September 9, 2018
Here we are in the book of Genesis studying in this section the life of Joseph. One of my favorite sections in the whole of the Old Testament. When you get into this section particularly, now the focus shifts to Joseph's brothers. God is at work to transform these brothers because clearly there's a need to transform their character. There are some serious flaws here. It's important to see that God is using the difficulties, the troubles that they're now encountering, even the famine is used as part of what God is doing to change their character. This is important to see for us because God is also committed to our spiritual growth, our transforming hearts.
There's an old saying, no doubt you've probably heard it, "God loves you just the way you are, but loves you too much to let you stay that way." God is committed to changing us, to transforming us. He will use the storms of life. He will use the troubles. He will use the difficulties of life to work out those character issues in our hearts. God is committed to transforming our hearts. What does it look like? That's the question. What does the actual real transformation look like? That's the question. That's one of the insights that we receive from the story of looking at Joseph's brothers.
Now, picking up the story in Genesis 44, we jump into a middle of a conversation, a speech related, Judah is making, one of the brothers. Here's what leads to it, just to have a little background, remember, of course, Jacob had 12 brothers. Joseph was his favorite. He made no qualms about the fact he was his favorite because he loved his mother, Rachel. He made this very special colored coat, talk about standing out. The brothers despised him for this. To make matters worse, he had these dreams, the interpretation was so easy to see.
They are out there in the field, Joseph said, "And my sheave was standing upright and yours gathered around and bowed down to it." That's so straightforwardly clear that he's going to be in authority. They despised him for this. "Really? You're going to be in authority over us?" They despised him for this. He had a second dream, sun and the moon, eleven stars would bow down.
One day they're out attending flocks, quite some distance away, here comes Joseph. They saw an opportunity, "Here comes that dreamer. Let's kill him." Now, I'm going to tell you, that's just despicable. "Let's kill him and then we'll see what comes of those dreams of his." They seized a hold of him, through him in this dry well, the cistern. Judah says, "What profit is there if we kill him? Hey, why don't we sell him and make some money of the thing?"
They saw some Midianite traders and they sold him for 20 pieces of silver. They bring him down to Egypt. He's sold to a man named Potiphar, who was the captain of the bodyguards for Pharaoh. By all appearances, tragedy has struck his life but God's with him. God moves, God blesses him in Potiphar's house, all is going well that is until tragedy strikes again when Potiphar's wife tries to seduce him, he refuses. She gets angry and manipulates a situation, accuses him of trying to seduce her. Potiphar's angry and throws him into the prison. He goes from bad to worse, but here again, God is at work.
He has the opportunity to encounter two officials of Pharaoh's who are in prison, and he interprets their dreams. To one of those, he said, the cupbearer, "You will be restored in three days to bear the cup for your master again. When this happens, remember me." He didn't, two years go by until Pharaoh himself had a dream, then he remembered that Joseph interprets dreams. They brought Joseph, he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh which was this, "There will be seven years of prosperity and abundance in Egypt followed by seven years of extreme famine. Take the opportunity during the good years to prepare for the bad years. Set aside 20% of all the crops, put them in storehouses and then you'll be read for the--" Pharaoh says, "Who shall we find to do it other than Joseph himself?"
He put him in-charge now in a great position of authority, and sure enough, the prosperity he prepares, here comes the famine. The famine is also in Canaan where his brothers and his father are living. His father, Jacob, hears there's grain in Egypt, so he sends the brothers down. Down they go to Egypt and they come before Joseph. Joseph recognizes them, but they don't recognize him, he's all in the Egyptian way. He uses an interpreter, so they bow down to him, the dreams.
He speaks harshly to them, "You are spies." "No, we're not spies. We are honest men." I love that part. "We are honest men." He says, "You are spies. Where do you come from? What is it?" He said, "We are brothers of one man. We are 12 brothers and one brother is lost. The other remained with his father." He says, "No, you are spies and to prove it, you must go back and get that brother." Benjamin is his full brother. He says, "You bring that brother to me then I'll know you are telling the truth."
