Well tonight we're in the book of Genesis chapter 44 beginning in verse 18, we'll probably go back a couple verses, and we want to get through chapter 45; so both those chapters. We're close to being done. You know, 34 studies in and we're almost done with the first book of the Bible. So we did the Bible from 30,000 feet. Just a reminder, this is the Bible from 3 feet. This is not a bird's-eye view; this is a snail-eye view. We're crawling through it but the more we do and the more we apply, I think the richer it is. Let's prayer together...
I was told this week something I wanted to pass on to you. The day after these studies and our Sunday studies go out, we have a team of people that prepares detailed notes and puts them on the archive section of the web. So maybe not as detailed perhaps as you would take but they go through it again and they even, the outline form that I give on Sunday, they go much deeper than that and they fill it in with all sorts of notes based upon what was said during that study as well as Wednesday nights. So all of those are for your benefit. If you'd like to advantage of those, they're in the archive section and each study has about 8 different options that you can download or take a part of. So anyway, let's turn in our Bibles to Genesis chapter 44.
You've all heard of Murphy's Law, yes? Murphy's Law says if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Example: if I washed my car yesterday, surely it's gonna rain today, which is interesting because I did wash it on Monday and today it rained. If I ride my bicycle, I bet I'll get a flat tire. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong. I mention those two things because this morning I was riding my bicycle with my computer over my shoulder to Starbucks and it rained and I got a flat tire. I'm thinking what's up with Murphy? But then there's another law. Let's call it Joseph's Law. If something can go wrong and it does go wrong, God is always behind the scenes making it right. It's the Romans 8:28 principle. What R.A. Torrey called a soft pillow for a tired heart. All things work together and we know, there's conviction again, and we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are the called according to His purpose.
Murphy's Law is for the pessimist. Joseph's Law is for the believer. The first views life on the horizontal plane. The second views life but takes the vertical into perspective—God. But what about God? What could God's plan be in the midst of it? That was always Joseph's perspective, amazingly so. The more I study this young man's life, the more amazed I am at his faith in the Lord taking care of it all. So... I turned the page. In verse 16, Judah is speaking to Joseph. And if you remember, there were three tests that Joseph gave to his brothers. The first test was the test of sincerity. Do these guys really mean what they say? Is this real? Is this authentic? Second was the test of jealousy. Will they be jealous if I lavish upon the second favored son, Benjamin, all sorts of love and attention and favor? What kind of jealous reaction would that be in the heart of my older brothers? Will it be the same as it was toward me or could they have changed? They passed both of those tests. The third was the test of charity. Do they really love their father and do they really love Benjamin? And that's the test we're in the middle of. Joseph will reveal himself to his brothers. He knows them. They don't know him. He's got the Egyptian garb on; the fake beard I told you about, lacquered horsehair, shaved head, beautiful robes.
He was so much younger, like 17, when they were selling him to the Ishmaelite. Now he's 38, 39 years of age. He's grown up. He doesn't look like what they remember. But they, though they don't know him, he recognizes them. And he's gonna reveal himself to them. But he doesn't do it for awhile. And the reason being is because, though he loves them, they're not ready. He wants to make sure they're ready before he reveals himself to them. What if he were to just say the first time: hey guys, it's me—Joe! Joey! Remember Joey? He wouldn't have known how they would've received it. He wanted to make sure by those three tests that they were ready for him to reveal himself to them. He loved them but were they ready? Now Joseph has been criticized for these three tests. Some in looking at Genesis say boy this kid is risking an awful lot by sending his brothers back to Canaan and then they would come back to Egypt and then perhaps have to go back and then come back. Because after all, Jacob, the father is an old dude by this time. He's playing with time. Jacob may have died during this whole test. And so he's criticized because of it. Don't criticize him. It's not right to criticize him. He knew what he was doing. Besides that, God gave him a dream that not only would his brothers come and honor him, but his father as well. And he believed that that was a revelation from God. So he knew that his father would appear before him alive one day.
