(I preached this sermon with minimal notes on 10/9/22 so I’m trying to re-create it from memory mainly for those who listen to it on our youtube site or heard it live and want to clarify or see some principle or part in print. Here is the youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eADhmc9VbAA).
Over the last year or so we have been preaching and teaching our way through the book of Genesis.
Since chapter 12 we have been tracking God’s intention/promise as stated in Gen. 12:2 to produce and establish a great nation through Abraham and Sarah and their descendants.
This nation or people that God was after would be made up of individuals, married couples, sets of siblings, families and extended families. Its spiritual health and vibrancy and usefulness as a whole would depend highly on the spiritual and relational health and vibrancy of these individuals, married couples, sets of siblings, families and extended families – spiritual and relational health and vibrancy that can only come from intimacy with and dependence upon God.
Well it has been an interesting journey with some victories and forward motion and lots of failures.
Some of you might be wondering by this point, Why did God choose to record and expose the good, the bad and the ugly to all? Why did He choose to let the first book of His one Holy Book be so riddled with reality?
Well let me suggest a few reasons
1. To keep Israel humble. It is very easy to be proud when you are of the one people of all the peoples on the earth God chose to accomplish His purposes through. Now Because Israel’s destiny is closely tied with ours and because God only gives grace to the humble, we Gentile believers should be regularly praying for Israel’s humility and brokenness.
2. To help us learn from and thus avoid their mistakes.
“Now these things happened as examples for us…” I Cor. 10:6
“Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, …” I Cor. 10:11
The better we can identify and quantify their mistakes the better chance we have of avoiding them. God graciously gave us plenty to learn from.
3. To help us see the amazing faithfulness, power and mercy of God amidst all of our failures to accomplish and fulfill His purposes and plans.
Last week Joshua described God as a Master Chess Player or a Sovereign Orchestrator like none other. Before He created the earth and humanity, He set some plans and purposes in motion, and shockingly He chose to fulfill them through His people – knowing how apt we were and are to mess things up. God has chosen to use us and work through us, but He is not hindered by our weakness or our failures or by the world’s wickedness and rebellion against Him.
You all have been handed 3x5’s just now by Adam to help us especially get this last point down in our souls. I would like for each of you to copy the following passages on your card Isaiah 25:1 & Isa. 46:9-11 and Jer. 30:24 if there is room. And I would like for you to keep these where you can be reminded often that our God makes plans and fulfills them and He has such plans for you and your families!
“O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” Isa. 25:1
“Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure; Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.” Isa. 46:9-11
(See also Jer. 30:24).
If we don’t get anything else out of this series in Genesis we must get this about our God!
So how can we who are gathered here today see God’s plans and purposes accomplished especially in and through our families, all of whom have significant relational challenges both with God and with each other?
I want to share 6 principles for families who want to see God’s purposes and destiny accomplished in and through them from Genesis ch. 42
Here’s the first one: Fathers, Grandfathers & Patriarchs must lead their families and clans/extended families. But they must lead by the Spirit and not the flesh. (read vs. 1-5)
Increasing widespread famine was a big deal throughout Canann and Egypt. Egypt was well prepared for this famine because of dreams God gave Pharoah that Joseph was able to interpret and then help him prepare for.
Jacob’s sons appear to be depressed and passive about the situation. Question is why?
Well passivity often results from unconfessed and buried sin, which was true of the older ten brothers in their dealings with Joseph some years previous.
Jacob probably by this time in his history with his 10 older sons had some resentments and frustrations stored up. These sons are all grown men by now btw – Benjamin the youngest being at least 30 years old. But speaking out of resentments and frustration never bears good fruit.
As the writer of Proverbs 17:27,28 says, “He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is counted prudent.” Fathers must lead, but beware of belittling your children (whether young or old) who are stuck in passivity.
Passivity among young men in our culture is at an all time high today; and while it is a destructive trait, there are understandable reasons for its prevalence. And actually one of those reasons is the unrestrained critical tongues of these young men’s parents – especially their fathers.
