Joseph's weary and disconcerted brethren had returned home from their sojourn to Egypt. Jacob had sent them to purchase corn that the family might not perish. On their return home they had discovered their money had somehow been bundled in their sacks. They were for the moment safe, but in a state of consternation. The fearful brothers related these perplexing events to their father, Jacob, and he had retorted, "All these things are against me." And so what seemed to be a mission of deliverance had soon turned to a mission of despair. They are at home in Canaan; the famine continues to consume the land, and they know not what to do. Thus, in this historical sequence of events we find a figure of the lamentable condition of all the poor starving saints of God through the centuries. They seek deliverance in their own ignorant devices, and know not what to do when they are confronted by their spiritual Joseph. The simple plan of deliverance they attempted leaves them with too many unanswered questions for them to unravel. The spiritual famine, similar to the one Joseph's brethren endure, continues unabated and the; face apparent starvation of the soul, until God rules otherwise.
But to return to the text: "And the famine was sore in the land." (Gen. 43:1) The one truism in their circumstances to this point was that the purpose of God rolled on. Jacob and sons had probably given little thought to the hand of God in these matters. The matters of first importance to them was relief. But, there was no relief from the appointed famine, and appeared that they must finally perish, little knowing they were secure in the wise government of the Lord The pressure of the circumstances now moved the little family to action And so Jacob, though he had vowed not to set his sons back to Egypt and to Joseph again, was made to have another opinion. He says, "Go again. Buy us a little food." (Verse 2) How this truly describes the vacillating of the poor ignorant worms of the dust as they seek deliverance in their own efforts, and purpose of mind. They vow they will not do this; they promise they will not do that; but soon enough their puny plans, their simple vows and their good intentions are brought to confusion. Then the ordained circumstances confronting them force them to relent. So, though Jacob had sternly purposed otherwise, he says, "Go again." This certainly was not what Jacob wanted, but unknown to him and his sons, it was the holy will of God. It was God's divine plan to bring them once again into the presence of Joseph. Now it must be pointed out that their only concern was to obtain food for their perishing bodies. A reunion with Joseph was not at all in their thoughts, as they had no notion this austere ruler of Egypt was their kin. But the holy plan of God was that they might find a better deliverance than their plans included, and a better home with the blessed son Joseph. And thus they prepared to go. "If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food." (Verse 4) Recalling the obtrusive manner Joseph had dealt with them, the disconcerted brothers were eager to follow his instructions in this next audience in the courts of the Pharaoh. Observe there too the words "go down." When one leaves the land of their inheritance, in this instance Canaan, to go unto Egypt, they must go "down." And so in the experience of the saints they must in their journey to obtain spiritual food, go down to the lowest place, to the lowest point they have known. There they will be stripped of all human boasting. "And why," it may be asked? That all their creature strength may fail them, moving them to look outside of themselves is why. Sinners that seek deliverance must be bowed before their spiritual Joseph to receive from Him the life-sustaining food.
"And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts and almonds: And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight." (Verse 11 and 12) It is more than interesting to see that old Father Israel wanted to do a little carnal bargaining with the governor of Egypt. He directs his sons to take of the best fruits in their vessels; "take the man a present, a little balm, a little honey," etc. What pitiful prizes these would be to offer to Joseph; and yet to his brothers this little dab of earthly possessions were no doubt very valuable in their time of famine and want. Jacob also directs the brothers to take double in their hands, to return the money they found in their sacks. "Carry it again" was his language. It was but a meager total that they had amassed to offer to Joseph, and yet they verily believed that somehow or another Joseph would be pleased with these little tokens of their generosity. Can we not see how much we are like them, even now? When distresses arise, and troubles buffet us, our natural inclination is that we should try to render peace offerings to our spiritual Joseph. Our Arminian character directs us to believe that a little portion of the things we possess will prevent His fierce anger towards sin from going out against us in a consuming fury, if we but offer them up in a measure of sincerity. And yet it is needful that these lessons be learned again and again, for when we discover that double money and these pitiful gifts are worthless, we then begin to learn of the great wealth and possession our brother Joseph has treasured up in our behalf.
And they journeyed. Nothing of their venture back to Joseph's presence is recorded in the Scriptures until they arrive in the land of Egypt once again. "And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon." (Verse 16) So there they stand before their brother once again. They are as ignorant of the hand of God in the matter as they ever were. This time however, Benjamin, the full brother of Joseph, is with them. The searching eyes of Joseph immediately light upon his younger brother. When he sees him, and the others with him, he instructs his servant to "bring the men home." "Bring them home." What a sweet message that must have been, though little understood. Unlike the rest of the starving multitude, these brothers are treated with a special dignity, and for good reason. These are, and ever have been, Joseph's brethren. They are kin! Poor ignorant, unhumbled Arminians have never seen that God does make a difference in the love and care He bestows. This forceful request to Joseph's home was not an offer to any that might "will" to go. Rather, it is the free expression of love for those special ones whose union has been broken by sin. The rest of those there seeking provisions never had a union with Joseph, and never would. This is a plain and simple truth, but far too profound for work-mongers to comprehend. This direction to call the brothers to Joseph's home was intended for none but family. A heart prepared of the Lord knows that the overtures of the Lord are restricted to the family of God. The brethren were coming home, but as yet they didn't know the mind of Joseph in the matter. "And slay." They knew nothing about why this offering was to be made, but Joseph was full well intent on providing all things for them, without any explanation for the moment. It would appear that the sacrifice here sets forth the lesson of union and communion with our spiritual Joseph through the sacrifice He alone could initiate.
