“Wilderness” The Life of Joseph
“God’s Tactics to Draw Men to Himself;
The Brother’s Second Journey to Egypt”
This morning we will be looking at tactics that God uses to draw us closer to Him. One of those tactics is to place in situations where we have to turn our lives over to Him, to give him control.
Three Things You Cannot Control (vv. 1-7)
Now the famine was severe in the land. 2 And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little food.” 3 But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. 5 But if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’” 6 Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” 7 They replied, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?”
There are some situations in life that no matter how hard you fight, no matter how much you want something to change, no matter what you do – there is no changing it. For Joseph’s family they are facing three things that they cannot change.
The Power of Nature, “Now the famine was severe in the land” – Jacob and brothers had no control over the fact that a famine was upon them. They could sit around and pretend it wasn’t there and they would starve; or they could recognize the dire situation, take appropriate steps and live.
In 2010 a flood struck Bellevue and many people lost their homes, precious material possessions, and some even their lives. Who could stop the flood? Who because they wanted the water to stop rising could cause it to stop? Only one man can stop the storm, and calm the sea (Jesus). The rest of us can only react to the darkening clouds on the horizon and react to it.
Every year there are natural disasters where local emergency services and municipalities will tell people they have to evacuate – but there are always people who says, “I’m just going to ride out the storm.” Sometimes they live, but often times they are killed in the disaster because they wouldn’t give up control.
The Will of Man, “The man solemnly warned us” – In the brother’s mind, “the (Egyptian) man” was not going to change his mind, or his instructions no matter how much Jacob wanted him to. The brothers told him again, and again, “Benjamin has to go with us when we return to Egypt.” You cannot change someone else’s mind, their opinions, their beliefs – you can try to persuade them, but when it’s said and done, you cannot change another person. Women marry men, and there are things about them they don’t like, so then they spend years trying to change them into another person.
The Circumstances of Life, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” The brother’s told “the (Egyptian) man” that they had a father and a younger brother. They had no way of knowing what would happen next’ Judah even says, “Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” There are circumstances and situations that you find yourself in to where it does you no good, to go back and rehash and dissect past events – your life situation is what it is, and dwelling on the past, and past decisions does you no good – it won’t help solve the problem you are in now. You say, “if only I had said this, or done that, then things would be different now.” But when you finish saying those things, your life is still in the situation.
There is a quote by writer and philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So, yes in the future, you may can make decisions differently, but now (in the present), in your current situation – you can change it; you can only react to it.
“Miss Havisham is a character in the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations (1861). She is a wealthy spinster, once jilted at the altar, who insists on wearing her wedding dress for the rest of her life. She lives in a ruined mansion with her adopted daughter, Estella. Dickens describes her as looking like “the witch of the place”. . . “Humiliated and heartbroken, Miss Havisham suffered a mental breakdown and remained alone in her decaying mansion Satis House – never removing her wedding dress, wearing only one shoe, leaving the wedding breakfast and cake uneaten on the table, and allowing only a few people to see her. She also had the clocks in her mansion stopped at twenty minutes to nine: the exact time when she had received Compeyson’s letter.” You cannot control the circumstances you find yourself in – but you can take steps to deal with the situation.
Salvation Requires a Heart Change (vv. 8-13)
8 And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. 9 I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. 10 If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.” 11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. 12 Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight. 13 Take also your brother, and arise, go again to the man. 14 May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”
Throughout the story of Joseph encountering his brothers, we are asking the question, “Are the brothers the same as when they hated Joseph, threw him in the pit, and sold him as a slave, or has their heart changed?” In chapter 42 we saw that God has orchestrated a famine, which drove them to Egypt, they have been treated roughly, thrown into prison, seen their brother bound and thrown into prison.
All of this was designed to force them to face the sin they had committed. Joseph saw that it was working, they said, Genesis 42:21 “Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.”
We do see a change, (In chapter 43) first in Judah (one of Joseph’s brothers), and then in Jacob (his father). We have seen a similar change in Reuben already in chapter 42. Rueben had pledged his own sons as security for Benjamin, Genesis 42:37 “Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” Now Judah, says, “If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.” Judah is putting others needs and welfare above his own.
Remember, Judah was one of the brothers that hated Joseph, mistreated him, threw him in a pit, and sold him as a slave. In between that event and today’s passage, Judah’s daughter-in-law had been accused of getting pregnant outside of marriage, so Judah orders for her to be burned to death, Genesis 38:25 (Judah and Tamar) “As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” 26 Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” Judah will go on to become a great tribe as a part of the nation of Israel, but he has to have a heart change first.
