If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Genesis 45. All along as we've studied the life of Joseph, we've said the overarching theme of God's providence is apparent, though Joseph may be the principal human actor, the whole of the story shows God as the one who is the prime mover in the life of Joseph. The story tells us how Joseph's family wound up in Egypt. The story tells us how in God's providence He would make His people the tribe of Israel into a great nation, but the story shows so much more.
In fact, in the passage we're going to see tonight we will see just a glimpse of the manifold wisdom of God. How God in His promise and in His providence can do many things at once. He has a purpose, He has revealed it in His promise. He's revealed it as far back as Genesis 12 and Genesis 15, and many of those promises are going to be set forth in this passage tonight, at least in partial fulfillment. But in His providence, He does many things at once, big things and small. Things that have to do with the redemption of all mankind, as well as with this one little family, and the problems that it was facing. So when we come to Genesis 45, we come to a glorious account of a broken family's reconciliation. And the last passage we looked at in Genesis 44, Judah, in response to some soul-searching questions and interrogation that Joseph had engaged in with the brothers, had given a tremendous response in which he showed Joseph that he was a different man than the man who had thrown him into a dark pit and left him for dead; and then had eventually had sold him into slavery to the Midianites, to the Ishmaelites. And eventually into the land of Egypt. His heart was different. He was a man who cared about Joseph's brother, Benjamin. He was a man who cared about his word. And more than that, he was a man who cared about his father. The brothers had shown a callous lack of concern for their father. The impact that the loss of Joseph was going to have on him, when twenty years before they had gone back and told their father a gigantic lie covering up the wicked deeds that they had done. Now all of this is going to come together. So let's attend God's word here in Genesis 45.
Our Lord and our God, we bless You for the truth of Your word. We ask now that you would show us this truth, and that our hearts would embrace it, and be taught by it, and comforted by it, and strengthened by it, and changed by it, and be given yet another cause to praise You for Your goodness. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.
This passage, as if the whole of the story of Jacob doesn't, but this passage in particular gives us an unmistakable presentation of God's providence. Moses “out-Calvins” Calvin in Genesis 45. And he also shows us the pastoral use of the truth of God's providence. So often we think of God's providence, God's predestination, and God's election as a high, as a mysterious doctrine that common folk just can't understand; best left to the theologian; best not thought about by common folk. But as far as Moses is concerned, that is absolutely incorrect. It is precisely the doctrine of God's providence that enables us sometimes just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and go on in the midst of difficult times. So in this passage Moses not only shows us God's providence and God's manifold wisdom, but he shows us the use of that truth of God's providence for us day to day. I'd like you to see three things in the passage. You see that the passage breaks into three parts, fairly naturally. .
If you look at verses 1 through 15 you see the account of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers and the reconciliation that occurs there. Then if you look at verses 16 through 24 you see the second section of the chapter. In that section we see Pharaoh's generosity and response. He's not a ruler who was grudging toward Joseph or to his family. We could imagine some rulers who would not have taken kindly to Joseph's family showing up at his land. But Pharaoh shows an incredible generosity, and that's described there in verses 16 through 24. And also Joseph's final gifts and his final word of instruction and exhortation is recorded in that second section. And then if you look at verses 25 to the end of the chapter, you see the report that Joseph's brothers, Jacob's sons, give to Jacob. And you see this faith-full response of Jacob to the message which he has received from his son, Joseph. Let's look at the passage then together.
I. God works all things for good for His people.
In verses 1 through 15 you couldn't find a better theme than to go right to Romans 8:28 and lift out Paul's words, “God works all things for good.” This passage shows us that God works all things for good for His people.