It's interesting that we're in a very similar predicament. We know that Jesus loves us. He said that. He demonstrated that 2,000 years ago but man, it's been 2,000 years. We've been waiting a long time for Him to come and reveal Himself to us. And with successive generations as the world seems to get worse and worse and more vulnerable from time to time, we might be tempted to say if He loves me so much, why doesn't He just show Himself? Why doesn't He come back? Why doesn't He reveal Himself and take us home to heaven and fix all the bad stuff on the earth? Well here's partially the answer. We're not ready yet. He's readying us for the future. Jesus did say—promised—to His disciples in John chapter 14: I am going to prepare a place for you. But that's only half the story. Not only has Jesus been preparing a place for you in heaven, if you ever think about that, 2,000 years ago He said that, if He's been preparing a place for us for 2,000 years, you know that place has gotta be decked out. If He can pull this off, the creation of this earth in 6 days, and He's been working on those digs for 2,000 years, can't wait to see it.
But not only is He preparing a place for us, He's preparing us for that place. And when you're ready, you will be in His presence and enjoy what He's prepared for you forever. Until then, enjoy the process of being readied. Until He reveals Himself. "Judah said," verse 16, "What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves?" We're about to read, in this last portion of the chapter, a speech by one of Joseph's brothers, second born, named Judah, an intercessory speech. Now I gotta tell you. Some authors have ditched this speech or at least this chapter. Did you know that Martin Luther couldn't understand why the Holy Spirit would preserve his words, preserve such a trivial 34 verses as in this chapter? He called it trivial. Why would God waste so much time describing this? Well they may have been trivial to Martin Luther but they certainly were not trivial to Joseph nor his brothers. In fact, many people have marveled at this as one of the best pieces of literature ever penned or speeches ever given. One of them was Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish poet and author. I mentioned that to you last week. Also, the German scholar Leopold said these verses, these words by Judah, are unmatched in Old Testament literature.
It is interesting that the Spirit of God seems to hover over certain sections of what He would consider important and we might not consider important. For instance, God doesn't spend a whole lot of time describing creation. We wish He would have sometimes, especially those in the scientific community. I wish God would've just given more revelation of how He pulled this off. Such little information is given as to the creation, the origin, of the heavens and the earth. And yet He spends 14 chapters dealing with Abraham and 1/4 of the entire book of Genesis devoted to Joseph. This is not trivial. Paul the apostle said all of these things were written aforetime for our instruction or our admonition upon whom the ends of the world have come. God knew what He needed to preserve and as we study the life of Joseph, we find some excellent lessons in how to forgive people who have wronged us.
So Judah speaks, "How shall we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants," this is a confession, "Here we are, my lord's slaves, both we and he also with whom the cup was found," that is little Benji. "But he said, "Far be it from me that I should do so; the man in whose hand the cup was found," this is Joseph speaking, "He shall be my slave. And as for you, go up in peace to your father." Then Judah came near to him and said: "O my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord's hearing, and do not let your anger burn against your servant; for you are even like Pharaoh." Well it seems that Joseph's act has worked. He was talking roughly to them, and perhaps they thought oh man, he's really mad at us. In reality, he loves them. But he knew how to pull off a good act and it worked! So they're begging: please don't be angry—be merciful! He wasn't angry; he was filled with compassion as you will see.
"My lord asked his servants, saying, 'Have you a father or a brother?' And we said to my lord, 'We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, who is young; his brother is dead," Who would that be? It would be Joseph. Now they're talking to Joseph and they're saying yeah, that brother of ours is dead. You know, this reminds me of that little passage in Hebrews 4, if you remember it, some of you in the King James Bible. He's speaking about Abel and Cain killed Abel and yet Abel's blood was crying out from the ground and the writer of Hebrews said he, being dead, yet speaketh. So they're talking about Joseph and boy, you know, he died—he being dead yet speaketh. It's the very one you're talking to, boys. "And he alone," that is, Benji, "is left of his mother's children, and his father loves him.' Then you said to your servants, 'Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.' And we said to my lord, 'The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.' But you said to your servants, 'Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.' So it was, when we went up to your servant my father, that we told him the words of my lord. And our father said, "Go back and buy us a little food.' But we said, 'We cannot go down; if our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we may not see the man's face unless our youngest brother is with us.'
