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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


June 2021

Genesis 45:3,4: Intimacy

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!”NIV

“Come close to me” (4).

“Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8).

I often think of the comment attributed to J.O.Sanders, that we are at this moment as close to God as we really choose to be.

The Lord wants intimacy with us. ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever’ (Westminster Shorter Catechism – underlining mine).

Naturally speaking, we would have reason to be “terrified” of Him (like Joseph’s brothers with Joseph) – but for His mercy. That mercy makes all the difference. (You can imagine, though, the brothers being so scared when this powerful Egyptian potentate began speaking to them in their own language, and they discovered he was their brother. Would he now take his revenge on them? It seemed there was much too fear. He was so mighty, and they must have felt so weak and vulnerable before him).

Tom Hale, in his ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’ (p.195) helpfully explains the background to this moment:

‘When Judah, as spokesman for his brothers, had confessed the sin against Joseph (Genesis 44:16) and had demonstrated true repentance by offering to take Benjamin’s punishment (Genesis 44:33), the way was opened for full reconciliation to take place. We can tell from Joseph’s conduct that he had already forgiven his brothers, but full restoration of their relationship had to wait until the brothers confessed their sin and agreed to make amends for it.
The same sequence should hold true for all of the wrongs we endure in life. We ourselves must forgive those who wrong us – immediately and unconditionally (Matthew 6:14-15). However, that alone does not restore the relationship; for full restoration to occur, the one who did the wrong must confess it and do the work of repentance – which is to make things right.
In this chapter we see the joy that forgiveness and reconciliation can bring. How often we miss that joy by refusing to forgive and refusing to confess.’

It is important, then, to see the wonderful invitation in James 4:8 in its wider context (James 4:4-10). In the next sentences James goes on to say:

“Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:8b-10).

The invitation to draw near to God, with its wonderful promise attached, is set in the context of a call for a thorough-going repentance. The Joseph story illustrates the point.

Genesis 45:1-3: Revelation

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.”NIV

“I am Joseph!” (3a).

‘Thus, when Christ would convince Paul, he said, I am Jesus; and when he would comfort his disciples, he said, It is I, be not afraid. When Christ manifests himself to his people, he encourages them to draw near to him with a true heart.’ Matthew Henry.

We have noted previously that there are parallels between the Joseph story and the life of Jesus. Here is, I believe, another point of convergence. No-one can know who Jesus truly is except by the gift of ‘revelation’. It is a miracle whenever anyone’s eyes are opened to see Jesus and to comprehend who He is.

In Romans 9-11, Paul writes about God’s purpose for Israel. He seems to envisage a day (which many believe to be still to come) when hosts of Jews will turn to Jesus. For example, he writes about a day when “…all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). F.B.Meyer suggests that we may well have a picture of that day here in Genesis 45:3 – the day when Jesus reveals Himself to His Jewish brethren.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, there are so many things I do not know, but this I do know: once I was blind, but now I see. I can’t take any credit for it. It’s a miracle of grace. Thank you for opening my eyes to the truth.

Genesis 44:1-45:2: ‘Behind a frowning Providence…’

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.” (45:1,2).

‘Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.’ (From ‘God moves in a mysterious way’ by William Cowper).

‘When the cup was found upon Benjamin, they would have a pretext for leaving him to be a slave. But we cannot judge what men are now, by what they have been formerly; nor what they will do, by what they have done.’ Matthew Henry.

This is the final test for the brothers. How will they treat Benjamin (who was Joseph’s full brother if you remember? They shared the same mother, and Benjamin was evidently now his father’s darling). Judah shows a truly repentant heart. He can only cast himself on Joseph’s mercy. In it all, he shows a caring, compassionate heart towards his aged father and his younger brother, and a willingness to take responsibility – and suffer for it. Although the brothers may not be guilty of theft, they recognise the righteousness of God, and they face the fact that their previous sins are catching up with them and finding them out.

Once Joseph saw this true penitence at work, he revealed his deepest heart to them. The dam burst, and how those pent up emotions overflowed.

Genesis 43:26-28: Hold on to God’s word

“26 When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground. 27 He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?”28 They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him.

”and they bowed down before him to the ground…And they bowed low to pay him honour” (26,28).

