The very gripping and emotional drama of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers is going to come to a climax today. Remember the famine forced the brothers to go to Egypt to get food, and they’ve been interacting with the man who rules Egypt, but they don’t recognize that it is their brother Joseph. It has been 22 years since they’ve seen him. (We know this because Joseph was 30 when he started ruling Egypt, then 7 years of abundance is past and they are 2 years into the famine, making Joseph 39 years old. They haven’t seen him since he was 17 when they sold him into slavery). Chapter 44 can be divided into two sections. First, Joseph plays a trick on his brothers, framing them so he can justify keeping his brother Benjamin and sending them home. The second section is Judah’s powerful, emotional, desperate plea to Joseph to keep him instead of Benjamin. Then we will move into chapter 45 where Joseph, moved by Judah’s begging, bursts into tears and reveals himself to his brothers. The whole event is captivating and stirring.
We’ll go through under 3 headings: 1) Joseph’s Trick, 2) Judah’s Pleading, 3) Joseph Revealed.
JOSEPH’S TRICK (44:1-17)
First we see Joseph’s trick…
So Joseph frames his brothers for theft by covertly placing his own personal silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. They don’t get far and the steward runs after them, accusing them of stealing the cup. Again, the steward is in on the trick with Joseph and knows that they didn’t steal it. But the brothers are terrified – and even more when when Benjamin is discovered to have the cup. In great fear they turn around and go back to Joseph where their worst nightmare comes true: Joseph decides to keep Benjamin permanently as his own slave.
JUDAH’S PLEA (18-34)
The last half of chapter 44 is Judah’s Plea….read 18-34…
Once again Judah is the spokesman for the group (37:26-27; 43:3-10). He seems to be like Peter, who always was the one in the Gospels speaking on behalf of the disciples.
What we see in our text is that Judah is putting on a clinic for how to pray. This is a marvelous example of desperate pleading. There is absolute submission to Joseph, and reverence for him. Yet he is stepping out in courage, hoping to change Joseph’s mind by appealing to any mercy that might be in Joseph’s heart. Things we can learn from Judah:
First, he laid out the situation. Notice how he explains everything to Joseph – the whole story. What’s he doing? He’s bringing Joseph into their situation not simply to have the whole story, but to feel what they feel – to feel the deep worry for their father that they feel. You see great saints praying this way to God all the time. Not because God doesn’t know their situation. But out of a trust-relationship with God they go to Him and lay their heart out to Him. They explain the situation to God not to inform, but to move Him, to arouse His pity, His jealousy, His love, His wrath.
- David explains his situation to God in the Psalm 59, “See how my enemies lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me…They return like snarling dogs…See what they spew from their mouths…”
- King Hezekiah (2 Kings 19) actually took the threatening letter from his enemy up to the temple, laid it out page by page before God, and, said, “See?! Look at what they are saying!”
We could go on…Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel…so many times they explain to God the situation. Let me clarify something: this is different than giving God needless details. You know what I mean: “Lord, I’m praying for Bob Smith, he’s up at Mercy Hospital – not Butterworth – the 7th floor. He’s been diagnosed with lung cancer and they want to start treatment on the 5th and go til July 18th, and then they’ll test him…..” No. That’s not what is meant by “explaining to God.” Those are needless details that treat God like He’s not omniscient and needs information. Instead: “Lord, we pray for Bob as he has just received a frightening diagnosis and is about to begin treatment. Oh Lord his life is in your hands. Look with mercy on him and his wife, spare his life. You know how he loves you and trusts in you. Show him kindness God – heal him miraculously or through the medicine and give him many more years. You are able God. Now Oh Lord, would you be willing?” Explain to God to move God.
Second, Judah’s prayer comes from his own deep compassion. His compassion for his father. Which seems to be a recent development because Judah didn’t seem to have a lot of patience or compassion for his dad earlier (43:10). But now he does, and Judah is desperate – he cannot go home without Benjamin. It would literally kill his father. Judah and all the other brothers would rather die than go home without their brother.
Have you ever felt like you would rather die than having the very thing you fear happen? Nothing will motivate you to pray like fear, like mercy, like love, like something powerful and deep within you.
APPLICATION: Why isn’t Prayer on Wednesday nights the same attendance as on Sunday morning? Why don’t more of you come and pray? At what point in your life will you finally say, “I must pray. I need to pray with my church family. This will now be a priority for me.” Will not your wayward children, your wayward grandchildren, the lost souls in your family, your health, or the health of a loved one, or the anti-Christian pressures at work, or drag queen story hours, or drag shows all over our community, or gay porn in libraries, or Pride Festivals in our town, or preferred pronouns is mainstream, or that men pretending to be women and women pretending to be men, or the downward spiral of the world, the threat of more wars, the worship of abortion, explicit promotion of Satan, the corruption, the deception, the “wilderness of mirrors” that can make you cynical ..…At what point do you finally decide you need to pray?