Jacob and Rachel, remember Jacob had two wives and two concubines, really we would say a total of four gals that birthed him all these kids. His favorite wife, the wife that he really loved, love at first sight, was Rachel. And with Rachel, Jacob had two boys: Joseph and Benjamin. Now you gotta remember, when Joseph is listening to Judah tell the story, remember that Joseph also has two sons. If any story would touch his heart, touch the heart of a father, it would be a story about two boys. He's understanding that from a parental point of view at this juncture. So, verse 27, "Then your servant my father said to us, 'You know that my wife bore me two sons; and the one went out from me, and I said, "Surely he is torn to pieces"; and I have not seen him since." Stop there. Did you get that? Judah is saying what his father said because this is what his father always believed. His father always believed that because that's the lie Judah and the rest of the boys told their dad, Jacob. Well this is the very first time Joseph ever hears what his father has been told about his disappearance. Now he gets it. Oh, you guys told him that I was torn by wild animals. That's the lie you told him, when in reality you sold me to make money off me to the Ishmaelites. "But," verse 29, this is Jacob speaking, continuing, "but if you take this one also from me, and calamity befalls him, you shall bring down my gray hair with sorrow to the grave.'
"Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad's life, it will happen, when he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die. So your servants will bring down the gray hair of your servant our father with sorrow to the grave." Look at that descriptive phrase of the relationship that Jacob and Benjamin have. His life is bound up in the lad's life. The Amplified Bible adds, "And his soul is knit with the lad's soul." They are inseparable. Because of the loss of one, the only one to remind Jacob of the love that he had for the wife Rachel is young Benjamin. He's the only one that reminds, that's part of that link in that love relationship. His life is bound up with the life of that lad. It's a beautiful phrase. However, you would think that after 21 years, the father would be able to move on. And we saw the last couple of studies, he wasn't. The way he talks about Joseph after 21 years is unhealthy. Sure he should miss him. I miss my brother. My brother died. I miss my mom and my dad, but I can talk about it and I can have fond memories of it. Every time Joseph was brought up, he made everyone miserable; Jacob did, by how he treated it.
I've watched people who don't recover from the loss of a loved one. I've seen the torment and the pain in their lives. You could talk to them and pray with them and counsel with them but it seems that they never went through all of the right stages of grief. Maybe they stuffed it down and they refuse to grieve at the time, never shedding a tear, trying to be strong. That's a mistake. Typically, there are stages of grief and there is something called good grief. Usually when somebody is informed that their loved one has died, the first stage is typically denial. No. It couldn't have happened. It must be a mistake. You must be thinking of somebody else. Surely this couldn't be happening to me. That's the normal response. Second, there's shock, followed by anger. Anger at God for letting it happen. Perhaps even anger at the person who died. I told them not to do that! I told them they shouldn't go there! Or anger at one's self. Why didn't I prevent this or that? That's typically followed by another stage: deep depression. A person is coming to grips with it. They're in utter, utter despair because of the loss of life. They don't know how to move on but eventually, as they follow through the stages, they'll learn how to cope with it. All of that is normal. It's typical human emotion. It's the way we're wired. I don't know what stage Jacob skipped but he hadn't dealt with it in a healthy manner and so thus the phrase. Jacob's life is now completely bound up and intertwined with the only son of his marriage that he really loved—and that is Benjamin.
So he lays it out. Verse 32: "For your servant became surety [or collateral] for the lad to my father, saying, 'If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father forever.' Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?" Wow. What a switch. What a switch from chapter 37 when Judah said I got an idea. Why should we kill him? We can make money off of this creep—let's sell him! Now here's Judah pleading for the life of Joseph's younger brother, the favored brother, Benjamin. Not jealous but sticking up for him. Not only that but willing to be the substitute himself and let everybody else go free. I'll be the substitute. The punishment will fall upon me. Everybody else, especially that boy, let them go home. That's a change. Not only is it a change but I see it as a prefiguring of somebody else doing that. Somebody else giving a substitution of His life so that others could go free.
Very interesting. At the very end of Jacob's life when he's giving those blessings, we'll get to in chapter 49, but I've sure been alluding to it through this whole study so by the time we get there it's familiar ground. He says to Judah, his son, second born: Judah is a lion's whelp. A lion's whelp. That's how he describes his son: a lion's whelp. A cub of a lion. Now it's because of that that Judah, the tribe of Judah, will be typified in the wilderness wanderings when we get to Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, etcetera, as a lion. And that is why we find the reference, since Jesus is of the tribe of Judah, we find Him referred to in the book of Revelation chapter 5 as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Here we have Judah, the forefather in the tribe of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving himself as a substitute, foreshadowing what Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, would do for the whole world. Giving Himself in substitutionary atonement, or the theologians call it vicarious atonement, they like fancy words, substituting His life so that we could go free. It's a beautiful picture.
