When You Come Together as a Church

In the middle of Michigan is a small town called Edmore. And in the small town of Edmore is a farm. And on that farm is a door. And holding that door open, every day for the last thirty some years, was a twenty-two pound rock. Just recently a geology professor at Central Michigan University was asked to examine this rock. She has received numerous requests like this one before and like before she accepted the request and her conclusion had always been the same: it was a rock. This time, though, it was different. This was no ordinary rock. It was 88.5% iron and 11.5% nickel. Calling this a rock would have been meteor wrong. This was meteorite! Her careful examination not only uncovered that this was a meteorite, but also its value – one hundred thousand dollars. We can assume, and in large part due to its value, that it is no longer being treated as a rock or a doorstop.

How We Treasure the Lord’s Supper

This is the first Sunday of the month and the first Sunday of the month is that Sunday that we set apart as the Sunday to observe the Lord’s Supper together. There is only one time in the Bible that this is called the Lord’s Supper. Jesus never called it the Lord’s Supper. However, it was a Thursday evening. And it was supper time. Jesus was in a room with his closest friends. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark we are told that “as they were eating,” Jesus did something (cf. Matthew 26:25-29; Mark 14:22-25). In the Gospel of Luke, on the same Thursday evening, at supper time and in the same room, it is recorded that “when the hour came,” Jesus did something (Luke 22:14-20). And this tells us two things: what Jesus was about to do was particular and intentional. And there are two things that I treasure from those three records. First, Jesus shared with these close friends, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). In a few hours, Jesus would be nailing my sins to the cross, canceling my debt there forever. And at this supper, Jesus shared that it was with great desire that he desired to eat with these disciples. And second, Jesus promised to do this again, one day, with all of his disciples in his Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25). He is talking about the Lord’s Supper!

It is only in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 that this is called the Lord’s Supper. And the big idea here regarding the Lord’s Supper is how we treasure the Lord’s Supper. And the reason is that this particular local church was getting it wrong and not just wrong, but meteor wrong.

When You Come Together as a Church

Listen to verse seventeen. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you.” Pause there and highlight the word commend. Many translations have instead the word praise. Think of standing up and applauding someone. And make note of that word because Paul uses it again in verse twenty-two (actually twice). “Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not [commend you].” And what is his reasoning? Listen further to verse seventeen. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together…” Pause there and highlight the words when you come together. Five times in these verses Paul refers to when you come together (11:17; 18; 20; 33; 34). Five times in these verses Paul is talking about when you come together as a church. He is referring to not only Sunday morning, but Sunday evening. And he is referring to not only Sunday evening, but Wednesday evening And he is referring not only to Wednesday evening, but Friday evenings and Bible studies and work days and…you get it. In these verses, Paul is talking about any time the church gets together.

Keep listening to verse seventeen. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together, it is not for the better but for the worse.” In other words, this is bad. But the word to pay attention to is instructions. These verses are about instructions for whenever we come together as a church. But the occasion that Paul focuses upon is when the church comes together to eat the Lord’s Supper. Just notice how Paul narrows in on the Lord’s Supper in verses seventeen and eighteen and twenty. “…when you come together…when you come together as a church…when you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” They were eating the Lord’s Supper, but there was no way it could be called the Lord’s Supper. Why? This particular church was getting it wrong, meteor wrong.

How to Get the Lord’s Supper Wrong

How were they getting the Lord’s Supper wrong? Better yet, how might we get the Lord’s Supper wrong? In verse eighteen, Paul pointed out that there were “divisions among you.” The word divisions is the picture of a tear in a piece of garment. And it is just interesting that the occasion out of all the occasions to point out this division was the Lord’s Supper. How was this particular church divided?

