You Sold Me, But God Sent Me

Horatio Spafford knew loss and he knew adversity. Then he knew both loss and adversity at the very same time! He knew pain and suffering and heartache. But he knew something else, too. In but just a few minutes, written on a Chicago hotel stationary, at the lowest and loneliest point in his life were these words: When peace like a river attendeth my way; when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, it is well, it is well with my soul.

At this moment of preaching Genesis 45, I am thinking about a young pastor who took his own life just a few weeks ago in a battle with depression and anxiety. I am also thinking about that old pastor preaching this morning tired, not because of age or labor, but discouragement. I am thinking about those who are feeling overwhelmed; those who are grieving and hurting; those who are in a loveless marriage; those who cannot stand the thought of facing today, let alone tomorrow. And I am thinking, how? How does a Christian overcome these all too common and real things?

It is unexpected. But the answer lies in Genesis 45. The answer lies in watching Joseph…forgive his brothers. How was he able to forgive his brothers?

Then Joseph Could Not Control Himself

Listen to verse one. “Then Joseph could not control himself.” This is a man; a man’s man. A powerful man who is about to demand that everyone leave the room except eleven shepherds from the countryside. And as soon as the massive doors of his living room are shut, he will weep aloud (v. 2). How loud? Listen to verse two. “And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.” Those who have left the room will hear this cry and those in the house next door will hear this cry. But most importantly, those eleven shepherds, Joseph’s brothers, will not only hear it, but see it. Now pay close attention to verse three. “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.” Verse three is more important than we think. First, the brothers are speechless. Mark that down.

Back in Genesis 37 where this family history begins, Joseph is just seventeen years old. And out of thirteen children, Joseph is the object of their father’s affection (37:3). And to show this affection, Jacob gave Joseph the fanciest of all coats. The brothers have never received a coat like this one. In fact, Reuben the oldest, is the only brother to have ever received a new coat. The rest of the brothers only ever received hand-me-downs. But notice what happened when Joseph was given this coat. “But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him” (37:4). The brothers were speechless. Fast forward some thirty years and again, the brothers are speechless.

And, secondly, what is foremost on Joseph’s mind? Is dad still alive? Now, he has asked this of them more than once and each time was given the same answer: yes (cf. 43:7; 43:27). It seems that Joseph is more concerned to know if dad is healthy and of a sound mind. I wonder, why? A third and quick observation to make is that the brothers are dismayed. These brothers are paralyzed by fear and are in disbelief.

And so, through his own tears – and do you know what it is like to see through tears? It is hard! Through his own tears, he calls his brothers to come near. And they came near. This drawing near is rather precious (45:4). And again, Joseph mentions that he is their brother Joseph. To help jog their memories and to prove his identity he adds, “whom you sold into Egypt.” But now witness Joseph’s quick compassion. “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here.” Notice that I read the word distressed, but most translations have the word grieved. This is just trying to capture the emotions that must be on their faces as they drew near to the second most powerful man in the world, who is most assuredly their brother! Their heart rates are zooming and they are worried. And Joseph wants to calm them and not because of how things turned out for him!

Keep looking at verse five. Why could Joseph no longer control himself? Part of the reason is what he just heard from Judah and saw in Judah and the rest of his brothers in the previous twenty verses. He saw changed men, willing to give themselves to a life of slavery in place of their little brother Benjamin. He saw changed men, unwilling to break their father’s heart yet again. He saw changed men, who loved their littlest brother simply because he was their brother. But the other part of the reason is an answer to how Joseph is able to forgive his brothers.

You Sold Me, But God Sent Me

Genesis 45:5 is the key verse and is the reason that the brothers should not be worried, should not grieve and should not be angry with themselves for selling Joseph into slavery. But keep in mind, they did an evil thing. They did sell Joseph into slavery. And here it is: “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” You sold me, but God sent me. Joseph will explain this again at the end of their story in Genesis 50:20. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” In other words, God works out his will, his plan and his purposes even in the face of evil and man’s evil actions. When evil and loss and adversity are an obstacle, God’s will and God’s plan and God’s purpose will not be thwarted. We see this in Genesis 3. We see this in the history of Job. We see this at the cross (see Acts 2). And it is here in this history, the generations of Jacob. And this is how Joseph was able to forgive. This encouraged and enabled Joseph to forgive.

In these few verses, Genesis 45:5-13, Joseph mentions God by name, his hand and his activity through it all, five times. This is what held his view through it all. It is like Joseph is saying that when peace like a river came his way or when sorrows like sea billows rolled, whatever his lot – the pit, the prison or the palace, God taught him to know that it was well, it was well with his soul. And what makes a soul well no matter the lot? Not merely that God works out his will, his plan, his purpose even in the face of evil, but what makes a soul well is knowing who God is. This is what has been happening in Genesis. We see it in Genesis 1. He is the Creator God, the God of creation. He is the God who sees and looks after me (Genesis 16:13). He is the God who listens (Genesis 18:20). And He is merciful and gracious (Genesis 18:22-26). He is the God who is with me (Genesis 21:22). He is the God who keeps me (Genesis 28:20). And he is God Almighty who is able and who is willing to do abundantly more than I could ever ask or imagine (Genesis 43:14).

This is the God Joseph knew and how he was both encouraged and enabled to forgive his brothers and to be forgiving. And the question is, how might I know this God? And by the way, he desires to be your God (Exodus 6:7). I want us together to listen closely to four verses. “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7). God has taken the initiative and has made himself known. Now listen to John 1:14. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The words grace and truth are the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament words steadfast love and faithfulness. The knowledge of who God is, is fully realized in the person of Jesus Christ. And now listen to Jesus’ own prayer as he faced the glory in the suffering at the cross. “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). And the question is, do you know Him? This is the how to our big question. And in the how, you are more than able to face tomorrow because “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”” And we can then say, “Surely he has taught us to know!”

After That His Brothers Talked With Him

And watch this! It is Genesis 45:15. “And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.” The is the effect of it all! The is the effect of a person whose view is being held by who God is and how God works in the face of loss and adversity and pain and suffering and heartache. His brothers, twice speechless, now could not stop talking with him. And what did they speak of? I am going to take a wild guess and say it started something like this: How great is our God! Or maybe even, amazing grace, how sweet the sound!

But I want us to notice Genesis 45:9. Before the brothers are unable to stop talking with Joseph, Joseph has this one request. “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.’” The first sentence that Joseph needs and wants his dad to hear from his brothers, is what God has done. God is the subject of this first sentence!

But Dad Did Not Believe

Pharaoh catches wind that these eleven men are Joseph’s brothers. Now, he does not know the whole back story, but with much joy he commands Joseph to have his brothers load their wagons and go home and bring back themselves and their dad to Egypt. And he sent loads of gifts – good gifts and donkeys and food. And when they return, Pharaoh has promised to give them the best of the land of Egypt (45:16-23). And here is something interesting. Joseph gives his brothers a change of clothes, perhaps really fancy clothes, but he gives Benjamin five times as many fancy clothes. I wonder what this is reminiscent of? And he tells his brothers to not quarrel on the way home (45:24).

And here is what I want to get to. The brothers get home with all these wagons full of stuff. The first thing out of their mouths, to dad, is that Joseph is still alive and ruler over all of Egypt. Watch verse twenty-six. Dad does not believe them. Why? Is it because he knows his sons’ true character? No; it is because he had not yet heard the words of Joseph. What are those words? It is Genesis 45:9. And it is not merely that Joseph is alive, but it is what God has done. And it is who God is. And it pricks Jacob’s knowledge of who God is. And he realizes in this moment that God has been faithful to his word, his promises, those two dreams! And watch what happens. “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” (45:27). The word of the Lord revives the soul! Or, God too has taught Jacob to know!

