GENESIS-SERIES NR 40
Broken to live : Genesis 42
Genesis 42 is a very important link in the story of Joseph, and it should be read in conjunction with the successive chapters. It is really very worthwhile to study it verse by verse, although we are not going to do so in this message.
I want to specifically draw your attention to the process Joseph followed in order to break down his hardened brothers to the point of brokenness and accountability – where they would kneel in front of him and be able to receive the provision of vitally important supplies – supplies without which they would surely die of starvation during that period of drought and famine.
Today we will focus on the specific way in which Joseph treated his brothers – while they were of course oblivious to the fact that he was JOSEPH – his true identity was still concealed.
We already know the basic story: How Joseph’s brothers had sold him to Egypt, but told their father that he had been killed by a wild animal. In Egypt Joseph eventually became prime minister and stored up corn for the 7 lean years that the Lord had shown him which was on the way.
The drought did come and there was famine in the rest of the world of that time, while Egypt had abundance. And that was why Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food – and came into Joseph’s presence without recognising him, while Joseph knew immediately who they were, but hid his emotions.
Yes, those brothers indeed moved from famine to abundance. From bondage to freedom. From death to life. BUT: There was a necessary process of breaking-down that preceded it. Joseph did not make himself known at first. And he did not immediately provide them with the necessary supplies.
Perhaps you have already wondered why Joseph followed such a long drawn out process before he revealed himself to his brothers. It almost seems as if he was ugly with them. It is exactly 100 verses from where Joseph first saw his brothers until where he revealed his identity. Why?
If we look carefully, we will see that it is a breaking-down process that is taking place. No life and abundance are possible before the 11 brothers have not bowed down before Joseph in deep humility as predicted in the dream of the shaves of grain. But – in order to get them to that point a breaking-down process was necessary.
Why so drastic?
As a result of the indescribable hardness and obstinacy and unyielding and irresponsive and self-justification of the heart of man. Ecclesiastes 9:3 says that there is a madness in the heart of man while they live.
We are not fully aware of what truly sits in us. The words of Gen 37:8 are present in all of us and are behind all the sin we commit: “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” Our vehement resistance against the Greater Joseph’s – the Lord Jesus Christ’s – rule over us, is our greatest obstacle!! And add to that Gen 37:18 – let us get rid of him who wants to rule.
Years later when they appear before Prime Minister Joseph in their great need, his brothers still justify themselves. 42:11 > “we are honest men”. And that while they are still hiding that serious lie from their father Jacob. Can you see how deceitful and untruthful is the heart of man? (Jer 17:9).
The only reason why a person is spiritually lukewarm and lacking in passion and fire, is because the human heart is so prodigiously hard and impenetrable and self-centred and dull with regard to eternal matters. We always justify ourselves. We always have 500 watertight arguments. We dread that Jesus (the greater Joseph) should reign over us. We hate to prostrate ourselves like the sheaves of corn before the greater Joseph. Our heart reassures us that we are right – always right. We are sitting with skeletons in our past that we cannot afford to come to light. How many of us – present here – are bound in some measure – bound perhaps by a lie from our past that we carefully keep hidden?
Joseph could not reveal himself to his brothers and exonerate his brothers and provide them with abundance UNTIL they were completely broken. And until they have brought into the open the ghost from the past.
Take careful note how Joseph works with them – look how the process develops:
1 Initially the brothers say: “Do you intend to reign over us?” (37:8) Determined resistance against the authority of Joseph.
2 “We are honest men”. (42:11). Justify themselves.
3 “Our one brother is no more” (42:13). A small crack appears…
4 “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen.. (42:21). They are beginning to acknowledge their sin – when they had to go back to fetch Benjamin.
5 Joseph returns their money to teach them to receive freely. Free grace. He gives them even more than they already have. That breaks them in their pride.
