Genesis 45. Ray’s excellent overview chs.38–43, exposition of ch.44. Judah represents the full expression of true repentance as he offers himself as a substitute for Benjamin.
Now, Moses transition repentance > reconciliation. But I want us to slow down at this transition point.
- Last week: true repentance.
- Next week: true reconciliation.
- This week: true revelation.
O Lord, as we open now Your word, we pray that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened, so that we may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Amen (Eph 3:18, 19).
1 Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.
4 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up 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. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.
This is the Word of the LORD.
Throughout this series I have wanted to show you how the various events and characters point us to Christ. In the life of Joseph, that task becomes much easier. There is so much in the life of Joseph that mirrors the purpose and work of Christ.
Up until this passage Joseph had done a masterful job of hiding his true identity. No one knew the full story except him. He knew his brothers before they knew him. And he knew their sin; the sin they thought had been buried forever. They had successfully kept their sin from everyone else, but now they are confronted by the one person who knew everything. Not only are they going to have to acknowledge their sin, but Joseph is in the position to put them to death. They are terrified to consider the consequences.
One of the earliest pieces of advice I received with regard to preaching came from my friend Brian Peterson, pastor at Sierra View Presbyterian Church. He told me that the goal of every sermon should be to convict and comfort. I agree with that, but I would add one thing that this text also implies, namely to call.
I believe this episode of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers mirrors the process every believer goes through in their conversion. True revelation convicts, comforts, and calls every true believer.
First, we will look at Revelation That Convicts (1-3). Second, we’ll see Revelation That Comforts (4-8). And third, we will note Revelation That Calls (9-15).
Revelation That Convicts (1-3)
After 22 years of keeping his emotions bottled up, it all comes out like a torrent so that everyone hears. Joseph is no longer able to hide his identity. Even after decades of separation he finds that he identifies with his covenant family more than the riches of Egypt. His emotion is raw and unhindered. In his comments on this passage John Calvin writes, “The stoics speak foolishly when they say, that it is an heroic virtue not to be touched with compassion.”1
Joseph’s uncontrollable weeping points to the sincere and earnest heart of God to be reconciled with his elect. This is the way your God weeps over you! It is a weeping for joy. This is the emotional state of heaven when a sinner repents and returns to the Lord. He rejoices over you with singing! As we read in Zephaniah, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zeph. 3:17).
But notice the response of the brothers. They are speechless. They are struck mute. While the brothers are moving in the right direction, their conviction is preventing them from experiencing the same level of intimacy for Joseph as he feels towards them. They are “terrified” as if in a war-time state.
Their secret sin has finally caught up to them. They are about to be exposed. Not only is their sin coming to light, but their very lives are in jeopardy as they stand before the only person who knows and has the authority to cast them into prison or worse. They know their sin cannot be hidden any longer, and they know it deserves the worst kind of punishment!
Charles Spurgeon, preaching on this passage, said:
“To the awakened sinner, this also is a part of his misery, that he is entirely in the hands of that very Christ whom he once despised; for that Christ who died has now become the judge of the quick and dead; he has power over all flesh that he may give eternal life to as many as his Father has given him. The Father judgeth no man; he has committed all judgment to the Son. Dost thou see this, sinner? He whom thou despised is thy Master.”2
We see Job respond like Joseph’s brothers after God speaks to him:
“Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5).
Conviction is not something we generally appreciate. Rather than embracing conviction, we find ourselves trying to wiggle out from under its condemnation. We defend ourselves and cast blame upon others until the Lord reveals Himself. And it is in that simple—but profoundly significant—act of revelation that we are quieted.
Joseph’s brothers stood before one who had the authority to cast them into the grave. On the last day we will stand before one who has the authority to cast us into eternal fire. If that doesn’t shut your mouths what will? If that doesn’t leave you trembling nothing will! And that’s a terrible thing. To stand in the presence of such power and stubbornly refuse to bow your head in submission indicates you are in a very dark and desperate situation indeed! God have mercy on your soul if that describes you.
The next time you feel conviction try placing your hand over your mouth for a minute. Seriously consider the weight of your sin and contemplate the implications of your state. We are quick to clamor toward comfort. We aren’t willing to sit under a heavy conviction for very long. But it is needed.
By Joseph bringing the secret sin of his brothers to light, they could be freed from suppressed guilt. Those who feel the weight of their conviction are more resolved to conquer their sin in the future. The convicting work of the law is necessary to prepare us for the comforting work of the gospel.
Those who know true conviction will appreciate true comfort.
Revelation That Comforts (4-8)
As terrifying as it was, the fact that they were facing their sin was crucial to their salvation. When they saw their sin and the judgement it deserved, they were being awakened by God. Even their terror was a mercy of God that led to their complete restoration.
But conviction has a limit. If you stew in your conviction too long you will become “distressed or angry with yourselves” which is not the will of God. A healthy sense of conviction can all too easily turn into an unhealthy feeling of condemnation. God’s will was not to preserve their lives only to lead them into a state of spiritual condemnation.
In verses 5-8 Joseph reveals God’s purposes in everything, to preserve life. “If God sent me here to preserve your lives, who am I to take them?” He’s telling them, “Don’t be afraid! I am not going to persecute you, but protect you from this devastating famine.”