Third, can you imagine Joseph’s heart breaking as he listens to his brother Judah? Like the walls of Jericho falling down the walls of his heart were in a freefall. But it wasn’t for his brothers I don’t think, but his father. Their father was his own father, and, if he hadn’t really thought about it until that point, then in that moment it was hitting home the devastation he was going to cause his already devastated father if he kept Benjamin.
Fourth, can you see the Messianic vibe in Judah? He offers himself in Benjamin’s place. Verse 33 he says, “let me remain as your slave in place of the boy.” Offering himself to set his brother free. Once again, in this Genesis section focusing on Joseph, we see hints of the career of the coming Messiah. First Peter 3:18 declares, “For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous…” And what did Jesus say in John 8? “If the Son has set you free you are free indeed!” Jesus Christ was a descendent of Judah. And here Judah is offering himself as a substitute to free someone from slavery – which is exactly what his descendant, the Christ, would someday do for all mankind.
APPLICATION: Is Christ your substitute? Have you accepted what He did for you? Have you put your trust in Jesus, the descendent of Judah, who was given to die in your place? A sermon is not just a time to learn information about the Bible. It is a call to respond to the Gospel message. God commands you to believe the message. As a preacher my job is to call you to obey that command and believe. I’m asking you if you’ve believed – Have you? I’m also urging you to believe – Believe!
JOSEPH REVEALS HIMSELF (45:1-8)
The climax has arrived: Joseph reveals himself. Verses 1-8, ….
Joseph was broken by Judah’s pleading. He can’t go on anymore with his deception. He is at the bursting point. He shouts for all the Egyptians to leave so that he is alone with his brothers. You can imagine the mood shift. Judah on his knees pleading, Joseph suddenly exploding with commands to the Egyptian slaves, in fearful obedience they sprint out of the room, all the brothers still on their knees in a begging position but now with looks of fear and confusion on their faces. Slowly Joseph turns around. Tears streaming down his face. “I am Joseph.”
Some things to pull out here…
First, this is the third time Joseph weeps. He wept when he eavesdropped on his brothers condemning themselves for selling him all those years ago (42:24). He wept again when he saw Benjamin (43:30). And now, revealing himself to them, his weeping would become the stuff of legends. He will weep again when he meets his father.
APPLICATION: Men know how to weep when the time to weep comes. Ecclesiastes 3 says, “There is a time for everything…a time to weep and a time to laugh.” Sometimes it is not right to cry. Other times it is not right if you don’t cry. On the one hand, there is the juvenile or effeminate crying over everything, and then there is the impenetrable, unfeeling stoicism on the other. Both are wrong. Men, when it is time, weep.
Second, his brothers are terrified. How could they not be? They were already feeling guilty for what they did to their brother and in their minds the trouble this guy in Egypt was giving them was God punishing them for it. So when they learn that “this guy” is the very same Joseph they sold all those years ago we can’t imagine the dread that came over them. They probably looked like they were seeing a ghost.
Their fear displays the correct reaction of someone’s heart when they realize who it is they’ve sinned against. What I mean is look at how terrified they are as they just realized that the man who has power over their lives is the one they betrayed years ago? All they could do is hope for mercy. In the same way, each of us needs to realize who it is that we have sinned against, and when we do the only reaction is dread and terror. The only hope is mercy from the God who has the power of life and death over us. And here is the thing: He is a merciful God to those who humble themselves before Him.
APPLICATION: This is how it will be for the Jews at the end: the one they betrayed to death is the one who will hold the power fo life and death over them.
APPLICATION: God will make things difficult when we have stubborn hard hearts continuing to neglect sin in our lives, persisting in unrepentance. I think this series of episodes with their brother Joseph was breaking them down. I think the roller coaster of emotions they felt: guilt, fear, relief, joy, terror, desperation, then terror/disbelief at Joseph’s revelation…all of it was a process of humbling them and softening their hearts to repent for their sin against Joseph. Not just feeling bad because they got caught, or feeling sorry for themselves because they thought they were being punished by God and things were now hard for them (42:21). No, I think it was it was all an overwhelming tidal wave that prepared them to humbly repent. “It was good for me to be afflicted, that I might learn your decrees.” Psalm 119:71 says. Also, Jeremiah 31:18 says, “You, O Lord disciplined me like a unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me and I will return…After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated….”
Third, Joseph’s perspective. At thirty-nine years old Joseph has attained a mature perspective of the arc of his life. Let me point out some traits of his mature perspective.
First, Joseph’s mature perspective had at its core a conviction that God is sovereign. Three times he says “God sent me.” That is very different than scowling and saying, “You did that to me!” or “Now the tables have turned, haven’t they my brothers?” No, you can see a gentleness and a softness towards them. Look how he immediately reassures them and tries to relieve them of any fear.