Paul said that some of them were making this meal their meal, treating it like it was dinner. Imagine, making a meal out of this unleavened bread. Somebody or somebodies were rushing ahead to this table and just devouring the bread leaving others breadless. Then there was somebody or were somebodies taking the cup and guzzling all the juice, enough juice to get drunk. So, we might say that this particular church was getting the Lord’s supper wrong in how they were treating one another. There is the division! But that would miss the point. It is not so much how they treated one another, although that it is true, but their mistreatment of one another was because they did not value one another. Listen then to verse twenty-two. “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” The church of God is people. The church of God is saved people. The church of God is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb people; these are blood bought people. The church of God is sins forgiven, debt canceled at the cross people. But on the occasion of the Lord’s Supper, Paul asks a question. Do you despise the church of God? What does that have to do with communion Sunday? The word despise is a strong word, isn’t it?

The word despise means to devalue. It is like he is asking, do you not value the church of God? Do you not value your church? Do you not value the church members? Why is he asking this on communion Sunday?! The Lord’s Supper is something that the gathered church is to do together. How can it be done together if there are present divisions among us? And what really are those divisions? How we treasure the Lord’s Supper has something to do with how we treasure one another. And the reasoning is that the church of God is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb people; these are blood bought people. The church of God is sins forgiven, debt canceled at the cross people. These are people that Jesus the Christ gave himself up for; people Jesus the Christ is sanctifying and perfecting to one day present to himself blameless and without blemish or spot or wrinkle. And this is all tied into 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 where twice Paul reminds of the command to “do this in remembrance of Me” and that when we do this in remembrance of Jesus, we are “proclaiming his death until he comes!”

So, again, how we treasure the Lord’s Supper has something to do with how treasure one another.

Let A Person Examine Himself or Herself

1 Corinthians 11:28 contains what may be the lone command in this passage. “Let a person examine himself [and herself].” This is sort of like the twenty-two pound rock being used as a doorstop. It was not until upon examination that the rock was discovered to be a meteorite and its true value uncovered! How might we examine ourselves? In the previous verse, Paul warns to not eat the bread and drink the cup in an unworthy manner. Unworthy here means to lack value or to lack a corresponding value. He then gives us the application in verse thirty-three. “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”

So, it is something that when Paul gives instructions regarding this meal he does so focusing upon our relationship to one another and valuing one another. How might I be treasuring you in treasuring the Lord’s Supper? Is it any wonder then that in the very next chapter Paul talks about being members one of another (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)? And then in 1 Corinthians 13 he only wants to talk about the value of love?


And Jacob Lived in Egypt

Growing up, a family vacation meant a trip to either wild and wonderful West Virginia or Michigan. And in West Virginia we would spend time with grandparents and then walk up the hill to spend time with an aunt and uncle and cousins. Then we would walk down the hill to spend time with an aunt and uncle and cousins. And then an aunt and uncle and cousins would come across the hill to spend time with us. And on each occasion and at each location, no matter who it was, everyone called my Dad, Jim and me, Jimmy. In Michigan there are no hills. But there were grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. And on each occasion and at each location, no matter who it was, everyone called my Dad big Jim and me, you guessed it, little Jim.

Genesis 47 is not a family vacation, but there is a family. And on each occasion and at each location in the chapter, there seems to be this theme of contrast. Genesis 47 and this theme can be seen in four parts. First, there is Joseph preparing his brothers to meet Pharaoh and Joseph presenting his brothers to Pharaoh (Genesis 46:31-34; Genesis 47:1-6). Next, there are the brothers before Pharaoh and then their father before Pharaoh (Genesis 47:1-6; Genesis 47:7-10). Then, there is Joseph providing for his father, his brothers, his sisters-in-law; his nieces, his nephews; and Joseph providing for the people of Egypt and for Pharaoh, too (Genesis 47:12; Genesis 47:13-26).

But finally, there is Jacob at 130 years old and then there is Jacob at 147 years old (Genesis 47:9; Genesis 47:28). Jacob at 130 years old is with his son Joseph. And Jacob at 147 years old is with his son Joseph.