And we must end with Jacob’s response. “It is enough!” This word enough, could also be translated as abundance. It is like Jacob is saying, “God has done abundantly!”

And so the Christian presses on. The darkness may last longer than hoped. Things may grow even more overwhelming. But we take heart. God is God and he will abundantly do his will, his plan and his purpose.

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God Has Found Out Our Sin

I have a most favorite cup. I like the shape of it. I like the size of it. I like the feel of it. And I like the look of it. My most favorite cup is crimson red with white letters forming two words: Indiana Hoosiers. I drink out of it every Sunday morning and every evening at dinner. And although I possess four of these cups, I really do not like to share them. Oh, I will allow my family to use a cup or two, but I keep my eye on them and the cup. But guests, well, they are not given these cups. And each cup is stored carefully, in pairs, in the same spot, on the same shelf in the same cabinet…always.

Genesis 44 is about a cup. It was a most favorite cup. This most favorite cup was silver. Oh, and it was truly one of a kind. But most important about this cup is that without it, there is no Genesis 44. And we need Genesis 44.

But Joy Comes With The Morning

As we begin, I want us to write down something, something to engrave on our minds and on our hearts. Here it is: joy comes with the morning. Genesis 43 and Genesis 44 and Genesis 45, those three chapters, are all part of something, something big and something wonderful. Now these three chapters, we know, are part of the closing section of Genesis called the generations of Jacob. And by now we should have pretty well rehearsed what are the generations of Jacob (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah; Dan, Naphtali; Gad, Asher; Issachar, Zebulun; Dinah; Joseph and Benjamin). But out of these thirteen kids, only two are given much attention. Joseph is given a lot of attention. Of these final fourteen chapters, thirteen are pretty much all about him. This leaves one chapter in which there is no mention of Joseph, but just his brother Judah. We asked many weeks ago, why is that? Why do Joseph and Judah matter so much to this record of this family?

Genesis 43 and Genesis 44 and Genesis 45 are part of something and are part of something that involves Joseph and Judah and their brothers. What is that something? Biblical restoration when relationships have been broken. It reminds me, and means so much to me, of one of the first things that Paul pleads with the local church in Corinth. May there be no divisions among you (1 Corinthians 1:10). Jesus preached to his disciples the importance of biblical restoration (Matthew 5:22-24; Matthew 18). We see in Genesis 45 these brothers and this broken relationship restored (vv. 4-15). And when it is restored, Joseph falls upon his little brother’s neck and weeps and Benjamin weeps. And then Joseph kisses all of his brothers and weeps. There was forgiveness. But how did it all happen?

It happened after their dad prayed. In Genesis 43, as Jacob gets ready to send his sons back to Egypt to buy a little food, he prays for them. And as Genesis 43 begins to unfold, we get a glimpse that God in answer to Jacob’s prayer is doing abundantly more than Jacob could have asked or imagined. Listen to this father’s prayer. “May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin” (43:14). Who is that other brother? I am sure Jacob is thinking about Simeon, but it is interesting that he is unnamed. And it is because God will do more than imagined. Joseph, too, is the other brother.

But we are talking about how to get to Genesis 45 and restoration. It starts with prayer and here it will happen after this dad prayed. The next thing that takes place and it is in answer to that prayer is hospitality. Joseph has his brothers ushered to his home. And it is in his home that Joseph will shower his brothers with hospitality. He puts on a feast and in that feast boiling compassion is demonstrated (43:30).

There are two things I want to point out regarding this hospitality. First, part of what Joseph is doing is trying to figure out his brothers. And this pours over into Genesis 44. In Genesis 44, he will still be trying to figure out, testing, his brothers. Are these the same kinds of men from thirty years ago? Have they been treating Benjamin as they treated Joseph? He begins to test this by treating Benjamin with more favor than the rest. He ordered that Benjamin be given five times as many portions as the other brothers (43:34). But also in this hospitality, Joseph seeks a place to weep. Now I love this; Genesis 43 is the afternoon and evening and night before Genesis 44. And in that afternoon and evening and night before Genesis 44, Joseph weeps. Listen to Psalm 30:5b. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Genesis 44 takes place in the morning (44:3)! And what happens in the morning? What happens in Genesis 44? Repentance which always leads to joy (Genesis 45)! And this is all to emphasize that we need repentance.

What is Repentance?

In short, repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning toward God. Listen to Romans 2:4. “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness [hint: hospitality] and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” The gospel, that good news which causes great joy is about Jesus the Christ and Jesus preached repentance (cf. Matthew 4:17). Charles Spurgeon defined repentance as “a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved.”

And do we see, even a hint of repentance in Genesis 44? Yes! It begins in Genesis 44:16. “God has found out the guilt of your servants” (cf. Numbers 32:23). And for what are these brothers guilty?

It Is About That Silver Cup

If not for Joseph’s favorite cup, we do not get to Genesis 44:16.  As the chapter begins, Joseph decides to let his brothers, called “the men”, return home. But first, before they awake, he has his steward fill each man’s sack with food, as much as a man can carry. And to put any and all money that the men brought to purchase food back in these same sacks. And to be placed in the sack of the youngest brother whose name is Benjamin, is that silver cup, Joseph’s favorite cup. The steward does as Joseph commands (44:1-2).

Then comes the morning (v. 3). And what comes with the morning? The brothers were sent away with their donkeys and their rather heavy sacks. And after not making it very far, here comes that steward. Stop! He yells. “Why you have you repaid evil for good?” Keep in mind that this is the plan and all a ruse. Joseph is testing, still testing his brothers and it is for good. It is for repentance. This shocks the brothers for they thought they left on really good terms with the man. The steward accuses the men of having taken Joseph’s favorite cup (44:3-5).

We know the brothers did not take the cup. And we know that the brothers know that they did not take the cup. But one of them is in possession of the cup. So, the brothers in agreement and in full confidence of their innocence tell the steward to search them out. “Whichever of your servants is found with it shall die, and we also will be my lord’s servants.” The steward agrees, but with a counter proposal. Only the man found with the cup will be taken into slavery, “the rest of you shall be innocent” (44:6-9) Keep in mind that Joseph was sold into slavery by these brothers for twenty shekels of silver. And whose idea was that? Judah. Here one brother will be taken into slavery over a silver cup. The men agree. The steward searches each man’s sack beginning with the oldest down to the youngest. He comes to Benjamin. As of yet, no cup has been found. The brothers are feeling good until Benjamin’s sack is opened. There is food. There is money. There is a silver cup. At this the brothers tore their clothes. It is reminiscent of Jacob when Joseph was reported lost. He, too, tore his clothes (37:34).

What will these brothers do? Will they do as they did thirty years ago and leave Benjamin to slavery in Egypt? Will they take their money and more importantly, their freedom and return home? This is great. Every brother loaded his donkey and returned…to Egypt (44:13).

God Has Found Out Our Sin

Notice verse fourteen. Judah is singled out among his brothers. “Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house.” From here on out, Judah is the one that does all the talking. Why is that? Remember a couple of things. He is the one who came up with the idea to sell Joseph into slavery. He witnessed firsthand the heartbreak of his father he especially caused. He tried to console his father, but it was refused and rejected. So, Judah left home. Then there is Genesis 38 when Judah changes (v. 26).

The brothers again bow before Joseph. It is here that Judah confesses in finding that cup, “God has found out our guilt” (44:16). Another word for guilt is sin. But what are these brothers guilty of, truly? What is Judah getting at? It is not the cup, for these brothers really are innocent regarding the cup. This cup has brought out their guilt which they have bore for thirty years. It is the guilt of hurting their dad, hurting and betraying their brother. After thirty years, their guilt is brought to light.