Now there's a lesson to be learned before we jump into chapter 45 and get lost in some of the wonderful details there. I suppose the law in all that we have studied so far is be careful how you handle your relationships. You all have them. Some of them are great and some of them aren't so great. And some of them are downright bad with other people. I say be careful as possible because relationships, though they're precious, they can be very fragile. One incident, one word spoken in wrath or anger, one action can sever a relationship and the consequences can last for generations. Do you understand that concept and that principle? Relationships are incredibly precious and very fragile. So it would help if we could think before we speak or act. James said every man should be swift to hear, slow to wrath, slow to speak. God gave us two ears and one mouth. I wish we would function in that equation. Listening twice as much as we talk. If we would think through what will this action or these harsh words do to this relationship in the long run. Think of this relationship. Think of Judah and his brother Joseph. 21 years. Over two decades of suffering through the guilt and not dealing with reality, telling lies, cover-up, pain. That's what Judah and his brothers have been dealing with.
When I worked in radiology and even as a pastor, I've been in many hospital situations, emergency room situations, where a family member has died and I was there when the family member died. The person is pronounced dead. The sheet covers the head and we wait for the family. The family arrives two, three minutes after the fact. They didn't get there in time. They were informed, but they didn't get there in time and the information is given: your husband died, your father died, your brother died. And then so often the deep, guttural cries, wailing of remorse and words like: I never forgave him or I never let him know that I loved him. I held a grudge for so long and now it's too late. I wish I would've, I could've. It's too late. So relationships are precious but very fragile. I did an interesting thing a few years ago. I'd been a doing a series of studies and taught through a number of books years ago in this fellowship. I decided to let people write questions or give me ideas, topics, of questions that they wanted answered from the Bible. What things have I not dealt with so far? What issues do you deal with that you'd like me to deal with from a scriptural perspective? And then I thought I'll base a whole series of teachings on questions that people asked. It was fun; it was a fun idea. It was fascinating. Now I was sure that there was gonna be most of the questions on eschatology or, you know, all sorts of things that maybe I had been interested in but to my utter shock 90% plus were questions about how do I fix this relationship or that relationship. And I discovered, boy there's a lot of people in God's family that aren't handling those relationships responsibly.
Now let me give you the three 'R's' of relationships, if I may. Number one is repentance. Number two is responsibility. And number three: results. If you repent for what you've done wrong, not what they've done wrong, or ask them to repent for what... just you. Humble yourself and repent for what you've done wrong in the relationship. If you too take responsibility for your part of the wrong done, number three, it will yield results. You cannot be held responsible for them not fulfilling their end of the deal or part of the relationship. You can't do that. I often get questions: How can I get so-and-so to understand? You can't get them to understand or see. Nor is it your responsibility. But you can do what you only can do and that is take responsibility for your part of the mess. Repent of it. Humble yourself and you'll see results. Repentance, responsibility, results. I've spoken to many people: oh you don't understand. My situation is so bad; it's so dire. This is such a can of worms—that's the descriptive phrase. It's a can of worms. Ok, so take one worm out at a time and soon you'll have an empty can. Do your part in emptying the can.
Well the can's about to be emptied. Chapter 45: "Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him," this is the greatest moment of this section of Genesis. Perhaps one of the greatest moments in all of history—certainly in the Old Testament. It ranks way up there in terms of significant moments, fulcrum moments. These brothers wanted food. These brothers wanted to go home. But these brothers needed forgiveness. What they wanted and what they needed were two different things. They didn't know what they need. They knew what they wanted. Joseph's about to give them what they need and they'll discover it's what I wanted all along. Now Joseph could've handled these brothers a few different ways. Have you ever thought about this? Joseph could've number one, put his brothers in jail for five years. Just give them a little taste of what he went through. How's it feel, guys? Pretty bad, huh? That's what I felt like for a long time. Just so you guys know what it's like. I just want you to suffer in prison. He could've done that. Number two, he could've sent them back home with nothing. Get out of here! I'm Joseph—get out of here! I never want to see your face again. Number three, make it easy. Easiest option: cut their heads off. Kill them. Capital punishment. It was not uncommon for somebody in his position to do.
