Joseph’s Troublesome Coat, Part 4
By Pastor Hal Mayer
It’s so good to be a child of God. Like Joseph, God prospers His children, not always in material ways, but in the graces of His Spirit. These are the most prized possessions. You can understand them only if you are spiritual. If you are carnal, you will miss the great opportunities that come to prosper in the hand of the Lord. Before we begin this segment on the life and ministry of Joseph, let us ask for God’s presence.
Our loving heavenly Father, thank you for being there when we need you and for sustaining us throughout all the varied circumstances of our lives. Thank you for giving us courage in the dark times and helping us to trust your faithfulness. We want to thank you for trials and even miscarriages of justice. We need these things to make us truly noble. We pray for godly nobility. We pray for princely characters. Help us to rise above all the conflict that goes on in our human lives and live for you, no matter what our circumstances. Now, as we study the life of Joseph, help us to see Jesus. Help us to understand His love and His great desire for us to live at peace with all men so far as possible. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Joseph had moved from prison to palace. Pharaoh gave him a wife of the Priest of On. The priest was the top religious leader in the nation. Pharaoh no doubt saw this as a political marriage. But it would certainly benefit the priest. It would be natural, however, that this arrangement should be made. Joseph was a diviner in the eyes of the Egyptians. Hence, he belonged among the priests who were highly respected and revered. Marrying the daughter of the priest was a statement about his spiritual credibility, and it was a way of enhancing his authority and position among the Egyptians. Perhaps Joseph wouldn’t have chosen her since she was a heathen, but in this case we have no record of God’s disapproval. Joseph didn’t try to undo the Egyptian religion, but he no doubt influenced it greatly in favor of the God of Israel.
Joseph moved very quickly to begin the process of preserving food for the vast multitudes of Egypt. He built barns, organized a collection system, and arranged for proper care of the grain. The nation began to prepare in earnest for the coming drought and famine.
One would think that Joseph would immediately contact his family and let them in on the good news. But he didn’t. Why not? Joseph had learned to wait on God for His timing. Joseph had learned not to demand instant gratification. That was his pattern. He let God direct him. It pays greatly to be in tune with the Infinite, the Majesty of the universe. If Joseph would have followed his own inclinations or impulses and contacted his father, he would have spoiled God’s plan for the wonderful reconciliation with his brothers. There is a big lesson here, too. In our world of instant gratification, we sometimes miss the providences of God because we haven’t learned to be patient and wait on Him. Don’t miss this. Your life might be a whole lot richer if you allow God to work in His timing. Learn to be patient. Learn to wait. This is a great trial for me, too. I want to solve problems immediately. I want to jump in and do what I think needs to be done when I should cautiously wait on the Lord to see what He wants.
During the eighth year, the famine began to press on Egypt and Canaan. Let us begin reading with Genesis 42:1-2: “Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.”
Jacob noted the hesitation of his sons to go to Egypt to buy food. Why the hesitation? Egypt was the last place they wanted to go. The problem was that it brought up memories that had haunted them for more than 20 years. That is where they had sent Joseph. They didn’t like the Egyptians anyways. They were a different culture, a different religion. They also had a reputation for business that wasn’t the most savory. They were conniving and sharp. Little did they know that it was a Hebrew now in charge of the business. But those memories of Joseph and the sorrow they had caused their father were still hanging on them like a millstone around their consciences. Going to Egypt was the last thing they wanted to do.
But God had determined to do them good even though they had done evil. Isn’t God wonderful, my friends? That’s what He plans to do for you, too. Little did Joseph’s brothers know that God read their hearts. He saw that they were ready for repentance after 22 years of gnawing guilt. He saw that they were longing to get the guilt off of their chests. He saw that they wanted reconciliation. The time had come for God’s wonderful purpose to be fulfilled to transition the family into a civilized nation—not just any nation, but His nation, His church. Yes, God was going to transform even these wicked, conscience-stricken men into His church. God had been preparing them for the spiritual experience of a lifetime which they would have down in Egypt. He allowed their hearts to be tormented by guilt and remorse as they watched their father grieve. And as the famine waxed great, the families were getting desperate. The brothers had no suitable argument, so ten of them went to Egypt, leaving Benjamin behind.