"These men shall dine with me." Though they stood trembling, and in much fear, and totally ignorant of the meaning of these things, they were about to partake of a sumptuous fare in the presence of the Supreme Ruler of the realm. Once more they began to reason about the actions of this one who alone had the power of life and death over them. "And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph's house; and they said, Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses." (Verse 18) Yes, the brethren were afraid. How awful and terrible it must have seemed to them to stand before Joseph. They had been here before; they had stood here as criminals because (as they assumed) of the money in their sacks. Now they stand With Benjamin and they reason all the more within themselves that he would take occasion against them. They believed that certainly they must lose their lives. Again, here we see the beautiful figure of how a poor sinner, who as yet does not know the full nature of the circumstances, believes he must perish at the feet of his Joseph. Their past crimes, their sins and their trespasses rise up in their conscience and smite them. They verily believe that all this confusion will bring them to ruin. They cannot see the hand of God to this point, nor the Divine plane in its glorious fullness. And, even though conscience-smitten sinners may know a bit of this business in the letter, or as a doctrinal theory, in experience it is another and terrible matter. They see only the worst side of the controversy, and believe that it all must finally end in their doom. As for Joseph, his compassionate plans for them were entirely different than their carnal reasoning. And so it is with the saints of the Most High. Though we believe that we must stand before our Joseph to be judged and condemned, (if we are brethren, and we hope we are) then the worst of our fears will never be realized. All must end well at last, for we are the brethren of Joseph. The family is a unit; one in eternity; one now; one forever, and none of them shall ever be lost.
The brethren converse with Jacob's steward on these perplexing matters, and they say this; "And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks." (Verse 22) How true the statement. "We cannot tell." They had thus far experienced some very strange circumstances. They have seen it with their own eyes; they have felt the awesome impact of matters far above their mental capacities; and so they must confess, "We cannot tell." This is a proposition too enormous, and too overwhelming for them. It cannot be fathomed, for it is too profound; it is wide and it is mysterious. This grand moment in time will affect their whole lives and very beings, yet they are speechless. It must be emphasized again that these brothers had absolutely no notion that they and Joseph were kin. The poor things must confess, "We cannot tell." Have we not, to a great measure, experienced the very same things in our experience, as we have traveled as pilgrims and strangers? The hand of the Lord goes out in strange ways, and circumstances arise that are so baffling to us that we must bow in awe and say, "We cannot tell." It is far beyond our capacity to even propose the slightest word of explanation as to how these things are falling out. We must stand in stunned submission, confessing our ignorance and inability regarding these matters.
"We cannot tell who put our money in our sacks." (Verse 22) They would have told all, if possible, but it was not. In all their ignorance and fear they were forced to admit their lack of ability to explain these affairs. This is in complete contrast with the Arminian tribes dealing with such matters. Free-willers are never at a loss to paint their gloss on any and all of the deep mysteries of God. Joseph's brethren, however, must articulate their ignorance, for this is a real experience to them, and not mere speculation. When the hand of God goes out against one there is a resulting honesty that the Adamic nature can not, and would not convey.
But the servant responded, "And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them." (Verse 23) How interesting it is to see the servant recount to them such things as we would expect to fall only from the kips of our Lord. "Peace be to you." No doubt he could not say it with the power and the influence that Joseph could have, and yet it must have been reassuring to them to know that he knew enough about Joseph to tell them there was peace in store, and that they need fear not. The brothers needed a word of comfort at this time, and blessed be God, He stirred the servant to deliver one. This exactly comports with the way the gospel assures the elect even now. When the distressed lambs are nearly at their wits end the words of peace come. These are words the saints of God have received in due season through the centuries. Recall the moment the Lord stood with His little flock and said, "Fear not little flock, it is your father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." The very disciples had but a meager comprehension of those sweet words at the time they were spoken. They have, however, been a source of consolation ever since the gift of the Spirit came. So, with the brothers standing there nearly consumed with perplexity, they are calmed with the news that the God of their father had given them their treasures in their sacks. This could not be fully comprehended, but it could be received, and at the appropriate hour it would be unfolded to the glory of God, and to their comfort. And thus in the time of our deepest distress, the Lord, at His pleasure, sends His servants; our Joseph will dispatch a messenger to say to us, "Peace be to you, fear not: your God, the God of your father," etc. Those sweet words will blessedly sustain us, if not permanently, at least for the little season of distress.
"And the man brought the men into Joseph's house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses provender." (Verse 24) And so they now have come once again to Joseph's house. Before they could stand in audience with him it was necessary that they be washed; that their feet be cleansed; that their animals be provided for. So we see how that all things come to pass in their good order. Before we may appear before our Joseph we too must be cleansed from our journeys, and washed from our defilements. As seems good to Him, He graciously provides one to come to us for such a time as this. It should be seen by the Spiritual eye that there is nothing lacking in the plans of our Lord; that when the ordained moment comes, we must stand before our Lord, and all things will be made ready.
Volume 5, No. 2