Summary: Aiming at RECONCILIATION
“Redemptive Love” Genesis 42-45 Reading: 45:1-8 Pastor Bob Leroe
God was with Joseph—He was with him in his father Jacob’s house; He was with Joseph in the house of Potiphar; He was with Joseph in the dungeon; and He was with Joseph when he ruled all Egypt. Joseph never forgot that God was with him—in good times and bad. Joseph never forgot that he was part of a divine plan. This is made clear in 50:20, a verse that perfectly sums up Joseph’s faith and his view of life: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Joseph had lived as a slave and prisoner on the bottom rung of society, friendless and powerless, yet he never wore the chains of a slave mentality. He maintained faith in God, never doubting God’s power, love, or plan. We see how God used Joseph to save Egypt and preserve a remnant of His chosen people. Joseph has been called the most Christ-like individual of the Bible; in his life of suffering, victory, and redemptive love he bears the image of Jesus.
The famine Joseph predicted affected the entire Middle East; it forced Jacob to send his sons to Egypt to buy grain. They appear before Joseph, who is now governor of the land, the one in charge of administering the grain. When Joseph sees them, he immediately recognizes them, but they have no idea who they are talking to. He had successfully adopted his new identity and was much older. Many years had passed, and by now they figured the brother they’d sold into slavery was likely dead; he certainly wouldn’t be the vice-regent of Pharaoh! When his brothers arrived, Joseph’s mind must have been flooded with memories!
The brothers bow before Joseph, and he recalls the dreams of his youth (42:9). His brothers had been angry and upset when he told them how, in his dreams, their sheaves of grain had bowed down to his, and how the sun, moon and stars also bowed to him. They were God’s promise to him, hidden in his heart during all the years of suffering, and they kept him from losing hope. Now God was fulfilling the prophecy of those dreams exactly. Joseph realized that his life had a great purpose and that everything that had happened to him was part of God’s sovereign plan. He knew God had sent him to Egypt for a reason, and God’s purpose was becoming clear.
Joseph accuses the brothers of being spies; the Egyptians viewed foreigners with suspicion, regarding them as potential enemies; this gave Joseph leverage to interrogate them about his father and younger brother Benjamin, to prove their innocence. In other words, he questions them to see if they’re whom they claim to be…but his real reason is to learns whether his father Jacob is still alive. Simeon is held as a hostage till they return with Benjamin. They are given grain but the money they paid is secretly returned in their grain sacks. The nine brothers return home and tell Jacob what had happened. Faced with starvation, he reluctantly grants permission for them to return with Benjamin to Egypt. Again they purchase grain, but this time a silver cup is planted in Benjamin’s sack. They are detained and searched; the cup is found, and they’re forced to return to Joseph to try to explain what happened.
We might think that Joseph was giving his brothers a hard time to get revenge for how they had mistreated him. But as we examine the events in chapters 42-44 we can see that he was not harassing them for his own pleasure. Joseph felt compassion on them, wept for them, and was leading them, step-by-step, to repent of their sins. Joseph shows us that real love is redemptive; it is helping those we love come to God and live in a right relationship with God.
God wanted to use Joseph not only to save the lives of his family from starvation, but to redeem them spiritually. God wanted to change them from evil murderers, full of jealousy and hatred, into men of God, patriarchs of God’s chosen people.
Joseph tests his brothers by planting a silver cup in Benjamin’s bag, detaining and searching the brothers, and finding the “stolen” property with Benjamin—now will they casually sacrifice Benjamin as they so easily disposed of Joseph? Benjamin was Joseph’s only sibling who was not a half-brother; they were the sons of Jacob and Rachel; the others had different mothers. Earlier, in chapter 43, Joseph deliberately shows Benjamin generous favoritism; will the brothers respond with envy, as they had with him? Joseph now offers his brothers an easy way out in 44:17. They could return to Jacob and tell him that Benjamin had stolen the cup. Will they show loyalty or save themselves? Remember—what Joseph is doing is not revenge; it is a test to see if his brothers have changed. Everyone in Egypt would have understood if Joseph had sentenced his brothers to prison or even had them executed. Joseph’s test produced in his brothers guilt over their past wickedness, an evil past which was rising against them. Numbers 32:23 warns, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” The memory of what they had done to Joseph was beginning to rub on their consciences.