The Providential Hand of God
One of the main things we see throughout the Bible is the providential hand of God. We see God working in and through the circumstances of life to fulfill His good eternal plans of salvation. Providence refers to God’s oversight and involvement in His creation. God has not left humankind alone to fend for themselves but takes and active role in the circumstances of life. God wants humanity to know Him (Acts 17:26-27; John 17:3). God rules in the affairs of men (Psalm 75:6-7). He is aware of and actively a part of the minutest details of humanity (Matthew 10:29-30).
The Bible tells us that God rules over all (Psalm 103:19). God’s purpose and goal for humanity is to preserve and save them from sin (Nehemiah 9:6). He rules in a way that is righteous and brings a righteous outcome in the end (Psalm 145:17). We may not always understand the particulars of God’s providence (Job 11:7-9) but we can be certain that His plan is ultimately good (Psalm 145:27-28; Ephesians 1:5). While God makes allowances for human free will, His will is supreme (Daniel 4:35).
Because of God’s providential involvement in life we should acknowledge the hand of God in every part of life (1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Proverbs 3:5-6). We should live in humble full surrender to God no matter the adversity He chooses to allow in our lives (Job 1:21; Psalm 119:75). We should always remember that God is there and He is in control (Psalm 37:1-40; Psalm 139:10). That is the message that comes through in the life of Joseph and the providential care of God in his life and the lives of those around him.
In Genesis we see the providence of God from the very beginning. God has been working His plans through the lives of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and a host of other people. The last portion of Genesis is particularly revealing about the providential care of God.
A Providential Reuniting
When Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, Jacob said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” 2 And he said, “Indeed I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down to that place and buy for us there, that we may live and not die.”
3 So Joseph’s ten brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, “Lest some calamity befall him.” 5 And the sons of Israel went to buy grain among those who journeyed, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.
6 Now Joseph was governor over the land; and it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the earth. 7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he acted as a stranger to them and spoke roughly to them. Then he said to them, “Where do you come from?”
And they said, “From the land of Canaan to buy food.”
8 So Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. 9 Then Joseph remembered the dreams which he had dreamed about them, and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see the nakedness of the land!”
10 And they said to him, “No, my lord, but your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all one man’s sons; we are honest men; your servants are not spies.”
12 But he said to them, “No, but you have come to see the nakedness of the land.”
13 And they said, “Your servants are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and in fact, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no more.”
14 But Joseph said to them, “It is as I spoke to you, saying, ‘You are spies!’ 15 In this manner you shall be tested: By the life of Pharaoh, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother; and you shall be kept in prison, that your words may be tested to see whether there is any truth in you; or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies!” 17 So he put them all together in prison three days.
18 Then Joseph said to them the third day, “Do this and live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined to your prison house; but you, go and carry grain for the famine of your houses. 20 And bring your youngest brother to me; so your words will be verified, and you shall not die.”
And they did so. 21 Then they said to one another, “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.”
22 And Reuben answered them, saying, “Did I not speak to you, saying, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us.” 23 But they did not know that Joseph understood them, for he spoke to them through an interpreter. 24 And he turned himself away from them and wept. Then he returned to them again, and talked with them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.
25 Then Joseph gave a command to fill their sacks with grain, to restore every man’s money to his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. Thus he did for them. 26 So they loaded their donkeys with the grain and departed from there. 27 But as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey feed at the encampment, he saw his money; and there it was, in the mouth of his sack. 28 So he said to his brothers, “My money has been restored, and there it is, in my sack!” Then their hearts failed them and they were afraid, saying to one another, “What is this that God has done to us?”
29 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. 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.”
37 Then Reuben spoke to his father, saying, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.”
38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is left alone. If any calamity should befall him along the way in which you go, then you would bring down my gray hair with sorrow to the grave.”