Bruce Waltke points out that the phrase “God sent me” (repeated 3x) serves as “the theological heart of the account of Jacob’s line. God directs the maze of human guilt to achieve his good and set purposes.”3 It is important to see the role Joseph’s belief in a sovereign God played in his ability to endure this lengthy trial. He shares this with his brothers believing they too will be comforted by the knowledge that God was orchestrating all things behind the scenes, regardless of their sinful intentions.
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3a).
Unlike the idea of feeling conviction, we love the concept of receiving comfort from God. This is a concept that is easy for us to accept. The difficulty is learning to rest in the comfort that he provides. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29). We oftentimes feel the burden, but not the rest. We experience the conviction, but not the comfort.
Where do we tend to look for comfort? Aren’t we often fooled into thinking that the fleeting pleasures of sin will bring us the comfort we seek?
“I just need to forget about my problems for the day.”
“Let me embrace the world and sin, just this moment.”
“I’ll follow this corrupt train of thought only for a minute.”
We often think comfort comes from escaping our problems. But as soon as we escape one trap, we fall into another. Does that describe you?
This episode points you to a superior source of comfort, knowledge of a sovereign God. Does the sovereignty of God bring comfort to you? Are you comforted by the fact that everything accomplishes the purpose for which God intends it? When we find our comfort in God, we are less likely to seek comfort through selfish and worldly means. When we have been comforted by the gospel, our faith is grounded and secure when we face the inevitable anxieties of life. When we know that God is sovereign in the calm and the chaos, we can rest in the midst of the storm.
True revelation convicts. True revelation comforts. But there is one more element to draw out from this text…
Revelation That Calls (9-15)
This section is about hearing and responding to the call of God:
- Call to Jacob – We can focus on the fact that Joseph gives a call for Jacob to come. There is an urgency attached to the call. “Hurry!” (2x) The message is full of promises to enjoy the same land, fellowship, and provision. The message also includes a warning should it be ignored.
- Call of the Brothers – We could talk about how Joseph calls his brothers to be the messengers. This is the message of hope that Joseph’s brothers have the privilege of sharing with Jacob. Was it a burden? How often do we view evangelism as a burden rather than a privilege? The call to come becomes a call to go and tell others.
- Call to Community – Finally, we also see this section as a call to community. Along with the message he prompts them with further urging and affection. This call, actually began in verse 4, “So Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come near to me, please.’” In their terrified state, the brothers heard their judge calling to them, but instead of facing a vengeful master, they were met with the embrace of a loving brother.
One of the most frequent words in this passage is “wept”. We find it four times (3x in reference to Joseph and once in reference to Benjamin). Joseph’s authentic emotion begins to convince his brothers that they can trust him, and communicate follows. Unity is being restored because: 1) their sin came to light, 2) genuine expressions of affection were shared, and 3) they communicated honestly and openly with one another.
Interestingly, we don’t see the other brothers weeping. Maybe that is due to the shock of the revelation, but it could indicate a certain apprehensiveness to the plan and maybe even a coldness to their brother. Their lack of weeping is not inconsequential. All the way to the end (50:15-18) they fear Joseph’s retaliation. Although fellowship is restored, genuine intimacy is hindered by their reservations.
Authenticity is a bit of a buzz word, but the longing for real community is natural and healthy. It isn’t until Joseph reveals himself, giving up his facade, that the brothers begin to communicate with him. There is something about raw, authentic, emotion that promotes unity. It is important to consider this not only with regard to how we relate to one another, but how we relate to God!
- Stoicism is not godliness.
- Emotionalism is not godliness.
- Spirit-empowered affection should drive us into deeper communion with God and one another.
Paul felt this kind of genuine affection for the Thessalonians. “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thes. 2:8).
True revelation convicts, comforts, and calls every true believer. All of us need this news every week. True revelation progresses from producing true conviction, to providing true comfort, and then points to a true calling for every true believer.
Just as Joseph called his brothers to himself, “so also is Jesus calling you. If you hear his voice, it is because he has already made you one of his sheep. And though he could have judged you while you were yet in your sin, he has turned you from it—it is why you hear him—and now he wants you close to himself… We are told ‘he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin’ and that ‘he kissed all his brothers and wept over them’ (vv.14-15). Can we imagine him to have done that without calling their names? He would have cried out, ‘Come here, Benjamin. Judah, don’t be afraid; come. Come to me, Reuben…’ So on with all the brothers, one by one and name by name. Jesus calls you in the same manner. Do you hear him calling? He is not calling your neighbor. He is not calling the person seated next to you. He is not calling your husband or your wife or your children or your parents. He is calling you. Hear him. Respond to him.”4
True reconciliation is the result of true revelation and true repentance. It is to the reward of reconciliation that we will turn next week.
The basis for reconciliation is that God’s will is the controlling reality in every event. “Among those who seek to participate in the covenant plan of God, there is no room for revenge.”5
1 Calvin, John, and John King. Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010.
2 As quoted in Boice, James. Genesis Vol. 3.
3 Waltke, Bruce K., and Cathi J. Fredricks. Genesis: A Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.
4 Boice, James. Genesis Vol. 3. p.1056.
5 Ross, Allen, and John N. Oswalt. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: Genesis, Exodus. Vol. 1. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2008.