But do you know why Joseph did this? Do you want to know the key to Joseph’s magnanimity? It’s because Joseph saw all 39 years of his life as under the good and sovereign control of God. God was good and sovereign when he was in the pit listening to his brothers taunt him and discuss how to kill him. God was sovereign and good when he was sold and watched his homeland disappear in the rearview mirror. God was sovereign and good when Potiphar’s wife lied about him and had him thrown in prison. God was sovereign and good when the cupbearer forgot about him and he languished in prison for 2 more years. God was sovereign and good even in the midst of a devastating 7 year famine.
APPLICATION: Trust God now. If you’re young, don’t waste your youth. Be like Joseph and trust God early, so that you will bear the rich fruit of that trust when it is late. Spend it wisely seeking God and His wisdom. You know why Joseph had a mature and wise outlook at 39? It wasn’t because he “had been through a lot” – I know lots of people who’ve been through a lot but are miserable and juvenile. Nor was it because Joseph had finally been a huge success in his career. There are a lot of successful fools. No, Joseph was wise and mature at 39 because trusting God is something he’d been doing his whole life. He didn’t waste his youth. Do not waste your youth on the world. Right now, in your early years, give yourself to God and like Joseph trust him and serve him in everything and in every way. And watch as you grow by leaps and bounds in wisdom. “Get wisdom” Proverbs 4:7 says, “Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”
APPLICATION to the APPLICATION: Applying God’s Word in every season, in every circumstance, is what makes us wise. Not age. Age itself is no guarantee of wisdom. There are plenty of old fools. Isn’t there something sad and even pathetic about a grown man or woman who still thinks like their young? The immature mindset that has been fixed for years, the unwillingness to learn wisdom through life’s ups and downs by seeking God, trusting Him, applying His word? We should be able to look upon the aged for wisdom. Thank God for those we can.
But what makes someone wise is not long life, but that they have consistently lived by faith in God’s Word through all seasons of life.
Second, Joseph’s mature perspective was saturated with mercy and grace. Maturity will be marked by mercy and grace. He wasn’t bitter. Look how he reassures them so they’re not terrified, verse 5 and 8…… He wasn’t bitter towards his brothers – he was merciful. Remember that this is what Jacob prayed for in 43:14.
And here’s the thing: you can see that his mercy towards his brothers was directly related to his trust that God is sovereign. He saw what they did as part of God’s plan. Look at verse 5, “Don’t be distressed or angry with yourselves…God sent me here…”
APPLICATION: long-term, extended bitterness is a refusal to believe God is sovereign. If you’re bitter today is it because you’re not seeing God’s sovereignty? Are you still living in that hurtful event, however long ago it was, and refusing to see it as part of what God planned and can use in your life to mature you? Don’t misunderstand me: there is space to “work through” what happened to you. There is legitimate processing and struggling to make sense of it. But stubborn unforgiveness and persistent, intentional bitterness is sin. Not only because bitterness is sin, but because bitterness is always a refusal to believe God is sovereign over your life.
Third, Joseph’s mature perspective included the bigger picture. Verses 5-7 really bring this out…. [READ]….He saw how the injustice and the hurt that happened to him was not only permitted by God, but part of a bigger plan God was working out. You may not know why right away but Joseph didn’t know why either. That’s the point: is your heart ruled more by the bitterness of something that happened to you or by a trusting faith that says God has His purposes and even though I may not know how this is supposed to be part of His plan I TRUST HIM!
APPLICATION: Seeing your life as under the sovereign leading of God transforms how you see your life. Seeing God as sovereign and in control is the key to peace. Seeing God as sovereign and in control is the key to forgiveness.
JOSEPH SENDS FOR JACOB (45:9-15)
Read 9-15…. Anticipation gives way to more anticipation. For Joseph, the only more emotional moment than revealing himself to his brothers would be when he and his father saw each other again for the first time.
- Joseph’s reveal to His brothers like Jesus when He reveals Himself from heaven. “They will all know me” God says about the Israelites in Jeremiah 33. The brother’s fear foreshadows the nation of Israel’s future fear. When they realize who Christ is at His coming, the Scriptures say, “Those who pierced him will mourn for him.”
- Try to thwart God’s plans and He will use your own efforts of resistance to accomplish His very plans you are opposing.
- Trust that God’s goodness exceeds anything you could imagine or hope for. Think about this: Jacob’s desperate hope before God was that his sons would return home with Benjamin and food. That would’ve been a great answer to prayer. How did everything turn out? Different – and far better. Jacob’s sons didn’t return to their home, he and his sons went to Egypt. They didn’t get enough food to live on, they were given the best of the land. And here’s the best part: not only did Jacob get Benjamin back, but after 22 years he also got Joseph back. Trust that God’s goodness exceeds anything you could imagine or hope for. Trust God.