1 Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3 And 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.
4 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 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. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.
16 When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. 17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, 18 and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ 19 And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. 20 Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’ ”
21 The sons of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. 22 To each and all of them he gave a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. 23 To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.”
25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. 26 And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
Some may be disappointed that we’re still in Genesis as we enter Advent. What does this have to do with Christ and the nativity? What can this Old Testament history minister to you? By God’s grace, I pray that you won’t be asking that question at the end of our time together this morning.
Before we get into Genesis 45, we need to back up just a little bit and remember that the chapter markers weren’t inspired and a beautiful story is broken up here. Genesis 45 opens with Joseph overwhelmed with tears at Judah’s offer to be a propitiation for Benjamin. Judah, Leah’s son, has promised his life for Rachel’s son Benjamin.
Joseph tells his servants to leave him alone with his brothers. Joseph, up to this point, had been speaking through an interpreter and he suddenly blurts out in the Hebrew language “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?”
This is not happy news for the brothers. Whatever grief they had over their sins is magnified. They’re stunned. They’re terrified. They are so overcome with grief and fear at this point that they cannot speak.
This is not an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical where a chorus of joy breaks out because brothers are reunited. This is real life and the brothers are terrified that a man with the power of Pharaoh has just been revealed to be the brother they plotted to murder and then sold into slavery.
This is it. This is the end.
Joseph has every right to exact vengeance and has the power to carry it out.
But Joseph has compassion upon them and draws them close.
“Come near to me.”
“I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.”
Joseph does not excuse their sin. He calls it for what it was. They sold him into slavery in Egypt.
What next? What do they deserve? By strict justice do they deserve Joseph’s kindness? Do they deserve his love for them?
But Joseph is kind to them. He is kind in a way that is surprising and he comforts them with this truth:
“Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”
Joseph explains that the famine is going to last for five more years and then tells them again: “…God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.”
Clearly, his brothers sold him into slavery. They were certainly in the chain of events that led to Joseph being in Egypt. Yet, as much as they were responsible for their sin in selling Joseph into slavery, they were not the only actors on the scene of history.
God was at work.
In fact, Joseph makes it more emphatic as to how he got where he was when he continues to explain and says: “So it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
What Joseph is reminding the brothers of is God’s control of all things. They ought to have remembered it in the story of their great-grandfather Abraham. They ought to have heard it from their grandfather Isaac. Surely they witnessed God’s control of all things in their father’s life and in their own experience.
This is God’s providence. Providence is a word rarely used today because most people act as if history moves along aimlessly. Yet providence is the truth that God controls all history and has a purpose in it.
Some are afraid to think of God being in control of all things. Some will say that this makes him the author of sin or that it relieves men of responsibility for their actions. But Scripture will have the last word.
God is in control of all things. The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord. God knows the beginning from the end not because he looked down the corridors of time and saw how it would all turn out but because he ordained it all.
Men may try to twist this truth to escape the judgment of their wickedness and place the blame upon God for ordering history but God will have none of it. Men are responsible for their actions and cannot shift blame upon God for sin and disobedience.
Whatever schemes men can think of, amidst all the tumult of an earth filled with sin and death, God overrules the counsels of men. God does, by the hands of wicked men, what he has decided to do in history. The sin belongs to Joseph’s brothers and so does the whole blame belong to them for their sin. Yet God works wonderfully through their means and, from their impurity, brings forth his perfect righteous will and plan. His method of acting here is secret, far above our understanding and Joseph does not give any more explanation as to the how of God’s overruling other than to state it.
Some have said that God’s Providence is like the language of Hebrew itself. It can only be read backwards.
Joseph understands he is where he is, by God’s hand, to save the world and to preserve a remnant. Looking back, he can see the sins of men clearly. He can even recount his own sins. But Joseph can also see how God interposed to prevent the evil of others who wanted to injure him. Not only that, but Joseph can see how God turned every wicked design into good.
This is why Joseph uses this argument about God’s control as a source of comfort. “God sent me here…” is Joseph’s argument. He is able to reflect on the goodness of God and the undeserved favor he has been shown. Even though Joseph himself is a sinner, God has overruled human history for his benefit and the benefit of his brothers. Joseph is able to embrace the men whose dishonor God had covered with His grace.
This comfort reminds the brothers of God’s goodness. All is not ruined. All is not destroyed. Whatever man has plotted to destroy, God has overruled to His righteous ends. God’s goodness overwhelms all schemes and all hurts. God’s goodness heals and they fall on each other’s necks and weep. Not only has the plan of God saved a remnant from starvation, and the world along with it, but God has ordained the events so that the brothers would learn to love one another for the first time in their entire lives.
“Hurry!” Joseph tells them. He orders them to tell Jacob everything they have seen and heard. There is no time to lose as the famine is severe and Pharaoh has given the fat of the land for Joseph’s family to live upon.
As you may recall, the whole story of Joseph began with fine clothes. In verse 22, Joseph sends them back to their father with rich clothes. The one despised for his rich garment blesses his brothers with rich garments and gifts to await them upon their return. Their rich garments and the carts of Pharaoh are to serve as evidence to Jacob that Joseph is still alive.
Joseph warns them as they go not to quarrel along the way in verse 24. They were still coming to grips with healing grace. They were going to have to explain that their brother was still alive in Egypt. Blame shifting might occur and then arguments over who was most guilty. Instead of excusing their own sin in the matter, they needed to be reminded by their brother of God’s control. This was a time for repentance and the remembrance of God’s goodness.
Years of mistrust are evident as Jacob refused to believe the news that Joseph was still alive but when he saw the gifts that Joseph sent with them, Jacob’s heart revived.