They are brokenhearted. He took hold of Simeon and puts him in prison, "This man will remain in prison until that boy comes." They go back to Jacob, Jacob's like, "What is this? Everything is against me. All of these things are against me. I've lost Joseph now Simeon is gone. Now you're taking Benjamin? No." He refuses. Time goes on, the famine is great. They finally get desperate, and he says, "You must go to Egypt, buy more grain." They say, "No, not unless you can send Benjamin." He said, "You'll never see my face unless you bring the boy."
He said, "Go. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved. Go." Off they go, down to Egypt. Joseph sees his brother and he's weeping. He goes to a private place and he's just weeping, "What a tender scene is this." He doesn't reveal himself. Instead, he has a plan. What he does is this, he loads all of their donkeys, he has his servants load them with grain. He puts his personal silver cup in the sack of Benjamin. The daylight, off they go. Then he sends his servants to chase after them. They come to them and they say, "Why would you return evil for good? One of you has taken the master's cup." They respond, "Far be it from us, why would we do such a thing? We are honest men, we brought even back the money. We brought double the money. We would not do this thing."
They said, "The one who has the cup will die and the rest of us will be slaves." The servants of Joseph said, "Let it be as you've said. Let's look" They begin to go through the sacks from the oldest to the youngest, and sure enough, there in Benjamin, his sack. His contained the silver cup of Joseph. They are all broken, they tear the robes and now they almost go back to Egypt to face their troubles. That's where we pick up the story because when they encountered Joseph, Joseph says, "The boy can be with me. The boy will remain. He will be my servant. the rest of you go. Go back, go back to your father. The boy stays."
That's where we pick up the story. It's a beautiful powerful scene. One of the most important scenes of the Old Testament. Let's pick it up, chapter 44:30. This is the middle of the speech. Judah is speaking, and he says, "Now, when I come to your servant, our father Jacob, and the lad is not with us. Since his life is bound up with lad's life, it will come about when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die." In other words, from grief. "Thus, your servants will bring him the gray hairs of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. For your servant became surety." In other words, "I have become surety for the lad to my father." I said, "If I don't bring him back to you, let me bear the blame before my father forever."
Now, therefore, please, listen to this. "Now, therefore, please, let me your servant remain instead of the lad. I will be a slave to you, my Lord. Let the lad go up with his brothers. How shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me lest I see the evil that would overtake my father? Do you see what he just did there? I will be your servant, I'll serve you the rest of my life, let the lad go.
Chapter 45:1, Joseph hearing this, he could not control himself any longer. He could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He said, "Have everyone go out for me?" There was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to the brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and even the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph, is my father still alive?" But the brothers could not answer him. You can imagine the shock, but not just shock, dismay. What tragedy could this mean? They were dismayed at his presence.
Joseph said to his brothers, "Please, come closer to me." They came closer. He said, "I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt." He knew those facts. "Whom you sold into Egypt. Now, do not be grieved, do not be 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 still five years more in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 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 the Lord of his household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry, 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 and do not delay." This is a powerful thing, beautiful moving scene of this reunion and the revealing of Joseph. It's important to see that the story is about the brothers and the character transformation that God is moving to bring about. It's important to understand the insight of that because God is very much concerned to do the same in us, to transform our character.
I. The Apple Doesn’t Fall Very Far
Let's understand some insight starting with this that the apple doesn't fall very far. Now, of course, it comes from a saying, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. What does that mean? Well, it means that the sons who've come from the Father are going to be like the Father. Many of our attributes, we get from our parents. Our physical attributes, we surely get from our parents. We look like our mom and our dad. I got my chin from my dad, for example.
A. Like father like sons
Our other characteristics, we get other characteristics too, which is to say this, like father like sons. Remember when Jacob was born, Jacob the name means heal snatcher, because when he was being born, he was twins, he was the second born. When he was being born, he had a hold of his brothers heal. They said, "Look at that, that is so cute. Let's call him heal snatcher." That's real cute until he grows up and becomes one that's what happened. Heal snatcher is somebody who trips other people up to get his way, that's what he did.