An End Without An Ending

Genesis 46 ends without an ending. It is about Jacob finishing his journey and taking all the he had to finish his journey which included more than seventy family members – sons and grandsons; daughters-in-law and granddaughters – taking all that they had to finish his journey. Their goal was to get to Egypt and a place in Egypt called Goshen. Now, in Genesis 47 we hear Goshen get called another name, which at the time of writing was its modern name – Rameses. Goshen was considered the best of the land (47:6). And the word Rameses reflects how good this land was for it means luxuriant, fresh and green. And consider that this is during a very severe famine.

And as this family nears Goshen, I love this, Jacob has his son Judah lead the way, almost carving out the way to Goshen. It is because here is where Jacob will meet his son Joseph. And to carve out the way, Judah just leaves behind him a trail of dust! And then Joseph, as soon as he gets word that his dad has arrived, prepares his chariot to move faster than ever to meet his dad. Think of the anticipation. How long has Joseph been waiting for this day? Since he was seventeen years old. And how long has Jacob been waiting for this day? Since Joseph was seventeen years old. And when this father and this son meet for the first time in nearly three decades, Joseph falls, it is like he throws himself upon his father. He embraced his dad. He wept over his dad. And this is my favorite part; this was for “a good while” (46:30).

And after a good while, Joseph turns to speak to his brothers. Think of it; these brothers had been watching this embrace for a good while, in fact, more than seventy people had been watching this embrace for a good while. There could not have been a dry eye! And through his watery eyes to their watery eyes, Joseph begins to prepare his brothers to meet Pharaoh. Joseph tells them what he will say; what Pharaoh will say; and what the brothers will need to say (Genesis 46:31-34). And the chapter ends. It ends without an ending; this family is left holding their luggage just waiting for someone to tell them where they can put it!

What Is Your Occupation?

And so, Genesis 47 begins. It begins with Joseph meeting with Pharaoh, telling him that his family is standing in Goshen, holding their luggage, waiting for someone to tell them where to put it. And so it happened; Joseph said what he would say to Pharaoh.

Now listen to verse two. “And from among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh.” Joseph only presented five of his brothers to Pharaoh. Why? I think he presented Dan, Naphtali; Gad; Asher and either Issachar or Zebulun; only because these five have not had much to do nor have been given much mention thus far in this family’s history. It is just interesting that he only presented five and we do not know which five. So, Pharaoh asks these five, “What is your occupation?” And it is exactly as Joseph prepared them. Notice what happened next; the brothers answered how Joseph told them to answer. “We are shepherds.” And finally, someone told this family where they could put all of their stuff. Pharaoh replied, “Settle your father and brothers in the best of the land.” But then, Pharaoh did something unexpected. He offered every able man in this family a job. And it was not just any job. It was an offer to be an officer of the crown, which came with every royal and legal protection. Pharaoh wanted these men to take charge of his livestock. Now think of it; shepherding was considered an abomination to the Egyptians (46:34). These men are shepherds and Pharaoh has livestock. Mark that down. This would be more than anyone could have imagined.

And Jacob Blessed Pharaoh

I love this next scene (Genesis 47:7-10). After Joseph presented his brothers before Pharaoh, he then presents his father before Pharaoh. There was no preparation for this; Joseph did not tell his dad what he would say or what Pharaoh would say or what Jacob needed to say. Jacob appears to be unmoved and unimpressed. He stood before the most powerful man in the world and spoke. Jacob spoke first. Jacob spoke last. And when he spoke, he did so boldly and bluntly. Listen to the end of verse seven. “And Jacob blessed Pharaoh.” First and last, Jacob blessed Pharaoh (see 47:10). This Hebrew word will be easy to remember. It is the word barak. How did Jacob bless Pharaoh? It can be simply and easily seen as this; Jacob prayed for Pharaoh. Pharaoh heard it and Jacob did this twice! Twice, Jacob prayed for this man. What could he have prayed? In the New Testament, Christians are commanded to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions.” Listen to the reasoning. “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Keep listening. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” Now watch this; what could Jacob have prayed for Pharaoh? Keep listening. “God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:2-4).

