March 1, 2020
Joseph: Ongoing Opposition, Unwavering Integrity – Gen 42
This morning I want to start off by talking about the Top 5 phrases people most love to hear. Can you guess what some of them are? Obviously I love you tops the list. Who doesn’t like to hear that? That’s always a big step in a relationship when you say I love you to somebody-because what is it you’re wanting to hear back-I love you too. That’s the expected rely-not thank you. When you say I love you and they respond with thank you-that’s tough. It’s definitely not what you wanted to hear. Nor is there much chance of recovery for the relationship after that! Hopefully none of us have responded that way-or been the recipient of the I love you/thank you exchange! But clearly I love you is the top phrase we most love to hear. Next phrase people most love to hear is I miss you. That one follows closely on the heels of I love you-and whether it’s that special someone or just a good friend hearing the words I miss you is so comforting because chances are you feel the same way. Next phrase we love to hear is You look good. That may be in reference to a new shirt or a new outfit or a new haircut-wow, you look really good. Or could be when you reconnect with somebody-Hey, it’s been awhile-but you look good. Which is really encouraging to hear that the years have been good to you-as opposed to other way around-It’s been awhile-what happened? What happened is not what you want to hear! The next phrase people most love to hear is What do you think? And that phrase can take many forms-I’d love to get your opinion on this. I’m curious about your experiences. What would you do? Tell me your thoughts. What do you think about this? But that phrase really validates people and engages them in conversation. Isn’t it great when someone asks you what do you think? We love to share our thoughts with others and know our opinion matters; or to hear that people are seeking out our wisdom or thoughts. What do you think is great phrase for building relationships. And then the last phrase people most love to hear is the phrase-I followed your advice. Because that phrase takes it a step further and says the person put your thoughts into action. I followed your advice and it turned out great. Your words, your insight were a positive experience-we love to hear that.
But now I want to turn the tables and ask what about the phrases we love to say? Are those the same as the phrases we love to hear? And I think there’s one phrase we love to say most and dream of saying more than anything else. It’s not I love you-instead the phrase we love to say most is… What do you think? I told you so. We love saying that! Who’s guilty of that one? And even if you don’t say it much-who doesn’t dream of saying it to somebody? They didn’t listen to what I said, I told them what to do, that’s there own stupidity. Wait until they come crawling back to me-I told you so! Or even something as simple as-This didn’t work out like I thought-I told you so! Why do we love saying that? Think about it. What’s so good and satisfying about uttering that phrase? I told you so. Deep down it’s a phrase that tickles our pride. It’s phrase that says we’re right and they’re wrong. It’s a phrase that elevates us and shows how smart we are-you should have listened to me. But who loves to hear that phrase? Anybody enjoy hearing I told you so? Yes, you did tell me so-and it was astounding-thank you for saying I told you so-you were so spot on with that! No-of course not. Nobody likes hearing that. It’s the phrase we least enjoy hearing. I was reading an article on various responses to I told you so-and the challenging response is-Yeah…and? The sarcastic response is-said no one who was trying to be helpful. The snarky response is-who do you think you are-my mother? The deflecting response is-research shows that phrase is a serious conversation ender! But the defusing response is-you did. Talk about taking away someone’s thunder-I told you so! Yes, you did. What do they say then? That’s right- I did! Sort of deflating. But it’s a direct, non-defensive, concise response. Can you imagine saying that next time someone says I told you so? Or how would you feel if someone said that to you after you said I told you so? Well the reason I bring this us is because there might be lots of times when I told you so is the truth. That you did tell somebody something and they didn’t listen, they blew it off, argued with you, did their own thing, and it didn’t turn out well. You may be very well-warranted in saying the phrase I told you so. But what are you accomplishing when you say it? What good comes from that phrase? I want you to think about that as we continue our series on Joseph’s life-because as we come to his next chapter literally no one in human history had a better opportunity to say it-and say it with gusto-than Joseph.