He deceived and manipulated to get his brother Esau birthright and blessing, then spent 20 years up in Haran with his uncle Laban getting his uncle's goat. Actually, all of his goats, and his sheep, and his heard. He was with Laban who himself was a manipulator extraordinaire. Is it any wonder that Jacobs boys had serious character problems? What's the common thread when you look at these issues of character? What is the common thread? You know what it is? Favoring oneself at the expense of others.
That's the very definition of being self-focused and self-centered. When Joseph has these two dreams, that he's going to rise above the brothers, they're going to bow down to him, that's too much. Their pride can't take it. They become indignant at the thought. When the opportunity came, they took hold of Joseph sold into the Midianite traders who then sold him as a slave in Egypt. I'm telling you, that is a serious character flaw.
You can see interestingly, from one generation to the other. We considered how that works from one generation to the next, you'd go all the way back to Abraham. Abraham, remember, when he was going down to Egypt and told his wife, Sarah, you tell everybody that you're my sister. Well, that is a lie. Well, it was a half lie, because, in fact, she was his half-sister. It was a lie. It was a half lie. Then his son Isaac did the same thing, except it wasn't a half lie, it was a full lie. Then comes Jacob, who is the heal snatcher and manipulator. You can just see the same principle.
It's a scriptural principle. 2 Kings 17:14, "However, they did not listen. They stiffened their necks like their fathers." They did not believe in the Lord their God. See, God gives fathers to children and parents to be an example for them, to raise them up, to train them up in godliness and character. There's a reason that God gave father's, it's a tragedy when it doesn't work as God intended.
I remember when we were raising our kids, we had five and three natural girls, two adopted boys. At one point, we were going to Israel, and I was with our 16-year-old son. We had two left in the house, our 16-year-old son and our 16-year-old daughter. They were six months apart. We're going to go to Israel. I was with our son and I said, "Hey, while we're gone Israel, we're going to have somebody staying in the house." He said, "What, I thought that we would have the house all to ourselves." To which I said, "Right there is why you need a parent."
Two 16-year-olds are not going to have the house so themselves. Can I have an amen?
This last week, we played a video, it was a message from a Palestinian-Arab Muslim who is a supporter of Israel. It was amazing video because it gave us an interesting insight into the problem of the Middle East, one of the key problems. He said, "There will not be peace until the people prepared for the peace." He said, "I will tell you where it begins, it begins in the home." He said, "I will tell you what happens in Arab homes all throughout the region. From the youngest age, the father is teaching them to hate the Jews." What do you think's going to happen when that boy grows up? He's going to hate Jews. He becomes like his father. You grow up, you pick the heart, and attitude, and attributes of your father.
I remember when I was very, very young, I admired my father. He loved to work in cars. He was very skilled at it, and I loved to help him. He would say, "Bring me a half inch open wrench." I would literally run to tool box and get that and bring it back. I just wanted to be a help. I loved the dream of going fishing with my dad until I got older. Then I saw some serious, serious, harmful things. He was an alcoholic. Many of you know his story. Alcoholic, angry, cantankerous, abusive. I found anger growing in my heart.
In fact, one time I remember as early teens, I was out in the field working, we live way out in the country, we had a farm. The hoeing and the weeding and stuff was left to the boys, mainly me. I know. I'm out there, and I'm doing the weeding, but I'm angry. I'm like, [grunting sound]. My sister, older sister, she sees me. She comes down. I was way down at the end of the row. She walks all the way out there and she stands there while I'm hacking into it. She says, "What are you doing?" At the end of the field, there was my dad sitting in the car drinking beer. I pointed, I said, "When I'm older, this is going to end." She said, "You got to stop this. Stop this. This anger is going to ruin you."
I started to become afraid of my anger because I started to think, "If I keep going with this anger, I'm actually going to become like him." I surely discovered that I can't drink. I'm too much like him. It all came to a crux point, crisis point. On my 21st birthday, 21st birthday, I was an angry young man. I just as angry. I was angry because it seemed to me my perspective was that everybody had the advantage. Everybody had a good father. I've learned now that not everybody does.