Joseph will not relent. He still tests them with freedom. Benjamin will be taken into slavery and the brothers can go in peace back to their dad. Will they take it? Will they take their freedom and money and be content to breaking their dad once more? Judah will not relent (44:18-34). He cannot stand the thought of facing his dad with this heartbreak again. He will not do it! Joseph hears all of it. And hear what happens. It is verse thirty-three. “Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers.” Judah, the guilty, is giving his life in place of Benjamin, the innocent. There is the repentance. The true identity of these brothers, the transformation, has been revealed. In Genesis 45, Joseph cannot take it anymore. He will excuse his servants so that he may weep before his brothers. And he will reveal his true identity. And together they will look forward to the greatest family reunion!

But there is something better. We need repentance. In God’s kindness he sent his Son Jesus the Christ as a propitiation for our sins. Jesus Christ, who is completely innocent, is put forth as the substitute. He gave his life in place of ours! Jesus the innocent gave his life in place of us the guilty (cf. Isaiah 53:4-12). “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). But do not stop there. Keep going to 2 Corinthians 6:1-2. “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

And so it is in the restoration of our relationship with God, there must be repentance. God showers his kindness upon us and that kindness is the face and life of Jesus Christ. Repentance is not merely for the unsaved, but also the saved. We need, daily, repentance (cf. 1 John 1:9). And so it is in the restoration of our relationships with one another. Repentance and forgiveness. And it is because we have communion with each other (1 John 1:3). It is because we have a partnership in the gospel (Philippians 1:5). And it is because there is a dying world around us. We are God’s ambassadors to them in this ministry of restoration (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

It Happened After He Prayed

These are the generations of Jacob. There is Reuben and Simeon and Levi and Judah. Then there is Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. There is Issachar and Zebulun and… Dinah the only daughter. Finally, there is Joseph and Benjamin. And Genesis 43 has them all…even Benjamin. Benjamin seems rather integral to the whole chapter, but I think not in the way we think.

Now the Famine was Severe

And it begins with verse one. “Now the famine was severe in the land.” I like how this is worded in the King James translation of God’s Word. “And the famine was sore in the land.” What is the importance of beginning Genesis 43 by reminding us of this sore famine? It may be to simply remind us that the famine continues! In the previous chapter, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy food because “the famine was severe over all the land.” And so Jacob’s sons, all except Benjamin, did just that; they went to Egypt and bought food, a lot of food and returned, all except Simeon.

And so after buying all of that food while Simeon remained detained in Egypt, the severe famine continues. But there is more. As the severe famine continues the food supply dwindled and dwindled and dwindled. Meaning, the end of the food supply was in sight, but the end of the famine was not. And so Jacob speaks up. “Go again, buy us a little food.” Notice two things. Jacob does not say where to go to get food and it is because there is only one place to get food – Egypt! And the grocery list is short. All that is needed is a little food. Why does Jacob think all that is needed is a little food? He must be thinking that the severe famine will end sooner rather than later and a little food will see them through. But what Jacob does not know is that the severe famine has only just begun. It is not until Genesis 45:6 that we discover that this famine has been ongoing for two whole years! And there are five more years of it to come (cf. Genesis 41:30). As long as there is this famine, there will be a need for food. And as long as there is this need for food, Jacob will be sending his sons to Egypt…where Joseph is.

Joseph is referred to as the man throughout this chapter. It is because his true identity is unknown to Jacob and his sons. And the man told Jacob’s sons to not return to Egypt without their youngest brother Benjamin. Without Benjamin they would not see the man’s face (Genesis 43:5). And without Benjamin they would not see Simeon’s face either.

So, what is the point of reminding us of this sore famine? The severe famine is what sent these brothers to Egypt…the first time. And the severe famine is what will send these brothers to Egypt…a second time. Or, the severe famine is what sets in motion what is about to take place. And what is about to take place involves Benjamin.

We Will Not Go Without Benjamin

This is serious. Jacob and his entire family – wives, sons, daughter, daughters-in-law, grandkids – are all hungry. But Judah, the fourth oldest son, will not lead his brothers to Egypt and will not buy food without Benjamin. He reminds his dad of what the man said less than maybe two years ago. Do not come back here without your youngest brother (Genesis 43:3-5). Keep in mind that there is no reminder of Simeon. No one mentions that Simeon has been detained in Egypt for what must be a long time. No one mentions that we need to get Simeon back. In fact, Simeon gets only a passing mention in verse twenty-three.

Again, Judah reminds his dad of what the man said less than maybe two years ago. It is because beginning in Genesis 42:29, upon returning home with all of that food, the brothers told their dad “all that had happened to them” – about the man; about the food; about Simeon and about Benjamin and about returning to Egypt. Listen to Genesis 43:6. This is after Judah’s reminder. “Israel said.” Now pause there because this is important. In Genesis 43, Jacob is only referred to as Israel. Now keep going. “Israel said, ‘Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?’”

In Genesis 42, when the brothers told their dad all that had happened to them, each wanted to immediately return to Egypt with Benjamin. Most likely it was to get Simeon back. Reuben the oldest son, pleaded with his father and even pledged the lives of his sons, if he did not protect and bring Benjamin back to him safely. But Jacob said no. And the famine continued. But Judah pled with his dad and pledged his own life in place of Benjamin if he did not protect and bring Benjamin back to him safely (Genesis 43:7-10; cf. Genesis 42:37-38).

And Jacob Said Yes

At this moment, something changed within Jacob. He said, “Yes.” But it is not a giving in or with some roll of the eyes reluctance. Listen to what he says in Genesis 43:11-14. “Then their father said to them, ‘If it must be so, then do this…’” He tells them to take a present. He tells them to take double their money (for all of their money was returned to them). And he tells them to take Benjamin. All of the brothers, including Simeon, will be in Egypt together. It is so interesting! But I just want to point out the present that the brothers are to take to Egypt for the man, who we all know is Joseph. In that present is “a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds” (43:11). In that present were things that were in the caravan that took Joseph to Egypt; the same caravan that purchased Joseph from the hands of his brothers (cf. 37:25). These are the same brothers who are taking this present to Egypt.

It Happened After He Prayed

And it all happened after he prayed. Who prayed? Listen to verse fourteen. The father, who here is called Israel, prayed for his sons. “And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” By what name does Israel call God? God Almighty or in Hebrew, El Shaddai. This father is calling upon the name of God for his sons. Why? Something changed in Jacob. He is praying because he knows that he needs God. And to call him God Almighty is another of way of saying, “I know who you are! And I know what you have promised! And I know that you know me!” Why is Jacob only called Israel in this chapter? It is because he calls God, God Almighty.

Listen to Genesis 35:9-11. “God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.” Israel sends his boys, all of them, to Egypt, calling upon God, relying upon who He is and reminding, trusting, declaring God’s promises.

And the whole point of Genesis 43 is that it happened after Jacob prayed for his sons. What is it? And what happened? The beginning to the end. This is the big idea. What is the end and how is this prayer for the end? Notice that Jacob asks God to grant his boys mercy.

Joseph Saw Benjamin

Here it is; it starts with that prayer and then unfolds in verse sixteen. “When Joseph saw Benjamin with them.” Joseph sees his brothers returning and he sees them returning with his brother Benjamin. Now watch this; he tells his steward to bring them, he calls them “the men” because the steward does not know their true identity, into his house. And not only are they to be brought to his house, but a meal is to be prepared for them. “Slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” This is God answering Jacob’s prayer, more than Jacob could have ever imagined: Joseph was about to show his brothers hospitality.