So open your Bibles to Gen 42. We’re returning to Joseph’s story this morning. Last week we paused for our midwinter break and looked at the life of Job. Like Joseph, he was also someone with great struggles and afflictions in his life-and yet no matter what he faced, no matter how hard it got, or how difficult it was, Job unwaveringly trusted God and displayed integrity. Ironically, we saw Job’s wife cursing him for holding onto his integrity, while God praised Job for maintaining his integrity. And that same unwavering integrity is found in Joseph-especially at this next chapter in his life. So take a look at it-and you’ll notice the chapter begins with Joseph’s family back in Canaan-v. 1-5. Now I’m sure they didn’t really want to head off to Egypt-but when the famine in the land is so severe what else can they do. Unknown to them-their brother’s strategic planning has caused Egypt to the be the only place around with food. It’s either starve and die-or go get grain in Egypt. And this detail in v. 4 will become very important later on-Jacob didn’t let his youngest son Benjamin travel with the other brothers. If you remember Joseph and Benjamin were the two sons from Rachel, the wife he loved the most and worked 14 years to get. And since Joseph was already lost to him-at least he thought so-Jacob didn’t want to even think about losing Benjamin. Now the other brothers-they were rough and tough guys. I’m sure Jacob knew they could handle themselves and wasn’t worried about them. When we started this series we talked about how awful their pasts were. Simeon and Levi slaughtered all the men in a village in order to get revenge for their sister. Reuben had an affair and committed incest with one of his father’s wives. Judah had an affair and got his own daughter-in-law pregnant. Terrible stuff! Plus, all 10 of them were willing to beat up their brother Joseph, throw him into the pit, sell him to traveling gypsies to make a buck-and then lie to their father all these years that he was attacked and killed by wild animals. And if you do the math-Joseph was sold as a slave and in prison for 13 years before being released. Then there was the 7 good years of crops, and now we’re in the middle of the famine. So it’s been over 20 years that these brothers have maintained the lie to their dad that Joseph is dead. So these weren’t good guys-and I don’t think they ever imagined they’d see Joseph again. Maybe they thought about him-You know that gypsy caravan we sold him to was headed to Egypt-wonder if Joseph ever made it there or got sold along the way? They may have wondered about him from time to time. But never in their wildest dreams would they have thought he’d be the man in charge in Egypt!
Look at v. 6. And right there-what does that remind you of? What you hope your brothers and sisters do for you-bow down to you! No-it takes us all the way back to where this series started-Joseph’s dreams. Look at Gen 37:6-8. Way back then that dream sounded like utter foolishness. When in the world were they ever going to bow before Joseph-the 11th of 12 brothers? Not a chance they thought. Well-20 years later it’s happening. God fulfills His promises-and does so with great detail because what are the brothers bowing to Joseph for? Grain, sheaves of wheat! Exactly as the dream predicated. v. 7a–I know these 10 guys! Little more grey hair and a little chubbier around the middle than the last time I saw them-but these are my rough and tough, redneck brothers! And here’s Joseph anything but a redneck-decked out in the full style and sophistication of Egypt. Remember how Pharaoh gave him fine linens to wear and gold chains around his neck. Joseph was clean-shaven, very official and probably rather intimidating as the governor of Egypt. There’s not even a chance his brothers would have ever thought that was old Joe-especially as he disguises his voice-v. 7b-8. Who doesn’t dream of this? Your worst enemies bowed at your feet and they don’t even know it? Imagine how big Joseph’s eyes got as they’re bowed before him fumbling for words, acting all scared and nervous. Joseph is speaking roughly with them-and they have no clue it’s him whatsoever. So isn’t this right here the moment Joseph has been waiting for his whole life? We’ve said in previous weeks that he could have certainly wanted to get revenge on the cupbearer who forgot him in prison, or on Potiphar’s wife who falsely accused him, or even on Potiphar for believing his lying wife. But here’s the moment when his terrible brothers show up-completely helpless and totally at his mercy. If vengeance ever just fell into someone’s lap-here it is! The timing couldn’t be more perfect to finally get back at his brothers, give them a piece of his mind-and ruin their lives like they tried to ruin his.