As to Jacob’s reluctance to send Benjamin with his brothers - he probably had some trauma and fear from hearing about Joseph’s “death”, which influenced his decision about Benjamin not going. Very possible he also suspected his sons were not being up front with him about what really happened to Joseph. He had to be aware of their jealousy and resentment of him growing up, which he of course contributed to by his partiality towards Joseph.
Jacob refused to send Benjamin with his brothers the first time and we will find him at the end of this chapter refusing again – even though Simeon’s release is dependent upon his coming. The trauma he experienced from Joseph’s disappearance and supposed death has marked him and is still affecting his decisions. This is not a major point of the passage, but it is worth mentioning that unhealed trauma in a parent or parents will affect their parenting and will cause them to control in ways that are not healthy.
The second principle: Siblings who want to be used by God and want to see God’s highest purposes and destiny for their sibling relationships fulfilled must: resist vengeance; remember and stand on God’s word/promise regardless of adverse circumstances; fear God and forgive as He has forgiven us. (read vs. 6-20)
Quite a contrast in vs. 6 with the last time Joseph’s brothers saw him, which was recorded in Gen. 37:28 where they sold him to Midianites after considering leaving him to die in a pit.
As Joseph’s brothers walked closer towards him he recognized them probably because they had stayed in the same family and culture - so their appearance changed little. Plus ten of them together and the way they related together - obviously brothers. I mean how many sets of 12 brothers are there out there?
With Joseph – everything changed as did his appearance. So they would have never dreamed he was their brother.
Very quick thinking on Joseph’s part – “disguised himself” and “spoke harshly”. He wasn’t ready to engage them as their brother yet.
*Joseph remembered the dreams from his childhood vs. 9 Joshua preached about the dreams God gave Joseph in his youth some weeks back from Gen. 37:2-11 Highly significant to me that here 20 years later they are still fresh in his mind. You see Joseph remembered his dreams here with his 10 brothers because Joseph remembered his dreams. He knew they were from God. He knew somehow they still had to be fulfilled. Humanly speaking Joseph could easily never see them again.
Psalm 105:16-19 informs us that those two dreams were actually the “word of the Lord” to Joseph. Let’s look at that passage briefly, “And He (God) called for a famine upon the land; He broke the whole staff of bread. He sent a man before them (the people of Israel), Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They afflicted his feet with fetters, He himself was laid in irons; Until the time that his word came to pass; The word of the Lord tested (or refined) him.”
It is this promise from God through his dreams that more than anything else kept Joseph from bitterness about his suffering. Somehow Joseph knew they were from God; they were to help him stay the course with his future destiny; and his faith was refined and strengthened through waiting on God to bring it all about.
Joseph evidently wasn’t ready to let down his guard with his brothers and thus the false accusation vs. 9. He needed time to respond decisively and wisely.
In Vs. 10, 11 they defend themselves – their purpose; their family; their character
Vs. 12 Joseph repeats his false accusation
Vs. 13 More disclosure and details about their family; assumption being Joseph is no longer alive
Vs. 14 Joseph repeats his accusation
Vs. 15 Joseph reveals his test to see if they are honest - - bring your youngest brother to me. He has good reason not to trust them.
Vs. 16 Initial plan is for one of them to go and retrieve younger brother; the rest stay there in confinement.
*Vs. 17 Joseph put them all in prison for three days. This was a wise move on Joseph’s part. This gave Joseph time to think things through. And gave his brothers time to reflect on and get in touch with their sins against Joseph as we will see in a bit. It appears that up to this point, they had totally stuffed and buried their wickedness in the way they dealt with their brother some twenty years previous. For God’s purposes to be accomplished in and through this band of brothers some level of contrition for their sins had to kick in.
Vs. 18 So on the third day Joseph clarified/altered his plan and assured them that he feared God, which shocked them I’m sure. The fact is had he not they might have died in that prison.
Vs. 19, 20 If you are truly honest men, one of you stay here; the rest take food and go back and bring back younger brother
Third principle: Destiny fulfilled depends on sins confessed. (read vs. 21,22)
For God’s purposes for this family of 12 brothers and a father to be fulfilled, these guilty brothers had to get in touch with their sins and recognize them as such. Godly sorrow leads to repentance and repentance leads to restoration. There is no real restoration without repentance.