In Genesis 42 we see Joseph and his ten older brothers reunited by divine appointment (Benjamin stayed with Jacob). Because of a famine in the land the older brothers of Joseph are sent to Egypt by Jacob to find food (42:1-5). God uses need to direct us in life. The need created by a famine causes Jacob to search for food. Need heightened Jacob’s attentiveness to God’s provision. Need got his and his families’ attention. God uses need to increase our sensitivity to His provision. We may not realize such provision is from Him at the time, but we will come to realize it in the end. God uses need to steer us, to move us in His providential care.
Upon their arrival in Egypt the brothers are brought into contact with Joseph who is in charge of food distribution (42:6). Joseph recognizes his older brothers, but they do not recognize him (42:7-8). Right away Joseph begins to remember God’s revelation to him earlier in life. Joseph remembers his dream regarding them and has them all put in prison (42:9a). His initial response to the memories is to angrily accuse his brothers of being spies (42:9b). His brothers deny his allegations and claim to be “honest men” (42:10-11). What must Joseph have thought when they said this? These were the treacherous brothers who jealously nearly killed him and settled for selling him into slavery. These were hardly “honest” men. Joseph pressed them with his accusation and when he learns that their “youngest brother” was left behind with their father he insists that they be incarcerated until the youngest boy is brought before him (42:12-17). He lets them stew in prison for three days and then tells them, “Do this and live, for I fear God” and then he proceeds to challenge them to prove their honesty by bringing their youngest brother to Joseph (42:18-20). Joseph is treating them much more mercifully than they had treated him years before. That is because he fears God.
The challenge from Joseph causes his brothers to recall how they had treated Joseph. That they quickly recall their treachery is evidence of the guilt that had been haunting them these many years. The guilt of sin does not just go away with time. Unless sin is dealt with its guilt will persist and remain a dark cloud in life. The brothers reasoned their circumstances were the consequence of God’s judgment coming upon them. Hiding sin may prolong consequences but the judgment of God will eventually come about (42:21). You can try to reason and rationalize away your responsibility like Reuben did, but that is little solace and salve to the outbreak of festering sin (42:22). All the while the brothers were unaware that their victim stood over them (42:23). A person can try to bury, hide, or sell away their sinful deed, but it will inevitably resurface in some capacity and have to be owned up to. The response of the brothers when faced with their predicament shows that they had carried the guilt of their sinful deed against Joseph all these years.
The conversation of the brothers took place in the presence of Joseph. It pained him to see the predicament of his brothers. Joseph is not exacting self satisfying revenge here. He was grieved and had to turn away. He wept. Joseph is not merely using his position to bitterly impose retribution. Joseph is the instrument of God’s discipline and deliverance of his family. Because “I fear God,” Joseph lets nine of the brothers leave and keeps Simeon behind; he acts in mercy (42:24). This reveals the heart of Joseph. He is acting with the same mercy and restraint that characterizes the godly.
Joseph is going to test his brothers to reveal the intents of their hearts as well as make a way to see his father and younger brother Benjamin again (42:25-26). Joseph gives the command to fill his brother’s sacks with grain and return their money in the sacks too. As the brothers leave and find their money put back in their sacks they are taken with fear and say, “What is this that God has done to us?” (42:28). The brothers are grappling with the providential discipline of God. At this point it is confusing them. But they realize something mysterious is happening in these circumstances.
The brothers return to Jacob and tell him all that happened to them (42:29-34). Jacob, having felt the loss of Joseph and now Simeon as well, has difficulty accepting the risk of sending Benjamin to Egypt; he feels “All these things are against me” (42:35-36). Isn’t that the way we feel at times? We feel as though everything is against us. But we can learn something from Jacob’s circumstances here. At the exact time that God was working the salvation of him and his family, Jacob felt as though everything was going against him. That should give us perspective, providential perspective. God is always working, no matter how bad things seem. We have the advantage of knowing the final outcome with Jacob. He at this point did not have that advantage. But according to his example, when we feel as though everything is against us, we should take hope and trust in God’s providential care. Everything may seem as though it is against us, but God is indeed working. That is a steadying truth of life. The New Testament word edifies us here in that instead of being anxious over circumstances we ought to declare our dependence upon God in prayer and thank Him ahead of time for His providential care and good outcome (Philippians 4:6-7).