Just imagine the scene. Joseph has set up a large building near his palace from which he could oversee the process of distribution. He no doubt had helpers dealing with the Egyptians. But Egypt was now vulnerable to attack by the neighboring countries since they were the only ones with food. They would be the envy of all the nations around. Joseph therefore had to be careful about security. No doubt he gave his good friend Potiphar some extra responsibilities, as well. But in dealing with foreigners, Joseph left the business with no one but himself. He needed to be sure that there were no spies coming to spy out the land for possible invasion.
Imagine what it must have been like. Joseph is sitting down at a beautiful table at the end of a large majestic room with his princely Egyptian coat. His servants are there to attend to his every wish or need. His steward stands by his side to supervise all the relevant matters once Joseph’s decisions are made so that Joseph can concentrate on his work. Now, he truly is a prince. His coat (the symbol of his authority) is as proportionately imposing to his brothers as was the coat his father had given him almost a quarter of a century before, which they had been so anxious to remove from him. Now, they must reckon with it again, though for the time being they didn’t know that it was Joseph in the coat. That coat is going to get his brothers into more trouble than they can possibly imagine. Now, instead of troubling Joseph, his coat is going to seriously trouble them.
When his brothers enter the room, he suddenly sees their familiar faces. He was not expecting them. But he knows them. He can hardly contain himself but has trained himself with great self-control. Questions begin to flood his mind. Are they the same as before when he last saw them on that horrible evening when they so coldly sold him into slavery in spite of his anguished pleading? Or were they different now? Great emotions stirred his soul as memories flooded his mind. He had to be cautious. So he decided to disguise himself and act like an Egyptian, though there was nothing more that he would rather do than reveal himself. He yearned to tell them, but he knew he couldn’t—not yet, at least.
They are directed to his table. Genesis 42:6 says that they “bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.” They bow low and respectfully. Joseph is instantly reminded of his dreams many years before. His first dream is fulfilled. His emotions no doubt alternate from anguish to pity as he watches this amazing scene prophesied many years before. Joseph had been accused by his brothers many times of being a spy, to spy on their behavior and tell their father. Do you remember? So he decided to accuse them of the same thing. “Ye are spies,” he said, “to see the nakedness of the land ye are come” (verse 9).
Joseph’s brothers answer in verses 10 and 11: “We are all one man’s sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies.” They try to tell him of their family. When they mention their father, Joseph’s heart is rent. He longs to know about his beloved father. Is he still alive? What has happened to him since he last saw him? But he must control himself and maintain his composure, so he hides his emotions behind his accusation and again accuses them of being spies.
They again try to explain their family circumstances giving more details: “Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not.” Joseph’s mind is racing about what to do. He wants to help them more than they can know, but he has to find out some things first. There is no vindictiveness, no revenge in Joseph. He just has to test them to see what kind of men they are now.
When they mention his younger brother, his heart is cut as with a knife. Think of the self-control that Joseph must have had to have in this situation. When they mention that “one is not,” he realizes that they may think he is dead or at least some obscure slave somewhere. They certainly don’t want to say anything about their brother being in Egypt as a slave. Joseph is so surprised and dumbfounded that he can perhaps only think of one thing to say, “Ye are spies.”
More than 20 years before, he had protested their accusations and pled with them not to sell him as a slave, but they wouldn’t listen. Now he makes them feel as though he won’t listen to their protestations.
Then, he hits upon a plan to outwardly test their story but in reality to test their characters. “Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither. Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you: or else by the life of Pharaoh surely ye are spies. And he put them all together into ward three days” (verses 15-17). Now they are going to understand how he must have felt when they unjustly threw him into the pit.
Perhaps Joseph put them in the same prison at Potiphar’s house that he had endured—the king’s prison. After all, these were prisoners of state, not ordinary criminals. What irony! They are all going to prison, except one. After all, they had all put him in prison in the pit in the wilderness and then sent him into the prison of slavery. Three days, compared to the three years perhaps that Joseph had been in prison, were nothing.
Joseph had been in prison, but he was free in his heart and mind. His brothers, however, are in prison, but they are not free. They had been in their own prison, the prison of guilt, for nearly a quarter of a century. Now they chastise themselves for their guilt. How ironic that they are thrown in prison in the very country to which they had sold Joseph!
In three days he relents and lets them out. “And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God: If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison: go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses: But bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die. And they did so” (verses 19-20).
He has done a lot of thinking in those three days while they are in prison and realizes that they must be under a lot of guilt. He sees here the need to help them resolve their sin and guilt and give them a spiritual heritage. Isn’t that what Jesus does for us?