Some commentators question whether theirs was full or complete repentance? Only God knows for sure. I believe it was a start and more probably came on their trip back home.
They were probably placed in a separate prison from the other prisoners. Joseph wanted them to squirm and get in touch with buried sin. But he didn’t want them to be harmed. When alone together in that prison cell, they agreed this was probably God’s punishment for their treachery to Joseph (this is the first we learn of Joseph’s pleading btw in vs. 21).
Reuben reminds them he tried to stop them and agreed they are suffering the consequences of their hardness of heart towards Joseph.
This contrition had to happen for God’s purposes for them to be fulfilled
“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” Proverbs 28:13
I. Joseph’s response to their conversation – vs. 23-25
Fourth Principle: Healthy siblings are tested by their response to contrition/confession of their weaker siblings – those that have offended them (read vs. 23-25)
So Joseph all this time must have been communicating with them through an interpreter, even though he could still hear and understand Hebrew. They assumed he could not understand them without an interpreter.
Joseph upon hearing of their conversation, turned away and wept. Why? Because every sibling deep down longs for relationship with their siblings and this contrition showed promise for restoration of relationship. Also possibly because he was seeing God’s promise through the dreams unfolding before his eyes.
But after gathering himself, he returned to them and took Simeon as prisoner and bound him as if he were dangerous.
Why Simeon? Well possibly because Simeon was the first of two brothers mentioned in Genesis 34:25 who led the murderous act of revenge against the Hivites. Simeon and Levi murdered every man in this village of Shechem’s who basically raped Dinah their sister.
Or perhaps Joseph after three days of praying and pondering what to do with his brothers, whom he had jailed, discerned that Simeon could not be trusted to be set free yet.
Or possible that the brothers volunteered/decided among themselves that he would be best to stay since older and perhaps they knew Reuben had a better chance of talking Jacob into sending Benjamin along.
Then Joseph made sure they had everything they could need for their trip home. He even returned their money to them on the sly. Lots of mercy and forgiveness and compassion and concern for their well-being herein.
II. Their realization of their money returned – vs. 26-28
Fifth Principle: Lack of the true knowledge of God hurts or hinders fulfillment (read vs. 26-28)
Vs. 26 – they loaded their donkeys and headed home
Vs. 27 – one of them discovered his money was in the mouth of his sack
Vs. 28 – he reported to his brothers and their hearts were deeply grieved and they fearfully attributed it to God’s punishment
III. Their report to and dissension with Jacob – vs. 29-38
Sixth Principle: Consequences of sin and intrigue don’t go away quickly or easily (read vs. 29-38)
A. Their report to Jacob
Vs. 29 – the report begins
Vs. 30 – they had no idea who Joseph was and thought he really believed them to be spies
Vs. 31 – “honest men”? 2nd time referred to themselves this way. ok let’s see – they put goat’s blood on Joseph’s tunic or coat and led their father to believe he was torn and killed by wild beasts. And they told Joseph (“the man”) “one was no more”.
Vs. 32 – 12 brothers, sons of our father; one is no longer alive
Vs. 33 – Joseph’s deal with them
Vs. 34 – Joseph’s scheme to see his younger brother Benjamin and promise for them to be able to trade in Egypt
B. Dismay and Dissension
Vs. 35 – Hearts sunk again after seeing their money in their sacks, which makes them look like thieves
Vs. 36 – Jacob feeling great loss
Vs. 37 – Reuben again rises to the occasion at his own risk. Didn’t really succeed with Joseph.
Vs. 38 – Jacob digs his heels in self preservation
CONCLUSION – I don’t know what kind of heart ache you are dealing with with one or more of your family members. You may be the one sinned against. Or you may be the one who has sinned against one or more of your family members and caused no little distress as a result. Or you may be a parent or grandparent having to watch dissension between your children or grandchildren.
God is a God or restoration. Restoration always starts with restoration with God through Jesus Christ. However painful or great our need is to be restored to our family members or perhaps how great the need is for family members to be restored to each other and to participate and cooperate with God’s purposes – our need to be restored to Him through Jesus Christ is far greater. Only when that takes place can we see progress with God’s destiny and purpose for our family relationships.