Despite Reuben’s offer for Jacob to “kill my two sons if I do not bring him [Benjamin] back to you” Jacob cannot bear to think of risking the loss of his youngest son (42:37-38). We may resist the providential plan of God but He has a way of moving us the way He wants us to go.
Judah’s Revealing Redemptive Act
Now the famine was severe in the land. 2 And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, “Go back, buy us a little food.”
3 But Judah spoke to him, saying, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. 5 But if you will not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ ”
6 And Israel said, “Why did you deal so wrongfully with me as to tell the man whether you had still another brother?”
7 But they said, “The man asked us pointedly about ourselves and our family, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ And we told him according to these words. Could we possibly have known that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?”
8 Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. 9 I myself will be surety for him; from my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. 10 For if we had not lingered, surely by now we would have returned this second time.”
11 And their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: Take some of the best fruits of the land in your vessels and carry down a present for the man—a little balm and a little honey, spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight. 13 Take your brother also, and arise, go back to the man. 14 And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!”
15 So the men took that present and Benjamin, and they took double money in their hand, and arose and went down to Egypt; and they stood before Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my home, and slaughter an animal and make ready; for these men will dine with me at noon.” 17 Then the man did as Joseph ordered, and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house.
18 Now the men were afraid because they were brought into Joseph’s house; and they said, “It is because of the money, which was returned in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may make a case against us and seize us, to take us as slaves with our donkeys.”
19 When they drew near to the steward of Joseph’s house, they talked with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “O sir, we indeed came down the first time to buy food; 21 but it happened, when we came to the encampment, that we opened our sacks, and there, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight; so we have brought it back in our hand. 22 And we have brought down other money in our hands to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.”
23 But he said, “Peace be with you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.
24 So the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys feed. 25 Then they made the present ready for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they would eat bread there.
26 And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed down before him to the earth. 27 Then he asked them about their well-being, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?”
28 And they answered, “Your servant our father is in good health; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads down and prostrated themselves.
29 Then he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your younger brother of whom you spoke to me?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” 30 Now his heart yearned for his brother; so Joseph made haste and sought somewhere to weep. And he went into his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out; and he restrained himself, and said, “Serve the bread.”
32 So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. 33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another. 34 Then he took servings to them from before him, but Benjamin’s serving was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.
In Genesis 43, the severity of the famine forces Jacob to allow his sons to take Benjamin back to Egypt in order to get food (43:1). Judah assumes the lead in this endeavor (43:2-8). He takes on the role of a redeemer by saying, “I myself will be surety for him; from my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever” (42:9). In this selfless act Judah reveals the redemptive quality that is likely the basis for God choosing his family line to bring Messiah. Judah also demonstrates decisiveness in saying that if they had acted before and followed through on bringing Benjamin to Egypt they would already have returned (42:10). Jacob sends them off with gifts (43:11-13) and a prayer of, “may God Almighty give you mercy before the man” (43:14-15).
Upon coming to Joseph the brothers are invited to a meal in Joseph’s home (43:16-17). The brothers are afraid and think they are about to feel a trap close on them. They reason that they are being brought to Joseph’s house because of the money that had been put back in their sacks (43:18). Their fears are dissipated as they tell Joseph’s servant of their money being in their sacks but that the servant had been instructed to put the money back in their sacks (43:19-25). Notice that the steward of Joseph attributes these workings to “Your God and the God of your father” (43:23). Someone had been speaking to him about the God of the Hebrews and that someone was likely Joseph; more evidence that he was influencing the world rather than being influenced by it. When Joseph arrives his brothers bow before him just as the dream said they would (37:842:6; 43:26; 44:14). Joseph treats his brothers and especially Benjamin warmly (43:26-28). Upon meeting Benjamin Joseph blesses him by saying, “God be gracious to you, my son” (43:29). Joseph certainly is familiar with the grace of God that has sustained him throughout his life. Joseph is overtaken with emotion as he sees his little brother. He has to leave the room but he gets himself together and returns and has his brothers served a meal (43:30-32). Interestingly Joseph has the brothers seated according to their ages (43:33-34). Again the brothers are given a sense of something mysterious happening to them. It is the hand of God at work in their lives.
