Accompanying sermon by Bob Deffinbaugh: The Fears of Jacob and the Tears of Joseph
What a difference in faith between several of the different characters in our passage today.
Jacob displays a complete lack of faith, not to mention bad leadership skills. First, he tried to delay taking any type of action until the situation had reached a crisis peak that could no longer be ignored. Then he tried to play it down, telling his sons to just go buy a little food, as though that would somehow sway Joseph into forgetting his command to bring back Benjamin. When Judah refuted this plea by reminding his father of what the man had demanded, Jacob tried to blame it on them, saying it was there fault for telling the Egyptian personal details about their lives. And then, when they explained that they had only given him the information due to very direct questioning, Jacob basically tells them that they should have done what he would have, and lied about it! Finally, Judah convinces Jacob that they really have no other choice, and Jacob finally, reluctantly, agrees to let Benjamin go to Egypt. Not Jacob's finest hour.
So, he sends them on their way with double the money for the grain and gifts in hand, though he does so with a fatalistic attitude, not a faithful one.
It turns out that all their fears were unfounded. Joseph's part in this whole drama is not vengeful.
Deffinbaugh: We might be inclined to view Joseph as engineering this plot in order to vent some of his hostilities toward his brothers. Was this not a cruel and inhuman test? The answer is a resounding “No!” as evidenced by the genuine tears of love and compassion he shed, unknown to his brothers, in chapter 43. Why did Moses inform us of the emotional feelings of Joseph (42:23-24, 43:30) if they were not known to his brothers? Simply because he intended for us to understand Joseph’s motivation for his actions. Every test and every hardship which Joseph imposed upon his brothers was an act of genuine love.
An important thing to note is that Joseph didn't allow his emotions to cloud his decision making. Emotions are God-given, but we need to filter our emotions through truth found in His Word. We need to act out of love - biblical love, agape love. And sometimes this means acting contrary to our emotions.
We also see a lesson in the gospel in our passage:
Joseph’s brothers provide us with an excellent illustration of salvation. In their current spiritual state they faced Joseph with the greatest fear. They perceived their only “salvation” to be in their “works” of returning the money they found in their sacks and in the pistachio nuts and other presents they brought from Canaan. The first was refused by the steward, and the second was ignored by Joseph. It was not their works that endeared these brothers to Joseph; it was their relationship to him. That is what they did not yet realize.
In the same way today sinful men dread the thought of standing before a righteous and holy God. The future must be faced with great fear. Frantically men and women seek to gain God’s favor and acceptance by their “pistachio nuts” of good works. Such things as trying to live by the Golden Rule or the Sermon on the Mount, joining the church, and being baptized, are unacceptable to God as a basis for salvation. What saves a man or a woman is a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.
This passage also reminds us that....
the only reason the saints persevere is because God perseveres to bring about the accomplishment of what He has promised. Humanly speaking, if Jacob had gotten his way (by keeping Benjamin home with him, where it was “safe”), the nation would never have gone to Egypt where it was spared from physical famine and spiritual disaster (e.g., Genesis 38). Jacob was in no way furthering God’s purposes; he was fighting them. God saved the nation in spite of him. How encouraging it is to know that our ultimate destiny is in His hands, not ours.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Genesis 44