Joseph shows a deep and open affection for his brothers in this passage. Judah had been very transparent in his response. He had confessed his sins, he had confessed his sense of God's judgment on him. He had confessed his genuine concern for Benjamin; and look in light of the harsh things that his father had continued to say to them during their trip down to Egypt, you could see how a residue of bitterness towards Benjamin and towards Jacob could have continued amongst the sons. And yet we see a real tenderness towards Benjamin and a tender concern for their father. In fact, they were ready to become slaves in Egypt rather than harm their father again. And Joseph saw that heart, and it awoke a tenderness and an affection in him. What is the secret of the affection? What's the ultimate secret of this affection which Joseph managed to maintain towards his brother? What had quenched his bitterness? What had changed this man from being happy that God had caused him to forget the household of his father to now trembling with tears in the presence of his brothers, excited about the prospect of reconciliation. What is the secret? Well, there are two secrets in this passage. One is proximate; one is ultimate. The proximate secret is the changed hearts of his brothers. He had seen the difference that God's grace had made in the lives of these men. Aalders says this: “Judah's plea had a tremendous emotional impact on Joseph. He now saw clearly how much his brothers had changed since that fateful day when they sold him as a slave into Egypt without any concern for his father's broken heart. Now they were ready to pay any price to prevent the grief that would be heaped on their aged father if Benjamin did not return.” And this touches Joseph. But that's not the ultimate source of his lack of business, is it? It's not the ultimate source of his continued affection for his brothers. For we've already seen the heart of Jacob begin to open up towards his brothers even before this culminating moment of repentance.
And of course the secret is found in God's providence, as we’ll see in verses 4 through 8. But first, I'd like you to look at verse 3. Joseph does two things immediately. Having sent his servants out of the room — and by the way he's not ashamed of what he's about to do. Joseph is not ashamed of his weeping, and he's not ashamed of the disclosure that he's going to make. The reason that he sends his servants out of the room is again to protect his brothers. You can imagine if word comes back to Pharaoh. Now by the way, the reason that Joseph is in Egypt is because these lousy brothers sold him into slavery. I imagine that the reception of Pharaoh to those brothers would have been a little more icy had he found out that the reason that Joseph was there in the first place. His favorite, Joseph, who had saved Egypt and was the ruler of his land and his place, had been sold into slavery by the wicked deeds of his brothers. And so for the protection of his brothers, for the privacy of the moment, Joseph sends all the servants out, and he reveals himself. I am Joseph.
And the very next thing the does is he says, “Is my father still alive?” Now perhaps you remember that he has already asked this question of his brothers, and you’re asking yourself why does Joseph immediately ask them this question again? He's already asked them if their father is alive. And they've already told him, “Yes, father is alive.” This is an example of how the idea of living and life is so often used in the Old Testament, indeed throughout the Bible. Life is not just having a heart beat. Life is being alive and well. He's asking about the health and the well-being of his father. Is his father completely senile now? Does his father even recognize them? He's not just asking does dad have a heartbeat, he wants to know if dad is still going to be able to have a relationship with him when he sees him. He wants to know if his father is going to be able to recognize his son. He wants to know if his father is strong enough to make a journey down to Egypt to see him. He wants to know how well his father is. That's the first thing that they see.
And by the way friends, I cannot help but think that one of the things that prepares the brothers for the repentance that they’re going to have to do, and believe me, they've got some repenting to do in this passage, is to see the heart of Joseph for his father and to recall the heart of the father for Joseph. And isn't that always the way with penitent sinners? We see the heart of the father for the son, and we see the heart of the son for the father? And we say, “My Lord, and my God, what have I done? What have I done that this penalty would be visited upon the Son of Your love, and how much do You love that You would give Your Son for me.” The sinner sees the heart of the father for the son and the heart of the son for the father, and it woos him back to God. And these brothers see something of heart of Joseph for his father.
And now in verses 4 through 8 we learn how Joseph had conquered bitterness, and how he had become reconciled to his brothers. Here's the secret. He rested in the doctrine of providence. He believed in the providence of God. Notice how he speaks three times. Three times he emphasizes and re-emphasizes, and re-emphasizes the sovereignty of God. Three times he says it is God who has done this. First in verse 5. “God sent me before you.” This is the first speech of Joseph to his brothers after he has revealed himself. And the first thing he wants to talk about is the providence of God. Verse 5. “God sent me before you.” Verse 7. “God sent me before you.” Verse 8. “Now therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God.” Notice the emphatic nature of that? “It was not you, it was God.” No Arminian could say that. No Arminian could possibly say that. This passage is the waterloo of Arminianism. I don't know how an Arminian reads this passage. 'Not you. God sent me here.' Over and over Joseph emphasizes this. Not only to indicate that it was precisely the providence of God that kept him from going crazy; but to comfort his brothers because he knew in this very moment that they were racked with guilt.