These words take us back to Joseph’s original dreams (37:5-11). Already they had started to come to pass on the brothers’ first visit to Egypt (42:6). Now they continue to be fulfilled.

I simply want to encourage you today that if God has spoken a word into your life, it will come about in His way and time. Hold on to it. Don’t be surprised if there is a long gestation period – if it should take a while for what has been conceived in your spirit to come to birth.

‘Don’t doubt in the dark what God showed you in the daylight.’

Genesis 43:24-34: Sovereign Lord

24 The steward took the men into Joseph’s house, gave them water to wash their feet and provided fodder for their donkeys. 25 They prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon, because they had heard that they were to eat there.26 When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground. 27 He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?”28 They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him.29 As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” 30 Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.31 After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, “Serve the food.”32 They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians. 33 The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. 34 When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.”NIV

When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him” (34).

“A man can receive only what is given him from heaven” (John 3:27).

Everyone may come to Christ’s table and “freely” partake of the banquet He generously spreads before us. We are equal in the experience of salvation. But in another sense, we are not equal. Some are given greater resources, greater influence, greater opportunities than others. This is up to our heavenly ‘Joseph’. If, in His sovereignty, He chooses to give “five times” more to one of His ‘brothers’, He has His reasons, and we can trust Him. Peter is not to concern himself with the purposes of Jesus for John. Rather, Peter is to get on with walking his own appointed path of discipleship (see John 21:22).

When John the Baptist’s disciples pointed out to him that people were leaving his ‘church’ in large numbers to join Jesus’ ‘church’; when they told him of Jesus’ success, John gave the wonderfully insightful reply I’ve quoted above. He recognised that we have only what we have been given. It is not for us to envy anyone else, or to feel an injustice has been done because we have been entrusted with just the one ‘talent’. Whatever it is, we are to employ it in the power of Christ for the glory of Christ.

‘Observe the great respect Joseph’s brethren paid to him. Thus were Joseph’s dreams more and more fulfilled. Joseph showed great kindness to them. He treated them nobly; but see here the early distance between Jews and gentiles. In a day of famine, it is enough to be fed; but they were feasted. Their cares and fears were now over, and they ate their bread with joy, reckoning they were upon good terms with the lord of the land. If God accept our works, our present, we have reason to be cheerful. Joseph showed special regard for Benjamin, that he might try whether his brethren would envy him. It must be our rule, to be content with what we have, and not to grieve at what others have. Thus Jesus shows those whom he loves, more and more of their need. He makes them see that he is their only refuge from destruction. He overcomes their unwillingness, and brings them to himself. Then, as he sees good, he gives them some taste of his love, and welcomes them to the provisions of his house, as an earnest of what he further intends for them.’ Matthew Henry.

PRAYER: Lord God, help me not to spend my precious life feeling discontented over what I don’t have, but enable me to be grateful for all you have given me, and use it for your glory.

Genesis 43:15-23: Such a welcome

15 So the men took the gifts and double the amount of silver, and Benjamin also. They hurried down to Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare a meal; they are to eat with me at noon.”17 The man did as Joseph told him and took the men to Joseph’s house. 18 Now the men were frightened when they were taken to his house. They thought, “We were brought here because of the silver that was put back into our sacks the first time. He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys.”19 So they went up to Joseph’s steward and spoke to him at the entrance to the house. 20 “We beg your pardon, our lord,” they said, “we came down here the first time to buy food. 21 But at the place where we stopped for the night we opened our sacks and each of us found his silver—the exact weight—in the mouth of his sack. So we have brought it back with us.22 We have also brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in our sacks.”23 “It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.”NIV

Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare dinner; they are to eat with me at noon” (16b).

‘Oh the welcome I have found there.’ So says an old hymn, about the Christian’s acceptance before God through Jesus.

Mark Twain is quoted as saying: ‘I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.’ These words have also been attributed to Winston Churchill. Well, whoever spoke them, they contain wisdom.

The brothers headed back to Egypt, no doubt fearing the worst, but oh the welcome they found there!

There is an acrostic of F.E.A.R:


Sometimes, when unbelievably wonderful things happen, we find we are still afraid (17-22). All we read here is true to life. There is something so pitiable in the brothers desperate attempts to clear themselves (19-22). Doesn’t your heart go out to them? They couldn’t enjoy the good thing happening to them.