Now Joseph hears the most astonishing thing. Right in front of him in a language he can understand, they reproach themselves, thinking he cannot understand them. His brothers talk openly concerning their treatment of him many years before. Listen to their words in verses 21-22: “And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? Therefore, behold, also his blood is required.”
When they refer to him, he can hardly contain his emotions. They see the cause and effect, though they don’t understand it yet. This is very encouraging to Joseph but very emotional. He turns and goes into another room and weeps. When he gets himself under control, he comes back to commune with them.
When he comes back, they are having trouble deciding who is going to stay behind. None of them want to impose it on any of the others, another good sign. So Joseph made the decision about who was going to stay in Egypt. He took Simeon and bound him. Why Simeon? Simeon had been perhaps the roughest and most zealous in tormenting him. And Simeon was revengeful. He had been one of two brothers who slew all the men of Shechem when the son of their leader raped their sister.
Joseph lets them go, except Simeon. He has no intention of letting their families starve. He loves them. But he wants them all to feel the pain so he can see their characters. He demands their younger brother come back next time in order to verify that they are not spies. But he can’t avoid a tender admonition, “and ye shall not die.” They think Joseph is threatening them and that is how he comes across, but he is far more concerned about the spiritual welfare of his brothers and their families. In Egyptian he instructs his steward to fill their bags with corn and put their money in their sacks.
Can you imagine Joseph that night, telling his wife about what has happened? He unburdens his heart about how much he loves them and wants to help them. He gives her the whole story of his childhood. He tells her how they had mistreated him. But now things have come full circle. I can just imagine him doing that, can’t you?
“And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack’s mouth. And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us?” (verses 27-28). They are still reproaching themselves. And when they get home, they all find their money in their sacks. Now they are really afraid. They know that the Egyptians are conniving and masters of set-up. They suspect that this is a trap.
They tell their father all that happened. But when they tell him that the condition for returning to Egypt for more food was that Benjamin must go with them, Jacob can hardly stand it. They have to watch him grieve about Joseph all over again. Jacob’s anguish knows no bounds. Listen to it in verses 35-36: “And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.”
Surprisingly, Reuben makes a rash statement in verse 37, “Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.” Jacob cannot accept that. Reuben is rather passionate and unreasonable. Jacob isn’t going to slay his two grandsons. Why should there be more bloodshed? “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave” (verse 38). Jacob was really grieving, and the brothers knew that they were the cause of it.
But the famine didn’t get any better; it “was sore in the land.” Jacob asks them to go back to Egypt to buy more food. Judah, the one whose idea it was to sell Joseph into slavery, speaks up. In Genesis 43:3-5 he says, “The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food: But if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.” After all, they could all be thrown into prison and who knows what would happen if the spying charge was re-opened.
Jacob is still grieving and blames the brothers for it. But Judah now offers a proposal that shows his change of heart. “Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones. I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever: For except we had lingered, surely now we had returned this second time” (verses 6-10).
Jacob relents and agrees to let Benjamin go because he sees the necessity and the desperation of the situation. But he sends a present to appease the prime minister. As he bids them farewell, you can hear the agony in his heart as he says in verse 14, “And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”
Can you imagine the thoughts going through Jacob’s mind? What about God’s promises? If he were to lose more children, how would the promises come to pass? If God was going to make of his family a great nation, how could He do it if they are dying off? Jacob’s faith is tested. It seems that Joseph’s brothers were responsible for Jacob’s weak faith. The grief they have caused is so terrible. It was hard for Jacob to see beyond what he thought was reality and trust God.
As his brothers come in before Joseph, this time he is ready for them. But he sees Benjamin and is deeply moved. How he longs to just throw his arms around him and tell him who he is. He turns to his steward and tells him to “bring the one in prison” (verses 16-18). Slay, make ready, for they are going to eat together. Joseph realizes that the time is nearing for reconciliation. They are going to eat together once more. Eating together, my friends, is the great bonding event of life. That’s what families do when they get together for reunions. And that is just what Jesus wants to do when all the universe is reconciled once again. It is called the marriage supper of the Lamb. Are you going to be there? It’s almost time, you know.
But Joseph’s brothers are afraid. They worry that they are not invited just to eat. They think it may be a trap. They are still suffering all that guilt. So they are naturally suspicious.
