A Brother's Visit - Genesis 42
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Brother’s Visit – 11.07.2021
Sometimes there are moments in life, when something happens, just one key moment when we look around and think – Oh, that’s why everything happened. A young lady breaks her leg, loses sports scholarship, flunks out of school – but in the hospital she meets her doctor and they get married – yay. A bad thing happens, and then something good happens later and we think – A-ha! That was God’s plan all along. One of my personal heroes is a Pastor named Tim Keller. He’s this absolutely brilliant pastor of a church in New York called Redeemer Presbyterian Church. And it’s funny, he preached on the story of Joseph years ago, but a friend in this congregation shared with me his sermons, and I do want to give credit – a lot of the insights you’re going to hear today and in the next couple of weeks come from Pastor Tim Keller. Anyways, Pastor Tim tells a story about his great, great grandfather. His great-great grandfather was married four times. Throughout his life, he lost three wives – who passed away for various reasons. Now Tim was a descendant of the fourth wife. After losing three wives, the great-great-grandfather remarried and together they had a son who was Tim’s great grandfather. And so when you look at the story of the life, if you find yourself asking the question, “Why did he have to go through such sadness? Why did he have to lose three different beloved wives? And Pastor Tim, telling this story, says, “well – me! I’m the answer. I’m the reason and result that makes all that pain worth it.” Kind of like, the world is so lucky that all those people had to die, because now you get me! Then he pauses to point out that to look at the world like that is a very self-centered way of understanding God’s plan. Obviously God’s plan is so much bigger than that. There isn’t just one good thing that explains every single one bad thing – but rather there are thousands and millions of pieces working and coming together in ways we will never understand to fulfill God’s design in the world. We’ll never figure it out, so we really shouldn’t waste time trying to connect the dots when we can’t even see most of the picture.
Today we are returning to the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. We’re starting in Genesis 42, and we’re going to be reading a chapter a week for the next month to witness the big finale to Joseph’s life in Egypt. This is the moment where all the pieces start to make sense, where we see how all the puzzle pieces come together to make a picture of God’s design. Now, before we jump back in, we need to remember what has gone on so far. So a quick recap: it all started with this guy Jacob, you might remember. He has this super dysfunctional family – he wanted to marry Rachel, but the Father tricks him and he ends up accidentally marrying the older sister Leah, and then he marries Rachel and the two women compete for his love and by the end of it he’s got 12 sons from four different women. Do you remember that craziness? And his favorite is Joseph. He loves Joseph more than all the others, which sort of ruins Joseph’s life. Joseph turns out to be this spoiled snot-nosed brat tattle tale little brother, and so understandably the older brothers kind of hate him. Then one day Joseph has a dream, and in this dream there’s these bunches of grain, sheaves they’re called. And there’s twelve of them, and then all the brother’s grain bows down to Joseph’s sheaf. Then he has another dream, where there are twelve stars and the sun and moon, and all the brother’s stars bow down to his star. And those dreams were the last straw. The brothers were furious – what you think you’re going to rule over us? Who do you think you are? Even dad was like, “Joseph, knock it off.” So the big brothers do what all reasonable big brothers might do – they sell Joseph into slavery. I mean, the original plan was to kill him, but slavery makes more money – so, Joseph gets carted off to Egypt. And that’s all the stuff we covered in the last sermon series – he ends up in Potiphar’s house, gets falsely accused and then ends up in prison, then the Pharaoh has a dream and Joseph interprets it – so Joseph gets out of prison and is now Governor of Egypt. Like second in command, Vice President of Egypt Joseph. At the end of the last sermon series, Joseph was preparing Egypt for famine, and he was extremely important and successful.
[read v.1-2]. So we open up in chapter 42, and we see that the family dynamics have not really gotten any better. Jacob says, “go on – git! Go get us food, so we that we can live and not die.” Which, I gotta say, seems like a pretty solid idea. So the brother’s go down to Egypt in order to purchase some grain, because there’s this massive famine throughout the land – and Egypt is the only country that was prepared for it. But Jacob keeps the youngest son, Benjamin, at home. He already lost Joseph, he’s not having anything happen to the baby of the family. [read v.6-9]. The brother come before Joseph, they don’t recognize him. And of course they don’t. When they sold him, he was this privileged, spoiled teenage upstart – and now he has grown into a hard-working, well respected successful man. Despite their best efforts, the time in Egypt has been very GOOD for Joseph’s development. I mean, imagine what Joseph would have turned out like if the brother’s had NOT sold him into slavery. He would have stayed the spoiled brat.
