Text: Genesis 43
Two years into the famine, Jacob has refused to send young Benjamin back to Egypt as “the man” had requested of the brothers. Brother Simeon is still held in prison. Delay has now led to the inevitable; the first supply of grain in their sacks has run out. We cannot unendingly put our heads in the sand and avoid what we must all face. The issue of life and death will not go away. In fact it only gets closer and closer and so it must be faced squarely sooner than later. A comedian recently made the bleak observation:
“You don’t know about life?”he asked. “How it only disappoints and it gets worse and worse until it ends in a catastrophe?”
The audience laughed nervously. It is certainly only a matter of time until everyone must face the catastrophe of death. One of the greatest things one can do is to walk slowly though a cemetery and think about those who are buried beneath the stones. One may ask, "What lesson can I learn from their lives?" Those silent markers shout to us that life is short and death is sure.
But what if there were a remedy?
See Christ here: Jacob fears judgment from the man in power, but what he doesn’t realize is that mercy might be found with the same man. Mercy is a key word in this chapter and in the whole story of Joseph.
Challenged with the lack of bread and the very real threat of perishing, Jacob is finally compelled to act with trust and hope for mercy. He releases his sons to return to Egypt with young Benjamin. “And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved”” (Genesis 43:14, NKJV)
These men will ultimately meet with mercy from the man who suffered from their own hand. Christ suffered at the hand of his own brothers. Resurrected, He came into a position to make mercy possible for them and us by satisfying justice with his own death.
“...whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Read Genesis 44
In this chapter we see the work of salvation in Judah’s heart. The discovery of Joseph’s cup in young Benjamin’s sack is really the discovery and confession of Judah’s own sin. He knows that God is exposing him (and his brothers): “…God has found out the iniquity of your servants…”” (Genesis 44:16)
Conviction leads to confession and confession leads to conversion. Someone who confesses his or her sin is ready to receive mercy.
“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13, NKJV)
Suddenly we see a different spirit in Judah. We see the spirit of Christ in Judah as he is willing to lay down his life for his brother:
“Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?”” (Genesis 44:33–34, NKJV)
This is not the same Judah! He never thought of anyone else before. Ruthlessly selfish, he was like many men today:
“I’ll do what I want to do when I want to do it and no one will tell me differently.”
Years later, sin and self, catches up with such men. Humbled and broken, Judah owns it. For the first time in his life, he feels for his father deeply. Many years before he did not care what it would do to his father when he persuaded him to believe that Joseph was dead. He only thought of himself.
Rebel children do not care what their selfishness will do to their parents.
Some parents will cry: “You don’t know how much we have sacrificed for you!” They will carry on great and impassioned speeches thinking that by appealing to conscience and sympathy that their sons or daughters will be moved to a better conduct. But they will not be moved.
The selfish heart doesn’t care what others feel. King Self is all that matters and all others are there only to serve him.
Only true discipline can break self-centered hearts of stone. These must feel, in themselves, what pain feels like. And if they are truly humbled by such affliction, only then may they come to understand the pain they have caused others—even the pain they have caused their heavenly Father.
This is the spirit of repentant Zaccheus, the Prodigal Son and a hundred souls in the Bible who found themselves echoing David’s turned around heart, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.” (Psalm 119:71, NKJV)
Judah the brokenman becomes Judah the saved man. It will be an honor to Judah’s tribe to have Christ born from it.
“And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.””
Read Genesis 45
The impassioned plea of Judah to trade his life for Benjamin moves Joseph deeply. The idea of his father’s head going to the grave if Benjamin does not return is more than Joseph can bear. He runs off to weep privately. But what is most important is that his brothers have come to the end of themselves.
Whenever someone comes to the end of self, under God, this is same place where new life begins.
As God does, Joseph had troubled them to the point of wearing them down. Formerly hard, hateful and hostile, these same men are now humbled, softened and desperate. They are completely at the mercy of Joseph. Yet up until now they do not know that he is their brother.
See Christ here: He was Lord over them and they did not recognize him. “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:11, NKJV) To be unaware of the things of God and the identity of Christ is a judgment from God.