All these memories come flooding back to Joseph-v. 9a. Maybe Joseph had put the dream out of his mind long ago-the memories were too painful, didn’t seem like it would ever happen. But here it is right now unfolding in front of him! Just as exactly as he dreamed. So this is precisely the moment to say-I told you so! For Joseph to look down at these guys with their faces to the ground and say-Now I’ve got you right where I want you. All my life has been leading up to this. Remember those dreams from your younger brother that you scoffed at and ridiculed and hated him for? Well guess what-that’s me-I’m Joseph-and you’re all bowed before me-I told you so! How much of Joseph wanted to do that? How much was he tempted to say that? They’re right here-just like he had told them they would 20 years ago! This is a pitch right down the middle-knock it out of the park! When have your enemies or the people that formerly ridiculed you or rejected you or made your life miserable had their faces bowed before you? Probably never! But if they did-if the people who wronged, didn’t believe you, said you’d never amount to anything; if the people who made fun of you and tried to ruin your reputation were bowed before you and you had the upper hand-what would you say? I told you I’d have the last word, I told you I’d get even, I told you that you’d never get away with this-that your day is coming. Well now here you are-I told you so-and I’m relishing it! That’s probably what most of us would say! Good thing God put a man like Joseph into this situation instead of us! But what do these guys deserve at this point? What do these bad, mean, belligerent brothers deserve? Nothing but punishment, pain and misery! Joseph has every right in the world to say I told you so. It’s as though the scene has perfectly set itself up for him to say that. But he doesn’t. Joseph opens the door of grace instead.
So Pt1:I Told You So: never the road to restoration and healing. It may be the very thing you most want to say. It may be the thing you’ve dreamed of saying to someone. But when that moment finally comes for I told you so-it’s never the road to restoration and healing. If Joseph says that to his brothers the door of grace closes-those guys get what they deserve, Joseph gets his moment of vengeance and then game over. But that’s not what Joseph does-because that’s not what Joseph wants. That’s the incredible point. Joseph doesn’t say I told you so-because Joseph isn’t after vengeance or proving himself right in their eyes-he’s after grace. He’s after restoration and healing in this relationship with his brothers that’s been severed far too long. What about you? Ask yourself what do you want from those relationships that once used to hurt and sting so much? What do want from people who were once close to you-but now because of some issue or conflict or dispute-no longer are? Are you simply just dreaming of the I told you so moment so then you can feel vindicated and victorious? I told you so! Alright-victory for me! I think Joseph would be the first to say that I told you so doesn’t bring victory. I told you so lasts for about 5 minutes-and then it just returns back to the same ruined relationship. Victory is found in grace-victory is found on the road to restoration and healing. That’s what Paul is earnestly telling us in Rom 12:9-10, 14, 17-21. And that’s precisely what Joseph is going to do with his brothers. He’s going to feed them and overcome their evil with his goodness. Back to Pt1.
So look at the road Joseph takes-v. 9b-12. And if you have the NIV it says the unprotected parts of the land. Joseph has entered into an interrogation with his brothers. Look at their response-v. 13. Interesting way to say that-we’re not really sure he’s dead-but he’s not around either. Again the irony that the one who is no more is the very person they’re talking to-and he maintains this statement-v. 14. I can see it-you guys all look like a bunch of sneaky spies hiding something. Of course Joseph knows why they’ve come to Egypt and that they’re not spies trying to discover the unprotected places to steal food. Joseph’s probably thinking-I know these guys-loudest bunch of arguers I’ve ever heard-about as quiet as a herd of buffalo-they couldn’t spy something out to save their life! But what he’s trying to do is probe their hearts, to hear their motives and recognize if there’s been a softening and humility over the years or if these guys are still the same hardened criminals as before. Joseph’s making them squirm a little as he’s putting the fear into them-and that’s a good thing. He’s wanting them to recognize their state of helplessness and dependability in this situation-which is precisely what God wants us to recognize in our lives.
