Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Genesis Chapter 45 ~ Divine Sovereignty, Part 1

Genesis Chapter 45

Before his brothers Joseph couldn't control himself and he cried, "Make everyone go out from me." (vs. 1) No one stayed with him when he made himself known to his brothers, and he wept so loud that the Egyptians and the household of Pharaoh heard it (vs. 2). Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?" (vs. 3) His brothers couldn't answer because they were dismayed at his presence.

Joseph said to his brothers, "Come near to me, please, I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.' And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here." (vs. 4-13)

After saying all of this Joseph fell upon Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on His neck. And Joseph kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. Then they talked with Joseph.

Pharaoh and his servants were pleased that Joseph's brothers came, and he said to Joseph, "Say to your brothers, 'Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.' And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, 'Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.'" (vs. 17-20)

Israel/Jacob's sons did all of this. Joseph gave them wagons, provisions for the journey, a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave 300 shekels of silver and 5 changes of clothes. To his father he sent 10 donkeys loaded with goods, 10 female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for the journey. Then he sent his brothers away, and as they left he said, "Do not quarrel on the way." (vs. 24)

Jacob's brothers went back to Canaan to their father, and they told him, "Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt." The text then describes, "[Israel's] heart became numb, for he did not believe them." (vs. 26) After they told him what Joseph said, and after he saw the wagons, Jacob's spirit revived and he said, "It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die." (vs. 28)

Reflections on Genesis 45 
First, notice the emotion of these men. They aren't mere characters in a story, they are people, with deep seated emotions. Joseph wasn't able to control his emotions, and he wept so loud that the Egyptians and the household of Pharaoh could hear him (vs. 1-2). His brothers were dismayed or alarmed (vs. 3). Joseph told his brothers to not be distressed or angry with themselves for what they did to him (vs. 5). Joseph fell upon Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on Joseph's neck (vs. 14), then he kissed all his brothers and wept on them (vs. 15). When Jacob/Israel heard that Joseph was alive his heart became numb (vs. 26).

There's been a lot of discussion of biblical manhood these days, and it's helpful to point out that in the Bible, manhood is not antithetical to emotion. That being said, it's important to point out that our emotions don't control our actions, rather a deep seated faith in Yahweh does.

Second, what is it that grounds Joseph in the face of the deep emotions connected to his experience? A trust in God's sovereignty. He attributes everything to God:
  • Vs. 5 - "you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life."
  • Vs. 7 - "And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.
  • Vs. 8a - "it was not you who sent me here, but God."
  • Vs. 8b - "He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt."
Do you think that God's sovereign power and control over all things is troubling in the face of all the suffering and trials in this world? Friend, God's meticulous sovereignty over all things should issue to our despair, not because of the trials of this world, but because of the knowledge of His wrath that is coming against us because of our sin. Not only is God sovereign, but man is responsible for sin. Joseph is not absolving his brothers of their sin in verse 5, but explaining that God worked even through their wretchedness. But this knowledge doesn't issue to our despair if we repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus Christ we need not despair. We can find fresh courage and comfort, because of Jesus' substitutionary atonement. If we are counted as justified and as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, we need not despair. Rather, we find comfort in God's sovereign control. We know that for those in Christ all things work for our good and God's glory. (Rom. 8:28-30) He is working all things according to the counsel of His will. (Eph. 1:11) In Genesis 45 God is working to preserve the family line that He made a covenant to. God will not go back on His promises. You can see that even in His sovereignty here, Yahweh is preserving the family through whom He would bring His Messiah. He's working out His purpose to sustain His covenant. 

The third thing to note here is that Joseph's trials point to a Savior who would be falsely accused, beaten, flogged, spat on, whipped, have thorns pounded into His head, nailed to a cross through His hands and feet, and most of all, He would bear the weight of our sin. Jesus bore the eternal wrath of God for His people on the cross. Hallelujah, what a Savior! Jesus Christ, went to the cross for our sin. He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21), but it all went down according to God's plan. Yahweh was in control. Listen to how Peter put it on Pentecost:

Acts 2:22-24
22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know - 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it."

God was in complete control at the worst trial in history, and again, it was for the purpose of glorifying Himself in keeping His covenant promise to save His people through a Messiah. We should take solace in the sovereignty of God, even as Joseph did, knowing that God is working all these things our for our good and His glory. We'll see more on this theme of God's sovereignty before Genesis is done.

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