In our last article, Number 11, we related how Joseph had fully revealed himself to his brethren and then began to chart out their future for them. There they stood, hearing and seeing their once hated brother. Now, however, the Joseph they had before scorned was lord and governor over all the realm of Egypt, and their lives and safety completely depended on him. His will, and the execution of it, would alter and shape their lives from that time on.
It must have been pure amazement gripping them as they contemplated all that was unfolding before them, for matters had seemingly worsened for them with each of their previous audiences before Joseph. But now, baffling at it might have appeared, Joseph, whom they had wantonly sold into slavery, was tender and kind to them beyond any reasonable expectations; expectations, we may add, they surely did not have. They had, with probable cause, looked for evil treatment from this governor, and rather than realizing their awful apprehensions, Joseph began to lavish them with love and pity. All but those who are strangers to grace and mercy will readily see in this the similar manner our Lord has dealt with His estranged family. Dread and terror take their flight, and joy mingled with sweet relief comes in their place whenever Jesus brings His little ones into audience with Him.
"Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him (Genesis 45.15)." What could be more tender and revealing of his nature than Joseph kissing these offenders? All but Benjamin had been directly involved in the cruel betrayal of Joseph, yet, they all, being family, shared in Joseph's compassion. The text says "he kissed all his brethren." What mattered was not who was most or least guilty, but that they were his kin; his brethren. We would emphatically state again that probably thousands had come to Egypt for corn, and to escape the famine. Not one of them had violated human decency as did Joseph's brothers, but they received no kiss from Joseph. He dealt with them all as strangers. But not so with the eleven. Neither their black sins nor their ignorance of unfolding events could eradicate their union with their brother. The tie of paternal bonds transcended all else as Joseph gave vent to his smoldering emotions. His love flowed visibly as he reckoned with the eleven. Well could we say with the poet, "What wondrous love is this!"
Beside Joseph kissing the brothers, the scriptures say he wept upon them. This was the fourth time Joseph was moved to weeping because of his brothers. The first time, Genesis 42.24, he turned himself about from them, and wept. He intentionally concealed his feelings from them then, for the time had not yet come to make himself known to them. The second time, Genesis 43.30, Joseph was much more moved by them, for he had to hasten to his chambers to weep unnoticed, for his bowels yearned within him. Then too, all this was hidden from them, for other matters had to follow before they could be made aware this was their long lost brother. The third time, Genesis 45.2, Joseph wept aloud, then revealed himself to his brethren. The blessed moment had come, and he said, "I am Joseph." He had wept behind their backs twice, and wept in their presence once, but now, he wept upon them. The fountain of affections must at this time flow upon his beloved family. Their union had once again been established. Mark well that all of this was, from first to last, at the initiation of Joseph. He was totally in control of every event of this family reunion. This is much like Jesus governs all His family. Our Lord, from first to last, cares for the details, large and small, that dictate union with Him; and we may well say His children are satisfied that it is so.
Not one brother had come to Joseph seeking pity, forgiveness, mercy, grace, nor any other favor. It had never entered their minds to presume in that fashion. Their best motives could rise only to that of seeking for the purchase of corn, that they might save their wretched hides from the famine. Had not Joseph first acted in love toward them, they could never have been any better off than all the other seekers coming to Egypt. Yet he did act favorably to them. Need we wonder why? He was the saviour of the family; appointed so by God. Just so do we see our dear Lord saving all His family, every one of them, for so has God appointed Him for such. Not one of the family of Jesus has sought Him first either. And, despite all the fabricated doctrines religious hucksters may attempt to peddle off on the unsuspecting, our Lord and Saviour, as did Joseph, wept upon and kissed only His brethren.
"And after that his brethren talked with him." Previous to this moment all the conversation between Joseph and his brethren had been strained on their part and guarded on Joseph's part. Now, however, the burden of guilt was washed away with the kisses of Joseph and a blissful concourse evolved. The whole united family were conversing freely. How vastly different this was from the time of Joseph's youth when his brethren could not speak peaceably unto him (Genesis 37.4). Then they hated Joseph for his dreams and as well for his father's exceeding affection toward him, but now all that, including their wicked transgression against him, was gone; they could talk freely with him just as though nothing of the past had ever occurred to mar their relationship!