At this juncture, you and I have to picture ourselves in the brothers’ shoes bowed before Joseph. Just as they are financially bankrupt from the famine and in desperate need of food to save them from starvation and death-so we are spiritually bankrupt from our sin and desperately in need of the food that leads to life-meaning eternal life. So as the brothers are bowing in utter dependance before the lord of the land, the one in control of Egypt-Joseph who’s elevated to the right hand of Pharaoh; so we are bowing in utter dependance before the Lord of lords, the one in control of the universe-and that’s Jesus who’s elevated to the right hand of God. Our spiritual situation is perfectly pictured by this. We are these brothers bowed down before the only one who can save us. And what is it the brothers say at this point-what conclusion do they reach?
Jospeh chucks them into the slammer for a few days-into prison to do some thinking and a little soul searching-v. 17-20a. Joseph wants to see if they’ll be men of their word-and do what they say-not abandon the brother left behind in custody, like they abandoned Joseph so long ago. But most importantly Joseph wants to make sure they haven’t treated Benjamin the way they treated him. Remember that Benjamin was brother number 12-the youngest and undoubtedly second favorite son behind Joseph. The rest of these guys are all brothers from another mother-but Benjamin is his one true younger brother. Rachel was their mom and I think Joseph really wants to see him-and have that connection with his long lost family. So how did the brothers respond-what was their conclusion? This is fascinating-v. 21. All of a sudden, out of the blue, they’re talking about Joseph. This happened 20 years ago-and they probably haven’t talked about it much since but kept it hush, hush around dad to protect their secret. But why bring it up now? And with such detail-we saw the distress of his soul, the look on his face, the way he begged us and pleaded. It’s like they’re instantly thrust back into that painful memory they’ve carried for 20 years. But this is the road of restoration and healing that Joseph has put them on. This is their spiritual awakening, God at work in their hearts and in their conscience. And the first step is always an acknowledgment of guilt.
So Pt2:I’m guilty-no one else is to blame: always the beginning of the road to repentance. These brothers aren’t passing the buck, they’re not blaming someone else or making excuses for their actions-we were young back then, what did we know? We were just a bunch of rebellious teenagers. They don’t say that. They’re not pointing to dad’s favoritism of Joseph or blaming the way Joseph wore that coat of many colors that really got under their skin. They are owning up to their mistakes and acknowledging their guilt. And that’s exactly where it needs to begin with you and me. As we said, their helpless arrival before Joseph in order to save their families from starving is no different from our helpless arrival before Jesus in order to save our souls from death. And it doesn’t begin with what we think we deserve, it begins with what we need to confess. Look at 1 John 1:8-9. The way of eternal life, the road to repentance doesn’t begin by claiming you’ve lived a good life and tried your best thereby proving yourself to God. He sees right through that thinking. That argument holds no water. Salvation isn’t found by claiming to have no sin, it’s found by confessing all your sins; by admitting and owning up to them, not blaming anyone else or saying it was outside of your control-but saying I am guilty. I like what it says in-Hughes, 497. I love that phrase-prelude to grace-and it begins by embracing your guilt. Have you done that in your life? Have you truly come before the Lord and acknowledged the guilt of your sins? Have you owned up to them, not trying to blame the people in your life or making excuses because of the situations you’ve faced-but simply confessed them to Him? That’s what 1 John is saying-and that’s what Joseph’s brothers revealed. Look at how the oldest continues-v. 22. And to be fair, Reuben did try to warn them against killing Joseph, although he did agree to throw him in the pit which led to Joseph being sold. So Reuben is not trying to absolve himself from the guilt-but is simply pointing out that there truly is a reckoning for our sins-whether the sins of today or those from our past 20 years ago. Back to Pt2.