Joseph chose the fourth option. Here it is: I will forgive them, I will love them, and I will lavish my provision on them as long as they live... Somebody once said love your enemies, it'll drive them nuts. Authentic, lavish, agape love is a force nobody, no one, can withstand for a long period of time. I can attest to it. I've told you about the relationship that I had with my father for years and it was bad and it got worse after my brother's death. And the night after, or the night of his funeral, my dad blamed a lot of his death on me and yelled at me and the Lord spoke to my heart and said you're the Christian in this family. You need to operate at a higher set of values. If they don't see this from you, they'll never see it from anyone. It was difficult but I walked up to my dad and I embraced him. We hadn't hugged for years. It was hard to hold that man. But I embraced him. And I held him close so that my mouth was close to his ear and I said I love you. And I started praying out loud so he couldn't interrupt. And it wasn't a directed prayer like Lord, show my father how evil he has been and how righteous I am. Seems to be a guy tried that like in Luke chapter 18, right? I just asked God to forgive me and to restore our relationship. After I let him go and looked into his eyes, he had tears in his eyes. He said that was beautiful. He couldn't say anything else. I said dad, I love you. He didn't say anything. When I left the next day, I said dad, I love you. He didn't say anything. Next time I saw him I said dad, I love you. He didn't say anything. But after a few times he said I love you, son.
God's love, agape love, love your enemies, it'll drive them nuts. Joseph is lavishing love upon his brothers. You'll see. I'm getting ahead of myself. I love this story. "Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, "Make everyone go out from me!" Ooh, what do you think his brothers thought when he said that? Oh no. This is it! Why else would he do it? He's gonna kill us! Get everybody all out of the room, all the Egyptians, all of my servants, all of my stewards—out of the room. "So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it." Was it last week, maybe you remember back when I gave you the outline for chapter 43 and 44, and I said it could be divided up this way: number one, there was a predicament in Canaan, a famine in the land, that's chapter 43 verses 1 through 15, do you remember that? Followed by a party in Egypt, that's verses 16 through 34 of chapter 43. Followed by number three, penitence from his brothers, penitence or sorrow, repentance in his brothers' heart. Let me add a point now: chapter 45, pardon in the family. Pardon in the family. This is where forgiveness is extended and enjoyed when reconciliation takes place in this family. He reveals himself to his brothers. He weeps aloud and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it.
"Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph." Why did Joseph want everybody to leave? Was it because he's about to get emotional and he didn't want to show any emotion? Maybe. But let me, let me give you another idea. Maybe it's all part of what genuine forgiveness is. Maybe genuine forgiveness doesn't want to parade other people's sins. If you genuinely forgive somebody, you won't have to tell others what they did to you. If you're out telling people what somebody has done you wrong in, you haven't forgiven them. But true forgiveness, genuine forgiveness, doesn't want to parade anybody's sins. 1 Peter chapter 4, I believe, says love covers a multitude of sins. It's genuine forgiveness. Get everybody outta here. I'm gonna reveal myself. I don't want them to know what these guys have done to me. So he says to his brothers, "I am Joseph," and notice, he's not using an interpreter, it would seem. Before he did. He's looking directly at his brothers, no interpreter, so it must have meant he spoke in Hebrew to them because they didn't understand Egyptian. So this is what it would have sounded like: אני יוסף. I am Joseph.
What do you think that sounded like to them? They were in utter shock. Their faces would go white. This guy is speaking in Hebrew and he says he's Joseph. We haven't heard that name for years; especially out of somebody like this's lips. I am Joseph. "Does my father still live? But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence." That's putting it mildly. It could be translated they were distressed, dumbfounded, immensely. They're just going uhh... nothing to say. "And Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come near to me." So they came near. Then he said: "I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt." Something I didn't comment on that just came to my mind and that is Joseph wept. Now isn't the first time. Last time, remember, he got everybody out, he was alone and he went, like, into the next room and he started crying, and he patted himself and came in and was all cool again. But he showed emotion. There's something that I learned about Middle Eastern cultures, both ancient and modern, that are interesting and I like. They don't hold back emotion. It's not considered a sign of weakness to emote. Even men emote in those cultures. Now here we are in our Western civilization and we have been taught, especially if we came from European ancestors, especially if you came from British ancestors and you've been told to keep a stiff upper lip and men don't cry, and I remember, I had three older brothers. If I cried it's like, boys don't cry! Then when I started going to college and I realized that men have these little things in the corner of their eyes called lachrymal glands. That they're not just given to the female gender but men have lachrymal glands as well. That means we cry, too. So we're designed by our Creator to emote and to weep. Then I thought hmm, they've been wrong. Maybe it's not a sign of weakness; maybe it's a sign of being real, being genuine.