Judah’s Sacrificial Leadership
And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack. 2 Also put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his grain money.” So he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. 3 As soon as the morning dawned, the men were sent away, they and their donkeys. 4 When they had gone out of the city, and were not yet far off, Joseph said to his steward, “Get up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? 5 Is not this the one from which my lord drinks, and with which he indeed practices divination? You have done evil in so doing.’ ”
6 So he overtook them, and he spoke to them these same words. 7 And they said to him, “Why does my lord say these words? Far be it from us that your servants should do such a thing. 8 Look, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? 9 With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves.”
10 And he said, “Now also let it be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and you shall be blameless.” 11 Then each man speedily let down his sack to the ground, and each opened his sack. 12 So he searched. He began with the oldest and left off with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 Then they tore their clothes, and each man loaded his donkey and returned to the city.
14 So Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, and he was still there; and they fell before him on the ground. 15 And Joseph said to them, “What deed is this you have done? Did you not know that such a man as I can certainly practice divination?”
16 Then Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; here we are, my lord’s slaves, both we and he also with whom the cup was found.”
17 But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so; the man in whose hand the cup was found, he shall be my slave. And as for you, go up in peace to your father.”
18 Then Judah came near to him and said: “O my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s hearing, and do not let your anger burn against your servant; for you are even like Pharaoh. 19 My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ 20 And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, who is young; his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ 21 Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ 22 And we said to my lord, ‘The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ 23 But you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.’
24 “So it was, when we went up to your servant my father, that we told him the words of my lord. 25 And our father said, ‘Go back and buy us a little food.’ 26 But we said, ‘We cannot go down; if our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we may not see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ 27 Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; 28 and the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn to pieces”; and I have not seen him since. 29 But if you take this one also from me, and calamity befalls him, you shall bring down my gray hair with sorrow to the grave.’
30 “Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, 31 it will happen, when he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die. So your servants will bring down the gray hair of your servant our father with sorrow to the grave. 32 For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father forever.’ 33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. 34 For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?”
In chapter 44 Joseph has his brothers sacks filled with food to bring back home (44:1). But he also has his servant’s hide a divining cup in Benjamin’s sack (44:2). After his brothers leave Joseph instructed his steward to go and overtake the brothers find the diving cup and ask them, “Why have you repaid evil for good?” (44:3-5). The brothers get a taste of injustice and being falsely accused when they are overtaken and caught red handed with Joseph’s divining cup. Not only that but after much protestation from the brothers and offering that if the cup is found among any of them that culprit will be enslaved in Egypt, the cup is found in Benjamin’s sack (44:6-12). This causes the brothers great grief and they tore their clothes in agony (44:13). Injustice causes agony and that is what the brothers are learning.
The providential path of God is a productive one. God is efficient in his ways. He does not simply move us from point A to point B and that’s it. No, He is totally efficient in that He uses the journey along the way to edify and build character in the ones He is moving. Along the way of God’s plan He teaches us and produces spiritual growth in us. Sometimes the way he disciplines and teaches us is to have us experience similar pains and hurts that we have caused others. This serves the purpose of teaching us empathy and when we see things from the victim’s perspective it does something in our hearts that restrains us from acting in mean or unjust ways toward others. This is what is happening with Joseph’s brothers.
