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Who Sent Joseph Into Egypt?

God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:7-8)

The implications of this statement made by Joseph to his bewildered brothers must have been as perplexing and astounding to them as it has been to generations of Bible readers since it was first spoken. As believers, we tend to just sort of skip right through such profound statements with the unspoken understanding that, naturally, all things are under God’s control and He is in control of all things. Skeptics enjoy reading such statements as opportunities to impugn the character of God; assigning to Him full responsibility for the entirety of man’s errors. But what exactly do such statements really mean? More directly: was everything which we have read about occurring in the life of Joseph a part of God’s perfect plan?

Before we are too quick to answer this, we should consider what it would mean if all of these things were, in fact, the plan of God. First of all, it would imply that it was God’s plan for the brothers to commit sin by selling their brother into slavery. James tells us in his epistle that God never entices man to do evil (James 1:13) and consequently could never plan or intend for anyone to commit sin. Sin is, therefore, never a part of God’s perfect plan. Yet we are told that God sent Joseph into Egypt, i.e., that He planned for Joseph to go there. How is this possible if God did not intend for the brothers to sell him into slavery?

This is an area of disputation that has historically resulted in all sorts of theological dilemmas, calling into question where the line is drawn between God’s will and the free will of man. Does God or does He not ever step across that line in order to accomplish His perfect will? My simple answer to this is that He does not. What God does do is to take the opportunity to use even the sin, errors, and shortcomings of man (believers and unbelievers alike) to bring His will to pass. It was not God’s intention for the brothers to sell Joseph into slavery, but He chose to use that as the impetus that would put Joseph into the land of Egypt. God did not plan for Potiphar’s wife to make lewd advances toward Joseph nor to falsely accuse him of misconduct; yet He used those very things to facilitate Joseph’s delivery into prison — a place where he would come into close contact with the chief butler and baker of Pharaoh.

How God would have brought His will to pass apart from the sins of these people is anyone’s guess, but we can be assured that God did not need the sins of man to help His plans along. He never does. It speaks volumes about the sovereignty of our Lord in that He is able to accomplish His will in spite of man’s sin. What a profound reminder that God is in complete control!

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 11, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission

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I Am Joseph, Your Brother

“Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.” (Genesis 45:4)

“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10)

The foreshadowing in Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers of Christ’s reconciliation with His brothers is astounding. We have been looking at Joseph’s interactions with the other sons of Jacob from the perspective of the Christian interacting with Christ. But we are also reminded herein of the Lord Jesus’ own relation to the nation of Israel. After all, at this particular time Joseph (who is foreshadowing Christ) is interacting with the whole of the nation of Israel, for the entirety of all the tribes is represented in this room. The ancestors of each and every tribe is present with each brother being the namesake of the tribe that will descend from him.

It is telling that none of the brothers recognized Joseph. The nation of Israel failed to recognize their promised Messiah during His first coming, as well. It is only when Joseph chooses to reveal himself to the brothers that they can know who he is. The Lord Jesus stated plainly to the nation of Israel Who He was, but they did not believe Him (Matt. 23:37). At the first meeting of Joseph and the brothers, they do not realize who he is. It is during their second journey into Egypt that Joseph reveals himself to them.  So it shall be during our Lord’s second coming that He will reveal Himself to a repentant and believing remnant from among Israel. Joseph said unto his brothers, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.” Jesus will say, “I am Jesus, your Brother, Whom ye crucified.”

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 10, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

Joseph Reveals Himself To His Brothers

“Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.” (Genesis 45:1)

The moment of reconciliation. It is to this end that all of the actions of the preceding four chapters have been leading. It staggers the mind to think of the lengths that God has gone to in order for this very moment to come to pass; this point of reconciliation between the sons of Jacob wherein Joseph once again takes his place among them. We are reminded as we look back over the space of more than 20 years at Joseph’s dream, a dream where his eleven brothers bowed down before him (Gen. 37:5-7), that God truly does see the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Yet would we even begin to imagine all of the things which God brought to pass in order to make this happen? Would someone entirely unfamiliar with this account of the life of Joseph even begin to guess what would transpire in fulfillment of the prophetic dream?