And I love it. I think it's healthy to do. When somebody dies in the Middle East, there's a wail that you hear, a tearing of the robe and a wail. And it's healthy to some extent. I mean, in Jesus' day there were professional mourners that they would hire so that if somebody died, everybody in the village would think wow, everybody loved that guy. It could be that they loved him; it could be that the family has a lot of money because they just hire people to make a lot of noise. But nonetheless, it was regarded as healthy. So Joseph reveals himself, he weeps aloud in their presence, "I am Joseph," verse 4, "your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life." I want you to notice a word. He says to his brothers come near, come near, c'mere, come closer. The word is nagash. It means to come close in proximity and in intimacy. What he's saying to them is I want you to come close and look me in the eye. I want you to study my face up close. I want you to see by my body language that I'm not angry, that I'm not bitter, that I'm not holding anything against you. Check this out. Look at my face.
In ancient cultures and today in some even, in Muslim Middle Eastern culture, to look somebody in the eye is considered a sign of disrespect. When you're in a superior's presence, you lower your gaze. You don't look them in the eye. To look someone in the eye was a sign of aggression or superiority or choosing somebody on. But what Joseph is saying, I may be the ruler of Egypt but look me in the eye—I'm your brother. I may be the ruler, but right now I'm your brother and I'm not angry at you. I love you. That's another sign of genuine forgiveness. Genuine forgiveness wants to set people who've wronged you at ease—at ease. If you haven't forgiven somebody here's the telltale sign: you want them to squirm a little bit. You want them to feel a little embarrassed and when they feel embarrassed, you kinda like it. If you've genuinely forgiven them, if it's total forgiveness, you want to set them at ease. His brothers shafted him. He's trying to set them at ease: come closer, look me in the eye. Verse 5: "But now, do not therefore be grieved nor angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance."
Now we're getting to the heart of Joseph's theology. Joseph always had a vertical perspective. This is how he always saw life. He'd always bring in a vertical perspective. He was saying to them this isn't your ploy that got me here. This is God's plan that got me here. You know that's what you wanted to do. It was a ploy to you. You hated me and you sold me here. But I've discovered something while I've been here. It really wasn't your ploy—behind your ploy was God's plan. That's his theology. His theology is I live in a world where God is sovereign above everything that happens and I'm ok with that. Even the bad stuff, I take into a vertical perspective. God sent me here. God sent me here. Wait a minute. You were sold as a slave! That was a vicious act. God sent me. And then you were accused by Potiphar and his wife falsely and you were put in jail! God sent me. And then, because you're a very talented young fellow, you were promoted. No, God sent me. Hey, I don't know what's going on in your head or in your life. I don't know what pain you personally have gone through. I don't know what acrimonious word somebody may have said to you that severed a relationship. I don't know how somebody may have done something to you that you're suffering consequences for right now. But happy is the man or woman that can see God's plan in everything.
You know what it turns life into? An adventure. An adventure because something that you're suffering through right now: what's God gonna do? What's up God? What is up His sleeve? What is He planning? God planned it. It's beautiful. "God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt." What does it mean when it says God made me a father to Pharaoh? Simply an advisor. A counselor. I'm in the place, a relationship, of giving him advice. Many of the lords of Egypt, the subordinate officers were called fathers, to the pharaoh, though he was in a role as simply an advisor. Hurry up, verse 9, "Go to my father, and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph: "God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near to me, you and your children, your children's children, your flocks and your herds, and all that you have."