6 They plead like children when they have to explain to Joseph about the money in their bags (43:20).
7 Joseph puts his cup in Benjamin’s bag (44:2) . They know how their father feels about Benjamin. And in that way Joseph would finally break them. Benjamin would have to become Joseph’s slave because he stole the cup – and it will break Jacob’s heart! The mere thought of this tears their heart apart
8 They tear their clothes (44:13). “How can we prove our innocence?” “Do not be angry with your servants, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself.” They acknowledge Joseph’s high status – his authority.
9 Judah’s stirring plea that Joseph must spare their lives.
Then Joseph could no longer control himself. He burst out in tears saying: “I am Joseph! Is my father still living? Come close to me, do not delay. I give you the best in Egypt – it will be yours”.
O, Jesus, precious Jesus, who weeps, when I – pitiful godless sinner who murdered Him – reach a state of brokenness, reveal everything, bring everything into the light….
That was the only place where the 11 brothers could truly meet Joseph. That was the only place where they could taste the abundance of Egypt. That is the only place where revival can break through: where hearts break and soften. Where the cry of the heart can be heard: “With what can I justify myself?”
You can go and read the history of all true revivals – when the Holy Spirit truly works, there is a deep brokenness before exuberant joy of deliverance breaks out.
But this brokenness also comes before revival, in the hearts of people whom the Lord establishes to pray in desperation.
But it applies to the individual person in the same way when the Lord God starts to work towards salvation with such a person.
Our own hearts stand between us and God. Our own hearts stand between us and life. When the Lord is seriously working with a person, there will be a breaking-down process. Which is not a pleasant party. Because when the Greater Joseph works with us like that, we experience something of the holiness of the Lord. Joseph’s brothers experienced something like that for themselves.
Look at the great revivals in history: For example the Boland Revival of 1860. It is said that the people of Montagu could not wait to confess their sins. Often not shocking sins, but only the mere sinfulness of the heart caused the people to feel as if they are going out of their minds. Where the Holy Spirit is working powerfully, people become concerned and anxious about the most insignificant matters. “What can we say to our Lord?” – the way Joseph’s brothers called out. And then they find peace and joy in the Lord Jesus’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. FIRST the brokenness and THEN the peace and abundance in Jesus Christ. The provision Joseph had for his brothers.
When we look closer at how the Scriptures describe man the way he is spiritually by nature, it is easy to understand why a breaking-down process is needed, because if it is true what the Bible says about our lost state, it is simply impossible for any person to come to the Greater Joseph in repentance by their own desire or strength of will. It is impossible. If the Greater Joseph do not start the breaking-down process himself, there is no hope for any one to enjoy the abundance He provides.
Just listen how God’s Word describes the natural human being (that is ALL people who were ever born – Rom 3:23):
A sinner (Rom 3:23) is DEAD in sin (Eph 2:10) with a deceitful heart (Jer 17:9) full of evil (Mark 7:21-23) and unable to understand spiritual truth (1 Cor 2:14). There is no one who seeks God (Rom 3:11), they are slaves to the sinful nature (Rom 6:14-20), enemies of God in heart and deed (Col 1:21), objects of God’s wrath (Eph 2:3) and unable to freely choose to believe (Rom 3:10-12). Man cannot please God (Rom 8:8) and is unable to come to Christ (John 6:44). Man is a lawbreaker and sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). Man is lost (Luke 19:10) and has an inherently sinful nature and is condemned by the law of God (Rom 7:12-14). Every moment the wrath of God remains on man (John 3:36). The wages of this state is eternal death (Rom 6:23).
That is true of YOU since your formation in the womb. It is true of ME since I was formed in the womb. And it is crystal clear that a person who looks like THAT, is definitely not able to turn to the Lord by own volition. Man would much rather turn further away from God and justify himself all the way.
Joseph’s brothers in their self-justification and hardness and dishonesty and lies are a picture of a human being (all humans) in his lostness. And it is this state of death that Joseph had to break down. That is also the way the Lord works in the life of the person in whom He graciously chooses to work.
We cannot soften our own hearts, but the Spirit of Christ does it so easily.
The blood of Jesus cleanses of all sin and the Holy Spirit equips with power and abundance.
Translated by Marthie Wilson