Summary: Three different reactions to adversity are portrayed in this text.
“When Life is the Pits”
A Study of the Life of Joseph
Sermon # 7
“Dealing With A Doubting Heart”
Gen 42:29-38 - 43:1-14
Last week we saw how the hand of God was drawing the brothers of Joseph to Him. God used the famine to wake up the sons of Jacob. He used their imprisonment to help the brothers understand the nature of their own sinfulness and to bring them to the point of repentance for their past. But God is still not finished with them. He has gotten their attention. He has made them come to grips with their sin.. but those far they have not sought or received forgiveness.
The brothers are brought before Joseph, spend time in jail and head home with their grain but with without their brother Simeon. They have been give strict instructions not to return without Benjamin. On their way home they are surprised and frightened to find their money in the sacks of grain and they assume that “God is doing something TO them” (42:28). In their time of need God has worked it out that they not only got the grain they needed… they got it for free. Instead of thanking God for his goodness they accuse Him of being out to get them.
I. THE RESPONSE OF FEAR (42:29-38)
“Then they went to Jacob their father in the land of Canaan and told him all that had happened to them, saying: (30) “The man who is lord of the land spoke roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country. (31) But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. (32) We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no more, and the youngest is with our father this day in the land of Canaan.’ (33) Then the man, the lord of the country, said to us, ‘By this I will know that you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers here with me, take food for the famine of your households, and be gone. (34) And bring your youngest brother to me; so I shall know that you are not spies, but that you are honest men. I will grant your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’” (35) Then it happened as they emptied their sacks, that surprisingly each man’s bundle of money was in his sack; and when they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid.” Jacob hears the story and immediately digs in his heels! He concludes that God has struck him with another tragedy. I want you to note with me the three different reactions to adversity portrayed in these chapters. First, there is Joseph who sees his suffering as coming from the hand of a loving heavenly who has his best interest at heart; “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (50:20). Secondly, there is the response of Joseph’s brothers who saw what was happening to them as punishment at the hands of an angry God (42:21-22, 28). And finally there is their father Jacob, who sees it as the fickle hand of fate or the stupidity of his own sons, that was making his life miserable (v. 36). “And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.”
Who among us has not felt like Jacob, “Everything is against me!” How could Jacob say this had he forgotten God. Here was Jacob’s prime opportunity to turn everyone’s attention to the Lord. But it seems that Jacob still had trouble walking by faith, even though he had known the Lord for well over 100 years. Jacob wrestled constantly with a negative outlook on life. As head of the family he should have been saying “Boys, things may look bad know but we have to trust in God’s promises. Lets get on our knees and pray for the safety of Benjamin as you may your return trip and for Simeon in Pharaoh’s prison. There is a reason for the money being back in your sacks. There is a reason the God wants you to return to Egypt. We don’t have the answers yet but we can trust our God.” Instead Jacob reacted out of fear and said, “Forget it, Benjamin is not going and that is final!” Had Jacob forgotten that he had once wrestled with God and he limped for the remainder of his life?
It is relatively easy for us to read this story and know how it will end and say, “If it were me I wouldn’t have done that. I would have trusted God.” But would you really? Why didn’t you trust Him when you faced difficulties the last time?