We closed the last article on Joseph and his brothers with Gen.45.4. Joseph had kindly said unto his brethren, "Come near to me." He had now made himself known to them in the most tender manner, and then bid them to come near. Not one of them could, until that moment, possibly have dreamed that their own flesh and blood brother was the great ruler they then stood before. And, with the contemptible sin of selling him now more vivid than ever in their conscience, they could not possibly have anticipated this kind of warm, sensitive reception. It is no wonder then that they were confounded at those unfolding events.
Here again, as throughout this whole historic episode, we find a parallel figure of our standing before Jesus. Shame, mingled with fear, greatly influences our understanding, and much hinders, if not clouds altogether, our prospective joy. "How can these things possibly be?" we must ask. "Is it conceivable that our sins are all forgiven?" "Why does our Lord not display some anger at our transgressions?" "Am I deceived in this matter, and my worst fears will soon be realized?" These, and a thousand other erroneous conclusions fill our minds when, at God's appointed hour, we are brought before our Joseph. And, make no. mistake about it, when we stand before Him, Who is our salvation, we will have been brought just as surely as these sinful brothers were brought. No guilty sinner has ever volunteered to come to Jesus. Until free grace brings him, and makes him willing in the day of His power, the sinner has no inclination to be in the presence of One so holy. "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life (John 5.40)." Such was the case with the Jews, and such is the case with all mankind, until drawn by cords of eternal electing love. We must point out here too, that as Joseph alone had the authority to summons his brothers to him, even so Jesus alone beckons the lost sheep to come to Him. Those who may have wanted to assist Joseph in this reunion, had they known of the relationship, would only have been meddling in private family affairs, just as it would be intrusive meddling for Arminians, freewillers, or other workmongers to seek to reconcile the sheep to the Great Shepherd. We are persuaded that as none but Joseph had knowledge of the relationship, so none today, despite their ever learning, are aware of the eternal tie that binds the great Shepherd and the sheep.
"And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt." This text alone is sufficient to refute the devilish notion of the universal brotherhood of man. At this grand reunion was gathered all the sons of Jacob, and not another human on earth was a brother of Joseph. This was all there were, and he bids them alone to come to him. No matter how close the tie might have been between Joseph and those in the Egyptian palace, none but those born of Jacob could be addressed as they were; as brethren. The crime of Jacob's sons was enormous. It was of the foulest nature. Yet they, despite their wickedness against him, were still his kin, and his pleasure was to call them. It must be kept in mind that they were brethren before they sold him; they were brethren when they sold him; and they were still brethren these many years later. The family ties could not be broken. The gracious emotions flowing from Joseph were restricted to brethren only. Even so, however black are the sins of the elect, they alone are the brethren of Jesus, and they alone will be called effectually by free grace.
"Whom ye sold into Egypt." Twenty pieces of silver they had gotten from the band of Ishmeelites for his price. They struck the unholy bargain and walked away. Joseph thus was sold into Egypt. It was meager price for the life of an innocent lad, and surely it vividly reminds us of the thirty pieces of silver Judas took for the price of the innocent Son of God. The crime of Judas, like that of Joseph's brothers, lays bare the malignant hatred in the hearts of those who are unprincipled by the restraining grace of God. Hideous as both crimes were, they are no worse than any of the sons of Adam are capable of when left to act out the wicked intentions of human nature.
If such a crime were to be reported publicly today in our knee-jerk society, most all who heard of it would be incensed, and filled with outrage. 'Throw the book at them" would be the general sentiment. We seriously doubt there could be much in the way of sympathy or compassion for rouges like these. Further, if a story as this was cleverly embellished by one of today's sensation-peddling news commentators, the whole of the land would be up in arms; frothing for justice, punishment, and merciless retribution. Talk show hosts would likely whip the simple-minded public into a frenzy of revenge. Who, then, could tolerate such beasts as these?
How, then, was this episode to fall out for the brothers who had so grievously trespassed against their innocent kin? Would Joseph conduct himself toward them as we, or others, might? No; the magnanimous Joseph indulged in no self pity. Revenge and "getting even" were foreign to his demeanor. Justice and punishment were, rather than being executed, to be banished with love, compassion, and a yearning for reunion. Guilty as they were, the rouges were to be freely forgiven, and even mightily comforted in their distress! This, we believe, shows forth in type the magnificent manner of both the calling and cleansing of the chosen family of God; the brethren of Jesus. All we like sheep have gone astray; all the sheep will be safely returned. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God; all the elect sinners will realize the glory of God in their standing with the Son of God. There is none that doeth good; no not one; the goodness of the Righteous Saviour will be ours by imputation. Deserving damnation, we receive deliverance.
Whom ye sold. As Joseph's brothers all were guilty of selling him, so are we regarding the selling of Jesus; just as much as if we had joined Judas in fetching the thirty pieces of silver. Hear the prophet Isaiah: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; with his stripes we are healed (Isa. 53.5)." Isaiah foretold the wounding and bruising of the Son of God, seeing all the brethren of Jesus fully involved. Notice the word "our" three times and the word "we" once. Zechariah saw much the same thing in the following: "And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends (Zech. 13.6)." Were not we, as His friends, all alike guilty?
