Search

Home thoughts from abroad.wordpress.com

Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Genesis 45: 25-28: He’s alive!

So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 26 They told him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”NIV

I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive.”

We read in Acts 1:3a about Jesus:

“After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.”

Here is another of those points in the Joseph story where we see a likeness to the Jesus story. How will people come to believe that Jesus is alive? Well, this is what struck me as I reflected on the passage early on Monday morning:

• The church must give its witness (26). We have to ‘tell’ them Jesus is “still alive”;
• We should encourage them to get back to the primary source (27a). We want them to hear Jesus for themselves; to listen to His words in the four gospels;
• There is also a place for pointing to the evidence (27b). There is no absolute proof. If there was we wouldn’t need faith. But there is such convincing evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, that many who were adamant they didn’t believe, were won over and came to faith in spite of their earlier prejudices. Frank Morrison is one such person. He wrote the classic, ‘Who moved the stone?’ He entitled the first chapter, ‘the book that refused to be written.’ He had intended to explain that the resurrection accounts were human inventions – fairy-tale endings to the matchless story of Jesus. But when he began to sift the evidence, his mind was changed, and he was honest enough to admit it. He is just one among many who could tell a similar story. In recent years, Lee Strobel has written many books on Christian apologetics. He said: “I owe Morrison a great debt of gratitude. Who Moved the Stone? was an important early link in a long chain of evidence that God used to bring me into his kingdom. Morison’s stirring intellectual exploration of the historical record proved to be an excellent starting point for my spiritual investigation.”

Every Christian can affirm that Jesus is alive, and we will “go and see” Him after we die. This is our glorious hope. We see Him now by faith, but one day we will see Him face to face.

‘Behold Jesus manifesting himself as a Brother and a Friend to those who once were his despisers, his enemies. He assures them of his love and the riches of his grace. He commands them to lay aside envy, anger, malice, and strife, and to live in peace with each other. He teaches them to give up the world for him and his fulness. He supplies all that is needful to bring them home to himself, that where he is they may be also. And though, when he at last sends for his people, they may for a time feel some doubts and fears, yet the thought of seeing his glory and of being with him, will enable them to say, It is enough, I am willing to die; and I go to see, and to be with the Beloved of my soul.’ Matthew Henry.

Genesis 45:24: No quarrelling

24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, “Don’t quarrel on the way!”NIV

“Don’t quarrel on the way!”

This seems to be a knowing comment from Joseph. He was well aware of what his brothers were like (or, what they used to be like). Perhaps he was afraid that on the way home they might descend into recriminations, and start blaming one another for what had happened. No doubt his admonition would have quite an influence on them. They were now very much in awe of this man!

Of course people differ and will have differences of opinion. Life would be dull if we were all the same. We need to learn to respect these differences and be able to listen to one another. We could learn so much – even from people with whom we disagree – if we only had the courtesy to give them an ear. Sadly, in the church, we often dig in behind entrenched views, and become rude to others who see things differently. Frankly, it’s a terrible witness, and the world is often scandalised by our behaviour. Meanwhile, we hide in our ‘silos’, and from the apparent safety of our ‘echo chambers’ we lob grenades at one another.

But it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. May God help us in our weaknesses.Our unity, and our witness to a watching world, are at stake.

Genesis 45: 9-23: Proximity and provision

Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute. “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. 13 Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. 15 And he kissedall his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.16 When the news reached Pharaoh’s palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, Pharaoh and all his officials were pleased.17 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and return to the land of Canaan, 18 and bring your father and your families back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.’19 “You are also directed to tell them, ‘Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come. 20 Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.’”21 So the sons of Israel did this. Joseph gave them carts, as Pharaoh had commanded, and he also gave them provisions for their journey. 22 To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels[b] of silver and five sets of clothes. 23 And this is what he sent to his father: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and other provisions for his journey.

“You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me…I will provide for you there…” (10,11).

Almost thirty years ago, as I was on the cusp of leaving the church I was serving in Leeds, to throw myself into leading a church plant in Boston Spa full time, I was preaching through the life of Elijah, and I remember these words seeming to ‘light up’:

“Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there” (3,4).

“…to feed you there.”

It was F.B.Meyer who helped me to see that God will provide wherever He guides. If He says , ‘Go there’, He will provide for you there. God will never send you where His grace cannot keep you, and where His provision cannot reach you.

As in the Joseph story, God’s provision can be surprising, and it is abundant. He does far more than we can ask or imagine. For both Elijah and Joseph’s family, this provision came in the midst of “famine”. However unpromising our current circumstances may appear, we serve the God of super-abundance.

Throughout this chapter we see Joseph’s desire for his family to be close to him (4,9,10). His brothers felt his love for them, and were freed up to respond to him (15). As I intimated yesterday, in the story of each of our lives, the Lord wants us to draw near to Him and He’ll draw near to us (James 4:8a).

I have just finished reading the biography of Eugene Peterson, and I discovered that Eugene repeatedly said he wanted to be a ‘saint’ more than anything else. Of course, I’m sure he knew that, Biblically speaking, all believers are ‘saints’. But I think he was saying something else. He wanted to live prayerfully – to have an unhurried life of communion with God and attentiveness to God.

When we draw near to God, He draws near to us, and we have more than all we need. In proximity to Him there is also provision.

Genesis 45: 4-9: A greater vision, a larger perspective

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! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay.NIV

“…God sent me ahead of you” (5b).

I note in the first place that Joseph did not try to sweep their wrong-doing under the carpet (4). He was honest with them. Authentic reconciliation can never take place while we make light of the injuries inflicted or the crimes committed.

But, he showed that he did not hold it against them. He demonstrated, quite remarkably, that he possessed a greater vision and a larger perspective. We have noted Joseph’s God-consciousness before. In today’s passage he refers to “God” no less than four times (5,7,8,9). He saw that, in the short term, he was “sent” to Egypt to save human life. This included their’s. But in the longer term, it was to “preserve…a remnant” (7). This refers to a “remnant” of Abraham’s descendants (Jacob’s family) who during their time in Egypt would grow into a great nation (Exodus 1:6-7). We know now, of course, that through one of those descendants, Jesus Christ, what happened to Joseph would turn out to be for the good of the whole world.

‘Here then is the deep significance of the story of Joseph and his brothers: God had a purpose in sending Joseph to Egypt, and He overruled human actions – both good and evil – to accomplish that purpose.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.195.

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.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: