Our last article on "Jesus seen in the life of Joseph" ended with the several events recorded in Genesis 42. The seven years of plenty and abundance had soon enough passed, and the once fertile land now brought no yield. So, according to the directions of the Pharaoh, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold unto the Egyptians as their needs arose. The famine had immobilized the normal life of everyone, and as it waxed sore in the land, and throughout the known regions of the world, those who would live must come to Joseph to buy corn. There was simply nowhere else a poor citizen could go. Go to Joseph or perish. Thus we see in the outset of this apparent calamity, a figure of our Lord is clearly displayed in Joseph. As Joseph was the only person the starving could turn to, so we, as starving sinners, have nowhere else to go, but to the Saviour of sinners. There was corn aplenty in Egypt, but no one could obtain it except through Joseph, the absolute Governor of the whole realm.
And so at this same time, Jacob and his sons experience the difficulties of the famine upon themselves: In the passing of time, old Father Jacob asked his sons why they looked one upon another. (Genesis 42:1) They no doubt seemed to him to be perplexed Starvation, possibly death, for all their families and their flocks faced them if the circumstances weren't shortly remedied. And, as none had any suitable answer, they gazed one upon another. They were then too, in a figure, much like the troubled sinner who sees his desperate condition, but has no idea what to do about it. Until, in the providence of God, a sinner is directed to go to Jesus, he will be as perplexed as the sons of Jacob were about going to Joseph to buy food. This is a simple truth the Arminian has never learned, and never will, but for the Grace of God breaking in upon his blinded soul. But Jacob had heard something that was to be the good news leading to their deliverance. He heard that there was corn in Egypt. The Scriptures do not inform us how he learned of this; or how that this message of salvation came to him; but suffice it to say, in God's good time, at the appointed hour, when it was His pleasure to deliver His people, the message of life came. "There is corn in Egypt; there is deliverance for all who will bow the knee to the Sovereign of the realm" is somewhat the message Jacob received. So now, Jacob must act on the information he obtained. The nature of the case demands it. Even so, a stricken sinner is made willing in the day of God's power to heed the message of life. Does be do it in his own strength? Never. He is compelled to arise and begin his journey to Spiritual Joseph because the Holy Spirit moves him as surely as God is on His throne. "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44) Jacob thus sends his sons to the only place he knows of where they can obtain com. It is to be at the hand of Joseph the brothers obtain the provision of life-giving substance.
So Joseph's ten brothers went down to Egypt to buy corn. Little did they know that this journey would forever alter their lives, and all their seed after them. As is recorded in Gen.42:4, Benjamin, Joseph's only full brother went not with them because Jacob was fearful that some mischief would befall them, and he desired to protect the only remaining son by his beloved Rachel. The text then says that Joseph's brothers came among those that were there to buy com. How interesting to see that the brothers of Joseph were no better off in the famine than were the rest of the sons of Adam. All alike stood in need. All alike were in dread of perishing for want of food, and but for Joseph who now ruled with absolute power and wisdom in Egypt, there was no hope whatever. So his brethren found themselves in the food line just like the others. They were there to obtain as might seem good in Joseph's sight. They knew nothing about their brother now ruling the whole of Egypt. Though they were brethren, they thought that Joseph was long dead. They knew not that it was their kinsman who held the reigns of life and death. Nothing could have been anymore unlikely than them realizing who controlled their affairs, and, held their lives in the balance. Neither do we as sinners now have any knowledge of our Lord ruling our affairs until He makes Himself known unto us by His grace. Until then, we are as blind as Joseph's brothers were. Nevertheless they went to Egypt, for their father had sent them, and because of their compelling needs.
When they arrived in Egypt, like all of the others around them, they bowed down unknowing and reverently before Joseph, their brother. Some, with only natural sight, might see this event as a great coincidence. Or a piece of good luck. An item of chance. But can we not see the very hand of Divine providence, and the guidance of God's eternal wisdom directing Joseph's brethren there at that time? And was it not the blessed plan of the Almighty that they might come at that exact moment to buy corn directly from the hand of Joseph? We cannot conceive that all of the sales, or transactions of corn that transpired during that extended period involving all of the peoples of all of the lands, including Egypt, was transacted by Joseph alone. He no doubt had many who superintended this business only from time to time, as might seem good in his sight. As he was governor, and second only to Pharaoh, he saw to it that others performed the more menial chores. But, pursuant to the good will of God, Joseph was here at the graineries at this specific time when his brethren came. No, there was no luck about it. This was no chance meeting played out in the arena of blind fate. But rather, by God's grace the family was brought together at this time, and the world could have popped wide open sooner than they could have failed to meet here at this precise moment. Devils may rage, and Hell may fume at the thought, but the predestination of our God arraigned these brothers before Joseph. God, who had declared the end from the beginning, had set these consequential events in motion by the word of His power. Even so are the elect members of the body of Christ assembled before Him in the proper time, and that consistent with the eternal decrees. As for Joseph's brothers, there they were, bowing their faces, and fulfilling the very dreams that Joseph had before recited to them in years past. We full well believe the weakest babe in Christ can see something here of the working of God's holy will, and those who see not could create a moon quicker than they could enter into the secret of the matter.
"And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them and he said unto them, whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food." (Gen. 42:7) "And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them." Immediately, with no apparent pause, when the brethren bowed before Joseph, he observed them, gazed upon them, and he knew them. Can we not see in this grand story that our Joseph too, the Lord and Saviour, ever knows His people in all of their circumstances? And though their eyes are prevented from discerning him, and His countenance is withheld from their understanding, nevertheless, He sees His brethren and He knows them. Very often the Lord might, like Joseph did, make Himself strange unto his brethren. Nevertheless, all these things are working together for good, bringing about the grand moment that God would reunite all of the family in the unsurpassed joy and happiness of union with Him such as could not be known previous to such an experience.
"And Joseph saw his brethren." And why was it they could not see him and he could see them? Joseph and his brethren had been apart for many years, and yet the years had not diminished his memory, but it had theirs. No doubt they could not have imagined that this great man was Joseph; that this man who controlled the destiny of all humans was their brother. But immediately upon his seeing them, he knew them. Yet in his wisdom, and for reason not directly revealed here, he withheld his knowledge of them, and spake roughly to them. Baffled and confused, they no doubt had no notion at all of what was taking place. Joseph however, was preparing them for the moment when he would see fit to reveal himself to them. And so we reading Verse 8, "And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew him not." This verse very well sums up all there is to know about the relation between our Lord and His family. As Joseph could know his brethren, but his brethren did not know him, so our Lord from all eternity has know us, when we knew Him not. (And we would here emphasize that the Lord did not simply know about us as the Arminians presume, but He knew us.) Joseph's brethren had sinned against him very grievously. As far as they were concerned they had murdered him. Now they had forgotten their trespasses in a great measure, but Joseph had experienced all of the bitter consequences of their evil disposition toward him. Coming now to buy com they cannot perceive who this magnificent governor is, but he knows them well. Joseph in all points was superior to his brethren, and it must be so, for God willed it. Comparing the relationship then between Jesus and His brethren, we discover the same. Supreme in all areas and all ways, He is all wise, all powerful, ever knowing. We, on the other hand are ignorant, dumb, and weak; foolish, cold, and dead; and insensible of all things until such time as He is pleased to draw us out and give us life, light, and liberty. Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew him not. The situation could never change until such time as Joseph was pleased to make it different. They had no power to recall, but from the beginning, he knew all, and at the appointed hour, he would reveal himself; but not now.
So what was the first thing that came to the mind of Joseph when he saw his brethren? "And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them." (Verse 9) His mind went back to his youth when he visited them in the field, related to them the dreams he had, and how, despising him, they said, "Behold the dreamer cometh." And so this was all vividly before him as if but only a moment had passed since his dream. With seeming sternness he addressed them thus, "Ye are spies, to see the nakedness of the land ye are come out." (Verse 9) Some have thought that from the outset Joseph was filled with compassion for his brethren. We are constrained, however, to think somewhat differently. It is our observation here that Joseph in his humanity felt a sense of anger, and within his bosom there was kindling the fires of animosity that had lingered with him over the years. It was not until several encounters later on with his estranged brethren that he began to be melted, and manifested compassion towards them. Though a type of Christ, Joseph was as capable of hard feelings as any other son of Adam. But at this time, he dealt with them as spies, and accused them of seeking out the nakedness of his land They, of course, denied this and sought to placate him with what they believed was the truth; that they were only there to buy food as his servants. The brothers' conduct was much like the poor sinner who is brought up before the Lord and knows not what to say against the severe accusations of the law.
So they related the nature of their journey as best they could, and explained to Joseph the circumstances of their family; how they were the sons of Jacob, and that one brother was left at home. And so again they were accused by Joseph as he stated to them that by the life of Pharaoh they would not go forth except Benjamin would come to Egypt (Verse 15). So Joseph put them all together in a ward for three days, being a prison-like place that they might be secured from escaping. After Joseph had put them in the hold, he says to them, "This do and live for I fear God" (Verse 18) Herein we find the first suggestion from Joseph of his true character as he commands his ignorant brethren what they must do. He expresses to them the nature of his wisdom, for truly the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and he stated to them, "I fear God" There seems to be in this expression an accusation to them that they did not fear God as he did, which obviously in a great measure they didn't. They had sold their brother, and given him up for dead. They seemed to have no fear of God before their eyes in the matter. But now, to quote the old proverb, "Their chickens are coming home to roost." These sinful brothers experienced in a great measure the pangs of a previously dead and dormant conscience. All of these things were suddenly bursting forth in their conscience and the experience of an awakening of things long forgotten put them in complete consternation. Is not much of our experience set forth here? Were not we perplexed when our past transgressions were hauled in against us by the fiery law and the working of the Holy Ghost? The dismayed transgressors were brought up suddenly before the judgment of reality. Their crimes could not go unpunished. This appeared clear as the noon day sun now. There was no mention of what they had done; there were no accusations made; but these dormant trespasses revived as though they were just freshly committed. Astonished, they were made to cry out, "We are verily guilty concerning our brother in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us and we would not hear. Therefore is this distress come upon us." (Verse 21) One might ask, "what caused such an outcry as this?" We can only answer the time had come that they must stand before the great law giver to answer for their past crimes. And it was him, the great Joseph, whom they had trespassed against. As much as anywhere else in the Scripture, this portrays how that all of the brethren of Jesus must some day, like Joseph's brethren, stand before Him to acknowledge their trespass. It is the sweet hope of those made alive by the work of the Holy Ghost that they will hear the comforting word, "Come ye blessed of my Father." Though the elect have lived during all centuries of time, each one at the last day shall stand before Him. The sheep will be secure, but the goats will be driven away. At that time every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God. And we verily believe that in this confession there will be in the breast of every one called by grace the sense of guilt, the acknowledge of trespass, and the owning up of their sinful and vile condition. The very first light that beams across the troubled sinner's breast reveals to him his wickedness, his vileness and his need of redemption and cleansing. This has never changed since the first sinner was brought before their Joseph. They all say, "We are verily guilty." In the case of Joseph's brothers they were guilty of sinning against their brother. In our case, we are guilty of sinning against our Lord. The contrast and the comparison are vividly beautiful and harmonious to the last degree. And may God bless us always to see and behold it.
It is interesting and almost amusing to see in Verse 22 how that Reuben, the senior brother, attempted to escape the responsibility of the trespasses in a measure by saying, "Did not I speak unto you, saying, Sin not against the child." How often we hear those that would resolve themselves of the trespass, and like unhumbled arminians they seek to lessen their crimes by saying, "I'm not as guilty as you are." Nevertheless, Reuben stood as guilty as the others. In all of this ordeal, as they were conversing among themselves and attempting to thrash out the details of their terrifying experience, Joseph listened and understood. They knew not the tongue of Joseph, but Joseph knew their tongue, and so we read, "And they knew not that Joseph understood them, for he spake unto them by an interpreter." How plain again that shows us that our Joseph understands all that transpired in our lives and conduct though we know so little of Him. He spake to them by an interpreter. And so, our Lord often speaks to us through another medium, be it an interpreter, or in the things of life about us, He brings His message home as suits Him in His sovereign way.
"And he turned himself from them and wept." (Verse 24) While we will not attempt to analyze this statement at this time to its fullest extent, we would mention this is the first of seen times in the life of Joseph that he wept concerning his brethren. And in those seven times we see his royal compassion and holy feeling for his family, his brethren. And we see, as well, the intensity of his devotion to his family even when he would not reveal himself to them. In this instance he turned himself from them before he wept that they would not see the emotion and the agony he suffered in this issue. We would note as well there is nothing stated in this first instance of his weeping that would lead us to conclude that he was weeping for joy, but rather it appears that Joseph, again in his humanity, was saddened by their conduct.