But for the earlier circumstances regarding Reuben we might have reason to beg off being personally guilty of the wounding of our Joseph. "And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again (Gen. 37.2 1,22)." See also verses 29,30. Clearly, Reuben was opposed to the plot as far as overt action was concerned; even plotting himself to deliver Joseph safely to father Jacob. Yet when the brothers came to Egypt the first time it is obvious from the way Joseph treated them all that Reuben was considered one of them in the transgression. "And he [Joseph] put them all together into ward three days (Gen. 42.17)." Read also Gen. 42.21-23. We conclude that even as Reuben was accounted guilty with his brethren, so we too stand condemned before our Lord as surely as if we also had contrived in the plot to sell him. 'Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things (Rom. 2.1)." "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: "Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others (Eph. 2.2,3)."
"Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life (Gen. 45.5)." This, we believe, is a blessed glimpse of pure, free grace. It much reminds us of the words of the Hymn:
"What wondrous love is this, Oh my soul."
Joseph first encourages the brothers to avoid further grief, of which they had an abundance. Nor was there room anymore for being angry with themselves. Despite the prolonged smiting in their consciences, this was all to be put away; even as if it had never happened. Just so does the dear Saviour of sinners apprise them that their sins are cast behind His back; in the sea of forgetfulness, to be remembered no more. This is much more than the brothers then, or we today, can comprehend. Yet it must be so! Guilt is banished by grace.
"But may a poor bewildered soul,
Sinful and weak as mine,
Presume to raise a trembling eye
To blessing so divine?"
It was all so, though, and there was a grand basis for this direction Joseph had given his bewildered brothers; the eternal will and purpose of God, and that from all eternity. "For God did send me before you to preserve life." This had been hidden from the guilt-stricken brothers, but their Joseph knew it. Was it merely a shrewd guess on his part? Bare speculation? No, he surely had learned this truth from his childhood at home, as God opened up the future to him in dreams. See Gen. 37.5-11. Joseph had recited all these things to the family then, but their eyes were blinded to it. They hated him yet the more. No doubt but as time went on the focus of these things became clearer to him, until the day his brothers stood before him the first time. Then he must have fully known the meaning of it all. God had ordered the whole affair before time as surely as He created the world. This whole business did not suddenly come up on the great Jehovah and cause a sudden change of direction No! This was a part of the "declaring the end from the beginning" as written in Isa. 48.
Many there are today that are revulsed at the mention of predestination. Others, simply fearful of accusing their Holy God of instigating sin, cannot bring themselves to join with those that find comfort and satisfaction in passages of scriptures such as this one before us. But there they are, and they are a sure testimony to the predestination of God. Knowing our own personal frailties and limited abilities, we nevertheless feast at this banquet of verities whatever others may feel. "For God did send me before you..." This was no chance journey Joseph had taken! God sent him! Oh yes, all his brothers contrived against him, and the wicked deed unfolded from their hands. Yet the testimony is emblazoned on the sacred pages of Scriptures: "For God did send me before you." This is predestination, pure and simple; first, last, and always. It involves on the one hand, the sinful actions of wicked man, and on the other hand the all-wise, holy counsel of God to bring to pass His purpose. Dear saints of the Most High, rejoice. If the Lord has drawn back the veil, and shown you a little portion of His great handiwork, you are a blessed people indeed. These are the things He has hidden from the wise and the prudent, and revealed unto babes.
Subsequent evidence reveals that these brothers were among those that love God, and thus, all these things were working together for their good, or, as we may say, in their behalf. What amazing doctrine this is. They sinned maliciously, and obviously without giving a thought to the purposes of God, yet the very deeds that so troubled their souls later were the instruments of God for their benefit and were employed by the Lord to save them from the coming famine. Further, this was a golden link in the chain of certain events to fulfill the promise God made to Abram regarding his posterity (Gen. 17.6,7,19). Can all this be anything other than the destiny of mankind pre-ordered? Surely God did purpose aforetime to do such. It was no stop-gap action, nor did it need any last minute revisions to bring it to pass.
"For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest (Gen. 45.6)." Was Joseph speculating on the future? He could state well enough what had happened; the two years famine, but to predict the five years to come was another matter altogether. As Joseph is a prominent figure, or type of Christ, it is altogether probable, if not certain, that this insight on future events was to show forth his glory and elevated status before God, that his brothers would take their place before him at his feet. The unfolding events also established with certainty that Joseph spoke, as with the wisdom of God. This appears too, to be his reasoning why God had sent him before them; that preparation for the coming dearth might be made. Again, Jesus beautifully shines forth in Joseph as he went before his brethren. The Saviour has always gone before His people to make preparation for them. See Rom. 9.23; I Cor. 2.9; Matt. 25.34; Heb. 11.16; Rev. 12.6; John 14.2,3.
"And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance (Gen. 45.7)." There appears to be a double meaning in this scripture; one affecting their immediate circumstances, and another of a distant and prophetic nature. If the Lord will bless, we shall take up this subject again where Joseph explains the way God had charted their paths.
James F Poole
Volume 6, No. 6
November - December 1992