Turn in your bibles to Genesis 43. Last week we saw that Moses shifted his attention from Joseph to primarily focus upon his brothers. We saw the ongoing conflict within their home as Jacob sent ten of his sons, but held back Benjamin fearing harm might come to him.
The brothers had traveled to Egypt in order to purchase food during the famine. Joseph immediately recognized them, but they did not recognize him. He held Simeon under arrest while the other brothers returned with their money and some food. The brothers assumed they were being setup to look like the spies they were accused of being. So Joseph’s gracious gesture to return their money was taken as a judgment from God. We structured the sermon around the idea of a guilty conscience and spent some time defining true repentance.
Our passage this morning continues part two of this same episode. The brothers are sent to Egypt a second time. This time Joseph invites them to his home. Once again the brothers are defensive and fearful that they are going to be taken as slaves, but instead they are treated to an incredible feast.
Before we read this passage let us look to the Lord in prayer for his help in understanding it.
1 Now the famine was severe in the land. 2 And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little food.” 3 But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. 5 But if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’ ” 6 Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” 7 They replied, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” 8 And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. 9 I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. 10 If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.”
11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. 12 Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight. 13 Take also your brother, and arise, go again to the man. 14 May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”
15 So the men took this present, and they took double the money with them, and Benjamin. They arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph.
16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18 And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” 19 So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. 21 And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, 22 and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 And when the man had brought the men into Joseph’s house and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, 25 they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they should eat bread there.
26 When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. 27 And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. 29 And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” 32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. 33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement. 34 Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.
This is the Word of the LORD.
We have talked about the need for true repentance in order to find true reconciliation. In order for this family to come together in peace, they will need to surrender themselves to God. God has been in the process of leading these brothers to repentance through several steps:
- The presence of the physical famine has pointed to their spiritual famine/hopelessness.
- Joseph’s harsh treatment and testing has brought their guilty consciences to the forefront of their minds.
- Their time of confinement in prison led to their confession of sin against their brother (Gen. 42:21).
- Their distress is heightened upon their return home when they find their money and acknowledge God’s hand at work (Gen. 42:28).
However, were we to stop here, we would have an incomplete picture of repentance. So far, God has used primarily negative means to lead them to repentance. What we start to see in this chapter are the positive components of God’s saving grace.
Last week we focused on the negative quality of the burden of guilt. This week we focus on the positive quality of God’s kindness—a kindness that “is meant to lead you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4).
First, we will see a picture of Surrendering to God (1-14). Second, we’ll see the importance of possessing the Peace and Mercy of God (15-34).
Surrendering to God (1-14)
Judah makes the first gesture of self-sacrifice in his family. When we keep in mind Judah’s fall with Tamar in chapter 38 we see how remarkable his response is. Judah seems to have been hardened by sin, often acting in a selfish manner. But God is softening his heart. He is beginning to put others above himself. Judah’s leadership and sacrificial attitude will only increase as we continue in the story.
In addition to the need for food, it is Judah’s speech that convinces Jacob to send them back to Egypt. Waltke writes, “Reuben put his sons’ lives on the line; Judah puts his own life on the line.” It is an astonishing turnabout for the man who had an affair with his daughter-in-law.
I don’t know how much we can read into this, but it seems to be significant whenever a person’s name is changed in Scripture. Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. Jacob became Israel. Yet, Moses never reverts to using Abram once he receives the name Abraham. That is not the case with Jacob. Most of the time he is referred to by his old name.
In this chapter, once again, Jacob is relying upon gifts to assuage the attitude of “the man.” It reminds us of his attempt to assuage the potential anger of his brother Esau (32:7-21). Once again Jacob’s faith appears to be weakened. And once again God shows himself to be faithful.
James Boice writes,
“His name was changed to Israel at Jabbok, but it is not often after this that his new or covenant name is used. Usually he was thinking and operating much as the old Jacob had done. He was self-centered, self-serving, complaining. However, at this point of the story we see Jacob emerging as Israel…”1
The only explanation the Bible ever gives for changing a person’s name is related to their new mission and purpose in life. This seems to be consistent in the New Testament as well. Simon became Peter. Saul became Paul. Each of them received a name that would remind them continually that they belong to the God of their fathers.
Jacob’s prayer in v.14 is a good one. Its location in the middle of this passage marks it’s central importance. He calls God “El Shaddai,” which is the name God called Himself when He gave the covenant promises to Abraham (Gen. 17:1). He also prays that “the man” will have mercy upon them.
He is hopeful that the “other brother,” Simeon, might return safely with Benjamin and the rest of the brothers. But God’s blessings upon Jacob will be far beyond anything he could have hoped or imagined. Not only would Simeon and Benjamin remain safe, but he would be reunited with Joseph again (22 years after he sent him to find his brothers).
Judah’s turnaround is one example among many in Scripture of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. His heart has been softened so that he has been convinced of his sin. His mind has been enlightened in the knowledge of God and his will has been renewed. He is truly establishing himself as a leader among the Sons of Israel, which is characteristic of his kingly tribe.
Jacob’s inconsistent faith reveals something of the grace of God. Jacob clung to his sons, Joseph and Benjamin, far too tightly. This is an example of raising the gift of God to the level of an idol. Children are a blessing from the Lord, but it is easy for parents to allow their children to become their gods.
