“Revenge or restoration”
II. Vs. 1-5 The need to go to Egypt
III. Vs. 6-25 The testing of brothers
IV. Vs. 26-38 The gift of truth
We left off looking at Joseph’s two son’s names “forgetful” and “fruitful”. I believe that those names hold a secret to personal peace, “If we are to be ever fruitful in our lives we must first be forgetful”. It is that forgetfulness that is the difficult part; I’m very forgetful of the wrongs I’ve done to others but I can remember every word against me. What I need to be is forgetful of the wrongs done me and the key is to recognize how God could have chosen justly to deal with my wrongs. Jesus came not for His rights but rather for my wrongs! I have spent far too much time in my life trying to get even with those who have wronged me and not enough time getting even with those who have helped me and forgiving those who have hurt me!
II. Vs. 1-5 The need to go to Egypt
Vs. 1-5 In the last verse of chapter 41 we were told that the famine was world wide and it will be this world wide famine that will lead to the fulfillment of God’s word to Abraham in chapter 15:13 that, “your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.” God was allowing this famine to drive Abraham’s descendants away from the evil influence of the Canaanites.
It is clear by the words “Why do you look at one another?” that Jacob noticed that there was a perplexity upon his son’s faces as he mentioned their need to go to Egypt. For 20 years they had bore the secret concerning their treatment of their brother Joseph. Yet the word “Egypt” brought them back to the guilt that lay in their conscience. Someone has well said that “Conscience is the knowing part of us that realizes that God knows what we know and agrees with Him on what is right.” More often though our consciences are a sundial of our soul. “They only reveal the true time when there is direct sun light that shines upon them but in darkness it is of no use and with any artificial light upon it you can make it read any time you want it to!” One wonders if every time Benjamin asked about his brother, they saw a caravan, a pit or heard the word Egypt if their conscience was brought to the wickedness of their action? It is interesting to see how Jacob calls his son’s to action based upon hearing that there was grain in Egypt but in verse 4 can’t trust the Lord to protect his youngest son Benjamin who was now around 24 years old. Jacob has become a man of great faith but it is not in the Lord as he sees calamity at every turn. If only he was as hungry for the Lord as he was for grain he would have seen that perhaps the Lord had a great reason for all things. God was setting up the way in which he would be reunited with the son whom he thought was dead. Through our lives it is God in His sovereignty that uses the heartaches in our lives to bring us to places that we would never go on our own volition. The trip was over 200 miles long and no doubt took them several days to get there.
III. Vs. 6-25 The testing of brothers
Vs. 6-7 Joseph’s brothers knew that their success in getting grain lie in their ability to humble themselves before the Egyptian official and they did so but what they did not understand was that the official before them was none other then the brother they sold into slavery. As for Joseph, he recognized them right away but he did not understand the significance of their humility bowing before him until after wards as God caused him to remember the dream twenty years ago in chapter 37:5-8. Twenty years earlier, in defiance of God’s plan for Joseph, seen in his dreams, they sold him into slavery and it was this very act of selling him that caused them to bow before Joseph! This shows us that:
It is foolish to resist the hand of God in your life as your resistance may very well be that which causes His plans for you to come into fruition.
Secondly we need not worry at others attempts to keep us from where God attends as nothing can thwart the will of God not even the evil attentions of sinful people.
God’s wisdom and goodness are so far superior to anything that man can think or do. The Psalmist wrote in 76:10 “Human opposition only enhances your glory.” No doubt Joseph was very much unrecognizable in that 20 years had passed and the last they saw him was when he was 17 now he is 37. He looked like an Egyptian clean-cut, didn’t speak the language and had become Prime Minster from the position of a slave which would have been incomprehensible.
The phrase “spoke roughly” needs to be interpreted through the context of him acting as a stranger towards them. The words in Hebrew mean “hard things” and suggests not the tone being harsh but rather he acted in a manor of Egyptians towards those form other foreign countries. The most obvious reason is so that they would not recognize him, the second is so that he could deduce what kind of men they had become. Thus the first question is to see if they will tell the truth as to their origin.
Vs. 8-14 In these verses Joseph further tests his brothers to see what has changed in their hearts over the last twenty years. The reason for his insistence in calling them spies is to be seen in the eventual answer of the brothers concerning their father Jacob and their youngest son Benjamin both who were not present. If they were spies no one would all of one mans children to spy out a land so they told Joseph that they were all from one man. Still pressing the issue about being spies they continued to insist that they were not spies until Joseph got what he wanted to hear there was yet another brother who was with their father. Joseph now knew that both his brother and father were a live but he got them also to lie about what they had done to him. Why all the intrigue? He wanted to bring his brothers to a place of honest confession of the sin they had done in order that they could be restored. In verse 11 they said they were honest men but Joseph knew that they were not as they lied about what had happened to him. It is interesting to me to note that even in their falsehood in chapter 43:6 their father Jacob rebukes then for telling the truth about having a younger brother.