Nevertheless, we know that God did these things for one end: to bring the sons of Jacob back together in the safety of the land of Egypt. All that has been leading up to this moment — the testing, the accusations of espionage and theft, the threat of placing Benjamin into slavery — were done to bring the brothers to this point in time. Do we not greatly underestimate what God will do in order to bring people to the place where He wants them?
The reconciliation between the brothers and Joseph is a portrait of the sinner’s reconciliation to Christ. All of the moments of fear, trepidation, anxiety, guilt, confusion, and frustration which the sons of Jacob experienced during their dealings with this enigmatic “governor of Egypt” are hallmarks of many of our own experiences when Christ was drawing us to Himself. Some roads longer than others, all of us were brought through moments of emotional pain, struggle and inner turmoil until we reached the point when our hearts were ready and the Lord Jesus revealed Himself to us.
It is worth noting that before the actual moment of reconciliation begins, Joseph sends every other person out of the room. “Cause every man to go out from me“, he cries. It seems to be our practice as Evangelicals to want those making an initial decision to come to Christ to go to the front of the church and announce their decision in front of everybody. But isn’t this most crucial moment in a person’s life really between them and the Lord? Sometimes we act as though their conversion is only validated by a showy presentation in front of the entire congregation. “They must confess Christ with their mouth and not be ashamed of Him”, we explain (as though there will not be time enough for public proclamation later). There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with giving an altar call, but we do well to respect what is going on at the moment between them and God. Seldom do we really know everything that has been going on in the person’s life which has brought them to this point. We do not know all that the Spirit of God has been doing in their heart in order to prepare them for the Lord Jesus Christ to reveal Himself to them and reconcile them to Himself.
Joseph’s steward and many of his other servants played a part leading up to this moment, yet when the time came, Joseph sent them all out of the room. It was just the brothers and Joseph. Why? Because the moment of reconciliation was just between them. Many of us will play a role in bringing others to Christ, but perhaps we are mistaken in insisting that we be there at the actual moment when the person is reconciled to God. Maybe our Lord is politely sending us from the room for a moment so that He might rejoice in private with that person, just as Joseph did when his brothers were reconciled to him.To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 9, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Judah’s Plea

“And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.” (Genesis 44:16)

The musical “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”(*) contains a song performed after the silver cup is discovered in Benjamin’s sack called the “Benjamin Calypso.” Some of the lyrics to this Caribbean style number include the phrases:

Oh no – not he
How you can accuse him is a mystery
Save him – take me
Benjamin is straighter than the tall palm tree 

 Oh, yes – its true
Benjamin is straighter than the big bamboo
No ifs – No buts
Benjamin is honest as coconuts

The picture is often painted that the brothers, Judah in particular, were astounded by the accusations made against Benjamin and thus offered to give themselves in the place of this innocent man. Yet in Judah’s very moving and emotional plea with Joseph to take him instead of his younger brother, we see no such appeal to Benjamin’s innocence nor any denial of the crime of which he has been accused. Obviously, we know from the text that Benjamin was innocent of stealing the silver cup; but was Judah convinced of this? Judah and the other brothers, I am certain, were keenly aware that the strength of Benjamin’s character far exceeded their own, but did Judah believe that such an act was entirely out of the realm of possibility for Benjamin to have committed? A young man, away from his simple, rural home for the very first time; entertained in the palatial estate of the viceroy of Egypt, surrounded by gold and silver and jewels that must have staggered the imagination of this shepherd boy. Perhaps, Judah may have pondered, this young man got caught up in the splendor of the moment at the meal where they had been guests and, supposing that such a small treasure among so many others would have scarcely been missed, slipped the cup away in his sack as a souvenir from a place to where he would very likely never return.

