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Last week, we saw the brothers return to Egypt with Benjamin, the youngest brother that had remained in Canaan. Joseph is overcome with emotion and excuses himself to weep. The brothers completed the mission and purchased grain, but Joseph once again, ordered the money be returned to each man’s sack and Joseph also ordered his silver cup be placed inside Benjamin’s sack. The brothers head back to Canaan, but Joseph had a plan. He sent his steward to chase after the brothers and they are stopped on the way. The steward told them why he has chased them down and the brothers denied any wrongdoing. They told the steward that the cup was not there and went on to say that if it was found, the person in possession of the cup could be killed. Of course, they didn’t know that it was placed inside Benjamin’s sack. The cup is found and the brothers once again are beside themselves with grief. Judah speaks with Joseph and implores him to allow a trade. Instead of Benjamin remaining behind in Egypt to be a slave, Judah offered himself to remain reasoning that his father would die of grief if Benjamin did not return. This morning, Joseph reveals his true identity.
I encourage you to take a couple of minutes and read Gen. 45:1-15.
We begin with Joseph sending everyone away. Everyone of Joseph’s brothers are standing in front of him. It has been years in the making. Judah has delivered a very moving speech that seems to be a giant change of heart for him. If you remember, it was Judah that convinced his brothers to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites instead of killing him. It was also Judah that unknowingly slept with his daughter-in-law because he thought she was a prostitute. That woman, Tamar became pregnant and bore the twins Perez and Zerah. The dreams that Joseph shared with his brothers so long ago have come to fruition. The story has been building and building and is nearly at its peak. Joseph can contain himself no longer and is overcome by emotion and not wanting to break down in front of everyone, he sends them all out and is left alone with his brothers. He is getting ready to tell his brothers who he is and does not want to share it with anyone. I wonder what the brothers were thinking. They have been accused of being spies, accused of stealing money – twice, and accused of stealing Joseph’s cup. Judah is anticipating becoming a slave to this man in exchange for the release of Benjamin.
If you remember back to Chapter 37 after Joseph shared his dreams with his brothers and his father, Jacob rebuked him and said, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?” (Gen. 37:10) Remember too, that Joseph is the favorite of Jacob. I wonder what he would have said if one of the other brothers had the same dream? This was a dysfunctional family. The patriarch thought his favorite son was dead. The patriarch held on to Benjamin so tightly that it risked the safety and well-being of the rest of the family. The brothers hated their youngest brother to the point that they wanted him dead. A teenager naively told his brothers that he would rule over them one day. What was not anticipated by the people in this story is the powerful force that is our God. We have a group of brothers that hated one of their own. How much to you have to hate to want to see someone dead? There needed to be significant change in this family. Hatred needed to be replaced with love. Favoritism needed to be replaced with faith. Fear needed to be replaced with courage.
This is a lesson we need to learn in the way God works. God will use circumstances of life to bring about change. Jacob lamented over the presumed death of Joseph, the one whom he loved more than the others. Joseph was Jacob’s idol and when that idol was taken away, he replaced it with Benjamin. He held onto Benjamin so tightly that he refused to allow him to go to Egypt and save the family. Sometimes God allows tremendous hardship in our life to reveal who we really are.
This is a hard lesson. It comes down to something I have shared on many occasions in the past. Are we going to hold onto things so tightly that we don’t have room for God? Are we going to recognize the idolatry in our own lives? Jacob idolized Joseph and he was taken away. Jacob replaced that idol with another idol named Benjamin. Jacob risked the starvation of his family because he was unwilling to let go of his idol until he chose to let go and trust God. Sometimes God breaks our arms to force us to let go of our idols. I remember a pastor friend of mine from many years back. He had a very talented son that was recruited by a number of big time college football programs. He told me that his son would play football for one of those big programs for a year, then he would declare himself eligible for the NFL draft. He left his church and those under his care to pursue this NFL dream with his son. As talented as he was, the son didn’t play his first year and decided to transfer to a small school where his talents could be demonstrated and then go to the NFL. It was a great plan until he suffered a career ending injury.
Our faith grows the most in times of hardship and suffering. For some of us, it takes a downward spiral to rock bottom to realize that only God can provide what is needed. Out of options, Jacob relented and allowed Benjamin to go and it seemed like he went from favoring one child to finally acknowledging all his children in 43:14. God did a work in his heart. Not only did God work in Jacob’s heart, but consider the brothers. They have gone back and forth from Canaan to Egypt in order to purchase food for their starving family. They each could have gone their own way, but they stuck together. Judah was so concerned for the emotional well-being of his father that he begged and pleaded to remain in Egypt as a slave to Pharaoh so that Jacob would not die of heartache.