I have never noticed or I guess cared to notice until this week, that in the word hospitality is the word hospital. A hospital is a place for hospitality. It is about giving care to those in need. The steward will do as his superior has said and it will scare these brothers (43:18). First, it catches them off guard and second, everyone knows that these powerful world leaders all have dungeons in their homes. These men think that they are going to prison. But Joseph is about to give care to those in need. And it is a means serving the end. I guess we should ask, what is the need and what is the end? This section, starting with that prayer, is about restoration. There is a broken relationship. These brothers thought that their relationship with Joseph was beyond repair for they assumed him lost, never to be found or dead. Joseph has looked forward to this day for close to thirty years. And keep in mind these men meant evil against Joseph. Joseph was the one offended, insulted, hated. These men spoke ill of him and planned his demise. And yet in seeking restoration, Joseph opened his home upon them, like a hospital, a place of hospitality showing care to those in need. And in need of what? Restoration.

This is about restoration with family. Remember, always remember, we belong to a family, the family of God. So, I am convinced that this is for our good in how to seek restoration with members of the family of God. It begins with prayer. And hospitality is more important than imagined. These brothers will be restored. Forgiveness will be given (Genesis 45:4-15; Genesis 50:15-21). Remember too, that from this family will come the gospel, the light for the nations, mercy, grace and forgiveness and salvation. Jesus the Christ will come from this family!

And in Genesis 43, Joseph will prepare a meal for them. Simeon will be brought in. Joseph will sit alone and eat. His servants will sit alone and eat. The brothers will be seated according to birth order and eat. Kind of similar to when they threw Joseph in that pit. There they then sat and ate apart from him (cf. 37:25). But here their fears will be relieved (43:34). Joseph watches. He watches to see how his brothers react. He will order that Benjamin be given five times as much roast beef and mashed potatoes and carrots and gravy as everyone else. Will the brothers be jealous? Not a word, not a movement, not a care. Joseph knows that change is in the air.

And so, I have watched Joseph realizing something I have never seen before. Restoration within the family of God, the church family, is vital. It is part of understanding the gospel (see Matthew 6:12; 14-15; Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 5; Galatians 6; Hebrews 12:5-11; Ephesians 4:32). I have not realized that in seeking restoration, for we are to seek restoration, both prayer and hospitality – that showering of care – is necessary and vital and wonderful to that end.

By the way, the glimpse that God is answering Jacob’s prayer is Genesis 43:30. “Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion (same word for mercy in Genesis 43:14) grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there.”

If We Pray Then Like This, Again

Recently, a well-respected Bible teacher was asked a question. It was asked on a Sunday evening. “I was told that you have written in your Bible, as way of reminder before you teach, ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’ Is that true?” The reply was simple. “No.” “I have written in my Bible, ‘Sir, we would see Jesus.’”

What is Jesus Doing?

There is something missing in The Lord’s Prayer. There is something missing when we think about The Lord’s Prayer and read about The Lord’s Prayer or recite The Lord’s Prayer or even sing The Lord’s Prayer. There is something missing when The Lord’s Prayer is taught. Missing is seeing Jesus.

The first thing to see when it comes to The Lord’s Prayer is that Jesus was sitting (cf. Matthew 5:1). He was sitting when he taught his disciples about when to pray and about how to pray. There is just something different about a teacher and teaching when sitting with the students. And as Jesus sits with his disciples, teaching about when to pray and how to pray, what is he doing? What is Jesus up to?

Is Jesus merely teaching about prayer and praying? Is Jesus merely encouraging his disciples to pray? I thought so. And my aim had been from this passage to encourage prayer. I had been seeking to first encourage private prayer. And it was because in this passage from Matthew 6:5 through Matthew 6:15, there is only verse regarding you and me and us, when the personal pronoun is singular. It is Matthew 6:6. “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.” Last week we called this private prayer. And private prayer is that daily and regular set aside time with no distractions and no interruptions to simply just pray.

But the rest of the personal pronouns, when it comes to you and me and us and prayer in Matthew 6:5-15, are each plural. So, it seems that when Jesus sat down and taught his disciples about praying and prayer, he encouraged the necessity for both private prayer and group prayer (praying together). Why? This has been part of my aim for now two weeks, to join with Jesus and encouraging first me and then you and then us in the area of both private prayer and group prayer. “And if our corporate prayer [group prayer] is not fueled by a congregation of people seeking the Lord privately, face to face, in their secret [private] devotions, then we are simply going through the motions, and we will be undone. Your practice of these things in secret prayer are as important as our practice of them in corporate prayer.”

But is this what Jesus is doing here? Simply encouraging us to pray privately and to pray together? The answer is no. This is why I said that when this is taught, The Lord’s Prayer, something is missing and missing is seeing Jesus. What is Jesus doing? See what Jesus is doing. The big idea here is that we would capture this biblical vision of prayer and for praying. Or maybe it is that we would be captured by this biblical vision of prayer and for praying.

If We Pray Then Like This

In our time together we will be in the heart of this section on prayer. And the heart of this section on prayer is Matthew 6:9-13, the section affectionately called The Lord’s Prayer. There are two parts of The Lord’s Prayer. Part one is Matthew 6:9-10 and part two is Matthew 6:11-13. Although for the sake of study we are separating this prayer into two parts, these are not two separate parts. Part one needs part two and part two needs part one. Or another way of seeing it is that part two serves part one.

There are six requests in this prayer. Some may see seven requests, but we are going to see six requests. And the reason The Lord’s Prayer may be viewed in two parts is because of these six requests. Highlight and write down the word request. Sometimes we use the word petition. What is a request? What is a petition?

Anyway, there are six requests in this prayer and two parts to this prayer. If you are thinking mathematically, there are three requests in the first part and three requests in the second part. I want to call this first part, God-centered requests. Listen to each of these requests (Matthew 6:9-10). “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is heaven.” So, each request is about God – his name, his kingdom, and his will. And the second part I want to call we-centered requests and it is because of those plural pronouns. Listen to each of these requests (Matthew 6:11-13). “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Notice the “us,” “our” and “we.” These are not me-centered requests. This kind of praying helps me though in how to pray for me and you and for our church. But, again, the parts are connected. Part two is not separate from part one. For example, how does praying for bread have something to do with praying for the hallowing of God’s name? How does praying for forgiveness have something to do with praying for God’s kingdom? How does praying for guidance away from temptation and safety from evil have something to do with God’s will?

And the provoking thought is, what if we pray then like this? What if I pray then like this in my private time? What if we pray then like this together? And what if both are happening, richly affecting the other, private prayer and group prayer? What could happen?

There are five things to keep in mind if we pray then like this. 1) Be loving those you are praying with whether your spouse; your family; your fellow elders; your church family. 2) And may there be unified togetherness when we pray (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 4:2). 3) This, numbers one and two, richly affect when I pray for you and us. 4) Remember that we belong to a family. 5) And remember that we belong to a family with this kind of Father.

The Sweet ‘Our’ of Prayer

Pay attention to the last sentence of Matthew 6:8. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” We belong to a family with this kind of Father! He knows what we need before we ask him! So, Jesus then says next, “Pray then like this: Our Father…” And what follows are six requests or six needs, six things we need. And so when we pray privately and together, we are not only saying this is what I need, but what we need and we need these things as a church, or we will be undone. And when we pray like this, both privately and then together, we are saying, “We need you God. We need you God to do among us what is really essential, what matters most.”

And so the prayer begins with “Our Father” or the sweet ‘our’ of prayer. And what are we asking? First, we are asking, “hallowed be Your name.” We left last week with seven days to think about this question: what does it mean to ask God to hallow his name? The word hallow is an older word which means to make holy or to revere. Now here is what is interesting; God’s name is holy (cf. Leviticus 22:2; 32; 1 Chronicles 16:10). So, is this request asking God to make holy that which is holy? No. Keep in mind that this is the first of six requests or six needs, six things we need. And to pray this request is to say, “We need this; we need God’s name to be hallowed.” Since it is already holy, are we asking that his name be regarded or understood as holy? Maybe, but not really. The demons regard God’s name to be holy. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24). So, what does it mean, hallowed be your name?

