GENESIS-SERIES NR 43
The great reunion
Just to repeat what have already been said: The Joseph-story is not really about Joseph, but about the living God. It is HE who is the active Person – behind the scenes – in Joseph’s life. It is from beginning to end about God’s Providence – many ways – but particularly of how the Lord arranged events so that Joseph could eventually become Prime Minister of Egypt and provide corn and food to the world so that his own brothers would bow down to him in the end. God’s actual aim was to increase Israel to a great nation out of whom the Messiah would eventually be born.
One reads the Joseph-story and then wants to jump up and exclaim: “How wonderful: The clouds are sometimes so dark, but God’s light of Providence always breaks through again!” It is simply not true that matters such as God’s Providence is something that believers will never understand and which belongs primarily to the realm of theologians. No! When a child of God is in difficult circumstances, it is precisely the truth of the Lord’s Providence that helps you to put one foot in front of the other! The Lord’s provision and abundant wisdom are something very needful in daily life. Chapter 45 shows us that.
In verses 1-15 we see how Joseph reveals his true identity to his brothers and how reconciliation is taking place between them. And in verses 16-24 we see the Pharaoh’s surprising generosity towards Joseph’s family. Lastly in verse 25 until the end of the chapter we hear how Joseph’s brothers report back to their father Jacob.
1 – VERSES 1-15 > In the deep remorse Judah expressed, and the gentle welcoming affection from Joseph, we see something of what happens when a sinner falls at the feet of Jesus with the realisation of his/her utter lostness. And the forgiveness and atonement that take place. In the heartbeat of Joseph one sees something of what lives in the heart of the Lord. No one who reads this passage can and must ever doubt God’s compassion towards someone coming to repentance. The parallel with the father of the prodigal son in Luke 15 is obvious. The change in Joseph’s brothers is astonishing. As is his reaction. Particularly when we consider how heartless their rejection of him was. Yet Joseph notices the great change that God’s grace has brought about in their hearts. Judah’s plea had a great emotional impact on Joseph. He cries out I AM JOSEPH to their great horrified astonishment. IS MY FATHER STILL LIVING? Meaning: Is he well? Will he be able to travel to Egypt? Is he senile? Will he still know me?
The brothers were unable to reply. They were astonished. Bowled over. Flattened.
Therefore Joseph says: “Come close to me”. And he cried on their shoulders. Benjamin first. An emotional reunion.
And then Joseph says something important. And with this we see that the actual thing that impacted Joseph, was not Judah’s plea, but his realization of how God’s Providence was managing everything behind the scenes. Everything works together for the good of those whom the Lord called (Rom 8:27). That is why he was not filled with bitterness and a desire for revenge towards his brothers. He had an eye on that which the Lord was busy doing. His heart rested upon the doctrine of the sovereign Providence of God. Three times he declared that fact. He was so convinced that everything that had happened – also the brothers’ despicable behaviour of the past – was God’s work. He did not even refer to the brothers‘ wrongdoings. In any case, they were already in a place of remorse and repentance. He did not need to turn the screws tighter on them. What he did say was that the provision and wisdom of God had 100% overruled the brothers’ misdemeanours. And God’s Divine Plan was planned and executed with wisdom. Everything that happened was directed towards serving the glory of the Lord God. God’s aim with everything that happened to Joseph, was to reveal His own glory: to the Egyptians, in Joseph’s life, to his brothers, to Jacob, to His nation-to-be. Joseph’s conviction was so absolutely God-centred, God-focussed, and trusting on Him. And that resulted in true reconciliation with his brothers.
Joseph says to his brothers: “It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. Do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here. God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. It was not you who sent me here, but God.”
We must see the Greater Joseph – Jesus Christ – in this. The crimes that the Jews committed against Him, were overruled by God the Father’s eternal divine Plan. They sold Him and had Him crucified, but it was according to the sovereign act of Providence by God the Father. So that Jesus could save and protect and preserve a remnant of humanity. Not all people, but a remnant – the Bride of Christ. The chosen nation of God. Exactly what Joseph told his brothers that God had sent him ahead to Egypt for – to preserve a remnant and save their lives from famine by a great deliverance.
What the Holy Spirit wants us to see in this passage is probably that it was Joseph’s faith conviction that it was the Lord who had arranged and managed everything behind the scenes and who had preserved him and kept his life from becoming one big bundle of bitterness. In good times and bad times, the Lord has a good many things working together for the good of His chosen ones. Joseph clung to that. And the result was this unbelievable reconciliation between him and his brothers..
2 – Verses 16-24 > When the prodigal son returned home, the Father had a feast prepared and placed a ring on his finger (Luke 15). Because he was dead and now he is alive again!
It is difficult not to see the parallel between the reunion that took place in Genesis 45 and the parable in Luke 15.