So anyways, the brothers come before Joseph and they bow down before him. And what I want you to see is that verse 6 is the fulfillment of the dream that Joseph had five chapters ago. Practically a lifetime ago, he had this dream – and now it has come true. Now think for a second, think about everything Joseph has gone through. Like, if I was going to make a list of worst case scenarios, right – the worst possible things that could ever happen to a person – I think my nightmare list could write Joseph’s story. Worst thing that could ever happen – sold into slavery, yeah that’s probably on the list. Next thing on the list – accused of hitting on the boss’s wife – yep that’s on my checklist of worst possible things. Wind up falsely accused, and in prison – yeah. Joseph’s biography is basically just a list answering the question, “well, what’s the worst that could happen?” But here’s the important part – God’s dream for Joseph still came true. The worst things that could happen DID happen, and God’s dream for Joseph still came true.
Do you understand what this means? Okay, forget Joseph for a second – let’s apply this to our lives. God has a dream for your life. God has a plan and a purpose for you. And in your life, if the worst possible thing happened to you. If your worst nightmare happened at this very moment – it cannot stop the dream that God has for your life. See a lot of people, they buy into this belief that if God loves you – then only good things will happen to you. But the REAL truth that the bible teaches us is that no matter WHAT happens to you – all the good and all the bad – none of it can stop God’s dream for your life. The moment we see Joseph’s dream fulfilled, it should flood us with relief, because it shows us that our God is a God who keeps his promises. Our God is a God who follows through, and even if the road is bumpier than we want – at the end of the day God’s dream for your life will come true.
Now, I could almost just stop there. Verse six, and then again in verse nine, I mean, this is the big thing, the fulfillment of the dream! But… the story is not quite over. Because now that they are all bowing down in front of him, Joseph’s figuring – I gotta mess with them a little bit, right? Now, I should mention, this little prank that Joseph is about to play on his brothers – this is a multi-part prank. So we’re going to introduce it today, but it won’t resolve for a couple of weeks. It’s actually set up beautifully, where Joseph lays it out just right so that in two chapters he gives his brothers a chance to redeem themselves – but we’re not there yet. Today we’re just going to lay out the set up.
The brothers come before Joseph, and they all bow down, and the first thing Joseph does is accuse them of being spies and throws them all in jail for three days. And their defense, they say, “No! We’re not spies! We’re all brothers, sons of the same guy, and there’s one more of us back at home with Dad, and there was another brother but he’s dead.” They’re like babbling, sharing all kinds of personal details trying to make themselves relatable, to show their innocence. So Joseph brings them out of prison, and lays out a test. Verse 18 it says [read v.18-20]. One of you stays here, the rest go home, and come back with the littlest brother. Prove that he’s real, and then I will trust you. Joseph needs them to bring Benjamin to Egypt, and we’ll see why later. So he takes Simeon, ties him up, and then sends the rest of the brothers home. He gives them big bags of grain, and then he instructs the workers, put their money BACK into the bags of grain. And this is where we are going to leave it for this week. [read v.27-28]. They are on their way home, and they open their bags of grain, and then they realize – the money is still in there! That super mean governor who doesn’t like us is going to think we stole the money – what is God DOING to us?!? The rest of the chapter is basically just them getting home and telling Jacob, telling Dad, the whole story about why Simeon was left behind and how they need to take Benjamin with them when they go back. We don’t realize it yet – but the trap has been set, and they are about to fall right in. They open the bags of grain, and they find all their money. Then they freak out and ask – what is this that God has done to us? So, let’s ask that question for a second. What IS God doing to them? Tim Keller, that Pastor I mentioned earlier, he connects this passage to the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 12, verse 5-6 says [read it], and then in verse 11 [read it]. The brothers are asking, “What is God doing to us?” Well, I’ll tell you what God is doing – he’s doing the same thing he did to Joseph in the last sermon series – he is disciplining them. Now I gotta be careful with that word discipline. Normally, when we hear the word discipline we think punishment. But the Greek word in Hebrews, the word they use is PAIDEIA, which is where we get the word “pediatrics.” And that idea of PAIDEIA actually means “the oversight of the entire environment of the child so that the child receives everything they need to grow.” As Tim Keller says, “PAIDEIA is nurture, but it’s nurture with teeth in it.”
