God Knows: Genesis 42:1-38

God Knows: Genesis 42:1-38
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday November 26, 20

Notes, not at Transcript:

People are fickle, you too; we tend to live as though all of life is to conform to whatever makes you comfortable today. You know what makes me comfortable? Right now, it’s about 71-73 degrees inside when it’s 29 degrees outside. Interestingly, you know, in the summer when it’s 90 degrees humidity and 90 degrees temperature, a 71-73 degree house would be “too hot.” I want it to be 68 degrees.

We’re fickle.

What makes me “comfortable today” could be tragic for me tomorrow in this life, but it could sever my relationship with Christ forever. What if what I *think makes me comfortable ruins everything and makes me miserable?

Romans 7:24–25 (ESV)
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh, I serve the law of sin.

Proverbs 14:12–16 (ESV)
12  There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
13  Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and the end of joy may be grief.
14  The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways,
and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
15  The simple believes everything,
but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
16  One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil,
but a fool is reckless and careless.

We would do well remembering Jesus’ talking about our lives in the shadow of knowing and trusting God from Proverbs 14…

Matthew 7:13–14 (ESV)
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Mark 8:35 (ESV)
35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it.

With this picture of an active God who knows us and has a good and perfect Will that we need to conform to, let’s look over the trajectory of the story of Joseph as we now bring his brothers, the heads of the tribes of Israel, through whom God will bring about the promise of Abraham, to build the covenant nation that will come out of Egypt through Exodus ready to receive and bring the law to the people.

Genesis 42:1-38 (ESV)
1 When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?”
2 And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.”

When Jacob learned/saw – ESV/NIV/NRSV are going to say Jacob learned, LSB/NASB will use saw either way; it becomes apparent that the answer to their problem is going to Egypt. Jacob shoots it straight – go there, buy grain, or we’ll die of starvation.

Let’s remember who boys are:

Simeon and Levi in 34 killed a town of men over the rape of their sister after tricking them into getting circumcised, the ol’ ‘circumcise them before the attack’ trick. Ruben stepped with his dad’s concubine to top his dad – then later tried to earn his favor back by rescuing Joseph (but failed). Judah, we read recently, would impregnate his daughter-in-law (after all, she was disguised as a Canaanite prostitute) after two of his sons died being found wicked in the sight of the Lord (Genesis 38:7/10). Now, as the crown of our remembrance, they’d sold Joseph into Egyptian slavery. Of everything they’d done, their father’s idea of them going to Egypt had to bring about pangs of guilt just thinking about their deeds.

Some subtle foreshadowing that exposes the wound is coming up that we’d do well not to miss:

3 So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt.
4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him.
5 Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

The story starts focusing on the core, the brothers and Joseph. It doesn’t say that 10 of the heads of the tribes of Israel went down. It doesn’t say 10 of Jacob’s sons, but ten brothers. Ten brothers go to Egypt; why? Jacob feared that harm would happen to him. This word, HARM, is only used 5 times in the entire OT, and 3 of them are here. The other two in Exodus 21:22/23 talk of the harm to a pregnant mother’s unborn child – God is clear on life in the womb. The pain of Jacob’s loss was not gone, healed, or forgotten – the brother of Joseph and the other son of Rachel, Jacob’s favored wife, would NOT go on this journey with these dudes. Imagine how all this is weighing on the ten boys; they leave knowing a) they’re going to Egypt, where they sold their brother, and b) that their dad didn’t send Ben because ultimately he doesn’t trust them. During the journey to Egypt, I have to wonder if there is some I told you so going on. Maybe some blame-assigning and bickering.

6a Now Joseph was governor over the land.

I like this reminder. Think of all that God is doing here in orchestrating all this. We’ve concentrated on His sovereignty in causing all this, but here we’re seeing it all come back together for His purposes.

6b He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.
7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”
8 And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.

The stage here is set. You KNOW, at this point in the story, something will happen. Joseph has been sold into slavery by his brothers; more than that, remember the tension between them; they HATED him as a little boy. If you have TEN older brothers who hate you, you KNOW it. I’m sure he knew it. Remember, back then, we noted that Joseph was looking at the Egyptian part.