This old man prayed for Pharaoh, in the hearing of Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world. And it just said to me, how might I and how might we be a blessing to those who are in high positions over us? Pray for them! And pray what? Think; this is seen as a blessing! How did Pharaoh respond? “How many are the days of the years of your life?” I know, because I counted them. Jacob at this point, not including leap years, was 47,450 days old and counting, meaning he was not buying green bananas. But really, Pharaoh’s response was, “how old are you?” And listen closely to Jacob. Keep in mind that this is in the hearing of Pharaoh and Joseph, too. Jacob says that all the days of the years of his life have been “few and evil,” few and filled with pain. What pain? I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his mom and dad. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with Esau. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his two wives. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his father-in-law. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his daughter Dinah. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his sons. And I think Jacob is thinking about the relationship lost with Joseph. And perhaps, Jacob is thinking about his own responsibility in all of it. I just wondered, is he saying, “I wasted it. It was 47,450 days, too few and so filled with trouble of my own doing.” And he prayed for Pharaoh a second time.

And Then Joseph Provided Food

And then Joseph provided food (47:12). He provided food for his father and his brothers and his sisters-in-law and his nieces and his nephews. But then read verse thirteen. “Now there was no food in the land.” But Joseph still provided food! This is to say that all those who were living in the land had run out of food and not only had they run out of food, but money too. Those living in the land had spent all their money on food. So they come to Joseph with the plea, “Why should we die before your eyes?” (47:15). So, in Joseph’s cool wisdom, notice he does not panic, he proposes that those wanting food, exchange their livestock for food (47:16). Where have we seen the word livestock before?

So, the people are thankful and exchange their livestock for food. Then a year goes by, and there is no food in the land, meaning all those who were living in the land had run out of food and not only had they run out of food, but livestock too. Guess who owns the livestock now? Pharaoh, and who is in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock? Joseph’s family. Just amazing. So, now the people come back to Joseph and say, “Why should we die before your eyes?” This time the people propose, “Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh” (47:19). And in this moment, Joseph provided for the people of Egypt and for Pharaoh, not just for the next year, but for years upon years. From this day forth, Pharaoh will be responsible for the people and the land, and in return the people will give Pharaoh food, a fifth of the harvest, themselves keeping four-fifths. Their response: “You have saved our lives!” (Genesis 47:25). Note that subtle theme here of living and dying (cf. 42:2; 43:8).

And Jacob Lived in the Land of Egypt

It is this next part that has grabbed my attention. Listen to verse twenty-eight. “And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt.” How long did he live in Egypt? Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years. The time will draw near for him to die and when that time draws to a close, Jacob will be 147 years old. He will call upon Joseph for one final and important favor. He desires to not be buried in the land of Egypt. But rather, he wants to be buried back in the land of promise. This is rather interesting. Jacob was carried by his sons to Egypt (46:5). But he asks Joseph to be the one who carries him out of Egypt to the land of promise (47:30). This part got to me.

But do notice that Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years. These were seventeen seemingly silent years. But who did he spend those years with? It was Joseph. And this is too good, how many years did Jacob spend with Joseph, before Joseph was sent off to Egypt? It was seventeen years.

And I think it is all just a continuation of Genesis 46 and the life of Jacob. How are you finishing? Jacob looked at 88.4% of his life and saw how short and how pain filled it was, and I think he recognized his own hand in it. But these final seventeen years, seemingly silent, seemingly good and really short, Jacob is beholding God’s promise. Jacob is beholding that nothing will thwart God’s will, God’s plan and God’s purpose.

Moses wrote this chapter. He wrote all the previous chapters too. And as he stared at his own finish, he gave these final words. And no matter the age, this is to be kept in view. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

And Joseph Shall Close Your Eyes

These are the generations of Jacob. There is Reuben. He had four sons. There is Simeon. He had six sons. There is Levi. He had three sons. There is Judah. He had five sons. There is Issachar. He had four sons. There is Zebulun. He had three sons. There is Gad. He had seven sons. There is Asher. He had four sons. There is Dan. He had one son. There is Naphtali. He had four sons. There is Joseph. He had two sons. Then there is Benjamin. He had ten sons. And two of those sons must have been twins: Muppim and Huppim.