Listen to Psalm 5:11. “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.” Listen to Psalm 86:11. “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” And listen to Nehemiah 1:11. “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Hallow means to make holy, to revere, to love, to delight, to value and to treasure. We need this and we need God and we need God to do among us what is really essential, what matters most. And what matters most is the revering and the loving and the delighting and the valuing and the treasuring of God’s name above everything else.

And what is his name? First, it is Father. Oh, to revere and love and delight in and value and treasure that we may call him Father! But there is more. His name is who he is. Listen to Exodus 34:6-7. “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And what matters most is the revering and the loving and the delighting and the valuing and the treasuring of God’s name above everything else.

How Does Part Two Fit With Part One?

How do the two parts of this prayer then fit together? Each request in part one seems to correlate with each request in part two. If I am satisfied to revere and love and delight in and value and treasure God’s name above everything else, then I am content with daily bread, just what I need to live and get through the day. My delight is not in the New York Strip and the new car and the latest and greatest and my house and my clothes and my checking account. And I pray for his kingdom to come with Jesus reigning over this entire globe. Why? Why is this a need? Why is this a need now? “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). How then do I regard the forgiveness of my own sins? And show that regard? I am thankful to be forgiven and therefore I am quick to forgive others instead of taking pleasure in holding a grudge. And I want to be able to enter that kingdom holding onto no grudges.

And I pray that his will be done on earth, perfectly as the angels do it in heaven with joy and loud singing and worship and awe. Does it not make sense that if I value his name above all else, I then want to do his will above my own? How does this correlate with that sixth and final request? “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” What is the point of temptation? What is the point of evil and the evil one? To not do God’s will! To value my own wants and desires above God’s wants and desires. But instead be like Moses who chose “rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25).

And we ask these things, these needs for ourselves personally and for one another and for our church because we need God and we need these things and we need God for these needs, to do among us what matters most. We need him!

And it is my hope as your pastor that you be praying privately and that your private praying would fuel our congregation to be praying together – husbands with wives; parents with children; men with other men; women with other women; elders praying together and our church as a whole setting aside times with no distractions and no interruptions to pray like this together. What could happen? “These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:6-7).

If We Pray Then Like This

When I was fifteen years old, I attended the Moody Bible Institute Pastor’s Conference. I do not remember the daily speakers like John MacArthur and Howard Hendricks and Stuart Briscoe and E. V. Hill (he spoke in the evening, dressed in all white from head to toe). I do not remember the mound of Twinkies available as late night snacks. I kind of remember this being so much better than spending an entire week at school. But I really remember holding my Dad’s hand.

At the end of the conference, it was the last evening, Joe Stowell, then president of Moody Bible Institute, led these hundreds and hundreds of pastors in one final song. It started out slow and somber. Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors (and right here the organ or piano repeats the last few notes, building in anticipation of what is to come). And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (At this point each voice grew louder and louder as each man grabbed the hand of the man next to him and together raised their hands). For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory…forever…Amen. Heads were lowered. There were some tears. But men were still holding hands.

We are setting aside our study of Genesis for a moment. We will soon pick it up again with Genesis 43. But today, after much thinking on the beach and after much praying on the beach, we are going to spend time on a mountain. It was where it was first heard – The Lord’s Prayer. It is Matthew 6:9-13. And my hope is that by the end we are holding hands. And my hope is that this will not be the end, but rather we will be found still holding hands in the weeks and months and years to come.

The Lord’s Prayer Was Not Even Prayed

It is important to know that when The Lord’s Prayer was first heard, it was not sung. There was no organ. There was no choir. There was no one directing music. It is even more important to know that when The Lord’s Prayer was first heard, it was not even prayed. Instead, when The Lord’s Prayer was first heard, it was taught.

Matthew 6:9-13 are just five verses. And these five verses are a part of the greatest sermon ever preached. This sermon is recorded for us in Matthew 5, Matthew 6 and Matthew 7. But just listen to how this sermon is presented for us. It is Matthew 5:1-2. “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them.”

Jesus was sitting. Jesus was not standing, but sitting. And his disciples came to him. What was their posture? I think there is something different to be felt when a teacher (the disciple-maker) sits among the students (the disciples). Jesus teaches about being blessed by God (Matthew 5:3-12). He teaches about how his disciples are for the good of society (Matthew 5:13-16). He teaches about the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus teaches about anger and lust and divorce and making promises (Matthew 5:21-37). Jesus teaches about love…the kind of love that loves enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). It is here in this uncomfortable section about loving your enemies, people who hate not in general, but people who hate you, that Jesus first brings up the subject of prayer. “Love your enemies and pray.” Pray how? “…for those who persecute you” (5:44). It is also the first time that he mentions God the Father in relation to praying (5:45). It is something, too, to consider that as Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out to his Father and prayed for those who were persecuting him. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Why did Jesus do that? Why did he mention prayer when he did? He does so briefly, then quickly moves on to a couple other points. And when he did mention prayer, he talked about praying for those who are my enemies, those who seek to do me pain. What were the disciples thinking? What were the disciples feeling? Were they thinking, “Love my enemies and pray for them?! Pray for those who cause me pain?! Why would I do such a thing?! How could I do such a thing?!” And is that why? Is that why Jesus mentioned praying when and how he did? Was it to get them to feel and to think?

And When You Pray

It is not until Matthew 6:5 that a few minutes later Jesus then said, “And when you pray…” In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus will give us the how to pray. But before the how Jesus first gives the when. This is Matthew 6:5-8. Listen closely.

Listen to verse five. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites.” The word hypocrite is a theater word or a movie, television word. It is an actor or actress. In Jesus’ day, it would be an actor who would put on a mask to play a part. It was not real. It was pretend, trying to be someone you were really not. This kind of person wants to be seen praying by others and wants their praying to be heard by others (6:5-8). And for what reason? It is to impress. But the big question is, when do you pray?

Listen to verse six. “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.” When do you pray? It seems that Jesus is encouraging private prayer. It seems this way because Jesus is encouraging private prayer! What is private prayer? Private prayer is a set aside time with no distractions, no interruptions to pray, just you and your heavenly Father. And since Jesus is encouraging private prayer, part of my aim even as we get into The Lord’s Prayer is to encourage private praying. So, when I ask, “when do you pray?” I am not asking for a time, but rather I am asking, do you have a time? The Bible exhorts that we always be praying and pray without ceasing (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). You can pray in the car; at work; at school; while doing dishes or yard work or…but do you have a time set aside with no phone; no tv; no wife; no husband; no kids; no distractions and no interruptions to just be with your Father? Have your Bible with you for this is how your Father speaks, this is how you hear his voice. And pray, for prayer is how God hears your voice.

Pray Then Like This

But then there is The Lord’s Prayer. It is Matthew 6:9-13. And we need to hear Matthew 6:5-8 before we hear Matthew 6:9-13. We need to hear Jesus encourage us and exhort us to be praying privately. After encouraging us and exhorting us to be praying privately, Jesus then says, “Pray then like this.” So do not pray to be seen. Do not pray to be heard by others. Instead, pray privately and pray privately then like this: Our. Stop there.

If I am to be praying privately, why would I begin by saying our and not my? Who is the our? Notice that the prayer begins with “Our Father.” Throughout his sermon, Jesus refers to God the Father seventeen times. So, it seems that this relationship with God the Father is to be pretty important to the sermon. But who has the right to call God Father? Can anyone simply call God Father? Listen to John 1:12-13. “But to all who did receive him [Jesus], who believed in his name [who he is], he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Listen, too, to John 8:42. “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me’” (John 8:42). So, to be able to call God Father you cannot get around or past Jesus! You must deal with who he is, if you are to call God, Father.