You know, Joseph's response even shows us how we deal with repentant sinners. He knew their hearts were breaking before the Lord. He didn't have to turn the screws any further. Everything that Joseph says to them in this passage is designed to cultivate a repentance that was already there. If they were still unrepentant, I am sure that Joseph would have come with harsher words at this point. But they were repentant; their hearts were opening up before the Lord and before Joseph. They were stunned. They were feeling guilt, the weight of guilt. And all his words are words of comfort. And what does he do?
He points not to their misdeeds, to their wickedness, but he points to the overriding providence of God. And not only to the providence of God, but to the wisdom of the providence of God. God is not arbitrary. You know that's one of the things that our Arminian friends think that we Calvinists believe. They think that we Calvinists believe that God just goes off and does any kind of crazy stuff he wants to do. But Joseph says, look at how wise is what God did in His providence. And again, three times in verse 5, verse 7 and verse 8 he says, God did what He did for a reason. Look what he says in verse 5: “God sent me to preserve life.” Verse 7. “God sent me to preserve for you a remnant in the earth and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.” Verse 8. “God has made me a father to Pharaoh and Lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. God had a purpose in what he was doing.” Now, of course, already in the story, and we’ll see it again, the ultimate purpose of God sending Joseph down into Egypt was to reveal his own glory. To reveal his own glory to the Egyptians; to reveal his glory in the life of Joseph; to reveal his glory to the brothers of Joseph; to reveal his glory to Israel. God's glory is the ultimate reason. But purpose, manifold wisdom, glory and power in what God does in His providence. And it is this providence that enables Joseph to overcome his bitterness and to love his brothers.
Now in verses 9 through 13 you see that this belief in providence, this embrace of providence allowed Joseph to be magnanimous in his reconciliation with his brothers. This passage displays for us a glorious reconciliation in a family. And I'd like you to see five things from verse 9 to verse 13 that happens here in Joseph's speech. First of all, he says, I want you to do this. I want you to go back to my father, and I want you to tell him that his son is the lord of Egypt. Actually, that's not what he says. He says I'd like you to go back, and I'd like you to tell my father that God made me the lord of Egypt. The first subject of the first sentence that Joseph asks his brothers to reveal to his father is God. Joseph is radically God-centered and God-focused and God-trusting. And he wants his father to know that the exultation that he has experienced is exultation that God has accomplished. And then he says come see him.
And then in verse 10, the second thing he says to his brothers is all of you will live with me, near me, in the best of the land of Egypt. He shows great consideration for their provision.
Thirdly, in verse 11 he says, look, I’ll provide everything you need because we're only in the second year of a seven-year famine. You won't make it, and I’ll provide everything you need.
Fourthly, in verse 12 he says, look, brothers, your eyes are not deceiving you. The voice that you hear is indeed the voice of your brother, Joseph. I'm really talking to you. This is really me.
And then fifthly, in verse 13, he says hurry and tell dad that you have seen me, and you've seen my glory. The dream has come true and bring him here.
Why does Joseph emphasize that they are to tell his father about his rule and his glory in Egypt. Is it because Joseph is still the prideful, slightly un-self-aware man that he was more than twenty years ago? No. It's because he wants his father to remember God's revelation in the dream. What had God said? God had said He was going to exult his son. And Joseph wants his father to remember the dream and to realize, Lord God, you have brought this dream to pass in the most amazing way. We couldn't have ever dreamt that this is the way you are going to fulfill the dream of the grain bowing down to my son, Joseph, and the stars and the sun and the moon bowing to my son, Joseph, the ruler of Egypt. And Joseph knows that's going to be hard for his father to take in. So he emphasizes to them, you must tell them of the glory that you have seen of my glory in Egypt. Because it's a fulfillment of the revelation of God.