And maybe you’ve gone to church a long time, grown up in a godly family-but somehow are still trying to avoid the guilt of your sins. Maybe you’ve tried hard to keep up a good image to your parents-to be the good, religious person they expect of you. Maybe that’s how you relate to others or how you act at church-always trying to look like something you’re not. And maybe that’s how you relate to God the Father. That you’re still in that place of trying to prove yourself to Him and make sure He’s happy with you. That you’re working so hard for His approval even though deep down you know your heart and the things you’ve done. But you don’t really want to go there or admit those things because you don’t want to feel condemned so you’d rather keep up the facade. Even though it’s been exhausting, you’re still trying to maintain the idea that you are good enough and you have earned a spot in heaven by all you done for God. The problem is you know you’re not good enough and the guilt is really hard to silence sometimes. A passage like this isn’t saying to silence your guilt. It’s not saying to hide it or pretend it isn’t there or keep up appearances, it’s saying to embrace it. Admit your guilt, own it, don’t hide from it any longer. The entire reason Jesus has come to this earth is to remove your guilt and forgive you because of His grace. And for that to happen you have to confess, just like these brothers. Here’s what I find so remarkable about this chapter. Did Joseph condemn his brothers after he heard their confession? Once they admitted their guilt, did he all of a sudden shout out-Ha, ha! I knew it, I was just trying to get you guys to admit it all along. I’ve recorded it right here on my phone. I’ve got the evidence-now you’re going to get what you deserve! Not at all. What does it say-v. 23-24a. And now where going to see just how deep grace goes!
Look at how this-v. 24b-25a-just like they came for. That was the whole point of their journey to Egypt. But then look at what Joseph does-v. 25b-28. These brothers are baffled-because they’re at this spot in life where guilt and grace have just collided! This is the first time in 20 years they’ve allowed their guilt for Joseph to surface, and to admit it-and then on the heels of that they’re overwhelmed with undeserved grace. For that’s exactly what this is! Quite honestly they don’t know how to respond-what did it say-their hearts failed them and they trembled. Literally shaking-it’s the same word used for earthquake in 1 Samuel 14. These brothers are shaking and trembling at grace! Here they are on the road back home-having come face to face with the most powerful force in all the universe-God’s saving grace. Think about it-Joseph just heard their admission of guilt. And they said it with great detail-we saw his anguish, the distress of his soul, he begged us-and we did nothing! Their wrongdoing and guilt couldn’t be more clearly stated-and what does Joseph do? He showers them with grace! He didn’t have to do any of this. Simply giving them food and letting them return home was kindness enough-but Joseph fills their bags-every brother’s bag-with money and provisions for the road home-granola bars, beef jerky, an apple, and a few hundred bucks each! This is amazing! Where their wrongdoing is discovered, his kindness is displayed. Where their guilt is revealed, his grace abounds. And that’s precisely the picture of what God does in our lives. Nothing short of this-but instead of supplies for the way home, it’s salvation for our souls. So the big takeaway from this chapter is Pt3:Where our guilt runs deep, God’s grace goes far deeper. It always does, every time. Joseph’s grace may be an anomaly among people. His grace may be unique and nearly unheard of in our world-who does this for a bunch of rotten, no-good brothers? But with God, this is His standard operating procedure. It’s His m.o., His rule of thumb; it’s what He does for you because it’s who He is. Look at John 1:1, 14, 16. That grace being talked about isn’t received from a great brother like Joseph, it’s from our true, eternal brother Jesus-who comes to this earth in order to take on our guilt, to literally absorb our guilt upon Himself as He’s nailed to the cross and dies so that by His grace we are forgiven of all our sins and saved. Talk about a grace to tremble at! Look at Eph 1:7-8. Just like Joseph lavished his grace upon his brothers-so Jesus truly lavishes His grace upon us-His true brothers and sisters. Are you trembling at that grace? Swindoll, 100.
The big question this morning is have you allowed your guilt and His grace to collide? Don’t be afraid to admit your guilt because only then can His grace enter your life and save you. Jesus didn’t come to this earth as our older brother seeing all the mistakes and mess we’ve made of our lives saying-I told you so. There’s no grace in I told you so. He came and saw the mess we’ve made and then reached out His arms on a cross to say-I love you so. And that’s what saves us!