Introduction: We again marvel at the graciousness of Joseph in reassuring his brothers and his father to come down to Egypt where they will be saved from famine. Almost the first words out of his mouth when he reveals himself to his brothers are of reassurance, and that they should not be angry with themselves for selling him into slavery (Gen. 45:5). Joseph then puts his love for his brothers into action. With Pharaoh’s approval, Joseph sends carts, clothing, silver, donkeys, grain, bread and all the provisions that will be needed for the journey – see Genesis 45:21-23. May the Lord Jesus likewise remind us of His Gracious Provision for all our needs in our study notes this week. Wherever Jesus calls us to wander, we may be sure that many ‘ministering servants’ (identified as angels in Hebrews 1:14) travel with us to meet our every need.
Monday: read Genesis 45:12-16 and Hebrews 5:7. The splendor of Joseph the Egyptian Prince (Gen. 45:13) was impressive enough that Joseph wanted his brothers to tell his father Jacob all about it. But surely by itself such honor and exaltation could offer no assurance to these guilty brothers that Egypt would become their home and refuge. No, of far more reassurance for them is the heart of Joseph, filled with forgiving compassion and expressing itself through tears of joy (Gen. 45:14-15). As we see Joseph moved with love for his brethren and his father and urging them to come under his protective care in Egypt, may we be moved by all the Lord Jesus has done for us, resolving to follow Him wherever He may lead!
Meditate and Pray: As you see the tears of Joseph for his brethren, never forget that Jesus Christ shed even greater and more effective tears for you to be His. It was those tears, and the commitment to save us which they represented, which made Christ’s active and passive suffering in our place acceptable to God. As Hebrews 5:7 puts it, “He was heard…” by His Father in His reverent weeping, crying and praying for us – with even more pleasure and approval from God than Pharaoh showed Joseph in Genesis 45:16!
Tuesday: read Genesis 45:15 and Hebrews 5:8-9. As we behold Joseph tenderly embracing all his brothers, we must never overlook the means God used to make Joseph so full of sweetness towards his long-estranged brethren. After all, it is no small miracle to behold how God preserved the tender mercies of Joseph’s inward life through many cruel years of slavery. We could easily find ourselves embittered if it were up to us to maintain affection for our brothers when they wronged us and even caused our en-slavement! Whether it was his brothers’ cruelty, jealousy or sale of him into slavery, Joseph had plenty of reasons never to want to see them again. What is the source therefore of his overflowing love for them?
The answer is to see the productive use God makes of suffering in our lives as well as Joseph’s. According to Hebrews 5:8-9, it was through suffering that Jesus learned how to effectively exercise His office as our Savior, becoming “the source of eternal salvation.” In like manner, though on a far less glorious scale, it was through the chains of slavery and prison that God softened Joseph’s heart to be the provider and ‘savior’ for his brothers.
Meditate and Pray: As we approach the birth of our suffering Savior Jesus, let us reflect on the words of the Christian philosopher, Blaise Pascal: “Jesus was in a garden, not of delight as the first Adam, where he lost himself and the whole human race, but in one of agony, where He saved Himself and the whole human race,” and let us thank Jesus right now that it is through His wounds and tears that we are healed and find access to our Heavenly Father.
Wednesday: read Genesis 45:15-24. Perhaps the most human aspect of this reunion between Joseph and his brethren is that his brothers now felt sufficiently at home with their princely brother that they are unafraid to carry on simple, loving conversation with him in Gen. 45:15. To be sure, there were glorious provisions laid out both by Pharaoh and Joseph in Gen. 45:16-23 to help them in their move down to Egypt. But it was the brotherly affection of Joseph which truly won their hearts over, even when, from his knowledge of his brothers’ sinful weakness, Joseph must admonish them not to “quarrel” on the way in Gen. 45:24! How well Joseph knew his brethren and how well does Jesus know our proneness to grumbling, blame-shifting and angry rebellion!