This story is so authentic. Jacob doesn’t care how rich Joseph is. Jacob doesn’t care about Joseph’s position in Egypt. Jacob doesn’t even mention that he fears the famine. His heart has been broken for years over a son he thought dead and all he wants is to see his son.
“It is enough: Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
Pastor Kittredge is fond of saying that, if you cannot see God in the everyday things of life that your faith is bound to be shaken when real suffering occurs.
We’re prone to think of the sun rising or a storm cloud passing or the seasons changing as the laws of nature. Yet, they are God’s laws and the works of creation are seen throughout Scripture as a source of praise unto God. Even in Revelation 14:7, we are going to “…worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
Do you thank God that the sun rose today? Do you see God in the regularity of the created order? Do you thank God for the rainbow in the sky as a token of His covenant with all flesh?
Yet, as we look around us, there are plenty of things that tell us that things are not as they should be. Pain, suffering, death are all around us.
These are not present because God is powerless over them.
This series is called The Genesis of Grace and Grace in Genesis. Why? Because only two chapters of Genesis didn’t require grace but everything after Genesis 3 has been grace. In Chapter 3, Adam sinned against God and plunged all of mankind into death and sin and misery. History should have stopped that day as God’s holiness and justice demanded that he destroy the creatures that raised their hands against Him in cosmic treason.
But God promised a Seed that would crush the head of the serpent and Providence has been God’s stage for the history of redemption. Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and now Joseph. History unfolded as God ordained it. Grace in the midst of the sin of His creatures.
The story will continue. A remnant will be preserved. Israel and his descendants survive starvation and history unfolds until a child is born in Bethlehem.
As we enter the season of Advent we need to be reminded that this is not a season where we celebrate Jesus’ birthday as if Jesus stands in need of us to wish him a happy birthday every year.
Rather, this is a season where we remember that all human flesh stood in utter need of a Savior. We had been plunged into sin and misery by our first parents.
We were enemies of God and alienated from our purpose as creatures.
The history of the Bible recounts the deeds of men: men and women used and being used, men and women suffering at the hands of the powerful, the weak are oppressed, and the wicked seem to flourish.
But God, all along, reminded His saints that He controls it all and is preparing a Seed that will deliver the captives.
And one quiet night, a poor man and his pregnant wife came to Bethlehem and very God of very Gods veiled himself in human flesh and was born in a feeding trough. God became man that we might taste sin and death and misery no longer. He came to die for His own.
He was to be the Seed that would crush the head of the Serpent. He was to be the Seed promised Abraham as God walked between the two halves of the sacrifice alone. He became the perfect lamb that God had promised Abraham when He held back Abraham’s arm from slaying His son. He was to be Jacob’s ladder that connected heaven and earth.
All of history, all of God’s plan, had been a stage upon which to bring the Man forward and in to our view. God had heard the cries of a Job, the cries of an Abraham, and the cries of a Joseph during the long, dark years. He had heard the prayers of His Saints and their suffering and provided a final answer in the person and work of Christ.
Men had intended only to sin. Men intended only to destroy but God had brought all of human history to His answer: Christ would redeem men to Himself and provide the meaning and purpose of history. Philosophy could not solve the mystery of God’s answer to the problem of evil and human misery. Only God could provide the answer and His final Word was Immanuel: God with us. His final answer was Jesus: God saves!
This is what Joseph saw dimly from afar. This is what allowed him to forgive his brothers. He understood that human sin was to be answered by the grace of God. Whatever man had purposed to completely destroy in his folly and darkened thought, God would overrule and bless through.
And so, Beloved, as we just celebrated a national day of Thanksgiving and enter Advent, do you have joy in your heart for all the many ways God has blessed you this year? You have life, prosperity, kids, job security, friends, and a Church family. If this is a season of rejoicing for you then thank God for your rejoicing.
Yet this season is a time of suffering for many as well.
As you consider God’s control of all things, do you yet feel sadness and brokenness at the hard providences that have afflicted your life? Have the sins of others left deep scars on your soul? Does mental or physical anguish afflict you?
Do you cry out at night, in the dark, wondering “…when will suffering end?”
This is the Body of Christ. This is an outpost of the Kingdom of God. We do not ask you to be anything more than a needy sinner. We don’t demand anything more of you than a willingness to be ministered to this season. Don’t smile for our sakes. Don’t tell yourself to be happy because the world expects it.
Christ’s call is not a call to look within for strength. Christ’s call is not a call to pick yourself up by your boot straps.
Christ’s call is simply this: Come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
Cast your cares upon Him. Cast your grief upon Him. Cry out earnestly and honestly to Him telling Him that this world is broken and the waves of its misery continue to crash against you.
God has provided the answer to the pits and white spaces of this life and that answer is Christ.
It is not purposeless. It is not hopeless.
Don’t believe what your heart tells you. Your life is not ruined. You will not forever grieve. You have not forever wrecked anything. Christ has solved the biggest problem there is by granting peace with God for those that fall at His feet because they have come to the end of themselves.
Beloved, be thankful. You heard me right. Be thankful to God.
Be thankful even in your present grief. Come to me after the Service and allow the elders and me to pray with you. Allow the elders to comfort you. Let us embrace you and weep with you over your sadness. Let us be reminded together that God has promised an end to this present suffering as we groan in the time before Christ finally puts all under His feet.
One day, maybe not in this life, but one day all will become clear and you will see the tapestry that God has woven, for Christ’s sake, which will make all things clear. For the time being, let’s walk together with God’s Word as a lamp unto our feet, and take each faltering step together.
You are not a stranger. You are not defeated. You are Christian! You have been bought with a price. You are God’s child. Hear the Apostle Paul as He summarizes God’s glorious plan of history for His own:
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.