Genesis 46 has three parts. There is Genesis 46:1-4. Then there is Genesis 46:5-27. And then there is Genesis 46:28-34. These three parts seem to be about this family, Jacob and his descendants moving to Egypt. It was at least seventy people and all of their stuff making this move, together, to Egypt. So, this was no small feat. And it kind of ends with all these people waiting to be told where they can put down all of their stuff.

And this family had to be excited. They were moving to Egypt by the personal invitation of Pharaoh himself. And with the promise that the best of Egypt awaits them – the best shopping; the best restaurants; the best homes, the best technology, all the best for them. All but one person was excited. And for this one person the whole journey stopped. His name was Jacob.

So Israel Took His Journey

Listen to Genesis 46:1. “So Israel took his journey.” Genesis 46 is not really about this family, all seventy plus of them, moving to Egypt. Genesis 46 is really and simply just about Jacob. Notice that in verse one that this is called his journey. And notice that word journey. This particular word for journey is used twelve times in Genesis. And most of the time, actually about seven times, it is used about Jacob’s journey. And so, we can say that Genesis 46 is not just about Jacob, but is really about Jacob’s journey. In his journey, Jacob came to Beersheba (Genesis 46:1-4). In his journey, Jacob left Beersheba (Genesis 46:5-27). And in his journey, Jacob came to Egypt (Genesis 46:28-34).

As soon as his journey begins, it stopped. Why does his journey stop? It is important to remember that the day before the journey, Jacob was pretty excited to get going. He just heard that Joseph his beloved son was alive! For twenty some years, he had lived thinking his son was dead. And then in learning that his son was alive, his soul had been revived. His soul had been revived not simply because his son was alive, but his soul had been revived because Jacob realized that God’s will, God’s plan, God’s purpose had not been thwarted. And it took being reminded of who God is.

And the next day, the wagons packed, the home locked and the keys handed over to the new owner, the family headed out. I am sure as soon as they pulled out of the driveway someone forgot something. And as soon as they got out of the neighborhood, someone had to go to the restroom. And as soon as they pulled onto the highway, someone asked, “Are we there yet?” And as soon as they got started again, Jacob said stop. His boys were puzzled. He asked for help to get out of the wagon and was eased onto the ground. Jacob got his bearings, moved a little further, and stopped.

Israel Took His Journey to Beersheba

Keep listening to Genesis 46:1. “So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba.” Stop there. Jacob took his journey first to Beersheba. And of course we are wondering, why has he stopped in Beersheba? Jacob’s grandfather had once stopped in Beersheba. Listen to Genesis 21:33. “Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.” Besides planting a tree, notice what Abraham did at Beersheba. He worshiped and prayed.

Jacob’s father had also once stopped in Beersheba. “From there he went up to Beersheba. And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, ‘I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.’ So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 26:23-25). Isaac did not plant a tree like his dad, but like his dad he, too, called upon the name of the Lord at Beersheba. He worshiped and prayed at Beersheba. And notice that God spoke to Isaac at Beersheba and said, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

So, why had Jacob stopped at Beersheba? I think, in part, it has to do with his grandfather and his father, for at Beersheba he stopped and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. This is like saying that my dad’s God is my God, we share in fellowship with the same God! So, at Beersheba, Jacob, too, prayed and worshiped. May we keep in mind that this was an old man?

And God Spoke To Israel On His Journey

And while at Beersheba and on his journey, God spoke to Jacob. Listen to verse two. “And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night.” Notice that word visions. It is plural and in Hebrew a plural can have one of two meanings. It can mean more than one, quantity, or it can mean to convey the greatness or intensity of something, hence quality. It seems likely that this here is not more than one vision, but instead it is about the quality of the vision. This is an intense and great and wonderful and beautiful vision! Vision means to see. So, Jacob was to see something great and wonderful and beautiful. It is important to know that in the Bible, a vision is a revelation of God, it is God speaking to man, and we have this vision now in the written word. And it is as great and wonderful and beautiful as when Jacob first heard it!