Verse 19 says, “They came near to the steward of Joseph’s house.” They explained what happened with their money. But the steward’s response mystified them. He spoke respectfully about their father and their God. “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). Notice who the steward gives the credit for returning their money. Joseph has trained him well to acknowledge the God of heaven. His brothers must have thought that the steward had compassion on them for all the trouble that his master had put them through. Obviously, they didn’t even then begin to suspect that the prime minister was Joseph himself.
But their attention was distracted when he brought Simeon to them. It had probably been a whole year or more since the last time they had seen him. Simeon has been in prison. No doubt Joseph made sure that he was reasonably cared for, but, still, it was prison. They all wanted to know how he had fared.
“And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth” (verse 26). Imagine Joseph’s amazement at that gift from his father. These are the things he grew up on, the things he loves: nuts, almonds, figs, and other fruits, what little bit is left after the famine has ravaged the land for a while. Joseph asks about their father. But notice that they bowed a third time as they answer. Do you remember that the second dream included his father and mother? Now this time with his mother’s son Benjamin present, they symbolically, on behalf of their father and mother as well as themselves, bow again, fulfilling the second dream.
“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” (verse 29).
But Joseph can hardly stand it. “And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there” (verse 30). Then, he washed his face and returned.
The Egyptians could not eat with foreigners, and though Joseph would have yearned to eat with his brothers, he continued to play the Egyptian. So Joseph sat by himself, and the other Egyptians sat by themselves, and Joseph’s brothers sat by themselves.
The brothers noticed that they were all seated in order of their ages, and they were amazed. But then they noticed that Benjamin was given five times the amount of food they were given. Remember that Joseph’s purpose is to see if his brothers have changed. Joseph watched it all.
Now we turn to Chapter 44. Joseph commands to fill their sacks, put their money in the sack, and put in his silver cup into Benjamin’s sack. Joseph was going to treat them unfairly, just as they had done to him. However, he does not intend to hurt them but to see if they are changed.
Early in the morning, they had not gone far from the city when they heard the sounds of horses coming after them. The steward dismounted and accused them of stealing his master’s special divining cup used by the priests for their ritual worship. This was an Egyptian thing that Joseph really didn’t care about. But it could appear that these men were trying to access Egyptian secrets by stealing the divining cup. “Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?” he charged, “Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? Ye have done evil in so doing.”
They protested and were so certain that they were innocent that they offered that the guilty one would die and they all would be his servants. But the Egyptian protested that only the guilty one would be the servant. The steward searched, ironically starting with the eldest, though knowing where the cup was all along.
As he moved from one to the other, he found the money, but that didn’t really interest him. As he progressed, one after the other, the men felt more and more satisfied that he wouldn’t find the cup—all the better to surprise them! The Egyptians had a reputation for intrigue and sabotage.
But then he finally came to the sack of the youngest, Benjamin, and there it was! Verse 13 says the brothers rent their clothes. They had no way to prove that Benjamin was innocent. Not even Benjamin could protest and clear himself. As far as they were concerned, there was no defense.
Imagine what was going on in Judah’s mind as they trudged back to the city. No doubt he remembered how unfairly he had mistreated Joseph, and now his conscience, along with his brethren, was stricken hard again. He knew Benjamin had not taken the cup. He also knew that they were being falsely accused. But why? They were trapped. They were helpless and had no recourse but to go back to the city. Judah knew he had a heavy responsibility that would test his integrity. He had promised his father that he would not leave Benjamin in Egypt. No doubt he worried anxiously about what to say to the Egyptian. What would become of him, his family, and his brother Benjamin? The future seemed dark and evil. Tragedy was all they could see. Do you think by this time that Judah had the faith to look at the stars? Do you think that the brothers could see through the tragedy to the triumph? I doubt it. They were still inexperienced in faith. They were still living under a huge cloud of guilt which prevented them from developing strong faith. Yet they had no choice but to go through the test. You see, my friends, this is a great lesson. When we are living under a cloud of guilt, it is impossible to develop a strong faith. We must repent, make things right, and live by God’s principles if we want to spiritually mature.