You see, when it comes to nurturing a child, to raising a kid – you must bring consequences into a child’s life. If they lie or steal or hurt someone – there must be consequences – but there is a difference between nurturing discipline and retribution. You see, retribution is paying someone back. You frustrate me, so I’m going to pay you back and make you cry. And in child-rearing, sometimes parents, teachers, whoever, sometimes we fall back into “payback” instead of nurturing. It’s almost impossible to parent a child without sometimes slipping into a payback mentality – I mean, I’ve never done it, because I’m like the perfect Father to my boys, but I’ve heard rumors of other parents, you know – not as good as me. Well, okay – little confession, I may have slipped from nurturing discipline into retribution maybe once, or twice, a day, for years. But PAIDEIA is not justice, PAIDEIA is love. You bring into a child’s life just enough unpleasantness and not one iota more to help the child change. To transform their life. The help them escape becoming a liar, to help them escape becoming a thief. Yes consequences, but only just enough to help them lovingly grow into something good. It is nurturing discipline.
Alright, let’s bring this back to Joseph. Throughout his story – remember how he started out, the spoiled brat, God was transforming Joseph through the nurturing discipline of all the stuff that happened to him, and NOW – it’s the big brothers turn. They also need transformation. They also need nurturing discipline that will transform their hearts. We all need God’s PAIDEIA. You see, I think the easy reading of Joseph’s prank is that he is being vengeful, like it’s retribution, it’s payback – but what I want to show you is that Joseph is ACTUALLY being nurturing. He is bringing about transformation in his brother’s life, and we will see that as we go through the series – but for today I just want to set that up: Joseph is messing with his brothers, but it has a purpose in their lives, because God has a dream for their lives and nothing can mess that up.
To good news today is that God has a dream for your future. God has a dream for your life. And even though bad things might happen, there may be mountains and valleys between now and the fulfillment of that dream – nothing can keep that dream from happening. Do you understand? God has a dream for your life, and you can’t mess that up. You can’t mess up God’s plan for your life. Now, don’t get me wrong – you can ruin your life, but you can’t ruin God’s plan. Your decisions matter, because of course they do, your decisions matter – but you can’t ruin God’s plan. Even the worst thing that could ever happen to you cannot stop God’s purpose for your life. All the bad decisions, and all the evil things that happen in your life – the greatest assaults on God’s dream for your life can only every FULFILL that dream. Look at Joseph’s life – the greatest assaults on Joseph’s life, the worst things that ever happened in his life are the things that ended up FULFILLING God’s plan for Joseph. And the same is true for you. God has a plan for your life. God has a dream and a purpose for you, and the greatest assaults on your life cannot overcome God’s dream for you. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how far down you go, you are never to far for God to redeem it. You are never too far gone for God to bring you home. That should give you some confidence.
So to close out today, my application, the challenge for you – is simply to cling to this truth – remember that our God has a particular talent for redemption. God has a dream for your life, and he will see that dream fulfilled. I want you to live into that redemption. Live into God’s dream for your life. Remember the worst assaults on that dream are probably the catalyst God will use to bring about the FULFILLMENT of the dream. When the worst moment of your life is happening to you – remember God’s talent for redemption. God’s PAIDEIA nurturing disciplining love that is always working in our lives. God’s talent for using brokenness, something that was designed for evil, and God will use it for good. I don’t know how you can make it through the trials of life without that reassurance.
Think about it this way – a university student goes through some exams, fails out miserably, drops out of school and their future is destroyed – They may have to head down the bar and drown their sorrows in a pint in order to cope with the terrible news of life. But you don’t have to. Because we know and trust in the God who makes the dreams come true. We trust in God’s redeeming power and it keeps us from despair. It holds us together when the entire world is falling apart. God held Joseph together through every bump in his story, and he will hold you together too. And so I’ll leave you with this, with every fiber of your being, may you hold on to the reassurance that God has a purpose and plan for your life. God has a dream for you. and may you rest in the reminder that even the greatest assaults on that dream, the worst thing that could possibly happen to you, cannot overcome God’s purposes for your life and for the world. Amen.