Whether Judah pondered such ideas in his own mind or not, we do not really know. But I think we miss something very significant when we conclude that it was Judah’s conviction of Benjamin’s innocence that compelled him to make such a noble gesture as giving himself for his younger brother. This scene is infinitely more touching and of much greater significance when we consider that Judah was offering himself, not based on the merits of Benjamin, but out of his love both for his brother and his father. We are reminded here of the Apostle Paul’s summation of the magnitude of what Christ has done for us in that “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us “(Rom. 5:8). It was not our own merits that compelled the Lord Jesus Christ to offer Himself up on the Cross, but His love toward us and toward His Father. It was not Jesus’ deference to our own righteousness (indeed, we are without any righteousness of our own!) nor His belief in our own innocence; In fact, He gave Himself because we are not innocent!

Judah explained that it was for the sake of his father Jacob’s great love toward Benjamin that he would willingly give himself in order that the young man would live (Gen. 44:30-31). Jesus gave Himself because of the Father’s love toward us.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 4,  2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

(*) Lyrics by Tim Rice, Music composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics used here are under copyright by their respective owner.

The Silver Cup In Benjamin’s Sack

“Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack. And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.” (Genesis 44:11-12)

After the brothers of Joseph are confronted with the accusation of stealing the silver cup, it isn’t hard to imagine the outrage and indignation that they must have felt. This Egyptian ruler first accused them of being spies sent into the land to observe its weaknesses (Gen. 42:9) and now he was accusing them of this! Just what exactly must they do in order to prove that they are honest men? They protest vehemently to the steward bringing the message and even offer up as evidence the fact that they had attempted to repay the money previously returned into their sacks. So certain are they that every man among them is guiltless that they offer up anyone possessing the article to be put to death. Additionally, they vow that if such a man is found among them then the rest will all voluntarily submit to a life of indenture.

And so the search begins as the steward and his servants begin to rummage through the personal effects contained within each man’s luggage. They begin with the eldest brother, Reuben, and work their way down to the youngest from there. We can imagine the brothers standing close by, watching as each sack is carefully examined, becoming more and more confident of their collective innocence with each set of belongings inspected. As the Egyptians came to the sacks of Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, the brothers must have been expectant of complete exoneration. Most of them must have already loaded their belongings back into place and made ready to move out as the final bags were checked. Then, to their utter horror and shock, the words rang out: “Here it is, I’ve found it.”
We know that Benjamin was not actually guilty of stealing the cup, but this scene is a reminder of the guilt that every person does carry. Sadly, there are those who live their lives with the same expectation of full exoneration that the sons of Jacob had; believing that even God Almighty will find no fault in them. Like the rich young ruler, they will stand before their Creator and confidently declare: “All these things [the commandments of God] have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” (Matt. 19:20). The Lord Jesus made an examination of that young ruler’s life and searched through it as the Egyptian steward searched through the sacks of the brothers of Joseph. He named off several of the Ten Commandments to which the young man plead not guilty. There was no silver cup found in those sacks, it would seem. But just as the cup was eventually found among Joseph’s brothers possessions, so was sin found in the young man’s life.
We might think that we carry no guilt before God because we haven’t murdered anyone, we haven’t committed adultery, we haven’t given false testimony against anyone (although according to God’s standards as given by the Lord Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount, we would all most likely be guilty in those areas, as well), but everyone is guilty of violating at least some of God’s holy commandments. Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and failed to live up to God’s standards. We need a Savior Who will forgive our sins and shortcomings and make us right with God before we stand before Him. There will be many who will come before God one day and be so confident of their own innocence that they will agree with the sentiment of the brothers of Joseph: “With whomsoever sin be found, let him die…” They will proudly offer up their own sacks for examination, believing none of them to be stained with the guilt of sin. Yet the search of each these individuals will regrettfully end the same: “Here it is, I have found it.” Let us trust in the Lord today and confess our sins to Him.
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