The brothers are brought before Joseph and confronted (44:14-15). Judah is their spokesman and his admission speaks volumes. He says, “God has found out the iniquity of your servant’s” (44:16). The brothers are learning about vulnerability and helplessness. Judah presents all of them (the brothers) as “my lord’s slaves.” But Joseph would not hear of it, he will only take as a slave the one in whose sack the cup was found, Benjamin (44:17). Then we see Judah humbly step up and take the lead (44:18). He proceeds to attempt to reason with Joseph, who is second in power to Pharaoh; no small act of courage (44:19). Judah recounts what has happened to Joseph adding insight in how losing Benjamin would impact their father Jacob. Judah shares how Benjamin is special to Jacob because he is the last of two sons born from his beloved wife Rachel and to lose the last of the two would be too much for the old man to bear and would kill him (44:20-32). Judah then offers to take the place of Benjamin and serve as a substitute (44:33). This is a redemptive act and shows the character of Judah. He is following through on his promise to his father (cf. 43:9). Judah closes by saying he couldn’t bear to see the impact of such an “evil” on his father (44:34). This is evidence of self sacrifice and faith on the part of Judah. He is trusting in the Lord to sustain him and use him to protect his younger brother and father. God is working in Judah’s heart.
God’s Providential Plan Revealed
Then 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. 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.
9 “Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph: “God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not tarry. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near to me, you and your children, your children’s children, your flocks and your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, lest you and your household, and all that you have, come to poverty; for there are still five years of famine.” ’
12 “And behold, your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my mouth that speaks to you. 13 So you shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that you have seen; and you shall hurry and bring my father down here.”
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.
16 Now the report of it was heard in Pharaoh’s house, saying, “Joseph’s brothers have come.” So it pleased Pharaoh and his servants well. 17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and depart; go to the land of Canaan. 18 Bring your father and your households and come to me; I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you will eat the fat of the land. 19 Now you are commanded—do this: Take carts out of the land of Egypt for your little ones and your wives; bring your father and come. 20 Also do not be concerned about your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’ ”
21 Then the sons of Israel did so; and Joseph gave them carts, according to the command of Pharaoh, and he gave them provisions for the journey. 22 He gave to all of them, to each man, changes of garments; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of garments. 23 And he sent to his father these things: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and food for his father for the journey. 24 So he sent his brothers away, and they departed; and he said to them, “See that you do not become troubled along the way.”
25 Then they went up out of Egypt, and came to the land of Canaan to Jacob their father. 26 And they told him, saying, “Joseph is still alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt.” And Jacob’s heart stood still, because he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him all the words which Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived. 28 Then Israel said, “It is enough. Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
In chapter 45 the work of God to preserve this family is revealed. Joseph, when he could stand it no more, reveals his identity to his brothers (45:1-4). In revealing his identity, Joseph clearly shows he recognizes that it was God who was at work to bring him to Egypt and put him in a position to help preserve his family (45:5, 7, 8, and 9). In saying there remains five years of famine left he is expressing faith in God’s revelation that the famine would last seven years (45:6; 41:25-36).
Joseph tells his brothers that they should return to Jacob and come back with the entire family and live in the land of Goshen (45:10). He tells them it is there that, “I will provide for you” (45:11). Joseph is realizes the part he plays in the providential care of God. Joseph tells them to tell Jacob all that has happened to him and then falls on them in an emotional embrace (45:12-15).
This providential reconciliation by God even touches the heart of pharaoh (45:16-17). Pharaoh promises to give them the “best of the land of Egypt” (45:18). Pharaoh orders that Joseph’s family be provided for in his land (45:16-20). When his sons return and tell Jacob that Joseph is alive, his heart “stood still” for a moment over this too good to be true news (45:21-26). When he hears what has happened to Joseph and saw all the evidence in the carts, he revived and determines to go and see his son Joseph (45:27-28).
Even though circumstances become difficult and at times we may not see or understand the plan of God as he is working it out, the truth that we should always trust in is that GOD IS AT WORK IN OUR LIFE. No matter how difficult things get, I need to trust like Joseph in the faithfulness and work of God in life.
The Providential Care of God
So Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2 Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, “Jacob, Jacob!”
And he said, “Here I am.”
3 So He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. 4 I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.”
5 Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob, their little ones, and their wives, in the carts which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6 So they took their livestock and their goods, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him. 7 His sons and his sons’ sons, his daughters and his sons’ daughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt.