Vs. 15-17 Joseph gives them two options to prove that they were not lying:
Send one of them to go get their younger brother, which would prove that they were not spies.
Or the one that you chose could go free and never return leaving the rest to die.
What this would reveal is what they had failed at before concerning their actions towards him, that they thought of others before they thought of themselves. As they were placed in prison they no doubt reflected on the twenty-year-old cries of Joseph in the pit as they at their lunch.
Vs. 18-20 Their self-interest which produced such cruelty is mixed with mercy as what he endured for 13 years they only experience for three days. Upon the third day his words “Do this and live, for I fear God” should have brought them hope as it is Joseph’s way of saying that he believed in their God even if they did not. His demand is clear, prove that you are not spies and are honest by bringing back your brother, which based upon verse 20 in the words “and they did so” as they agreed to.
Vs. 21-24 The reality of having to leave their brother Simeon to perhaps die brought their actions of 20 years ago to the front of all their thoughts as they began to speak about it publicly for probably the first time since. The callousness of their actions has haunted them and they too have been in prison and need to be set free. The person that is going to be used to set them free from the guilt they have bore for 20 years is the same person who they placed in bondage and sold into slavery. We who have been wronged by those close to us have the opportunity by our actions to set them free. In fact, if we are not willing to do so then we show that we are not free our selves! Hear the words of Jesus in Luke 6:27-38 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
Ruben speaks up and claims that he is somewhat innocent and even told them not to do what they did towards Joseph; he did not commit the crime but he did not stop it either. He was not guilty of commission but he was guilty of omission. Joseph has a heart of “restoration” instead of one of “revenge” as he hears the words of confession and repentance from his brothers he believes it and weeps (verse 24). I’m afraid that all to often my tears are not those of broken heartedness and tenderness towards those who have done me wrong but rather anger and rage. Paul wrote to a young Pastor named Timothy and gave him this advise form personal experience, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Tim 1:15) As far as you are concerned you are the worst sinner you have ever met! Only you and God are fully aware of all the sin that lies in your heart. It is far easier to forgive other’s the debt they owe you when you recognize the huge debt that you owed the Lord! Our problem is in my over estimation of my own person “goodness” and my forgetfulness of my depravity that causes me to think of myself as being better then someone else and deserving better treatment then I have received. If I want to live in that realm and start getting what I deserve then what I deserve is eternal separation from God! I think I’ll chose to forgive how about you!
Simeon is chosen to remain behind because Ruben was absent and he was the next oldest and the one in charge of the others. The sacks of grain are full and each is given enough for the journey home but Joseph again gives demonstrates God’s grace upon his life by returning the money they brought to purchase the grain. I find that God’s goodness towards me is a stronger tool of personal discipline then any other things. As Romans 2:4 says, “the goodness of God leads you to repentance”.
IV. Vs. 26-38 The gift of truth
Vs. 26-28 One of the signs of true repentance is seen in their reaction to the good fortune of receiving the money back plus the grain to which it was suppose to purchase. They could have laughed at the stupidity of the Prime Minister but instead there is fear and a feeling of unworthiness. This is the first mention of God in their lives and it is in questioning their good fortune in light of their sin. No doubt they saw this as misfortune as they perceived that they would be viewed not only as spies but as thieves as well. It is interesting to see in Joseph, his brothers and his father Jacob three different responses to adversity:
Vs. 21-22, 28 “What is this that God has done to us?”: His brothers see adversity as punishment from an angry God who was getting even with them for their sin. There are a great many times that I to have viewed my circumstances as retribution for my many sins. The truth of the matters is that the things that come upon our lives are designed to draw us too Him not away from Him!
Vs. 36 “You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.”: Jacob sees adversity as some fickle hand of fate that has come upon him because of the stupidity of others. Things happen to him not to draw him nearer to the Lord and not because of his own failures but rather as some mystical circumstances brought about by the negative energy of others.
Vs. 39:21, 50:20 “the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy…you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good”: Joseph viewed his adversity from the perspective of what he knew to be true about God. Because of this what he went through was for his benefit not punishment or fate. It was the gentle and gracious hand of a loving Father who was drawing him closer to Him. Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 4:17-18 that, “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Vs. 29-38 The brothers come back and tell their father what took place in Egypt, then they open up all the grain bags and see their money returned and they are all afraid of the goodness in spite of their sinfulness. Apparently Jacob thinks less of Simeon and Ruben’s two sons then he does his beloved Benjamin as their will be no bringing his youngest boy as proof. Jacob says that he could not live without Benjamin but when Abraham faced this with his only son Isaac he showed that he could not live with out the Lord. Jacob was singing that all to familiar song that we all like to sing at times, “No one loves me, this I know, for all my trials tell me so!” How about it what song is being sung in your heart?