So, the our are all those who have been given the right, because of and through Jesus, to call God, Father. But notice the rest of the prayer. This is what has first and only recently gripped me about this prayer. There are what look like six petitions in this prayer. A petition is a request. And the person praying is the petitioner and the person being petitioned is God the Father. So, this prayer or this kind of praying is about asking God to do something. We can view the prayer and the petitions in two parts: the first three petitions (6:9-10) and the last three petitions (6:11-13).

The first three petitions are God-centered. “Our Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The last three petitions are different. These petitions are we-centered. “Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The point is to see the words “our” and “us” and “we.”

Do not forget Matthew 6:5-8. Jesus encourages and exhorts that his disciples be engaged in private praying. And in this private praying, I am making requests, heart-felt petitions. But who is involved in this private praying? It is me, but it is also we and us and our! And for us, who are the our and us and we? It is my spouse. It is my children. It is other believers, other disciples, but especially those who I see every Sunday and call “members one of another” at Calvary Community Church.

We Are To Pray Then Like This

But there is more. And it is just how Jesus teaches. Jesus teaches so that we think and God blesses thinking (cf. 2 Timothy 2:7). In this kind of praying, Jesus is encouraging and exhorting private prayer. But he is also encouraging and exhorting group prayer. In my private praying, I am to be praying, like this, for me and you and us and our and we. But…is there something contradictory about praying with the words “our,” “us” and “we,” but never experiencing the “our,” “us” and “we”? And what about group prayer? What about praying together?

Listen closely, for this is really important to hear and understand and remember. Group prayer is not a replacement for private prayer. Nor is private prayer a replacement for group prayer. In fact, private prayer richly affects group prayer and group prayer richly affects private prayer. Think. What can be had in praying with those that I have been praying for? And what can be had in praying for those that I have been praying with? I have to admit that I have never understood this until thinking upon it on the beach and praying about it on the beach.

What is group prayer? Here is how I am thinking about group prayer and I am sharing it with you in order to cast a vision before us for private prayer and group prayer at Calvary Community Church. It is to encourage both private prayer and group prayer among us because we need both. This makes for a healthy, vibrant and living local church. Group prayer is a husband praying with his wife. Group prayer is a dad and mom praying with their children. Group prayer is women praying together. Group prayer is men praying together. Group prayer is elders, our servant leaders, praying together. And it is evenings and mornings and whenever to set aside any distractions and interruptions to simply pray. But pray how?

If We Pray Then Like This

It begins with that very first petition. The whole prayer is asking God to do something. But it all begins, and I think ends, with that first petition. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” The word hallowed is an imperative. It is us asking God to hallow his own name. Hallow is an old word which simply means to make holy or revere. The Bible tells us that God’s name is holy (cf. Leviticus 22:2; 32; 1 Chronicles 16:10). So what does it mean to ask God to hallow his own name?

I want us to think on that, but with the question, what could happen if we pray then like this in both private prayer and group prayer? I want to know. I want to know this kind of praying and experience this kind of prayer and it is because personally in my private praying, I have not known this kind of praying.

 

What Is This That God Has Done To Us?

These are the generations of Jacob: Reuben. Simeon. Levi. And Judah. Dan. And Naphtali. Gad. And Asher. Issachar. And Zebulun. Dinah. Joseph. And Benjamin. More space in Genesis is devoted to this family than anything else – Creation (Genesis 1-2); the Fall (Genesis 3); the Flood (Genesis 6-9); or the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). More space in Genesis is devoted to this family than anyone else – Abraham (Genesis 12-23); Isaac (Genesis 24-26); or Jacob (Genesis 25-35).

These are the generations of Jacob: Genesis 37 and Genesis 38 and Genesis 39 and Genesis 40…and all the rest. The generations of Jacob are the remaining fourteen chapters of Genesis beginning with Genesis 37 and concluding with Genesis 50. And the generations of Jacob are marked by these concluding words: “So do not fear” (Genesis 50:21a). But really important is how the generations of Jacob begin.

How Does It All Begin?

And how do the generations of Jacob begin? Look and listen carefully. “These are the generations of Jacob” (Genesis 37:2a). However, it is the next word that is rather telling. “These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph…” It begins with Joseph and it continues with Joseph. Joseph gets thrown into a pit. Joseph gets sold into slavery. Joseph was a slave. Joseph was falsely and wrongly accused. Joseph was thrown into another pit, a prison. Joseph was promised to be remembered, but forgotten. And then after thirteen really long years of hardship and affliction, Joseph stands at the pinnacle of the world. It continues with Joseph and it all seems to be primarily about Joseph. Except that one chapter called Genesis 38. It is the one chapter in which there is absolutely no mention of Joseph. It is about his older brother Judah. And after Genesis 38, the generations of Jacob continue with…Joseph.

But there is more. How do the generations of Jacob begin? Look and listen carefully. “These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father” (Genesis 37:2). It begins with Joseph. And it begins with Joseph’s brothers. And it begins with Joseph’s dad. And it continues in Genesis 42 with Joseph and with Joseph’s brothers and with Joseph’s dad.

Genesis 42 is the first time that Joseph and Joseph’s brothers and Joseph’s dad are each mentioned in the same chapter and the same context since Genesis 37. In Genesis 42, Joseph’s dad hears that there was grain for sale in Egypt. In Genesis 42, Joseph’s brothers, all except Benjamin, went down to Egypt to buy grain. In Genesis 42, Joseph was the man in Egypt selling grain.

Why Do You Look at One Another?

As Genesis 42 begins, Joseph’s dad “learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt.” And how did Jacob learn that there was grain for sale in Egypt? The more word-for-word translation would be that Jacob saw that there was grain for sale in Egypt. Joseph’s dad must have seen his neighbors with arms full of grain. And Joseph’s dad must have asked his neighbors, “Where did you get all this grain?” And the neighbors must have answered, “in Egypt. There is a man there selling grain.” So, what does Joseph’s dad do? “He said to his sons, ‘Why do you look at one another?’” Jacob’s sons were just sitting around looking at one another! What were those looks like? Worry? Confusion? Mouths slightly hanging open, befuddled?

The famine that began in Egypt, spread over all of Egypt had reached Jacob’s home. The ground is hard and cracked. There has not been seen even a drop of water. The livestock are failing and perhaps some have died. Neighbors have been buried. Death is more real than ever. Jacob sends his sons to Egypt, but only ten sons. He detains Benjamin, refusing that he go. Listen to Genesis 42:4. “But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him.” I like how the King James translation words it. “Lest peradventure mischief befall him.” Jacob was afraid that evil could happen to Benjamin. Is that not interesting? The chances of death are high in a severe famine. This severe famine had reached Jacob’s home. And it is safer that Benjamin stay home than go buy grain with his brothers? It is safer that Benjamin stay with his dad than be with his brothers? Why was Jacob thinking like this?

And Joseph Remembered the Dreams

Listen to verse six. “Now Joseph was governor over the land.” He was at least thirty-seven years old and he was overseeing the health and safety and function of Egypt and the people of Egypt. And he was the one, this was not delegated, who sold to all the people who came to buy grain. If you wanted grain you had to see Joseph.

In Genesis 41:51, Joseph’s testimony was that “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” This is so important. There are all kinds of people from all kinds of places coming to buy grain. And each must have come with some anxiety that “we must get there before they run out of grain!” And so here all these anxious, hungry people shuffling in line. Is the line moving slow? Everything moves slower when you are anxious and hungry. The line can never move fast enough. And there were those ten sons, Joseph’s brothers.