Then there is Jacob, the dad. He has been called Jacob throughout the story, but now suddenly, he is called Israel. This was his new or covenant name, and it linked to his using the phrase, “God Almighty.” Genesis 32:27-28 “And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,6 for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
When Abraham’ s name was changed from Abram to Abraham, his old name was not used again, because in that moment there was a significant character change. “The new name represented a profound and permanent growth in his character.” This is not true for Jacob; he had wrestled with God (was given a new name Israel), but as time went on Jacob went back to being the same trickster and deceiver he had always been. Now, there seems to be a heart change, where he says, “And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”
“Jacob is now in extreme old age, and he is about to be left alone so far as the companionship of his sons is concerned.” All of his sons are away. Up to this point at least one of his children had been by his side, but now, he is all alone. He has trusted God before, now he has to trust God again, so he calls upon “God Almighty.” Jacob has returned to being a man of faith, so he is called Israel once again. But that drawing back to God for Jacob meant solitude, loneliness, and a being separated from loved ones.
This is a similar test that Abraham faced, when God told him, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Both of these men would lose the child they deeply loved, leaving them only with their relationship with God.
God’s Tactics to Draw Men to Himself (vv. 15-34)
15 So the men took this present, and they took double the money with them, and Benjamin. They arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18 And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” 19 So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. 21 And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, 22 and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 And when the man had brought the men into Joseph’s house and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, 25 they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they should eat bread there.
Provision, Reuniting, and Fellowship (vv. 15-25) (v. 18) “And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house,” – This is the second time that we see the brother’s afraid. Before, when they discovered that their money had been returned to them after they had left to go back home on their first journey to Egypt. Joseph’s only intention was good, but here they are afraid, “he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” They knew what they would do if they had the power, so they assumed others would act as they would.
The servant of Joseph does a series of things that puts the brother’s minds at ease. He tells them not to worry about the money, (v. 23) “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then they release Simeon from prison and brings him to the other brothers. Which would have shown them that “the (Egyptian) man” was a person of his word.
Then he invites them to Joseph’s house for a special meal (prepared in the middle of the day). Then they are “given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder.” All these blessings, upon hospitality, upon provision – never knowing that it was Joseph all the time. God is using these things to draw the brothers closer to Him.
There is a theological term called “common grace” – “When we walk down the street and see houses and gardens and families dwelling in security, or when we do business in the marketplace and see the abundant results of technological progress, or when we walk through the woods and see the beauty of nature, or when we are protected by government, or when we are educated from the vast storehouse of human knowledge, we should realize not only that God in his sovereignty is ultimately responsible for all of these blessings, but also that God has granted them to all sinners who are totally undeserving of any of them! These blessings in the world are not only evidence of God’s power and wisdom, they are also continually a manifestation of his abundant grace.” Matthew 5:45 “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Romans 2:4 “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” points us to ask the question, “Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience (God’s common grace)?” Yes, you do, we all do.
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Another Test – Portions given to Benjamin (vv. 26-34)
26 When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. 27 And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. 29 And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” 32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. 33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement. 34 Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.
What does God do to draw the heart of men to Himself? For the brothers, “he had used a pinch of material want, the pain of harsh treatment, the press of an enforced solitude, the proof of his presence in small things, and last of all, the pattern of an ordained necessity.” At these things, the brothers admitted their sin, at least to one another. In this passage, we see that God adds another step, genuine affection.
(v. 33) “And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement.” – The (Egyptian) man had the brothers seated by their birth order (oldest to youngest). But how did they know? “There are no less than 39,917,000 different orders in which eleven individuals could have been seated.” The odds are 40 million to one that the stewards would place the brothers in this orde They don’t know how, but they are known. God knows everything about us, sometimes He reveals that knowledge as a way to draw someone to Him.
Then there was one final test, “Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.” Joseph sends portions form his table to the brothers, but Benjamin receives five times as much as the rest of the brothers. He had the seat of honor at the table, and he received much more than the others. Joseph is trying to figure out it this special treatment would manifest resentment toward Benjamin. It doesn’t seem to bother them, “And they drank and were merry with him.”
Genesis chapters 42 and 43 gives us an example of where God sets things into motion actions that draws the brother toward him and shows us the love He has for His creation. Romans 5:6-8 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God again and again shows us, displays to us the love He has for us. These signs of grace should draw us to Him. Do you know Him today? Have you given your life to the merciful and gracious God?
 James Montgomery Boice, Genesis, An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1987) 146.
 Boice, 147.
 Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1999) 279.
 Boice, 150.
 Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record, A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Book House, 1977) 610.