And then in verses 14 and 15, we see one of the sweetest reconciliations in all of Scripture. Joseph falls on his full brother's neck, Benjamin, and he weeps. And then something very special happens. To this point we know that the brothers have been stunned. They haven't been able to say anything. I can't imagine all the thoughts that are running through their minds all at once. And naturally they had been unable to speak. And finally Moses tells us that they were able to talk with him. And, of course, Moses is saying now that the stunning aspect of those first moments of this revelation are now wearing off, and they are able to speak. But I think Moses is saying much more. Would you turn back with me to Genesis 37. In Genesis 37, verse 4, Moses tells us that there was so much hatred, there was so much loathing, there was so much bitterness, there was so much division, there was so much tension in this family that these brothers could not even speak to one another on friendly terms. And what Moses is telling you in Genesis 45:15 is that God in His grace enabled these brothers to talk to with one another in love. It is an incredible reconciliation that the only wise God has worked. Only a full embrace of God's providence can enable us to embrace Him and trust Him in the vicissitudes of life. As we embrace his providence, we are enabled to face anything. Joseph is spared of a life that could have been one gigantic ball of bitterness, because he trusted in what God was doing. And he trusted in what God was doing in the good times and in the bad times. In trouble and in joy.
II. There is a dark cloud, almost invisible but there nevertheless, in this bright providence.
Then we look at verses 16 through 24. We see the generosity of Pharaoh and the gift and the final exhortation of Joseph to his brothers before they return to Canaan. I want to just make one comment about this passage. This is not how you would have written anti-Egyptian propaganda. You know, one day, young folks, you’re going to go off and you’re going go to a college religion class, and the teacher is going to do redaction criticism of Genesis. And he's going to explain about how all of this was written as a diatribe, and it was all part of the building Israeli nationalism, most of it is myth, it's all made up, etc, etc, etc. And he's going to say, of course, this was all anti-Egyptian propaganda to justify the warfare of Israel against Egypt and la, la, la, la, la, la, la. Why would you ever write about a Pharaoh being so nice to the children of Israel when they came down in Egypt if your whole point was to try and skew your people's view of Egypt? This is utterly realistic. I mean, you would never say something nice about your enemy unless this really happened. This is yet another proof of the inspiration and the inerrancy of scripture. If you were trying to put the Egyptians in the worst light that you possibly could, knowing that you were going to be in bondage to them for 400 years, you would never have concluded the stories about just how generous this Pharaoh was to the children of Israel. But Moses knows that it's true, and so he writes it down. And so he once again gives us a testimony to the truthfulness of God's word. But even in this kindness of Pharaoh, we run into a turning point of a different kind.
You know there is a dark cloud behind this silver lining here in Genesis 45. There is a dark cloud almost invisible, but there nevertheless in this bright providence. In fact, you see two dark clouds in this passage. The first dark cloud is that even in this kindness of Pharaoh in inviting the sons of Israel down into Egypt, we see a turning point. This is the beginning of the fulfillment of Genesis 15:13, and it's going to end up in 400 plus years of slavery. God's providence leads to God's providence. And this joyous and happy providence of Genesis 45 is setting up years of suffering, but they are meaningful years. For it is in the context of being strangers in a strange land that Israel will be a pure race, unmixed with the Canaanites because they could never mix with the Egyptians who themselves had their own desires for a pure bloodline. And so God plops them right down in the middle of Egypt where they can't mix with the nations in order that he can preserve them pure his people. And at the right time brings them into the land of Canaan. God's providence prepares for God's providence. And even in this happy time, he is preparing for a difficult but meaningful providence in the future of his people. Joseph returns good for evil.
