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Gen. 42:1-38 - Guilt and Grace - Part 1
In the last 3 weeks, we saw Joseph getting called before the Pharaoh to interpret his dreams, and we saw just an amazing boldness in this man in that he boldly spoke to this pagan about the true God, then started giving him instructions on how to deal with the upcoming famine.
Then we saw him elevated from the dungeon to being given authority in the whole land. We saw how Joseph took charge and was responsible for the storage of crops during this period, and talked about just how God was in control of this whole deal.
Apart from Benjamin, Joseph’s brothers were a pretty miserable bunch. Simeon and Levi were guilty of premeditated genocide in the slaughter of the unsuspecting Shechemites in ch. 34. Number one son, Reuben, had committed incest with his father’s concubine in an attempt to secure ascendancy over his father Jacob in ch 35:22.
Next, all 10 of them had taken the teenager Joseph and stripped him and beaten him and thrown him into a pit with the intent to murder him - which was only put to a halt by a passing caravan and his sale into slavery in Egypt.
Number 4 son, Judah, then got his daughter-in-law, Tamar, pregnant, who had disguised herself as a Canaanite prostitute.
So by any estimation these patriarchs-to-be were less than promising as bearers of the promise of Abraham and bearers of the covenant nation that would emerge from Egypt at the exodus.
These 10 needed to be confronted with their guilt.
- They needed an awakening of conscience.
- They needed to mourn.
- They needed to genuinely repent.
- And they needed solidarity and harmony with Joseph if they were to make it alive during the worldwide famine.
Indeed their future rested upon all these changes. God could easily raise up new patriarchs if He so chose, as He did with Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Menasseh in ch. 48.
The brothers desperately needed grace, though they didn't know it. So, with that being said, let’s dig into the text!
Vs. 1-5 - “When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”
Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also.”
Isn’t it interesting - GOD brings about famine here! There is this idea that - “Everything bad is from Satan and everything good is from God.”
Clearly, the Lord orchestrates all things and God brings about this famine in order to drive these brothers down to Joseph, and that will ultimately result in Him getting all of them down into Egypt where He’s going to multiply them. I want us to see why this is all happening.
Notice Jacob’s hanging onto Benjamin here, he doesn’t want to part with his boy. You remember that Joseph and Benjamin were the 2 sons from the love of his life, Rachel. Remember, he worked 14 years for her. He had kids from Leah and the handmaiden also, but Joseph and Ben were the 2 from his love, Rachel. He’s already lost Joseph - he thinks he’s dead - and there’s no way in his mind that he could emotionally afford to let go of Benjamin as well.
So Benjamin is really kind of Jacob’s emotional life preserver, it's his only connection and emotional link to his past wife, the love of his life. Notice vs, 6-8...
Vs. 6-8 - “Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked. “From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.”
Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.”
So, Partial fulfillment of his dream from ch. 37. Because there were 11 brothers in the dream, here’s 10, so this is cuing Joseph in that Benjamin is gonna have to come down there at some point, and we’ll see that play out. What I want us to get a handle on is what a spiritual lightning-rod this moment must have been for Joseph, because God is now laying out before him why all this is happening.
This HAD to have blown his mind! For the first time, he’s seeing all these disjointed events coming together!
- "THAT’S what this is all about?
- THAT’S why I was dumped in the pit,
- THAT’S why I was sold,
- THAT’S why I’ve now been elevated. Now it’s all coming together.
- THIS is the truth that God has given me in that dream!”
I can’t even begin to imagine what’s being produced in the heart of this man as he’s seeing what God has been up to this whole time!
There are those that want to come along and criticize this as being fantasy here in vs. 8. “Well, how in the world could his own brothers not recognize him?” And yet it's been over 20 years. We change quite a bit in 20 years time. And remember, he’s shaved, he’s dressed like an Egyptian, he probably “walks like an Egyptian.” We’re gonna see in a bit here that he talked to them initially and deliberately in Egyptian!
Recognize that this whole process before us is being played out in such a way that the Lord brought Joseph here - all of this is designed and orchestrated to bring about confession and repentance in these brothers. ALL of this is designed to that end.
Remember, these brothers are thugs - this is a gnarly bunch of dudes - killing villages, stealing, selling off people, lying to their father...
What Joseph is deliberately setting up here is: “Have these guys changed? Has there been any softening of their hearts that has taken place over the years? Is there any degree of repentance on the horizon here?” And again, we just see the providence of God here. Understand that Joseph is one guy, he’s the Prime Minister of Egypt. Joseph did not oversee every grain transaction that’s going down over the course of this famine. We’re told that he has other men in his charge to distribute that grain within the land.
While they wouldn’t have been so concerned with those within the land, what they would have been concerned about is those coming in from foreign lands to come and buy grain. They would be screening very carefully any foreigners that were coming in because they would think that perhaps they were spying - to scope out the land for invasion.
This is the only nation in the world with food at the moment, and Joseph is in charge to defend that from abroad, and that’s why he’s going with the whole spy routine here.
Join us next week as we continue with Genesis chapter 42. Blessings to you all.