Now the land of Goshen, let me just tell you a little bit about that. You know how the Nile River that starts in Central Africa and works its way up, at least on a map up, toward Egypt and then it fans out into a delta. That lush Nile delta. The northeastern section of the Nile delta was called Goshen. It was the best place for shepherds to go and they were shepherds, the family of Jacob. It was verdant; it was lush. So he gives him the best of the land, the land of Goshen. Now keep that in mind because when you fast forward some 400 years, 430 years, by the time we get to the exodus and it says there arose a pharaoh who knew not Joseph, the children of Israel will be greatly multiplied and still living in the land of Goshen. It's where God planted them. It's where they grow. It's where Joseph abundantly provided for them—in the land of Goshen.
Ok so, so by now you're getting the gist of this. Joseph did not deal with them like he could have dealt with them and perhaps he should have dealt with them. But he dealt with them as God deals with us. I've told you before, but it's good to rehearse. There's three things that go hand-in-hand by comparison. Justice, mercy, and grace. Justice is simply getting what you deserve. You drive 100 miles an hour on Osuna Road, you'll get a traffic ticket—you deserve it. That's justice. You commit a crime, you get arrested for it—that's justice. Mercy is different. Mercy is not giving you what you deserve. You deserve punishment but I won't give it to you. You deserve a ticket but let's just have a nice evening and drive safely. That's mercy. Mercy is, justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is something different. Grace is getting what you don't deserve. Joseph could've given them mercy. You guys go back home or you guys I'm killing you—justice. Or you guys I'm putting you in jail—justice. But he dealt with them in mercy and grade. You guys? I see the hand of God in this, so I'm not going to punish you. That's mercy. And, not only that, but I'm going to lavishly add to your life so that you will be taken care of for the rest of your life. You're gonna come to Goshen; I'm gonna give you the best of the land. That's grace.
If the police officer writes you a ticket—justice. If the police officer said you were going 100 miles an hour, I'm not going to give you a ticket, go have a nice day. Never happen, but that's mercy. Now if the police officer says not only will I not give you a ticket, but I'm going to buy you dinner. The finest restaurant in this state. That's grace. Joseph is extending mercy and grace. God extends to you mercy, not giving you hell, though you deserve it as do I, but giving you heaven, making you His child, promising to watch out for you, taking care of you—grace. Giving you what you don't deserve. He tells him to hurry up, go get dad, come back. You'll dwell in the land of Goshen. I'll give you everything I have. I'll take care of you. Verse 11: "There I will provide for you, lest you and your household, and all that you have, come to poverty; for there are still five years of famine. And behold, your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my mouth that speaks to you." Now probably at that point he pulled his fake beard off so they could really get a look at his face. "So you shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that you have seen; and you shall hurry and bring my father down here. Then he fell on his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. Moreover he kissed all his brothers and wept over them," he's a sappy guy and I love it, "and after that his brothers talked with him."
It's an interesting phrase and notion: after that his brothers talked with him. In other words, they had nothing to say before. They were uhh... and now they're confident. Now they feel ok. Now they talked with him and boy, 21 years of catching up to do. I bet they talked. Beautiful. What a comparison. Chapter 37, if memory serves, it says that when Joseph was sent by his dad to go check on his brothers, remember when they were way, way up north feeding their flocks, it says his brothers hated him so much they couldn't speak to him. Now it says they freely spoke with him. They talked to him. "Now the report of it was heard in Pharaoh's house, saying, "Joseph's brothers have come." So it pleased Pharaoh and his servants well. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Say to your brothers, 'Do this: Load your animals and depart; go to the land of Canaan. Bring your father and your households and come to me; I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you will eat the fat of the land. Now you are commanded—do this: Take carts out of the land of Egypt for your little ones and your wives; bring your father and come."
It was a 5 to 6 day walk from Canaan to Egypt. 5 to 6 day walk back. Now he's saying take carts. Good idea. You don't have to walk; you'll ride in style, man. You know, the wheel was used in Egypt long before it was used in Canaan, by the children of Israel, or many of those cultures. Egyptian chariots and carts were cutting edge technology for the time. They had wheels with 6 spokes to distribute the weight and lighten the load. They had sides on the chariots or the carts to protect them from arrows. They had umbrellas that stretched over the top to protect people from the sun and to carry loads of people or goods. So these brothers got to go back in a long caravan of colorful Egyptian carts and chariots. I wonder what the Canaanites thought as they saw all these chariots going down with the sons of Jacob riding in them. And they're riding in first class. Look at this: "Take carts out of the land of Egypt for your little ones and your wives; bring your father and come. Also do not be concerned about your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.'" Then the sons of Israel did so; and Joseph gave them carts, according to the command of Pharaoh, and he gave them provisions for the journey. He gave to all of them, to each man, changes of garments," new duds, new clothes, "but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of garments."