You see in verse 22, another one of the poignant verses of this passage, whereas his brothers had stolen that fabulous coat that his father had given him so many years ago. Do you see what he sends them back to Canaan with? Garments. That's what the translation that we just read says. It's very likely that these garments are festive robes of fine Egyptian linen. Can you imagine his brothers receiving two or three of those festive robes from Joseph? The one that they had taken the coat of many colors from and left him for dead. You see the heart of this man in the grip of the grace of God and trusting in the providence of God. Joseph, for very good reason, then goes on to exhort them not to quarrel along the way. You know, this would have been the perfect time for some self-justification and some blame fixing. Reuben. You know, I told you not to do this. He's the ruler of Egypt. You’re all at fault; if you had just listened to me. Judah, you’re the one who's going to tell dad, I’ll tell you that. Don't quarrel on the way, brothers. They had some repenting to do, and it was wise counsel from a younger brother. Don't quarrel along the way.
Here's the second dark cloud, isn't it? The brothers were not done with their repentance and humiliation. Can you imagine what the disclosure of this full story would have been like to have to be the son who stands before father, Jacob, and says, dad, we need to tell you about something that happened twenty years ago. Something that we did. We’re not told. We’re spared that scene by Moses. In his wisdom and in accordance with the providence of God, but we see here God's providence preparing for providence. God's providence preparing for the repentance of the brothers and for the suffering of the children of Israel. God's providence is wise. He knows what he's doing.
III. Israel believes the revelation of God and responds in faith.
And then finally in verses 25 through 28 we see these happy tidings of Jacob's sons to their father. And their father's response, full of faith. Israel, in this passage, is really tested. He's tested to believe the revelation of God, the goodness of God, the providence of God, and to respond in faith, and he comes through, even in his old age, with flying colors. We’re not told about the humble pie that the brothers had to eat, but we are told about the fundamental message that they brought to their father, Jacob. They announced to Jacob, and by the way, Jacob's name as Jacob is repeated twice in the passage; in verse 25 and in verse 27. They announce to Jacob that Joseph is alive, and that he is the ruler over Egypt, and he can't believe it. It overtakes him. He faints. He's stunned, he's dazed. He just can't take it all in. And then he hears the words that Joseph had spoken to them, and he sees the wagons that Joseph had sent. He hears the word reminding him of God's revelation and the promise inherent in that revelation, and he sees the evidence. as it were a foretaste, a down payment of that reality in the wagons. You know, that's exactly how the sacraments work. God promises, and He knows our faith faints. We say, surely God this is just too good to be true. And in the sacraments he gives us a little foretaste of just how good it's going to be. And that's how it's going to be in the indwelling of the spirit. Isn't that what Paul says in Ephesians 1? That the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us, the sealing of the Holy Spirit in us is a down payment, it's a deposit guaranteeing what God is going to do in the future. It's a foretaste of all the things He's going to do then. And so Joseph tells his brothers, speak these words to my father and show him the wagons. And Jacob hears the words, and he sees the wagons, and he believes.
And then we're told that Israel, look at verse 28, not Jacob, but Israel says it is enough. My son, Joseph, is still alive. I will go and see him before I die. We should not underestimate the faith that is being exercised by Jacob here. Jacob is now being asked by his son, Joseph, to leave the land of promise. He's being asked to leave the land of promise at an advanced age, knowing that he will not return again. It's enough for me to go and see my son, Joseph, and then I’ll die. In faith, he undertakes a very difficult journey at his age, but he does it because he has been reminded of the revelation of God in the dream to his son. He has heard the words of his son. He has seen God's providence. He has seen the evidence of it in the wagons. So, in faith he responds to God's revelation and the providential confirmation of it, and he takes out on the journey.
But his words are precious aren't they? Because, he says, you know it's enough for me to know that my son is still alive. He's thankful to God in his heart. So we see this great passage which shows us a great reconciliation between a family that had been torn apart; but more than that it shows us God's wise providence, and it shows us why we need to trust in God's wise providence. Let's pray.
Our Heavenly Father, we have tasted of Your providence in our own lives. We have known things which were so bitter that we thought they would turn us inside out and destroy us. And we have known things that were so full of joy that we could not contain it. And we have known things that were so confusing that we thought our mind would explode. We have known grief so great and so dark, that we never thought we would see the daylight again. But in this passage you have reminded us that Your providence is good and wise. And we pray that by Your Spirit, you would help us to trust in it; not just to trust in it, but to glory in it, and to glorify You for it. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.