8 Now these were the names of the children of Israel, Jacob and his sons, who went to Egypt: Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn. 9 The sons of Reuben were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. 10 The sons of Simeon were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman. 11 The sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 12 The sons of Judah were Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez, and Zerah (but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan). The sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul. 13 The sons of Issachar were Tola, Puvah, Job, and Shimron. 14 The sons of Zebulun were Sered, Elon, and Jahleel. 15 These were the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Padan Aram, with his daughter Dinah. All the persons, his sons and his daughters, were thirty-three.
16 The sons of Gad were Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi, and Areli. 17 The sons of Asher were Jimnah, Ishuah, Isui, Beriah, and Serah, their sister. And the sons of Beriah were Heber and Malchiel. 18 These were the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah his daughter; and these she bore to Jacob: sixteen persons.
19 The sons of Rachel, Jacob’s wife, were Joseph and Benjamin. 20 And to Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On, bore to him. 21 The sons of Benjamin were Belah, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard. 22 These were the sons of Rachel, who were born to Jacob: fourteen persons in all.
23 The son of Dan was Hushim. 24 The sons of Naphtali were Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem. 25 These were the sons of Bilhah, whom Laban gave to Rachel his daughter, and she bore these to Jacob: seven persons in all.
26 All the persons who went with Jacob to Egypt, who came from his body, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, were sixty-six persons in all. 27 And the sons of Joseph who were born to him in Egypt were two persons. All the persons of the house of Jacob who went to Egypt were seventy.
28 Then he sent Judah before him to Joseph, to point out before him the way to Goshen. And they came to the land of Goshen. 29 So Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; and he presented himself to him, and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while.
30 And Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, because you are still alive.”
31 Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘My brothers and those of my father’s house, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. 32 And the men are shepherds, for their occupation has been to feed livestock; and they have brought their flocks, their herds, and all that they have.’ 33 So it shall be, when Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 that you shall say, ‘Your servants’ occupation has been with livestock from our youth even till now, both we and also our fathers,’ that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.”
Genesis 46 opens with Jacob offering sacrifices to God (46:1). It’s only appropriate to praise the Lord in worship when His mighty plan of salvation is revealed. God calls to Jacob in the time of worship and Jacob answers (46:2). That’s a beautiful part of worship and really defines it. Worship is communicating with God. Too often we limit worship to our singing to Him. Worship also includes God speaking to us. God doesn’t just speak to us in sermons; He speaks to us in worship too (e.g. Acts 13:2). God speaks to Jacob in his time of worship and assures him. God tells Jacob not to fear going to Egypt because God is going to “make you a great nation there” (46:3). God is going to use Egypt as the breeding ground for a great nation. The account of Exodus reveals that there will be hardship in this process. But hardship gives birth to liberation and a nation of God. God also assures Jacob that “I will go with you to Egypt” (46:4a). Jacob isn’t going to be alone but God will be with him. And God promises, “I will surely bring you up again” (46:4b). And if that isn’t enough Joseph will be with Jacob for the rest of his life until, “Joseph will put his hand on your eyes” (46:4c). This is enough for Jacob and he goes with his family to Egypt (46:5-7). A register of all the family of Jacob who travelled to Egypt is then included in the account (46:8-25), “sixty-six persons in all” (46:26). Added to the list are Joseph, his wife and two sons bringing the total to seventy (46:27).
Oh what a tearful and joyful reunion it must have been between Jacob and his long lost son Joseph! When they finally met again Joseph wept on Jacob’s shoulder “a good while” (46:28-29). Seeing Joseph again brought completion and fulfillment to Jacob’s life (46:30). Joseph then instructs his brothers to tell Pharaoh that they are shepherds of “livestock” rather than of sheep because “every shepherd [of sheep] is an abomination to the Egyptians” (46:31-34). Joseph used the Egyptian prejudice against shepherds as a reason to place them in Goshen where they could flourish. This would also serve to keep the people of God culturally and spiritually distinct from the Egyptians. Joseph had been able to do this but evidently didn’t want to risk exposing his family to the temptations of Egypt or possible persecution. This mention of possible revulsion on the part of the Egyptians is a harbinger of things to come. You’ll have to read the book of Exodus to see how God uses this.