“God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day.”” (Romans 11:7–8, NKJV)
If we would ever be saved, the Father must reveal Christ to us. Without this, we would stay under judgment.
At one point in Jesus’ ministry, He prayerfully celebrates the fact that his disciples understand that He is God. He prays:
“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Luke 10:21, ESV)
It is gracious thing for Christ to be revealed to us by the Father.
Joseph cannot contain himself. “I am Joseph! “ Their eyes are opened. More than that, there is no judgment, rather there is abundant mercy! They had felt the fist of judgment haunting and hunting their consciences, but now the hand is opened in mercy. “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:5, ESV)
Joseph’s brothers’ deep troubles, like us, ultimately bring them to the feet of Him whom they crucified. They are touched by the Mission of Christ, who Himself suffered, so that they might live.
Read Genesis 45
““And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:5, ESV)
When we speak of the sovereignty of God, it means:
God possesses all power and He is the ruler of all things. His rule is so great that He is working everything out to His eternal purposes; even in the events seem to contradict his rule.
The story of Joseph is best summed up with Romans 8:28 which speaks beautifully to the sovereign work of God:
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Or as Joseph told his brothers: “You sold me. But God sent me.” Everything that happened in Joseph's life also prepared him for his destiny. And much of that preparation was painful.
"God's preparation is definite, drastic, and destructive."
A series of shocking and calamitous events cascaded down on his head, like bricks tumbling out of a dump truck. In Egypt, we are told repeatedly that "God was with him"(Genesis 39:2-3, 21) but it sure didn’t look like it most of the time. His life unfolded into a series of tragic events. His life became a series of terrifying disturbances.
We may wonder where God is in our life when the worst of things are happening:
A turn of health. A loss of job. An unfaithful spouse. A rebel child. When Joseph got those bright and shiny dreams, he never thought his life would turn out like this.
The question is, how do we regard these disturbances? Have we grown bitter and resentful against them, against the people who forced them on us, against God? Are we frustrated because our plans have been disrupted? Are we full of bitterness and cynicism because we think God is against us? We should take a page from Joseph’s playbook. He rendered it all under sovereign God’s hand for good:
“And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:5, ESV)
“And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:7–8, ESV)
"You sold me...God sent me."
Whether our circumstances come from human beings or some devil, all creatures are under God's control.
They are "holding to our lips the cup which the Father's hand has mixed"
See Christ here: Though perfect and righteous, He suffered indignity, false accusation, hatred and hostility from his Jewish brothers. Through envy, he was wrongfully arrested, handed over to death, beaten mercilessly and hung on a cross to die. Everything seemed to contradict, at that point, the work of God in His life. But God’s sovereignty is gloriously made known. Reckoned dead by all. Christ was revealed to his brothers alive and well. What men meant for evil, God turned to good that we too might be saved as Joseph’s brothers were.
There are no accidents in God's universe, no maverick molecules to spoil his plan. "His purpose is everywhere at work"
(Ephesians 1:11 NEB).
Read Genesis 46
Many trials and afflictions have marked the way of Jacob from the moment he came into the world wrestling.
We can all attest to the continual struggle of living a fallen world. Everything seems to run against our souls.
Jacob knew hatred and vengeance from a brother. He knew double-dealing from an uncle. He knew the deep grief of losing a wife in his pilgrimage through the years. He had rascal sons who had persuaded him that another son was dead. Add to that the problems that he caused himself. There is no question we get in our own way as much as anything. Someone has said,
“Our greatest enemy is the one that lives in our own chest.”
Yet God was with him through it all. A musician wrote these words:
I’ve had many tears and sorrows,
I’ve had questions for tomorrow,
There’s been times I didn’t know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.
Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God.
Jacob, now known as Israel, has a vision in the night. The final journey of his life is confirmed by God to go to Egypt. The Lord tells him that Joseph, himself, will close his eyes in death.
See Christ here: The God who started Jacob will finish him with a great reunion. A glorious meeting day is coming after all of our trials and mistakes of earth. Jesus prepares a place for the believer and all of his brothers and sisters in the Lord who have gone before.
“When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We'll sing and shout the victory.”