They return to Joseph’s house. It’s still early in the morning. But Joseph is dressed and in his royal coat of authority and judgment. Again they bow before Joseph in fulfillment of his dreams. Joseph accuses them again. Then Judah speaks. He humbly appeals to Joseph and says, “Behold, we are my lord’s servants” (verse 16). Do you think Judah could have said that if he was of the same grasping, defensive, proud, revengeful spirit of 20 years before? But there is no self-justification. “God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants,” he says. There is no attempt to shift blame, no attempt to minimize their sin, no attempt to hide it. Judah presented all the brothers as guilty, not just Benjamin. This impresses Joseph. It is clear that they would stand by Benjamin. They would not abandon him. What a change!! What a different group of men they were!
The brothers could have assumed that Benjamin was guilty. They could have left him in Egypt alone and without hope. Here is the petted, indulged child that they could have resented just like Joseph. But honorably, they do not. Even though he is under a cloud of accusation, he is their brother. His trouble is their trouble. They are a family. From their point of view, this was delicate and needed to be handled very wisely. Even though he appeared to be guilty, they couldn’t leave him in Egypt. But they had larger worries. Here is the potential extinction of the whole family and the promised nation. They are not men of strong faith. They have forgotten the promises and lack the faith to realize that God will see them through.
Joseph’s heart goes out to his brothers. But his plan is to send them all away to see how they will react to leaving Benjamin, the only remaining person in their family to remind them of Joseph and of what they had done to him years before. If they were still angry, they might well take it out on Benjamin. So Joseph presses them. He protests that only Benjamin would be his servant. “The man in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your father” (verse 17). Would they leave Benjamin in Egypt and go home? Would they leave him to Egyptian justice? They had sold Joseph into slavery, knowing he was innocent. How would they now treat Benjamin? Were these the same men? Or were they different now?
Note that it was Judah that stepped forward. He was the one who had suggested that profit could be made in selling Joseph. The traitor now steps forward to fulfill his promise to his father of surety and protection for Benjamin. His promise was not frivolous or passing. He was serious. And Joseph could see it.
Listen to his words starting in verse 18: “Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh.” Judah recounts the story of what happened before they came the second time. Then, he tells Joseph of his father’s sorrow over the loss of Joseph by saying, “And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons: And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since: And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad’s life; It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.”
Joseph could hardly stand to hear this story. He is shocked to hear about himself. But his heart is torn as he hears about his father’s grief. Then the greatest shock of all comes to his ears. The very one who sold him into slavery volunteers to be a slave in his brother’s stead. “For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever. Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? Lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father” (verses 32-34).
Even Judah’s brothers can hardly believe their ears. Joseph can hardly stand it. These men have really changed! They are not the same evil men he once knew. It is enough. His own heart is broken. Joseph can’t restrain himself any longer. He turns to his steward and commands that all Egyptians leave the room quickly. His brothers wonder what is going on. Chapter 45:2 says that Joseph “wept aloud,” so loud that the Egyptians heard it, even Pharaoh’s household.
Now it is his brothers’ turn to be shocked. How is it that this stoic Egyptian is crying like a baby? And now he is speaking in their own Hebrew language! They faintly recognize the voice, and suddenly they realize that they have been dealing all along with their own brother who is now lord of all Egypt.
“I am Joseph!” he cries, tears streaming down his cheeks, “Doth my father yet live?” His brothers are absolutely astonished and tremble that they were at the mercy of their mistreated brother. They immediately become afraid of revenge. Joseph tries to put them at ease. He speaks in their native tongue, “Come near to me, I pray you. . . . I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. 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. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” That is verses 4-8.
“Now hurry,” he says. “Go home and bring my father here, and I will care for him the rest of his days.” What a reunion! What a surprise! Pharaoh reaffirmed the invitation and gave him wagons and supplies and transportation to make it possible.
But now comes the great symbol of restoration. In verse 22, Joseph gives his brothers changes of raiment. These are not the humble coats of shepherds. These are the royal princely coats of Egypt, like the one that had gotten them in so much trouble on coming to Egypt in the first place. Joseph is in essence symbolically asking them to join him in ruling Egypt. He treats them with great respect. Isn’t that what Jesus does with us? He changes our raiment of filthy rags and gives us the princely robes of His righteousness and offers us the privilege of ruling with Him.
Joseph gives five coats to Benjamin and 300 pieces of silver. There is no jealously, no envy. All is forgiven. All is symbolically put behind them. The door on their sin is closed. Joseph has forgiven them fully and completely.
Joseph also wanted to help their father believe. He gave his father gifts, including food and the “good things of Egypt,” as it says in verse 23. No doubt it included some princely garments as well.