How did God accomplish this change of heart in the brothers that they would be willing to be enslaved to save their family? It seemed like the memory of what they did to Joseph kept coming back to the forefront. Remember Judah’s word to Joseph back in 44:16: “What can we say to my Lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants.” Their plot to kill Joseph only to sell him. Their desire to buy food only to be accused of being spies. Their journey back to Canaan only to discover their money had been returned. Their second journey back to Canaan and they found Joseph’s silver cup in their sack. They’re thinking everything they did, has been found out. They also witnessed their father stop favoring one child and instead demonstrated some type of love for all of them This emotional plea by Judah is too much for Joseph and, “He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it.” Joseph has gone back and forth with his brothers and they have done everything that he has asked. It looks like Joseph may not have believed that his brothers would actually do what was asked. The sons of Jacob are together again and this family moment must be shared in private.
The big reveal. “Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.” Joseph lets the cat out of the bag and immediately inquires of his father. The brothers are too dumbfounded to be able to answer and I’m sure they’re asking themselves, “What is happening?” The focus is not on Joseph because his primary concern is the well-being of his father and it’s the third time he has asked the bothers about Jacob. Joseph has a legitimate concern because his father is getting up in years and there is a famine in the land. Just like that, the venue changes from Pharaoh’s court to a family reunion. Joseph invites his brothers to, “Please come closer to me.” In order to get a better look at the man in front of them, Joseph wants them to get closer to him. I’m sure there was some distance between them. When they got closer to Joseph, he says, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.” It’s me, it’s me! Remember, you sold me all those years ago, remember?
In one of the most compassionate, heartfelt speeches in all the Old Testament, Joseph explains what really happened to him with a most holy, godly, and wonderfully overwhelming demonstration of God’s love. Look carefully at vs. 7-13. Joseph establishes the framework for his present situation. Knowing they must feel guilt over what happened, he tells them, you may have sold me, but God really sent me here to make sure that people live. The famine has been going on for two years at this point and there are still five years left. The brothers intended to destroy, but God intended to deliver. During difficult circumstances, we often lament that God is ignoring us, He is somehow disconnected from us and doesn’t care what is happening. I have been there and I understand. It is often hard to determine what God is doing, if anything, when we focus on ourselves. Remember what Joseph has gone through. His brothers hated him growing up. His brothers made fun of him calling him names. He was thrown in a pit and left for dead. He was brought out of the pit to be sold. He was sold again and then accused of rape. He was thrown into prison without due process. He correctly interpreted dreams of Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and chief baker. He was forgotten about in prison for another two years before getting out to correctly interpret Pharaoh’s dreams about the famine. Joseph’s life was filled with difficult circumstances, but we don’t have any record of him complaining or crying out to God in despair. In fact, Joseph is the only human being in Scripture in which there is no recorded sin.
You might be arguing that Joseph was led by God and so it was easy for him to follow. Based on my reading of Scripture, it seems apparent to me that Joseph made the best out of every situation he was in. He didn’t depend on his circumstances to determine his happiness or what he was to do. Do you think that it is a coincidence that everywhere he went, he ended being someone who led the way? He was someone that maintained a positive, godly attitude regardless of the horrid conditions he was in. Joseph was faithful to do what was right, to do what was godly in all of the terrible circumstances he was in. He didn’t wait to see what God would do first; he acted in a godly manner regardless. It is difficult to find the Josephs in today’s church. We’re too busy trying to determine what’s in it for us before we decide to serve Christ. We’re too busy with our lives to determine if we can faithfully follow Christ. We’re too busy blaming others. We’re too busy getting distracted by people who are anti-God, anti-Gospel, and anti-church. We’re too busy lamenting our horrible circumstances, even if they’re of our own making, to acknowledge that God is the answer; He’s always been the answer. Joseph tells his brothers to go back to Canaan and tell Jacob all the wonderful things that are in Egypt and to hurry back where the entire family will be provided for. Unable to hold it together after his speech, Joseph, “fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.”
What a story of hope. What a story of sovereignty. What a story of trust. What a reminder of hope. What a reminder of sovereignty. What a reminder of trust. In the difficult circumstances of this life, do not lose sight of the One that holds it all together. God uses the circumstances of life to draw men to Himself, to point men to Christ, to show humanity that He is the way, the truth, and the life. What will become of the family? What will Jacob say when he hears Joseph is alive and well? Join us next week.