Genesis 41:42 (ESV)
42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, clothed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck.

This is why they didn’t recognize their brother, no beard, not looking slave-like. He was donning a chain, a ring, and fresh robes – likely not speaking Hebrew, and they were doing what “Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.” If this isn’t triggering in your mind, let’s go back and appreciate it…

Genesis 37:6–8 (ESV)
6 He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed:
7 Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.”
8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

9 And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them. And he said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land.”
10 They said to him, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food.
11 We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies.”
12 He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.”
13 And they said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.”
14 But Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you. You are spies.
15 By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here.
16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.”
17 And he put them all together in custody for three days.

So, in verse 9, Joseph remembers the dream; however, in the dream were parents and 11 brothers, which are 10. He plans to a) test the brothers and b) bring the family together, as in the dream God gave him. They admit to his untimely demise (kind of, saying one is no more), and they admit to their being another brother and their father. Like they’d had him in the pit, he has them thrown into prison and comes to them with a plan:

18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God:
19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households,
20 and bring your youngest brother to me. So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so.

In the three days in prison, after the journey to Egypt, these ten are unnerved and have to decide who stays in jail and who goes back to convince their dad to let Benjamin go. If they were on the fence, he appeals to them in verse 18, “Do this in live, ” and perhaps most convincingly, “I fear God.”

21 Then they said to one another, “In truth, we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul when he begged us, and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.”

This brother whom they hated… how do I know that:

Genesis 37:4 (ESV)
4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.

Genesis 37:8 (ESV)
8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

This brother they hated, whom they’d referred to as “this dreamer” in Genesis 37:19, appears to be softening.

22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.”
23 They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them.
24 Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.
25 And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. This was done for them.

I remember making fun of a man’s belly bag while trying to figure out how to get a gas pump to work in the Netherlands. Before leaving, the man with the belly bag said, you have to push this button to get it to start, and by the way, almost everyone understands English. So I can understand the brothers speaking in Hebrew comfortably, thinking they’re having a private conversation – we see Joseph listening in and being emotional over this. He takes Simeon, has him bound, and gives them grain and some “walking around money.”

26 Then they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed.
27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money in the mouth of his sack.
28 He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!” At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

They see God in this but not knowing what God is doing. This is the first time we’ve seen the brothers recognize the hand of God. They’ve been lured by emotions, driven by anger for so long. Still, they’re humbled, and seeing God working – remembering God’s sovereign and active hand in our lives helps give perspective. It helps to drive Godly decisions versus dumbly stumbling along, considering everything is luck and random.

29 When they came to Jacob, their father in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying,
30 “The man, the lord of the land, spoke roughly to us and took us to be spies of the land.
31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we have never been spies.
32 We are twelve brothers, sons of our father. One is no more, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.’
33 Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, and take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way.
34 Bring your youngest brother to me. Then I shall know that you are not spies but honest men, and I will deliver your brother to you, and you shall trade in the land.’ ”

35 As they emptied their sacks, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack. And when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid.
36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.”
37 Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.”
38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

In the interest of time, we walk from this story here, but let’s see a few normative ways God deals with us. By His grace, he allows us to be confronted by our sin(s), impacted by them, and shaped by them in our future dealings and walk.

My grandfather used to pray, and it confounded me: Lord, forgive us of our many sins. I would always be dumbfounded that my grandfather sinned, but specifically had MANY. Church, we can walk in the danger of believing silliness – that is this, we become saved and are un-impacted by the world around us. Even in what seems like victory over previous sins, we can be set up for prideful living that makes us walk too close to sin and sets us up for a fall. We can become pampas. Like these brothers, we can move about our lives, having no regard for God and his action, purpose, and direction, functionally living as though nothing matters, and all of life is to conform to whatever makes me comfortable today.

So, church, let us take from a lesson in these brothers and the patriarchs’ lives that God desires us to become more conformed to Christ’s image. What if what I *think makes me comfortable ruins everything and makes me miserable?

Romans 8:27–32 (ESV)
27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
God’s Everlasting Love
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

It should make all the sense in the world, that God knows what is best for us; we would do well to seek after that rather than seek after what we perceive will be comfortable. Time and time again we see it across the scripture lets live like we believe it.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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