When Joseph’s brothers finally broke down, they were overloaded with plenty. Remember there were still 4-5 years of drought ahead. Pharaoh also was overwhelming with his hospitality. Which is strange behaviour for a Pharaoh. It shows however his sense of unity with Joseph.
At this point one can clearly see how authentic and reliable and true Genesis is. Egypt and Israel were enemies. To now write something positive about the Egyptian Pharaoh, was not really very good tactics by the author – which was Moses according to Genesis. Negative propaganda would have been more effective. It would have been much better to paint Egypt in a more negative light. But Moses wrote the TRUTH – that which really happened. Because the Holy Spirit guided him with his writing (2 Pet 1). To describe Pharaoh as very generous and hospitable, was actually against the grain of human nature, but precise under the inspiration of the Spirit.
We know however that Pharaoh is a symbol of the goodness and grace of God the Father in the life of a remorseful repentant sinner.
We also know that this generosity of Pharaoh – which was actually the fruit of the Providence and plan and management of the Lord – would eventually lead to FURTHER provision from God, namely that the nation Israel would end up in Egypt when Jacob would arrive there. And that 400 years of hardship was lying ahead for them. They would live in exile in Egypt. But that too would happen under the Providence of God, because in that way they would be set apart and consecrated to become God’s nation who would be purified of the evil influence of the Canaanites. The Lord was therefore continuously at the helm.
The other thing that would stem forth from the hospitality and generosity of Joseph and Pharaoh was that the brothers would go into a still deeper repentance. Because now they had to go home and explain to Jacob that Joseph is still alive. And also tell Jacob what they had done to Joseph at that time and with what lie they have been living. The process of repentance was therefore not yet complete.
At that time Joseph’s brothers had stripped him of his beautiful ornamented robe, deprived him of it. Now he was presenting them with new clothing as gifts. Clothing that has certainly come from the royal household. Surely to convince Jacob of the fact that he was indeed alive. When Jacob would see the clothing and gifts from the Pharaoh’s palace, he had to be convinced. And Benjamin receives an additional 300 pieces of silver cause he was Joseph’s only blood-brother and Joseph wanted to compensate him for accusing him of theft and for treating him badly as part of the breakdown-process to bring his brothers to repentance.
O, how wonderful is the Lord’s heart towards sinners who robbed Him of His robe when He was hanging naked on the cross, the robe of righteousness. WHO robbed Him of His robe? You and me! Not the Jews of the time. It was our sin that robbed Him of His robe. But the person who falls at His feet with remorse, is being clothed with the robe of righteousness. That is the robe in which the sinner is standing before God, acquitted and in the right standing with God. And Jesus HIMSELF is the robe (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21).
3 – Verses 25-28 > Jacob’s reaction to the news that Joseph is still alive. Hard to imagine what took place here. The Holy Spirit decided to keep Moses from giving an account of how the brothers confessed to Jacob about what they had done to Joseph all those years before. Just to reveal the terrible lie must have been awful. But the Lord has decided that we do not need to know the detail.
What we do see however, is how Jacob was tested to step out in faith-trust. He had absolutely NO proof that Joseph was truly alive. For decades he lived with the knowledge that Joseph was dead and that the brothers’ story was the truth. Now he had to change his mind and believe this extremely good news from the mouths of these same brothers. He had to embrace the revelation of God’s goodness, His providence – in faith. Pure faith-trust. He only had his sons’ word and the gifts they brought back with them. The gifts confirm the news: Joseph is alive and he is the ruler of all Egypt and the provider of food and life to a world in famine.
Can we possibly form an idea of what a powerful work of God must have been working in Jacob’s heart to get him to believe his sons’ story?
It is exactly the same powerful miracle that the Spirit works in the heart of every person who starts to believe the Gospel-message.
We can see absolutely nothing of the content of the Gospel and we have no proof. The news is simply: “JESUS lives and He reigns at the Right-hand of the Father and He is the Provider of life to a world dying in their sins.”
That is what we hear with our ears.
And before our very eyes all we have are water, bread and wine. The same way Jacob could see the gifts brought from Egypt. Those gifts had to confirm the news that his sons told him. And that had to help him trusting their news.
That is exactly what the sacraments do. Baptism and communion.
They are God-given visible means that validate and underline the news.
And the Holy Spirit’s miracle-working mighty power accompanies it.
And in that way trusting upon Christ comes into being in our heart. To say like Jacob: “I am convinced! My son Joseph is still alive, I will go and see him before I die”.
This is how it works – my heart hears the good news and comes to take the validation of the sacraments seriously and so the Spirit does the miracle – I start tot get only Jesus in sight. Only Christ in sight.
Translated by Marthie Wilson