The Will of God in an Evil World
Genesis 45-46 are important chapters on the will of God in the Bible. In Joseph’s life we see: treachery against him by his siblings; his slavery; his imprisonment under false accusations; his being forgotten in prison and his eventual rise to power in Egypt. In all of this God has been at work. But what was God’s will when evil was befalling Joseph? How was God’s will involved in Joseph’s life when bad things were happening to him? What is God’s will in regards to evil? To understand God’s will in an evil world we need to see it in the following ways:
1.) THE INTENTIONAL WILL OF GOD –
God always providentially opposes evil and seeks to bring about “good” (Hebrew – TOV). God used the evil circumstances in the life of Joseph to save his entire family (Genesis 45:5-9; 50:20).
- Every good thing comes from God – James 1:16-18
- Our position in life is from God – John 3:27
- Growth and progress of the gospel comes from God – 1 Corinthians 3:7
2.) THE CIRCUMSTANTIAL WILL OF GOD –
If and when men inwardly choose to do evil, God tries to influence them away from evil by getting them to express it in the least evil way. Through Reuben (Genesis 37:21-22) and Judah (Genesis 43:9; 44:33) God minimized evil.
· God desires none to perish – Matthew 18:14
· God is waits patiently for sinners to repent – 2 Peter 3:9
3.) THE ULTIMATE WILL OF GOD –
When evil is overtly expressed, God is able to bring good even from intended evil actions. Though evil befell Joseph, God brought good from it (Genesis 45:5-9).
· All things are possible with God – Matthew 19:26
· God can bring good from any situation – Romans 8:28
· God’s will, will get done! – Job 42:2
4.) THE REVEALED WILL OF GOD –
The Bible states that God reveals His will to: The meek – Psalm 25:9; the wise – Proverbs 23:19; The good – Psalm 112:5; and Those who depend on His strength – Exodus 15:13. God revealed Himself to Jacob seven times (Genesis 28:13; 31:3; 31:11; 32:30; 35:1; 35:9; 46:2).
The Bible describes God’s revealed will as: Thorough – 2 Chronicles 32:22; Intimate and personal – Psalm 32:8 (like a couple communicating by eye contact); Counsel – Psalm 73:24; Safe, skillful, like a Shepherd – Psalm 78:52-53, 72; Continuous, ongoing, step by step – Isaiah 58:11.
God reveals His will to us through: Circumstances – Jeremiah 32:6-8; Acts 16:6-8; In various ways – Hebrews 1:1; Through life illustrations – Psalm 19:1; Matthew 6:25-34; Romans 1:19-20; Through dreams – Genesis 31:11; 37:5-11; Joel 2:28; Acts 2:19; Through visions – Daniel 8:1,17; 10:7; Acts 9:10-17; 10; 16:9-15; Revelation 1; Through an audible voice – Genesis 46:2-4; Exodus 3-4; 1 Samuel 3:1-10; Through angels – Genesis 18; Luke 1-2; Hebrews 13:2; Through people – Genesis 45:8; Acts 11:28; 21:10-11; 1 Corinthians 12,14; Through God’s written word – Psalm 119; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Through Jesus –Genesis 18; 32; Joshua 5:13-15; Ezekiel 40:1-4; Daniel 3:25; 10:4-9; John 1:1-5,14; Hebrews 1:1-3; Through the inner presence of the Holy Spirit –John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Corinthians 2:9-16;6:19-20.
Job who experienced such hardship grew in his faith so much so that at the end of his story he was able to say of God:
“I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” - Job 42:2
When we get to the final chapter of Genesis one of the last things uttered by Joseph are these words on God’s providence:
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” - Genesis 50:20
There is always reason to hope if we understand that God is at work in our lives even if we cannot see it immediately. Because God is involved in our lives, and nothing is impossible with God, there is always hope.