We fully believe that all those who have a hope in Christ have at some point in their lives experienced much what the brothers of Joseph did as he dispelled their forebodings. All our sinning, straying, and bitter feelings have been washed away, to bring in their place communion with our dear brother Jesus. We see Him now, after He reveals Himself unto us, as never before. He is our present deliverer, benefactor, and friend, and brother, and as such we may freely speak (though often feebly) with him in prayer. No famines, bonds or temptations or guilt may prevent our coming boldly to His throne of grace, though it is often with much trepidation. And, as the brother's privilege to talk with Joseph was based on what he had done for them, and not what they had to plead or offer, just so is it with the family of the heavenly King. We come because He bids us, and because He makes us willing in the day of His power. And, just as Joseph's brethren only were involved in this transcending conversation, the elect only may now freely call upon the name of Jesus.
"Whosoever will may come" may be a popular theme with unhumbled Arminians, but it could never suit the experience of Joseph's brothers. Not a single Egyptian or foreigner who was there to buy corn ever dreamed of seeking the affections of Joseph, the regal governor. Nor could the brothers of Joseph. Their past sins, their ignorance of what was transpiring, and more than all else, the eternal purpose of God inhibited them. These fellows were, to a man, also confirmed "Whosoever won'ters." Until the love of Joseph first melted away their unwillingness and relegated them to humble suppliants at his feet they were but aliens like the Egyptians. They had sooner skulked away unobserved than to seek the favor of this one who held life and death in his hand. They would have too, but for the grace of God.
This is exactly the case with the elect family of Jesus. We believe our quickened brethren know of what we speak. What rebels we were before Jesus showered us with His affections and heart-melting warmth. Only then could we, as did Joseph's brethren, dare talk or commune with our Saviour. Previous to our Saviour bidding us to come to Him we might have known about Him, but we could not personally know and speak with Him. No sin-stricken son of Adam, from the first to the last one, has ever engaged in concourse with the Redeemer until His royal call has drawn them to Him.
The news of this blessed gathering was soon known throughout Pharaoh's house, and both Pharaoh and his servants were said to be well pleased (Genesis 45.16). And why not? Was not God working in the hearts of all concerned to bring to pass His will and purpose? In perfect sequence each heart and mind was guided to fulfill the will of God. If God had not governed all this business then Pharaoh might just as well have suggested to Joseph, "We best bid your brothers hello and good-by. With hard times at hand there may not be enough resources to go around as it is." He very well could have done just that if the notions of the free will system were so. But, blessed be the name of our God, "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will (Proverbs 21.1)." So too might others have plotted harm or confusion for Joseph's brothers had not the Lord God Omnipotent reigned over all.
"And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan; And take your father and your households and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat of the fat of the land (Genesis 45.17, 18)." What makes this benevolent pronouncement of Pharaoh so marvelous is that Joseph had previously told the brethren to do precisely that (Genesis 45.9,10)! There should be no doubt that Pharaoh was then reciting only what God had before ordained to come to pass, though Pharaoh knew it not. But, if the Arminian system of chance, choose, and connive were possible, then what was to prevent these sons of Jacob from deciding to go home and stay rather than following the directives of both Joseph and Pharaoh? Human nature and personal experience tell us that the brothers would no doubt have begun reconsidering this dramatic series of events as they left for home. Temerity and presumption, and a healthy dose of self preservation thrown in for good measure, would have soon set their sails for a safer haven. Better judgment might have dictated a path of caution rather than obedience to Joseph and Pharaoh. Then, we suppose, the whole plan of God to bring His people down to Egypt would have fallen apart at the seams. May the holy name of God be praised that we have been spared from imbibing such heaven-daring nonsense. The brothers would go home and do just what they were instructed to do, for God was superintending the whole affair, no matter if the events and things that made up this journey were major or minor in the eyes of man. Everything was evolving to bring to pass the purposes He had ordained for them from eternity past.
Pharaoh had further instructed the brothers to take enough Egyptian wagons back to Canaan. "for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come (Genesis 45.19)." They had traveled to Egypt with only their empty sacks and a few asses (Genesis 44.3), but this journey was to be with all the splendor and convenience of Pharaoh's best resources. No one was to be left behind when they returned, for their provisions were involved as well. Thus the journey of which God had foretold to Abraham would be made in the royal chariots of Egypt's king. Little could they realize that for those of the family now living that the journey back to Egypt was to be a one way trip, but go they must, for so was it the will of God, and had been confirmed by the mouth of both Joseph and Pharaoh. So, what was to be for the present a journey of splendor and sweet anticipation would, in years to come, prove to be the vehicle for Israel's servitude under hard and cruel taskmasters.
