises that ultimately are fulfilled only in Jesus.
Where do we see the providence of God most clearly displayed?
Where are the sinful actions of wicked people used by God to bring about amazing blessing?
At the cross of Christ!
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Apostle Peter spoke to a crowd in Jerusalem, saying about Jesus, he was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 2:23
The story of Joseph helps us understand the greater story in which it sits;, the story of salvation, of Jesus who offered himself as our substitute.
You might remember that centuries after Joseph, when God’s people are carried off into exile in Babylon, God uses this same language that Joseph uses here, “preserving a remnant”, a people through whom his promises would be fulfilled.
God said, “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number Jeremiah 23:3
And ultimately it’s from that remnant, that Jesus, the saviour is born.
And the things that are true of Joseph or others in this story, are even more true, and more pronounced, as we see them fulfilled in Christ.
So, Joseph suffered even though he was innocent.
Joseph suffered, innocently, because of other people’s sin.
Joseph suffered innocently, for other people’s sin, and in doing so, becomes the saviour of the very people whose sin caused his suffering.
As did Jesus.
This suffering servant, God raises to royal rule.
Judah, we noted, offers to die in the place of someone else, such was his love for his father.
So there are hints here about how God acts, how God saves,
But they’re really just hints.
This generation dies out. That’s made plain in the end of chapter 47 where Jacob starts planning his own funeral.
His family will become a nation of slaves and need rescuing again,
Their sin will still cause havoc and cause them to be separated from God.
No, we’re reminded in this story that God is able to save.
God is able to meet his people’s needs,
God’s providence is up to the challenge, of achieving his purposes for us,
But as chapter 47 closes, the greatest need is still yet to be met.
A permanent salvation,
Salvation from sin.
Here’s a wonderful picture of reconciliation, but reconciliation with the God we’ve ignored, is still a long way off in Joseph’s day.
But this story gets us ready,
Shows us what to expect, reminds us, we need someone to deal with our sin, who doesn’t have their own sin to deal with.
This story shows us how much we need Jesus.
Joseph’s story, like ours, is a story of grace
This is a story of grace
That is, salvation, reconciliation, it’s not earned.
The brothers don’t earn Joseph’s forgiveness by standing in Benjamin’s place. Joseph doesn’t even give them the chance.
Being convicted of our sin and repenting of it is necessary, but it doesn’t earn reconciliation with God, doesn’t earn our salvation.
It’s Joseph’s undeserved kindness that leads to reconciliation and blessing.
And that’s really God’s kindness, shown to the brothers through Joseph.
It looks like Joseph is doing the blessing all along, the silver
The lavish provision,
The allocation of land, down in verse 11 of chapter 47
Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed. 12 Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their children.
We’re tempted to think, “what a guy!”,
But of course it’s God who’s the source of this wonderful provision. Remember the promise of Genesis 12?
God had said he’d bless this family, and use them as a source of blessing to others.
And as this story winds down, we’re told that this family, now numbers 70 people.
It’s not yet the great nation we’ve been told to expect,
But it’s more than just the one man, Abraham, isn’t it?
And in the second half of chapter 47, there’s a sombre note; Verse 13, There was no food, however, in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine
But what hope is there?
Joseph, the first word of the next verse.
God, in his providence, has his person, already in place.
God is still fulfilling his promises of blessing.
These chapters are not primarily a story about Joseph and how good he is, but a story about God and his work;
In the Heidelberg Catechism, that old, Sunday School curriculum, there’s a question that basically says, “What is the point in believing in God’s providence?”
This is the answer it gives:
That we may be patient in adversity,
thankful in prosperity,
and for what is future, have good confidence in our faithful God and Father, that no creature shall separate us from his love, since all creatures are so in his hand that without his will, they can not so much as move.
“for what is future, have good confidence in our faithful God and Father”
If we’re convinced of God’s providence as he makes it known in this part of his Word, that is the confidence we can have, whatever situation we face in life.
Father, we thank you that you are never caught off guard by our circumstances, but are always in control, using them for our God, and that everything we face comes by your fatherly hand.
Convict us of our sin, that we might repent and have reconciliation with you and others.
Convince us of our need for you, and for our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
We pray in his name.