‘Joseph’s steward had orders from his master to take them to his house. Even this frightened them. Those that are guilty make the worst of every thing.’ Matthew Henry.

The final verse in our reading takes us back to the theme I wrote about just the other day: the miraculous mystery of divine economics. When we give as God in His Word shows us to give, He receives our “silver’, but He also gives us “treasure” in our sacks. Of course, the motive for generous Christian giving should never be in order to get. But the testimony of vast numbers of believers is that you just can’t out-give God.

PRAYER: Lord, you truly are no man’s debtor. How I thank you for your rich generosity to me.

Genesis 43:11-14: Faith versus fatalism

11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. 14 And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”NIV

As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved” (14b).

The above comment may reflect submission to God’s will, but it sounds very much like fatalism to me. However, it’s not quite as straightforward as that. Like all of us, Jacob was a mixture. The flesh and the Spirit see-sawed fiercely inside his heart.

A number of things come to mind as I read this:

  • Although they were out of “grain” (2), they clearly could lay their hands on other bits of produce (11). Apparently the custom was, generally-speaking, that if you were going to approach a ruler, you took a gift with you. However, seeing Joseph as a ‘type’ of Christ, I think about the human inclination to want to gain acceptance with God by good deeds, charitable acts, church attendance, and the like. It’s all unnecessary, and it won’t work. He can’t be ‘bought’ that way;
  • Mention of “God Almighty” (14) takes us back to chapter 17, and the great promises God made to this family: promises Jacob was now carrying. Faith seems to soar at this point, as Abraham prays to the covenant-keeping God;
  • But then, it would appear, it almost immediately plummets into what sounds like fatalism. As I listen to Jacob cry, “If I am bereaved, I am bereaved”, I hear echoes of Esther’s words from much later years: “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” How different was her attitude. It was not so much fatalism as sanctified courage, and with it a willingness to pay the ultimate price, if necessary.

I suppose we are all Jacob-like in that we are a mixture. We can be full of prayerful faith one minute, and then in the next moment be drowning in unbelief. It’s enough to make you want to cry out with Paul:

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24, 25a).

Paul knew the reality of the struggle; but He also revelled in the power of the Saviour.

So can we.

Genesis 43:8-10: Stepping up

Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. 10 As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.”NIV

“…you can hold me personally responsible…” (19).

I appreciate the humour in the Bible. In fact, Jilly and I were talking about this just the other day. She mentioned it to me. There are passages in the Bible that are laugh out loud funny. Others produce, perhaps, a wry smile. Verse 10 has that effect on me. Judah’s comment is so human. It is typical of the sort of thing that get said between family members. You can sense Judah’s frustration behind it. We saw recently how Jacob’s attitude was ‘suicidal.’ If he didn’t permit the brothers to return to Egypt they would all die anyway.

‘Unwilling to face reality, Jacob was living in a private dream world and making others suffer.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: Old Testament Commentary, p.127.

Judah’s leadership, in this story, reminds me of all those people who have been, and who continue to be, willing to ‘step up’ in church life. (It also shows people can change. See 37:26,27). No church can ever be a ‘one-man-band.’ At least, it shouldn’t be.Churches are dependent on many people who are willing to say, ‘You can count on me. I’ll be there; I’m willing to carry responsibility.’

If that’s you…Thank you so much!

Genesis 43:1-7: The blame game

“43 Now the famine was still severe in the land. 2 So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little more food.”
3 But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you will send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you. 5 But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’”6 Israel asked, “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?”7 They replied, “The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family. ‘Is your father still living?’ he asked us. ‘Do you have another brother?’ We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?” NIV

“Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?” (6).

So Jacob continued in his ‘me-oriented’ frame of mind. He didn’t show any compassion for his sons’ ordeal in Egypt, or much concern for what they would possibly have to face again.

I am struck by the thought how readily we point the finger at others. It’s so much easier to play the blame game than to look honestly in the mirror. True enough, his sons were not innocent. But neither was he. What about his many sins and flaws; his own contribution to raising this dysfunctional family? I would venture to suggest that, in his parenting, Jacob had sown some of the bad seeds which were now producing a bitter harvest.

May God give us the grace to first deal with the ‘planks’ in our own eyes…(see Matthew 7:1-5)

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