B. God is truly our Father now
I saw everybody has a good father, everybody has the advantage but not me. Everything is against me. Then that Holy God moment where He spoke to my heart. It changed my life. What He said, I felt Him saying to my heart was, "I would be your Father. I will be your Father now. I will be a Father like no earthly father could be. I'll be with you. I'll never forsake you. I'll bless you. I'll walk with you." I took him for real. I took that to heart and I started crying.
It was like this moment where I believed it. I never took hold of that, but I believed it. Here's the point that I want us to see, God is truly our father now. When you look at the failure of Joseph's brothers in regards to their character, you can trace the roots of it to Jacob. What's happening now in their lives is that, God is now the one who is shaping their lives. God is their father now, you might see it that way. It's like a good father, let's say, who adopts a child, and the child had a terrible upbringing. Now, that good father is a new father, he's going to bring about a whole new change to the boy's life.
It's like when we adopted our two sons, we adopted them from Russia. They were half-brothers. The youngest one came from a home for emotionally disturbed children, and he brought some troubles, but I'm his father now. I remember, he was very open and honest. One crisis point, he says, "I hate you. I hate everyone, and I hate myself." He was a very troubled youth. My response was, "But my love for you will not stop. You can't stop me from loving you."
I remember there was one crisis point which started because he wouldn't brush his teeth, but he just wouldn't quit. He wouldn't quit. It got to the point where he started to rake his face. I'm just, now I'm holding him. I'm not going to let that happen. I'm just holding him, but now I can speak into his heart. "Listen, I know you lost your father, he was murdered; I know you lost your mother, she died from cancer; I know you were taken from your brother, we brought him back together; I know you lost everything, but I am your father now. I'm going to love you, and I'm going to love you, and I'm going to love you. This thing that you're doing right here doesn't change anything. I am committed to loving you because here's the thing, love wins."
Today, he's almost 27, he's a good young man, transformed. See, this is what God is now to us. Just like what God said that King David about his son, Solomon, this is 2 Samuel 7:14-15, God says, "I will be a Father to him and he will be a son to me, and when he commits iniquity, I will correct him, but my lovingkindness will not depart from him." That's the picture of it right there. That is God committed as a father to His son. My lovingkindness will not depart. God is the Father now.
He's going to bring about his character, his transformation. In Luke 1, it's written that John the Baptist it's actually a sign a revival. The Holy Spirit brings this about. He will turn many of sons of Israel back to the Lord their God, it is he who will go as a forerunner before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” That's what God is doing. That's a sign of a revival.
C. We will bear the fruit of a new tree
When I said earlier that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, well, we have a new Father now, which means we will bear the fruit of a new tree now. In Matthew 5:9 where he says, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God." They will be like their Father. God makes peace, and those who make peace are like their Father. How about Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit, the result of the Holy Spirit, is a transformed life such that the fruit of the Spirit is love, and joy, peace, patience now, kindness and goodness. These are the things that God does.
Faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things, there is no law. The question Joseph is seeking to know is, are there any changes in his brothers? When their sacks are filled with grain, Joseph is found with the silver cup. First like the men leave the city, accused of stealing, their bags are searched, sure enough there it isn't Benjamin sack. They all returned to Joseph to face their troubles. Joseph pronounces that Benjamin will stay as his slave, the others are free to go, "Go, go to your father." If they had done it, if they had taken the opportunity to leave Jacob's other favorite son in Egypt and return to Canaan without Benjamin, I'm convinced that Joseph would've let him go.
II. Strongly Desire Godly Change
He would change it all. Go and leave Benjamin here. Then comes the speech of Judah. Where he says, "I'll be your servant. Let me stay. I will serve you the rest of my life. Let the boy go." That's it. It breaks Joseph's heart to see that speech. To see the transformation. This is not the same Judah. There's something happening. See, God is at work to bring this about. He's use all these troubles and the famine and all the things to bring this about. He can see the transformation that's happening. I'll tell you what, that transformation is a good thing.
A. Godly character is a great treasure
When God is bringing a change, when God brings about a transformation, that's good. We should strongly desire it, strongly desire godly change. That's the point. Judah is not the same Judah that was willing to sell his brother into slavery. No longer seeking his own favorite ahead of others, now he's ready to sacrifice himself for the good of the others. This is a true mark of Godliness. It's the very definition of Godliness, favoring others at the expense of self. Here's the thing that we got to see, Godly character, that which God is doing. Godly character is a great treasure. It's a great treasure. Highly value it.