Many of God's little children have, speaking in a figure, ridden in Pharaoh's chariots, and the journey always ended in bondage of one sort or another. But we, like Joseph's brothers, have the sweet assurance that our journey will be made in conjunction with the truths affirmed in Romans 8.28. Life for the family of God, with all its ups and downs, bitter times and blessed moments, are most positively covered in the scope of "all things work together for good..." even if not seen at the time.
If the brothers knew of the purposes of God for Israel in Egypt the Scriptures are certainly silent on it, but it probably was known by their grandfather Isaac, and their father Jacob as well, for a prophecy of this magnitude was not likely to be kept secret by Abraham. "And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not their's, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years (Genesis 15.13)." Surely, however, the brothers were too caught up with the anticipation of the moment, doubts and fears not withstanding, to even consider this was but the coming to pass of that great promise of God to Abraham years earlier.
"Also regard not your stuff: for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours (Genesis 45.20)."
Volumes might be written about the word, "stuff", and there are many definitions for the word. As used here it seems to indicate the pitiful little parcel of personal goods the brothers were able to scrape up to haul along with them from home in their journey to Egypt. Value, somewhat like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, and while their assortment of "stuff" probably had some value to them, in the eyes of one like Pharaoh it had a value about the equivalent of dung. Pharaoh was treating them in a manner somewhat like the father of the prodigal treated his son who had returned to his home after a season of substance wasting in a far country. Nothing but the best robe, shoes for his feet, and a ring for his hand would do for this son, and Pharaoh wanted nothing but what he considered best for the brothers of Joseph. Stuff from other quarters was to be discarded for Pharaoh was supplying them with the "good of the land." In time it proved to be just the opposite.
We believe there is a lesson in Pharaoh's communication to the sons of Jacob. His admonition was that the brothers should, by comparison with the good of the land of Egypt, disdain those things they had accumulated prior to coming to his domain. Their "stuff" might well have appeared pitiful in comparison to what Pharaoh had to offer. However, in our mind, it would have been error to "regard not" what God had provided them. Meager as their "stuff" may have been, free grace had been its avenue of provision. No one claiming Jehovah as their Lord is well served in showing contempt for that which is their lot and provision in life.
There are many religious "Pharaohs" even today that would speak evil of what our Lord has given us in our journey, especially as it would regard the church which Jesus built. The ordinances, doctrine, practice and loving fellowship would all be considered so much "stuff" in their eyes. "Give it up!" "Leave it behind; the good of the land can far better suit you now" is the substance of their appeal to the sons of Jacob that are now making their pilgrimage through this Egypt world. We see here an unique similarity with the instructions of our Lord in Luke chapter 12, regarding what he called "things." "And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth (Luke 12.15)." It is plain enough that the abundance of things was that which the Lord was warning the disciples to avoid. He later encouraged them with the fact that "your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things (Luke 12.30)." Thus Jesus says, "Take heed" regarding the evil of accumulating, or even coveting to accumulate, the extravagant things of this world, such as Pharaoh might provide. Pharaoh said, "Heed (regard) not" in reference to what the Lord had already provided those brothers, for the direct inference was that the things of Egypt were vastly superior to their "stuff." As Peter admonished the Pharisees, "We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5.29)."
If it were possible today's religious Pharaohs would strip us of all our "stuff" just as Pharaoh in Egypt did the sons of Jacob. The reasoning is common among the unhumbled Arminians; "Our things are better than your stuff." But is it really better? Not according to the following text: "Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith (Proverbs 15.15)." The great treasures of Pharaoh and his current counterparts are guaranteed to amply produce trouble if we cash in our little "stuff" for their goods. The same message is clearly stated again by the wise man: "Better is a little with righteousness than great revenue without right (Proverbs 16.8)." Read also Proverbs 28.6, and Ecclesiastes 4.6 in this respect.
In summary, we would point out again that the brothers of Joseph seemed to be getting a substantial improvement in their standard of living. In time, after swapping their "stuff" in for the goods of Egypt, that high and lavish standard would be taken away, and the rigors of the brick kiln would take their place. It would then be several centuries before they would be delivered out of this bondage to see the salvation of God. But for the moment, deliverance had come to the brothers of Joseph, and their prospects certainly appeared brighter than when they had first journeyed down to Egypt to buy corn for the starving family in Canaan.
If the Lord wills, we shall take up this subject again later.
J. F. Poole
Volume 8, No. 6