They come before Joseph and “bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.” And Joseph recognized them, treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them (42:6-7). We might think that these rotten brothers are finally getting what they deserve. They soon will think that as well (Genesis 42:21-22). Remember Genesis 41:51, for the most important part of the entire chapter is in verse nine. “And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. And Joseph remembered the dreams he had dreamed of them.” Joseph does not remember the affliction. Joseph does not remember his father’s house where the affliction began. Instead, he remembered the dreams he dreamed. How many dreams? There were two dreams, different but the same. When did Joseph dream those two dreams? And what do we know about the significance about two dreams? It is a thing fixed by God and God will surely and shortly bring it about. It is what God is about to do. This was twenty plus years later and Joseph is now seeing the dreams not fully fulfilled, but being fulfilled. Ten brothers, ten family members have just bowed before him. But God had set out to do more. Included was the entire family bowing before Joseph. Where is the rest of the family?

Joseph’s tone and tune changes. This must have set straight the remainder of the line. What had happened, the line thought, to the nice demeanor of this man? Joseph accuses these ten men of espionage. “No, no!” They exclaimed. “We are just ordinary men. We are just honest men, your servants, never spies. We are just here to buy grain. We are here because we are hungry.” But Joseph will not budge. “No. You are spies.” And then the ten brothers get real, get honest. “We are actually 12 brothers, well used to be twelve. One brother is no more and another brother is back home with our dad.” What does Joseph hear? Honesty. Benjamin is alive. Dad is alive! But Joseph still will not budge. “No. You are spies” (42:9b-14).

Joseph has his ten brothers detained. Let’s put it this way: Joseph has his ten brothers thrown into a pit, but a lot nicer pit than the one they threw him in. They have three days to decide which brother will leave the other nine behind and fetch Benjamin. Three days later, Joseph returns and has changed his mind. They have moments to decide which brother is left behind while the other nine return home to fetch Benjamin (Genesis 42:15-20).

These Are Finally Honest Men

Listen to what this produced. These are finally honest men. The brothers remember Joseph. “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother.” They confess. They heard the distress of his soul back in his pit. Here they are now in their pit and “distress has come upon them.” We are getting what we deserve, they say (42:20-21).

Joseph hears it all, turns away to not be seen and weeps (42:23). “Behind the harsh pose there was warm affection.” Joseph is not bitter. Joseph is not out to get revenge or dish out what they deserve. Joseph is being used by God to seek their repentance. And this is awesome. As a 17-year-old with dreams, could Joseph in his wildest imagination have imagined how God would fulfill those dreams?! At 37-years-old, Joseph remembering those two dreams is watching them unfold in the amazement and wonder of how God works out his ways and his word! This is the big idea of Genesis 42.

What Is This That God Has Done To Us?

Genesis 42 is a lesson in the three perspectives of Genesis 37. It is a lesson in the three perspectives of those two dreams. A lesson in the perspectives we can have of God’s Word. Joseph remembers and weeps as it unfolds, in amazement and wonder of how God works out his ways. But there are two other perspectives.

The brothers. Simeon was left behind while the others returned home. And on the way home they stop at a hotel to rest. One brother, we are unsure who, stops to feed his donkey. Now when they left, Joseph had each of their nine bags filled with grain, leaving the brothers with the impression that the grain was bought and paid for. But when this one bag was opened, his money was returned and put in his sack. At this the brothers trembled and for the first time mentioned the name of God. “What is this that God has done to us?” There is a perspective (Genesis 42:25-28).

The brothers tremble. The brothers are afraid and at this, assume that God is the cause. I would say, they view this as not good and are crediting God for what is not good. In other words, when things have gone well there was never any mention of God. But when things went south, then God is mentioned or blamed. And really what is happening is that God is working. He is working out those dreams, dreams the brothers despised. They do not know, do not see that this is how God is working and for their good. He is working for their repentance (cf. Romans 2:3-4). The brothers do not yet see (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:14-16).

Returning home the brothers get honest again and tell dad just about everything. Then all nine brothers open their bags and, behold, there is money in each bag! Now all, including Joseph’s dad, are afraid (Genesis 42:29-35). Joseph has been thought all but gone. Simeon is no more. He was left in a pit at the mercy of the second most powerful man in the world. And Jacob learns that this man is demanding to see Benjamin?! NO! And listen to Jacob. “All this has come against me” (Genesis 42:36). Nothing is going my way. There is the third perspective. Jacob knew Joseph’s dreams and even guarded the words of Joseph’s dreams, waiting for their fulfillment (Genesis 37:11). And here now, beyond what anyone thought or imagined, these dreams are being fulfilled. But not as Joseph thought or Joseph’s brothers thought (they thought they stopped the dreams) and not as Joseph’s dad thought. And as it happens, Jacob thinks all is against him. Perhaps who can blame him? But this all is written for our instruction (1 Corinthians 10:11).

And there is my perspective. I am not like Joseph. Maybe a little like the brothers and the dad. I know God’s Word, meaning, what God wants and what God has promised. But I know how it should come about and how it should look. And I get frustrated. I lose patience. It is wrong. But I get frustrated. I ask, “God, what are you doing? Or, what are you not doing?” And do you know what I miss out on? Weeping at the unfolding promises in amazement and wonder of how God works out his ways. And what I need, Genesis 42 has pointed out for me. I need repentance, just as those brothers. And Genesis 42 is for all those who need repentance for getting frustrated or impatient, that things are not going or coming about and looking how I think it should go and come about and look. Frustrated and impatient instead of content to serve and being faithful and loving with warm affection.

Thus Joseph Was Over All The Land Of Eypt

My oldest daughter is fifteen years old, soon to be sixteen years old. And her most favorite question at this point in my life is, “Can I drive?” If we go to my parents’ house the question is, “Can I drive to Granny’s?” If we go to my in-laws’ house the question is, “Can I drive to Grandma’s?” But this is Chloe! She has always loved to ask questions. And my answers to her questions are usually, “I don’t know;” or “Because I said so;” or “I have seen as much of the show as you have.”

But this too is the book of Genesis! It is a book of questions; questions that make you tilt your head, slightly squint your eyes and say, “Hmmmmm.” The first question in the Bible, also the first question in Genesis, is the very first question recorded in human history. “Did God really and actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1). And from there the questions keep coming. Sometimes God himself asks a question. “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Or, “Where have you come from and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8). Or, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (Genesis 18:17). And sometimes God himself is asked a question. “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Genesis 18:23). Sometimes dads are asked a question. “Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7). Sometimes people ask themselves a question. “Why is this happening to me?” (Genesis 25:22). The book of Genesis ends with a question. “Am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19).

Can We Find a Man Like This?

But sometimes we are asked a question. “Can we find a man like this?” (Genesis 41:38). I read a book this week called The Prayer that Turns the World Upside Down by Albert Mohler. It is about what is called the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13. It is a well known prayer, many know the prayer but do not really know the prayer. And there is something so subtle, but so beautiful about the prayer. Notice how the prayer begins, “Our Father.” There are then seven petitions which follow. But notice just four of these petitions. “Give us…forgive us…And lead us…deliver us.” The beauty of this prayer is that it is a prayer that we are to pray together. It is a corporate prayer.

And so it is with the big question in Genesis 41. It is a corporate question. “Can we find a man like this?” And in Genesis 41, who is asking this very corporate question? His name was Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world. He was a man. He was thought to be a god. He thought of himself as a god, but he was a man. And in Genesis 41, this most powerful man in the world was reduced to a man in need. He was reduced to a man in need of the help of a forgotten prisoner named Joseph. And in Genesis 41:38, this man asked a question. He asked it as a man in need. And he asked it as a man among a people in need. “Can we find a man like this?”