Meditate and Pray: It takes quite a brother to know his brothers so well – even their tendency towards anger and contention – and yet to still claim them as his family and to enrich them with the untold wealth of Egypt! How much more amazing is the love of Christ for us: choosing, adopting, justifying us when He knows full well how easily we can fall back into sins of weak character and rebellion! Let us confess our proneness to wander and yet our thankfulness to Jesus for His patience with us in hymn # 457 by Robert Robinson:
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Thursday: read Genesis 45:25-27 and Psalm 103:13-14. Do we appreciate how weak we would be standing in the shoes of the saints who faced the overwhelming miracles of the Bible? We can overlook Scripture’s testimony to how weak and feeble even believers felt before God at such times. But Jacob shows us in Gen. 45:26 how if left to ourselves we would actually respond to the miraculous news from Egypt of Joseph’s life and reign: “Jacob was stunned; he did not believe…” The word, “stunned,” literally means “to become cold and unresponsive,” or “feeble and therefore unable to be warmed with joy.” It is the word used by David to describe his heart condition as he confesses his sin in Psalm 38:8: “I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.”
Do we at times find ourselves unable to respond to God’s decisive actions in our lives? We may be floating along as Jacob did all those years… holding Benjamin to his breast… living in denial of the wickedness of his remaining older sons… content to simply survive in Canaan… with no thoughts of reunion with Joseph or the resumption of God’s plan for his life. Then God renews His mighty work in Jacob’s life.
Despite Jacob’s conclusion in Gen. 42:36 that, “Everything is against me!”; Despite his spirit fainting; Despite his refusal to believe the message from Joseph!; Despite the fact that what God is doing in his life “leaves him cold”, – God nevertheless opens his eyes to see the wagons from Egypt and his ears to hear what Joseph had said (Gen. 45:27).
Meditate and Pray: Let us thank God that He knows our frames and “remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). Let us praise Him that He sends “The Comforter,” the “Holy Spirit,” to help us believe when our own hearts simply cannot find the strength to hold on any more. Jacob was past the point of hoping to see Joseph. But the Lord his God and ours is the One who can do “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20)! He revives Jacob’s heart, giving him the strength to journey in faith to Egypt. Hallelujah!
Friday: read Genesis 45:28-46:4. Jacob is now convinced that the Lord’s path for him leads into the previously forbidden land of Egypt. Remember that Egypt’s worldliness is famous throughout the Bible, causing God repeatedly to warn His own from going down there – compare God’s warning to Isaac about this land in Genesis 26:2-6. But now God’s counsel changes. The lesson? God does not always answer our prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” by outright deliverance. He is not always willing that our feet steer clear of valleys of trial and danger. Sometimes we do escape trial scot-free and the flames don’t touch us, but sometimes we must walk through temptation, learning that God is with us in the fiery furnace as well. Sure enough, God confirms His presence with Jacob in the temptations of Egypt by appearing to him once more in Genesis 46:2-4: “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt…”
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His Son Jesus Christ’s willingness to travel with us through the pollutions and temptations of this world. Jesus shows His willingness to go every step with us through temptation by going down to Egypt Himself as a tiny baby in Matthew 2:15. He was born in our nature and “tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Thank Him for His compassion for us in our temptations with the words of hymn # 250 by John Ellerton:
Throned upon the awful tree,
Lamb of God, Your grief I see.
Darkness veils Your anguished face;
None its lines of woe can trace.
None can tell what pangs unknown
Hold You silent and alone.
Hark, that cry that peals aloud
Upward through the whelming cloud!
You, the Father’s only Son,
You, His own anointed One,
You are asking – can it be? –
“Why have You forsaken Me?”
Lord, should fear and anguish roll,
Darkly o’er my sinful soul,
You, who once were thus bereft
That Your own might ne’er be left,
Teach me by that bitter cry
In the gloom to know You nigh.