Imagine Benjamin’s shock at hearing the story for the first time. He no doubt has difficulty comprehending what his brothers have done. But there is one more very painful thing to do. Joseph’s brothers must tell their father about the quarter century of lies and hypocrisy. It is hard enough explaining it to Benjamin. Now they have to confess everything to their father. Joseph was calling them to Egypt. You can imagine the heavy thoughts these men had on their long journey home. How would they tell their father about all the lies and deception? How could they explain their treachery and the heartache they have caused him? How could he ever forgive them? But they have no choice. They have to tell him and tell him all.
What a confession!! Imagine their humility as they come before him. Can you imagine Judah now telling the whole story of his own sin against his brother and his father? There he is kneeling down, confessing his sin and pleading for his father’s forgiveness. Imagine their tears as they open the sordid past, cleanse their souls of their iniquity, and beg for forgiveness. Jacob can’t believe it. It took some convincing. His sons have lied to him all these years. How can he believe them now? But Joseph had sent enough provisions that there would be no doubt that it was all too true.
Imagine Jacob’s feelings when he hears the true story—first, shock and disbelief, then anger, then pity, then joy when he sees the evidence. Imagine his thoughts as he realizes what guilt his sons have carried for a quarter of a century. “I will go and see him before I die,” he says.
Chapter 46 tells us that God intervened with Jacob. He knows that Jacob needs more encouragement and assurance to up and completely move to Egypt. He gives him a vision. He tells him that though his sons have lied to him, though they have covered it all up, yet He is in it. He has used it. He was orchestrating it all so that His will would be done, even through their treachery. He assures him that indeed his son Joseph is alive and that he should go down to Egypt. He also assures him that He will bring his family back to Canaan. He assures him that He is making good on His promise of making him a great nation. The Israelites can gain much by being in Egypt, for it is the most developed of all nations at the time. They are semi-barbaric. Being in Egypt will help them develop and mature as a nation.
So, Jacob goes to Egypt. He is used to obeying God. He puts his fears and apprehensions aside and agrees to go be with his son. They travel down the same road that Joseph did so many years before.
Imagine their reunion. Jacob’s confidence in Judah is restored, and Jacob sends Judah before him to lead the way. Joseph goes up in his chariot to meet his father. Verse 29 says that when he saw his father, “he fell on his neck and wept a good while.” Imagine these two men holding each other, tears of joy streaming down so fast that they can’t say a thing. Was the reunion between Christ and His Father much the same when Christ ascended from the earth? Is our reunion with Jesus going to be anything like this?
Joseph takes him to meet Pharaoh. He doesn’t tell Pharaoh all the trouble his brothers have been to him. In his mind it is forgiven and forgotten. He treats them as if nothing has ever gone wrong. Isn’t that the way Jesus treats us when we repent? Won’t that be the way He will treat us when we are taken before His Father’s throne? It will be as if nothing has ever gone wrong. What respect! What love!
My friends, the story of Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers, as wonderful as it is, is only a faint reflection of what Jesus has done for us. It is a miniature example of the love that He poured out on the whole human race. It is also a faithful illustration of the kind of dynamics that will happen to the last generation of the earth both among themselves and in the world. Let us not forget that Jesus allows us to go through trials and pain so that He can bond us to Himself. When all is forgiven and we are in the new earth, what a reunion that will be! Can you imagine it? Will you be there?
My friend, perhaps you have wandered a long time from God. Perhaps you have a guilty conscience that consumes you and prevents you from having real, living faith. Perhaps you want to make things right with God and your fellow man. Does the story of Joseph speak to you? Do you see yourself in Joseph’s life or in the lives of his brothers? Can’t you turn over a new page in your experience and live in God? My friend, Jesus is longing to fall upon your neck and weep in forgiveness. He longs to take you in His arms and forget the past. But you have to come to Him, just as you are. You can come near unto Him. What relief! What joy will be yours! What hope that you too can have eternal life! Give Him your heart right now.
Let us pray. Our loving heavenly Father, we thank you so much for the forgiveness that Jesus gives to us. The story of Joseph reminds us of His forgiving love. Help us to appreciate it fully in light of our treason. Help us to forgive others who mistreat us like Joseph did. And as we near the end of time, we will have many experiences like Joseph as we may be rejected or alienated from our close friends, family, or fellow believers. Let us live for you and avoid reactions that dishonor you. Help us to catch a vision of how you will use your faithful people in these last days. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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