And God says to Jacob, “Jacob, Jacob.” The wonder of this vision begins with the reminder that God knows Jacob’s name, that it is to say, God knows – he repeats his name – God really knows who Jacob is. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1). Keep watching. It keeps getting better and better. Jacob says, “Here I am.” Now verse three. “I am God.” God calls out his own name! It is all to say, the calling out of both names, that there is a personal relationship here, between God and Jacob. I know his name and he knows mine.

Now, why did Jacob stop? Why did Jacob stop and worship and pray? Listen to what comes next in verse three. “Do not be afraid.” It is the same thing that God said to Isaac at Beersheba all those years ago. Jacob stopped because he was afraid.

Why Was Jacob Afraid?

In Genesis 46, Jacob was old. And being old, he was closer to death on this day than he was yesterday. Remember, he just said in Genesis 45:28, that he wanted to go and see Joseph “before I die.” So, was Jacob afraid that he was not going to make it to Egypt? Probably not, although that sounds really reasonable. But how does he go from revived to afraid?

I think Genesis 15 is helpful. This was not at Beersheba, but it came on a night that Abraham was afraid. God spoke to Abraham when he was afraid, too. Listen to Genesis 15:1. “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’” Then as the sun was going down, “a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him” (15:12). By the way the word afraid both in Genesis 15 and Genesis 46, is the kind of fear that makes you pull your covers over your head. You want to hide. Now listen to Genesis 15:13. “Then the Lord said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.’”

First, who are Abraham’s offspring? It is these seventy plus people who just left their home! And what does God say about these descendants? They will sojourn in a land not theirs, be slaves there and be afflicted there. Jacob was leading his descendants to…Egypt, a land not theirs, to be strangers there. Could it be that Jacob is seeing for certain, knowing for certain Genesis 15:13 on his journey? And so, he was afraid. He was leaving his home. He was leaving his home and will die in Egypt. And then he was leaving his family to live in Egypt. God has promised that they will not leave Egypt for four hundred years. And he just experienced with Joseph that God’s will and plan and purpose will not be thwarted. What was Jacob to think? So, God specifically says that Jacob should not be afraid to go down to Egypt. Why? It is because there, even in the midst of affliction, he will make Jacob into a great nation.

This reminds me of 1 Peter, written to sojourners, those living in a land not their own. And Peter writes to them to not be afraid for, “by God’s power [you] are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:5-7). This is the point of going to Egypt!

And Joseph’s Hand Shall Close Your Eyes

Listen to how this part ends. It is about Jacob finishing his journey. Realize, when he started his journey as a young man, he did so on foot, but with these words, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (28:15). That was at the start of the journey. This is the finishing of the journey. “I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes” (Genesis 46:4).

Partly here is God’s care for a father who is afraid as his journey is being finished. The last sight Jacob will behold is God’s fulfilled promise. Joseph will be the one to close his eyes. But what God promised at the beginning, God continues to fulfill at the finish. I will be with you and I will bring you up again (See 1 Corinthians 15).

And it leaves us with a big question. How are you finishing? We are not to think of the finish when we are old and getting close to the finish. It is because for each of us the finish will come. And each of us do not know when that finish will come. Each of our journeys are not all the same distance. And so, what is holding your view on the finish?

Listen again to Genesis 46:3. “I am God.” Listen again to Genesis 46:4. “I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again.” The Hebrew name for God here is really easy to remember. It is the name El and literally means mighty. So, the view to hold on the finish is that God is mighty. And he says to Jacob, I am with you. In Isaiah 7:14, there is the promise of one to come whose name is Immanuel, which we often translate as “God with us.” But deeply means, “God who is mighty is with us.” The Gospel of Matthew begins with a promised birth. Listen to Matthew 1:21-23. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” And when this child is born they call him…Jesus. Who is Jesus? He is “God who is mighty is with us.” He is the one who spoke to Jacob.

Oh, and the Gospel of Matthew ends with the words of Jesus. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (28:20). So, again, how are you finishing? By the way, after these words, Jacob got up and finished.

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.

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).