(It has been some time now since our last article on Joseph and his brethren appeared in "The Remnant." The general theme throughout has been a comparison of the experience of the brothers with that of ours. The common thread between our experience and that of Joseph's brothers is the offended brother, and how he deals with his kin.)
We take up the story again with the perplexed brothers of Joseph standing in the presence of Joseph's servants. They were disconcerted when their money was found in their sacks, and not one bit wiser than they were the first time they journeyed to Egypt. When we are brought into the presence of Jesus, our brother, we are much the same way. The Spirit often brings us into the presence of our Joseph, especially in the early portion of our pilgrimage, and we know little of what is taking place. Being fools and slow of heart, our sins rise up to condemn us, and but for the free grace of God we would fall into complete hopelessness. This was the experience of Joseph's brothers naturally, and it is ours as well, but spiritually.
The brothers could find no answer for these trying circumstances. At that time Joseph had not made himself known, and they had no more power to discern him than they did to create a world. His dutiful servant had spoken to them words of peace, (Gen. 43.23) which no doubt could but barely satisfy their grievous confusion. Nevertheless, they are about to be brought again into the presence of their brother. He would attend to them in such a noble manner that they could have never dreamed it. They then prepared to give him their pitiable little presents they had brought with them (Gen. 43.11, 12). Their offerings were much like the little "duty trinkets" we attempt to render to the Lord whenever we are summoned to appear in His presence. Obviously unaware of the plenteous wealth and might of Joseph, they never realized that this Joseph possessed the abundance of the known world. Despite their attempts at "offering" of their substance to Joseph, nothing that they brought in their hands would be of any influence in the union with Joseph.
When a poor troubled sinner learns by grace the lesson these brothers were about to learn, they will then be wiser than all the religious "thinkers" this world has ever known. All the theological nonsense that might be dished up for the elect will never convince them to attempt to buy their way into the good graces of Spiritual Joseph as his brothers did. This knowledge is a covenant blessing, received only by those who are the kin of spiritual Joseph.
They stood then in Joseph's presence. He asked of their welfare (Gen. 43.27). It is exceeding wonderful to see in the type that Joseph's first question to them regards their personal welfare, rather than requiring of them an answer to their wicked conduct. Just so our Joseph has ever sought the welfare of His brethren though we have been aliens and enemies. He ever looks over the elect for good, and not for evil, though we know little of it.
As much as anything else, this line of questioning causes a poor sinner to reflect on his low estate. This is precisely the opposite to the brutish manner of work-monger religionists. They would demand of us "duty," "works," and "offerings" in abundance. But to seek our spiritual welfare would be as far from them as the east is from the west. Their questioning would only cause one to seek within himself something of value to respond with. No poor sinner, enlightened by the Holy Ghost, can find within himself anything but corruption; thus he shuns the voice of work-mongers.
Joseph speaks to them as well of their father, and he asks, "Is your father well? The old man of whom ye spake, is he yet alive?"(verse 27). Here we see again a lovely figure of our Lord as He seeks the knowledge of His Father from the family. Throughout the earthly ministry of our Joseph, communion with His Father was paramount. While we often lose sight of these things, it is a very truth that the Saviour's delight was always to be about His Father's business. Thus we see here that when Joseph has asked of the welfare of his brethren, he speaks of the prospects of uniting again with his father.
They answer in the affirmative regarding their father, and then bowed down their heads and made obeisence (verse 28). It was a sad plight they were in; they could but bow their heads and attempt to render homage. This is very different from the adoration and respect that Joseph deserved, but they knew no more, and could do nothing else. Vividly, it shows us again in a figure how wretched we are before our Joseph. Until He makes Himself fully known unto us we can, like the brothers of Joseph, but go through the motions of reverence. We may bow and scrape, and go through the gestures of veneration, but true worship, and acceptable adoration can only be effected by spiritual revelation, and a holy uniting with Him through His will, and not our own. Few persons today see the imperative of spiritual revelation by the Lord to His chosen family. It is supposed by most that at the whim of sinners they may become acquainted with the Saviour. However, Joseph's brethren could not in nature; nor can the fallen sons of Adam in spiritual matters. Truly the natural man cannot receive these things, for they are spiritually discerned (I Cor. 2.14).
See here too that everything that transpired in this sequence of events was contingent upon the will of Joseph, and not his brethren. It was he who controlled the affairs of his brothers, and not they themselves. They awaited his sovereign word; they were totally passive. All that which befell them there was, without doubt, outside the realm of their control. So it has ever been with the children of the Heavenly King, for it is in Him that we live, move and have our being (Acts 17.28). Exactly as the brothers then anticipated the directives of the unknown ruler of Egypt, all that come before the Lord for deliverance today from their daily plights must be made resigned to His will. When they are not resigned, they soon enough will be. What truly enlightened saint of the Most High would ever have it to be otherwise? We may come in ignorance as Joseph's brethren did, or come in some measure of the full knowledge of Spiritual truth. It is a delight to know, however, that we come because we are not our own, we are bought with a price, and as He speaks and commands, so shall it stand fast. May we ever praise Him that it is so.
"And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son (Gen.43.29)." Observe that it says, "And saw his brother Benjamin." He saw them all, but his keenest attention was fixed upon his brother Benjamin. There was a special place in his heart for Benjamin. While we are fearful to so state with any degree of certainty, we do believe that this incident sets forth the emerging beauty of the Lord's relationship to those who are His peculiar kindred. While some may be startled at that expression, we believe it is fully set forth in this text. Joseph's brother Benjamin, as the text recounts, is his mother's son. These brothers all had the same father, namely Jacob; but only Benjamin had the same mother as Joseph did.
