How do you respond to betrayal? Do you play that video tape over and over in your mind, allowing it to burn into your brain, turning to anger, then bitterness? Or do you surrender it to God? Do you view it through the sovereignty of God or simply through your feelings?
And what about wrong roads, have you ever asked yourself, how did I get here? This isn’t where I wanted my life to end up. Or have you ever gotten so focused on straining out gnats in your life (or someone else’s) that you swallowed a camel?
Genesis 45 & 46
Understanding the Sovereignty of God
A great famine has brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to buy grain. He recognized them immediately, but they have no idea who he is. Remember he was only a youth when they sold him to slave traders. Now he looks like any other Egyptian official.
Joseph has been testing them, perhaps to see if they’ve changed, but he can stand it no longer:
¹Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Make everyone go out from me!” So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it.
3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence (45.1-3).
What a reunion for Joseph and Benjamin! But I can’t imagine the shock the other ten brothers must have experienced.
14 Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. 15 Moreover he kissed all his brothers and wept over them, and after that his brothers talked with him (45.14-15).
The most amazing part of this story is what John MacArthur calls “a masterpiece of recognition of and submission to the sovereignty of God” (MacArthur Daily Bible).
4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt (45.4-8).
Think about it. Fifteen years had passed since that day when his brothers betrayed him. There were ten of them—older and stronger. They had thrown him into a pit. Imagine the terror of overhearing them arguing about whether or not to kill him and what they would tell their father. Later we learned that he pleaded with them, but they wouldn’t hear it (Gen. 45.21). The text says:
“And they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming” (Gen. 37.25).
They sat down to have lunch while they debated his fate!
Then there was the long journey to Egypt. Did he hope they might change their minds and come after him? But no rescue. When he arrived in Egypt, was he put on an auction block?
At some point, Joseph must have made a decision to make the most of his circumstances and the Scripture says, “The Lord was with him” (Gen. 39.2). He served his master Potiphar well, rising to the job of chief steward, and was loyal even in the face of temptation. Then he was falsely accused and thrown into prison. Even there he was faithful and ended up being given a position of responsibility.
Even so, imagine the nights spent lying awake and wondering why? Why would his brothers do such a thing? Why would God allow it? When did he surrender it to God? We don’t know, but without a surrender he could not have responded as he did.
What do you do when someone has sinned against you? Do you play that video tape over and over in your mind, allowing it to burn into your brain, turning to anger, then bitterness? Or do you surrender it to God?
Now imagine that moment when Joseph told his stunned brothers, “… do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life” (45.5).
They had probably spent years thinking about what happened, too, years of guilt, possibly regret, as they saw their father’s grief. And when something bad happened, wondering if it was payment for what they had done:
“… We are truly guilty concerning our brother … therefore this distress has come upon us” (Gen. 45.21).
What they had done most likely had affected them greatly. And now, they would have to go home, and not only tell their father the good news, but the rest of the story.
Think about what the conversation might have been like on the way home:
“What do you think Dad’s going to do when he finds out?”
“It’s your fault!”
“No, it’s yours!”
“I told you not to do it.”
“What if it’s a trap and once we get back he’ll arrest us and have us thrown into prison or killed?”
“Dad’s going to disown us!”
Maybe in some ways there was relief.
We really don’t know the details of that conversation, but we’ll see in the coming years that the brothers will continue to struggle to believe Joseph had really forgiven them for such a betrayal. It must have seemed too good to be true.
Isn’t that our story, too? Have you ever thought about the fact that God was willing to forgive us after all the ways we had sinned against Him. Maybe we didn’t plot His death, but we acted like He didn’t exist. We didn’t sell Him into slavery, but we sold ourselves into the slavery of immorality, selfishness, pride, addictions, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness and more.
And even after we come to faith, we betray Him over and over. James calls it spiritual adultery (Jas. 4.4).
Like Joseph’s brothers, our forgiveness is too good to be true!
Today’s Other Readings:
In Our Wretchedness
We were like those talked about here:
“… the tongue that speaks proud things, who have said, ‘With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?’”
But He didn’t just ignore our pride and rebellion or even just forgive it, He paid for it. He redeemed us, bought us back from slavery. Truly too good to be true!
There is a qualifier though. We must come to the place where we see our desperate need, as the believers of another generation used to say—our wretchedness. We must agree with God that we are sinners: adulterers, liars, thieves, blasphemers, murderers, and betrayers. Then we must ask for His forgiveness and surrender our lives to His Lordship.
Ephesians 2.8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
It is the gift of God. As free people, we should want to serve the King who loved us, died for us, and bought us back. We were created to imitate Him (Eph. 5.1) and to do good works (Eph. 2.10), not out of obligation, but out of our love and gratitude.
Don’t Start Down the Wrong Road
“Do not enter the path of the wicked … for they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence” (vv. 14, 17).
This is a warning to not even start down that road. Sin is sometimes wrapped in an attractive package, but it has a hook in it (Jas. 1.14). It can end up taking us farther than we ever thought we could go, keeping us there longer than we thought we would stay, and cost us more than we ever thought we would pay.
Here we see Jesus having another one of His verbal exchanges with the scribes and Pharisees, calling them hypocrites, people who say one thing and do another. They claimed to follow the letter of the law, but Jesus said, they missed the whole point. In another place He said, “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matt. 23.24).
The Scribes and Pharisees with all their legalism and religious traditions had missed the essensials:
… that simple obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15.22).
… that the greatest command is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind and that you should love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22.37-29).
… that He is the way—the only Way (Jn. 14.6).
… that it’s about the heart (Matt. 15.8, 18-19).
… that no amount of good works will make you right with God (Eph. 2.8-9).
… that communion can’t save you, getting baptized can’t save you, joining a church can’t save you, even praying a prayer in and of itself can’t save you.
As Jesus said to one of the Pharisees who came to him privately, “… you must be born again” (Jn. 3.7). If you’re not sure that you are, God wants you to be sure.
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 Jn. 5.13).
Is there anything you’re trusting in besides Christ alone?
If you died tonight, do you know you would be in heaven tomorrow?
If not, please leave me a message on the “contact me” page.
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