Living to favor oneself might sound great at the first, but anyone who's done it knows that it hurt self and it hurts others. It brings pain in the lives of those around them. God says, you take hold of godly things, godly transformation, and you will be blessed. It's a way better way to live. Desire it, it's a great treasure. Godly character is a great treasure. Desire it, it's good. Proverbs 3:7-8, "Don't be wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord, turn away from evil, and there will be healing to your body. It will be refreshment to your bones. It's a way better way to live."
In that same chapter, he speaks of the value of wisdom that comes from God. God's kind of wisdom. God's principles. God's word. God's truth. Proverbs 3, "How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. Her ways, the ways of wisdom are pleasant ways. All her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her and happy are all who hold her fast." It's a way better way to live.
In 1 Peter, he says something very similar about the significance of faith. Faith is a great treasure. In fact, 1 Peter 1, even though now for a little while you've been distressed by various troubles and trials, so that the proving of your faith, this is what it does, the proving of your faith which is more precious than gold, which is perishable even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, and glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. God will see that there's something good and godly that's happening in your life.
B. Faith is most precious of all
In other words, faith is the most precious of all. Faith is the most precious of all. When Joseph saw that his brothers had truly changed their life, their character, then he revealed himself to them. At first, they were afraid. What does this mean? Could this also be against us? Would Joseph now in a position of power and authority take his revenge? But Joseph explains from God's perspective. God's perspective is that of faith. Faith is the most precious thing of all, and when it comes to our relationship to God. That is the key.
First, he tells them, "Do not be grieved. Do not be angry with yourselves about this." Now, I'll tell you what, that is a great insight. When people have a failure of character, they make a terrible, tragic mistake in life, oftentimes, they are very angry with themselves, which is understandable. God can use it, it's understandable, but if you stay in that place of being angry with self, it will prevent you from hearing what God is trying to do. God is at work. God is doing something. The key is to understand and see from God's perspective, like Romans 8:28, we mentioned it before. That is a perspective that comes from faith.
We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose, to those who love God. That's the key to faith. Faith comes from our relationship. In other words, loving God. That relationship of nearness is essential to seeing that He's for you. That He's committed to working all things together in your life for good becausef faith looks at life from a godly perspective. All kinds of things happen. All kinds of things happen in life, many things in life happen that are quite tragic.
The question is, how do you interpret the things that happen? Things happen to everybody, but how do you interpret the things that happen? You need a perspective from faith to see from God's view. I remember many years ago, a girl came up to me after one of the services and said that someone had broken into her car. I wasn't here, somewhere else. Somebody had broken into her car and stolen her Bible, and all of her Christian music.
She's like, "Explain this to me." She says, "I can't wait for him to hear that music-
-because he's going to need that Bible-
-because God is after him." See that's the perspective of faith. To see life from God's view. It's like Isaiah 41:10, one of the famous verses I love to, quote, "Do not fear for I'm with you. Don't anxiously look about you." Anxious. What does that mean, anxious? Fear, anxiety, worry. "Don't anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Surely, I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." That's faith. Believes that. Sees that.
There's an interesting little scene in Genesis 45:24-25. As he's sending the brothers off. As he's sending the brothers off to go get their father, he says to them this, "He sent his brothers away, and as they departed he said, "Don't quarrel on the way." I love that. "Don't quarrel. Stop blaming one another. Don't quarrel." Want to be like God speaking to us. Don't quarrel. Don't quarrel with your wife. No, no. Look to God. There are more important things that God is doing. Look to God. God is at work.
The other day, I was at a Fred Meyer’s, and as I was coming out, they have that kiosk where you can rent movies, and there was a couple standing in front of it, and they were having an argument about something. About the movies, and I thought to myself, "Really? Really? Aren't there more important things in life? Isn't your relationship worth more than that? Really?" Don't quarrel with one another. God is at work. Keep your eyes on what God is doing. God is transforming hearts. Watch for that. Desire that. Treasure that.