In Jacob’s case, he placed all of his hope and joy in their well-being. He guarded them as if they were his own life, which should be a good thing. But it went too far in that he lost all ambition and purpose when they were gone. Boice comments,
“Leave him Benjamin, and you leave him something to look to and lean on after the flesh. When he gives up Benjamin, what remains? It is all, henceforth, with Jacob an exercise of mere and simple faith, ‘enduring as seeing him who is invisible.’”
Jacob had to be left entirely alone in order that he might trust in God alone.
Maybe you have been hardened by sin like Judah, or like Jacob, your heart has grown cold to God due to your circumstances (i.e., loss, failure). When we have a “true sense of our sin” we begin to detect the idols of our heart. When we surrender our idols to God, we gain the surpassing joy of our salvation.
When we surrender to God we will experience the…
Peace and Mercy of God (15-34)
There are two theologically informed statements in this passage. The first comes from the mouth of Jacob (v.14), but the second comes from Joseph’s steward (v.23). We find two important words in those responses that deserve some explanation.
“Mercy” is found twice in the chapter. It occurs in Joseph’s speech (v.14) as well as in description of Joseph’s feelings toward Benjamin (v.30). “Compassion” and “mercy” in this chapter are the same word in Hebrew – רַחֲמִים rahamim. Of the 39 occurrences of this word in the Old Testament, the majority of them refer to God’s mercy.
“Shalom” is found three times in this chapter (v.24 and twice in v.27). “Peace”, “welfare”, and “well” are all the same Hebrew word – שָׁלוֹם. God is beginning to bring peace to a house that has been ravaged by division and corruption.
Once again we see the brothers misinterpreting everything behind the lens of a guilty conscience. They see the judgment of God behind everything. The servant’s response in v.23 is another important mention of God.
“Your God, the God of your father” (26:24; 28:13; 31:29; 46:3; cf. Exod. 3:6). It is certainly significant that Joseph’s steward understood something about God’s covenant nature. Joseph’s faith has remained steadfast throughout his trials and his successes. From preference in Hebron to slavery in Egypt to authority in Potiphar’s house, Joseph remains faithful. From purity to prison he continues to acknowledge God.
Now, it is clear that his steward knows something about Joseph’s faith. Joseph has taught this man a thing or two, whether by precept or example.
Listen to Calvin’s comments regarding the steward’s response to the brothers:
“Unless he had learned something better, he never would have assigned so great an honor to any other gods than those of his own country. Moreover, he does not ascribe the miracle to the God of the land of Canaan, but to the peculiar God of their father. I, therefore, do not doubt that Joseph, though not permitted openly to correct anything in the received superstitions, endeavored, at least in his own house, to establish the true worship of the one God, and always held fast the covenant, concerning which, as a boy, he had heard his father speak.”2
This section of the trip is where we see the greatest difference between the first and second trip to Egypt. Not only is Benjamin present, but Joseph is gracious rather than harsh to them. He asks about their father and blesses Benjamin. Finally, after 22 years, Joseph’s dream has been fulfilled when all eleven of his brothers are bowing down to him (v.28). We see Joseph excusing himself a second time in order to weep.
And, in the midst of a severe famine, he blesses his hungry brothers with a feast. Sarna, “Joseph hosts a meal for his brothers, who years before had callously sat down to eat while he languished in the pit.”
His position in Egypt has not removed his tender feelings toward his family. Despite this preferential treatment the word of the steward has indeed come true. They are enjoying peace as brothers for—what might be—the first time!
The kindness of God is meant to lead us to repentance. Isn’t it interesting that Joseph’s brothers received the benefits of his affection even though they had no idea who he was? Is it not a picture of a world that has received innumerable blessings (what theologians call “common grace”), yet remains ignorant of their source? If that describes you this morning, allow the Spirit of God to open your eyes to the goodness of God! Your very existence is by the mercy of God.
God does not owe you anything. Adam and Eve could have been sent to hell the moment they sinned. In fact, every one of us is deserving of hell because of our sin. God could send us there without every giving us a chance at salvation. He is not obligated to do so. He could wipe all of us into eternal torment and remain as just as He has always been. “No one could fault him. The righteous angels in heaven would still be able to cry out, as they do even today, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory’ (Isa. 6:3).”
Repentance must be granted (Act 5:31). We cannot have saving faith apart from repentance. They are inseparable features of salvation.
The experience of God’s peace and mercy is dependent upon the gift of Jesus Christ.
For now the brothers think the tables have turned, but Joseph has a bit more testing in store for them. Next week, we will take a break from our series to focus on the resurrection of Christ. But the following week, Ray Sanchez is going to be preaching Genesis 44. In the end we see a sovereign God orchestrating all things for the good of his people.
Joseph wasn’t the only one who wept over the Sons of Israel. God paid the cost of our reconciliation by sending Jesus Christ. Today, God holds out to you this “shalom.” Will you accept it?When we have peace with God we can seek peace with one another.
1 Boice, James, Genesis Vol. 3, p.1025.
2 Calvin, John, and John King. Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010.