So new clothes, Armani robes, Johnson Murphy sandals, In-N-Out burger, they got provisions on the way. "And he sent to his father these things: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and food for his father for the journey. So they sent his brothers away, and they departed; and he said to them, "See that you do not become troubled along the way." Why would he say that? Well it could simply mean don't be troubled and worry about robbers or marauders who would come seeing these chariots and lots of food on them. There's a famine going on. You could be attacked. So don't worry about them. I'll make sure that you're well-protected. Or it could be, knowing his brothers' personalities, that they were a bit cantankerous and rough, yeah repentance is one thing, but you know what? A long journey traveling together gets to the best of people. Think of family vacations, all of your family, for two or three weeks at a time in a car. I think back to the white Rambler station wagon from California to Minnesota, no air conditioning, four boys in the back, a lot of driving. We loved each other as family but boy did we, we couldn't stand each other during those trips. Now he knew his brothers so listen, don't stir it up, is the Hebrew word literally. Don't get stirred up. Don't get troubled along the way.
"Then they went out of Egypt, and came to the land of Canaan to Jacob their father. And they told him, saying," ok, this is, think of all the years that have passed, he's about to hear these words, "and they told him, saying, "Joseph is still alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt." And Jacob's heart stood still," that's the translation of the Hebrew word his heart was numb. He didn't know what to feel. He didn't know what to do. He didn't know what to make of these words. Is this a psych? Is this a joke? What's happening? All of the memories of Joseph that he never really dealt with triggered all those memories. They came back to him. His heart stood still because he did not believe him. "But when they told him all the words which Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived. Then Israel said, "It is enough. Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die."
Let's close with the thought of forgiveness. Forgiveness is always a choice. If you base it on your feelings, you may never go through with it. Well I'll forgive her if she forgives me first. It may never happen. Well I'll say that I'm sorry if he says—just repent, take responsibility, and see results. Yeah but I... I don't feel... of course you don't feel like it. It's counterintuitive. It's a choice. The greatest example I ever read about this was written by Corrie ten Boom. She used to talk about it when she would do her speaking before she went to heaven. But she wrote about it. In World War II, you know the story, that Corrie ten Boom and her family was taken to a Nazi concentration camp. They were Christians; they were not Jews. But they housed Jews in the house that was above the jewelry shop in Harlem, the Netherlands, where they lived. Their father was a watchmaker. They stored Jews in the wall. They were uncovered and they were taken to a concentration camp and for years mistreated. And there was one guard in particular that was nasty to them and made life miserable for them and she grew to hate him in her heart. Years later after she was released, and years later after she was telling a story and she was speaking one night, a man walked up to her, extended his hand, and said would you forgive me? She looked up and saw the eyes. It was that guard. She didn't know what to do. The hand was extended. All of the memories flooded back. The hatred, the maltreatment. Here's her words—she writes about it: I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed Jesus help me. Woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms, and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. I forgive you, brother, I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment. To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you.
They were freed that day. What a day that was as Joseph said, I forgive you. They were set free. Joseph, I believe, was also set free, taken to a whole new level. Free indeed. What a day it was for those brothers. They stood there in shock as he said I'm Joseph and then thinking, we're dead, and then another wave of shock as he said I don't hold anything against you. I love you. You're forgiven. God sent me here! Shock. I remember the day I discovered I was a sinner alienated from God and I was shocked that day that God wanted to forgive me and shocked that He was willing to love me and make me His son. But I would be an idiot to pass it up. I encourage you tonight, if you've never discovered the shock of how much Jesus loves you and how much God wants to forgive you, and accept you just as you are, that you'd come to know it. Because I fear if you reject it, one day you will be shocked by hearing the words of Christ: Depart from Me, I never knew you, you workers of iniquity. I would much rather have the pleasant shock of His love and forgiveness than the dreaded shock of hearing those words. Bow your heads with me, if you would...