We are made to think of that lovely text in Galatians 4:26, "But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." We are fully persuaded that all of the saints of God are embraced in the motherhood of spiritual Jerusalem, whether they lived yesterday, today, or tomorrow. They are one, and they are brethren. But, they are not all brethren in the same relationship as Joseph and Benjamin were, as we before mentioned. Joseph's brothers all had one father, but they had different mothers. And so the election of grace has brought together all the family, and yet they differ in their covenant relationships.
We are persuaded further that those the Lord calls to be baptized, and live in the church, are children of the same mother as our Joseph. Those redeemed, but not called to this relationship, have the same father, but a different mother. We state here in the firmest manner possible that this is all of grace, and no creature willingness whatever is involved.
He said to Benjamin only, "God be gracious unto thee my son." A special beneficence was invoked upon Benjamin that was not given the rest of the brethren. And how we must bow in holy reverence at such conduct. Someone may say that it is not right for Joseph to feel more toward Benjamin than the others, and we would ask, "Has he not the right to do as he wills?" Even as our Joseph said, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?" (Matt. 20.15).
We feel strongly that this point deserves special emphasis. Joseph's brethren were the sinners; Joseph alone was the deliverer. They stood before him condemned in their conscience, and condemned by his sovereignty. What could they do, or, what could they say? Must they not stand in expectation of his pronounced will? To emphasize the point again, they are the beggars; he is the regal Lord of the realm. Unknown to them they would all be freely forgiven, (in Joseph's own good time) but since it was then his pleasure to speak words of special grace to his mother's son only, who were they to dare reply against him? And indeed they did not, for their mouths were as surely shut by God as were the mouths of the Lions that were supposed to devour Daniel when he was plunged into their den. The brothers did not reply against Joseph, for they could not. "Nay but, O man, who are thou that repliest against God?" (Rom. 9.20).
When our dear Lord and Saviour ascended on high, and gave gifts to men, could then one who received a greater gift look in contempt upon the one who received the lesser? Or the reverse? Dare the recipient of the lesser gift rail on the possessor of the greater? Could the gift of healing say to the gift of discernment, "There is no room for thee"? These questions really need not be asked, for all who believe the truth know the answer. Joseph's heart goes out to his brother Benjamin in a special way, and yet the others were no less his brothers by his father than they were before, and they too would receive his mercies, as seemed good in his sight.
"And Joseph made haste" (verse 30). We see in the stirring of Joseph's emotions a little glimpse of what our Saviour was like in His earthly ministry. He hungered, He thirsted, He had feelings of anger, and there were the times of blessed manifestations when He publicly worshiped His Father. All these sublime activities displayed His most human nature. Yet in all of that, He remained, without exception, the Sovereign Ruler.
We believe that while Joseph was here firmly in control of the circumstances, a view of his brethren, (and especially Benjamin) wrought upon his frame a convulsion of compassionate feelings that hastened him in their behalf. For as it was stated, "His bowels did yearn upon his brother" (verse 30). What gentle feelings these must have been, though unseen by the brothers. Joseph saw, for the first time in many years, this one who had come from the same womb as did he. Now they are united again, though in afar country, and under widely different circumstances than that in which they grew up. Benjamin stood before him that Joseph might do with him as seemed good in his sight. Still, poor Benjamin knew not the truth of the matter. But Joseph knew; and what a grand truth this is. Joseph knew it all, but the brothers knew but a paltry little. "And he sought where to weep."
This is the second mention of Joseph weeping. The first time it was with some apparent reservations; this time he could scarcely contain himself, and so he sought where he may weep out his hidden feelings in private. For the time they must not observe his emotions. They must not know that their presence has moved and mightily stirred their brother Joseph. We might point out here again that all this emotion seemed to center on Benjamin more than the other brethren. The events that had just transpired seemed to be chiefly because of Joseph's love for his full brother Benjamin more than the others. And yet the others also would be beneficiaries with him as a result. Thus Joseph entered into his chamber, and as the text says, "And wept there." What stately feelings and tenderness he then displayed; but they saw it not.
Comparing this incident with our own relation to Spiritual Joseph, is it not so that we have but a meager idea how much the Lord is moved by the presence of His little ones? These things are for the most part hid from our eyes. His feelings gave way, but not before their eyes. The emotions built up from years past now spilled forth, and yet it was as concealed from their view as if they were stone blind. Soon enough they would know; but it would be in Joseph's good time. So he washed his face and went out, and refrained himself saying, "Set on bread."
"Set on bread." The first order of Joseph's business for his brethren was to see that their bodily necessities might be met. Even before they were enlightened or instructed; even before he revealed himself to them, he knew their needs, and their weariness. They were gathered before him in hunger. Thus he set before them the natural bread of life. We believe this again represents our Joseph as He feeds His little children such things as are necessary to sustain them spiritually, as the Bread of Life that He gives from His Father above. This is the true Bread, the everlasting Bread, and Bread which strengthen them in the inner man. We are reminded of the text in John where our Lord prepared a meal for His disciples after His resurrection. He bid the disciples "Come and dine." The Saviour prepares the meal, bids His people eat, and blesses them to enjoy the fare. When He feeds the sheep there is given them the assurance that all will be well.
James F. Poole
Volume 6, No. 1
January - February 1992