What Kind of Man is This?

It just intrigues me so much that Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world needs this kind of man and says to the nation, “we need this kind of man.” Listen closely to the rest of Genesis 41:38. “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” So, what kind of man is this?

In the very next verse, Pharaoh says to Joseph. “You’re the man! You are this man!” How does Pharaoh know that Joseph is this kind of man? Listen closely to Genesis 41:39. “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.” How does Pharaoh know that in Joseph is the Spirit of God? How does Pharaoh know that Joseph is discerning and wise?

On Pharaoh’s birthday, he dreamed a dream. He woke up, collected himself and went back to sleep. He then dreamed another dream. So two dreams were dreamed in one night. And perhaps really important is that Pharaoh remembered both dreams down to the smallest details (Genesis 41:1-24). Pharaoh was really bothered by the dreams. The Bible says that it stirred up anxiety within him (41:8). It kept his eyes open, he did not want to go back to sleep out of fear of dreaming a third time. So, he gathered all the magicians with their dream books and all the wise men with their wisdom to discern the dreams. Is that not interesting? Pharaoh’s first reaction was to find men who were discerning and wise. And he found none. No one could figure out these two dreams.

But Joseph was remembered. He was quickly plucked from his prison confines, given a bath and a shave and brought before Pharaoh. In short, Joseph interpreted the dreams. The dreams were different, but the same; each had the same meaning. But what was it about the telling of the dreams that said to Pharaoh, we need a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God? What was it that showed Pharaoh that Joseph was discerning and wise? The two dreams were God’s revelation. Joseph showed from God’s Word (revelation) what God was about to do. And that was not enough. Joseph also showed from what God was about to do what needed to be done. And we need both. We need to be shown, week after week after week, from God’s Word what God has done, what God is doing and what God is about to do. And that will not be enough. We also need to be shown what needs to be done; what we need to do.

Why hear so much of this a second time? This was all review of last week, so why hear it again? The big idea of Genesis 41 is that question. Can we find a man like this? And it is because in Genesis 41:42-57 there is more to this man.

Thus Joseph Was Over All the Land of Egypt

What did Pharaoh do when this man was found? Listen to Genesis 41:41. “And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’” For two whole weeks, I kept picturing Pharaoh, his hands on Joseph’s shoulders rotating him to behold the view. It was the view of Egypt. It was the view from the top. And Joseph saw the pyramids; pyramids completed and pyramids yet to be completed. There were large statues and large pillars, and men carving stones and men making bricks. There were homes and businesses; there was Potiphar’s house just across the way and near it, the prison. The busy-ness of Egypt filled the air. And the view led all the way to the horizon. The sun was setting and everywhere its rays touched belonged to Egypt. Here stood Joseph over it all. He was in charge.

It was an awesome picture, at least how I pictured it. But it was not the picture at all. When Pharaoh told Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt,” Joseph was not looking out some window. He was looking down. Pharaoh slid the ring, his signet ring, off his finger and placed it on the hand of Joseph. All the land of Egypt was in that ring. Joseph possessed all the authority of Pharaoh in that ring on his finger.

Oh, this is not all. Pharaoh clothed Joseph in “garments of fine linen,” perhaps the Egyptian version of a robe of many colors. It was the clothing of royalty. It really stood out. When was the last time Joseph wore such clothing? Oh, this is not all. Pharaoh placed a gold chain around Joseph’s neck. A forever gift to show that the gratitude of Pharaoh rests upon Joseph. Oh, this is not all. Pharaoh gave Joseph the second best chariot in all the world! Oh, this is not all. Pharaoh led the way in a parade for Joseph! Throughout the streets it was exclaimed, “Bow the knee! And make way. Make way for Joseph!” It was all to show that Pharaoh is Pharaoh and without Joseph’s consent, no one would lift a finger or their baby toe in all of Egypt. Thus Joseph was over all the land of Egypt (41:42-44).

Oh, this is not all. Pharaoh gave Joseph a new name; an Egyptian name. Oh, this is not all. Pharaoh gave Joseph a wife, the choicest of wives, an Egyptian wife. And what comes with all wives? In-laws; Joseph was given a father-in-law. Joseph’s wife had a name – Asenath. Her name meant, “belonging to Neith.” Neith was an Egyptian goddess, a powerful and fierce deity. She was revered as the first of all gods, the prime creator of the universe and the sustainer of all it contains, governing all of its functions. This goddess gave birth to the sun god named Ra. It was ironic, for Joseph’s father-in-law was a priest. He presided over the worship of the sun god named Ra and officiated all the major festivals and supervised all the other priests. He was this world’s religious leader (Genesis 41:45). “A young Joseph began his married life listening to hymns sung to Ra at the morning sunrise – in his own home.”[1]

And it all says this to us: will Joseph be this kind of man? How will this affect him? Will he be the man Pharaoh needs? Will be he be the man God has provided for the needs of Pharaoh and the needs of the nation? Or will he be this man? He was primed for pride. He was primed to be enveloped by a godless culture. What man will he be?

Joseph Went Out Over the Land

It is twice mentioned that after all of this, and Joseph is now thirty years old, he went out over the land of Egypt. He seems unphased by it all; the power, the prestige, the prominence, the beautiful morning and now everything finally going his way. He gets to work. He gets to work to oversee the plenty so that he might plan for the empty (41:45-49). And can we find a man like this? Joseph kept the next fourteen years in view.

Joseph had thirteen years in the pit, one pit after another. It shaped him. It humbled him for such a time as this; that he would be God’s man for God’s purpose in God’s plan at God’s better timing. And what did Joseph do? He kept the big picture in view. He kept the long run in view. He knew where to lead and he knew how to get there. But how did he do it in the midst of it all?

Before the Year of Famine Came

Notice Genesis 41:50. Before the year of famine came, Joseph became a dad of not one, but two sons. And what is really interesting is that Joseph named each son. But really, really interesting is what Joseph named the two sons. He gave them Hebrew names; Manasseh and Ephraim. And each name said something about God. “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The name itself though showed that Joseph did not really forget all his hardship or his dad and family. Instead, it is just to say that all his hardship, all thirteen years of it, was not holding Joseph from growing and moving forward. It did not make him bitter and resentful. Instead, it said that through it all God was holding him fast. And the other boy. “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” See, each boy was to be a reminder of who God is, who Joseph knew God to be in and through all the hardship and all the affliction. And by the way, the Egyptian name that Pharaoh gave Joseph, Zaphenath-paneah, is best thought to mean, “God speaks and is alive!” So, everywhere Joseph went and every time he was called upon, he heard always, “God speaks and is alive!” It was what would keep him from pride. It was what would keep him from being enveloped by the culture, especially as the whole world would come to him for bread (41:57).

Joseph knew God. I read of a pastor who endured hardship and affliction.[2] He wanted to quit and just get away. But he did not. He was faced with a reality. It was a question he had to ask himself. Do I really know the Word of God? God speaks and is alive, but do I really know the Word of God? Not the facts and the Greek and the Hebrew, etc. But am I being shaped by the Word of God? Humbled and driven to repentance and contrition and joy and life and grace and mercy. But there is more. Do I know the Word, the incarnate Word Jesus Christ? Am I knowing him better, growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ?

And so, can we find a man like this? Can we find men like this? Men like this show from God’s Word what God is about to do. Men like this show from what God is about to do what we need to do. Men like this keep the big picture in view, knowing where to lead and how to get there. Men like this know the Word of God. Men like this know the Word, the incarnate Word Jesus Christ.

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Believing, page 487.

[2] https://www.9marks.org/article/i-was-burnt-out-and-i-stayed-in/