So next Joseph instructs his brethren to return home. He commands them to fill their sacks with corn. He restores every man's money in the sack and he gave them provision for the way. (Verse 25) Notice first the expression, "their sacks". More and more throughout the next several chapters the relationship of Joseph's brethren and their sacks will be mentioned. The word will be used over and over again and if God wills, we shall observe their conduct in this matter and their relationship to their sacks, as we shall describe it later as their "sack religion". Every man bears about in his life those things which are most valuable and accommodating to them. And so the bulk of the life of Joseph's brethren, at this time, was bound up with their sacks. They were preparing now to return home with their sacks full of corn, unknowing that their money would be restored in their sacks, and that this would bring them back to Egypt as criminals. Their sacks contained their provisions, their utensils, and other things necessary for their daily activities. Truly it might be said that without their sacks they would be in a desperate condition. So we find, spiritually, that everyone carries about with them those things which they most tenaciously cling to in their "sack religion". As well as restoring their money in their sacks and giving them their com, Joseph gave his brethren provision for the way. No doubt all of those who have eyes to see can make the comparison of the provisions for the way. Our dear Lord has given us provision for "our way." We refer to the spiritual way in which we must go, all the way our Saviour leads us. As the Scripture relates, "He will guide us with His eye." He gives us hope for the way. He gives us courage for the way. He arms us with the sword, and with shoes, and with the shield of faith. Any other necessary provision for the way He also provides. And while we journey as pilgrims and strangers in the land unknown to us, full of dangers and terrors, all of the provisions we could ever want or need will be provided for us by Jesus who is our Joseph. Joseph's brethren carried their provisions in their sacks, and these sacks represented the necessities of their journey. Our provisions are bound up in our inward being, in these vessels. The Lord has provided oil in our vessels that our lamps will not go out. He has provided a witness so that we might have a recall of all things He has done for us. And so on and on we might number these things that He has given us as provisions for the way. "And thus he did unto them." It was not so much what he did for them, but what he did unto them. And so it ever is with our Lord He does unto us such things as are necessary that we might not perish in our journey.
And the brothers depart. They are on their way home, and they no doubt believe that they have accomplished their mission. Their minds are eased; their consciences are once again salved, and they believe they have escaped the perils that they suspected in the brief hours before might ruin them. But when one of them opened their sack, there they discovered the sobering reality that their money had been restored It was in their sack. Their hearts fainted, and they were afraid. They knew not; they understood not; and terror had seized them. It appeared that these things going contrary led them to erroneous conclusions. Without knowing that Joseph's hand was in the matter, they believed that certainly they must be at some point brought up as guilty thieves because they could not explain this. How this shows us the frailty of our understanding, the lack of our wisdom in Spiritual things. Like the brothers, we attempt to buy; we attempt to gain, (in the Spiritual realm that is) even as Joseph's brethren did. We swiftly discover that our Lord returns our money in our sacks. We cannot buy; we cannot barter; for all comes at the hand of Joseph by free grace. He gives and we receive; and that is the end of the matter. Yet these things make us afraid. We wonder, "is it so, Lord, can it be us?" And we are made to cry out often, as Joseph's brethren did, "What is this that God hath done unto us?" There was nothing in having the money in their sack that should have terrified them, and yet it did. They felt that the hand of God had gone out against them in judgment for they verily believed that this incident would bring about their destruction; little knowing that all of this was an issue of the grace of Joseph unto them. And so they return home in terror and consternation, fearing the worst, and barely able to hope for anything better. They apprised their father, Jacob, of what had occurred, and how they were afraid. After this, Jacob could only say this, "All these things are against me."
Dear Brethren, are we not like Jacob when we see that which we understand not, the beginnings of the working of our Lord and Saviour? We cry out "All these things are against us," little knowing the truth of the text, "All things work together for good to them that love God." Jacob was as terrified as his sons, and Jacob was no better than any of the rest of us to console them in their grief for he equally shared in it. The terrors of the Lord had seized upon him, though he was not guilty of the same crime they were. And though he had no answers, he could but join them in their misery and say, "These things are against me." And so they sit, with their corn, their confusion, their money in hand, their minds in turmoil, awaiting for the next episode when they must once again confront Joseph.
Volume 4, No. 6