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O Lord, Your law is perfect; use it now to revive our souls. Your testimony is sure; use it now to make wise the simple. Your precepts are right; use them now to rejoice the heart. Your commandment is pure; use it to enlighten the eyes. Your rules, O Lord, are true and righteous altogether. Given us ears to hear and may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
I encourage you to turn in your Bibles to Genesis chapter 45. You’ll see in the bulletin that we are covering chapters 45, 46, and most of 47. We’re just going to read from Genesis 45:1-24 and then we’re going to work our way backwards from chapter 47 and 46, summarizing those, explaining what’s going on, and then landing back on chapter 45. Just to remind you, or if you’re visiting with us, just so you can know where we are, we’ve been in this book, the first book of the Bible for a long time. Lord willing we’ll be finishing it next Sunday.
But we have been here for a number of weeks in this story about Joseph. Joseph has gone from the pit to Potiphar’s house. His jealous brothers were going to kill him then they threw him into a pit, sold him into slavery. He ended up in the influential official Potiphar’s house and before he was betrayed by Potiphar’s wife. So from the pit to Potiphar’s house and then from prison to the palace.
He goes to prison, wrongly, but Pharaoh sees his worth and elevates him and now Joseph has been in charge of the famine relief, seven years of plenty, seven years of famine. In the midst of this Joseph’s long-lost brothers from Canaan have gone down in the midst of the famine to find food and there’s been a series of tests back and forth. They don’t yet know that it’s Joseph, their brother. Joseph knows that it’s them. He has tested his brothers with their integrity, he has tested them with their penchant for jealousy, and he has tested them in their guilt and they have passed the test.
Now he is ready to reveal himself. Genesis 45.
“Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.”
“So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 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. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.”
“When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: Take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’” The sons of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. To each and all of them he gave a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.””
There are three movements in this long section. I’ve just read to you the first one, but there are three movements in this long section from the start of chapter 45 through verse 27 of chapter 47. The movements are from reconciliation, that’s here, chapter 45:1-24, from reconciliation to reunion, that begins at verse 25 through the end of chapter 46, verse 34, chapter 46, and then reconciliation, reunion, and wouldn’t you know there’s another “R” word, relocation. Relocation, chapter 47:1-27.
So these three distinct movements, reconciliation, reunion, relocation. We’re going to work our way backward.
Jacob and his family relocate from Canaan to Egypt, which is precipitated by the reunion between Jacob and Joseph, which is made possible by the reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers. So let’s work backward.
Turn to chapter 47. We don’t have time to read these other two chapters, but just note here what happens in this relocation. You can see if you’re reading from the ESV there’s a heading at the beginning of the chapter, “Jacob’s Family Settles in Goshen.” Not that Amish country in Indiana, if you’re from the Midwest like I am, but this is a different Goshen, outside of the capital in Egypt, not too far from Pharaoh but outside of that general district, in the lower Nile, which is actually north in the rich delta region up near the Mediterranean Sea. They’re going to settle in Goshen.
Joseph had already settled his family in this land when we come to chapter 47. Look at verse 1, Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, “My father and my brothers with their flocks and herds and all that they possess have come from the land of Canaan. They are now in the land of Goshen.”
Now they already did it. Now Pharaoh had said in the section we read in chapter 45 that you shall have the best of the land, and Joseph went ahead and settled them in Goshen, so it’s a good thing that Pharaoh agrees that this was a good idea because they’re already there.
Verse 6: The land of Egypt is before you. Settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land. Let them settle in the land of Goshen.
Well, that’s good because they already did.
Joseph brings in his father to meet Pharaoh, then Joseph settles everyone in their new home. Look at verse 11: Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their dependents.
From beginning to end, since Joseph has encountered his long-lost family, he has been ever the magnificent and magnanimous host, always providing for them, even when he was testing them, providing for them in abundance, much more richly than they deserved. So here they are settled in the land of Goshen. Their needs cared for.
And then the second half of chapter 47, you see the heading above verse 13, “Joseph and the Famine.” What we have here is a recounting of Joseph’s agricultural policy as the famine has to endure to five more years. You’ll note that the people are so desperate that they gladly sell all that they have to joseph, essentially to the state administration, in exchange for food. What good is it to have animals or possession of land if they don’t have food?
So look at verse 20: So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s. As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land.
The people have essentially entered into a form of serfdom, which was common in the Ancient Near East, a kind of tenant farming or share-cropping. Now here they do it willingly so that they no longer technically own the land, but they work for it, they are able to enjoy some of the proceeds from it. Most of the proceeds, we read that one-fifth, 20%, goes as a kind of taxation to Pharaoh, four-fifths they get to keep, but technically they’re servants of Pharaoh, the land belongs to Pharaoh.
Everyone except for the priests. The priests were given an allotment, theocracy as a state religion as was common in most parts of the world until, say, the last 300 years. So they’re given an allotment, so they’re not in the same destitute position that they must sell their land. They retain possession of their land.
Now why all of this information? We just summarized briefly why half of chapter 47 about Ancient Near Eastern agricultural policy. Couldn’t we have just skipped that and moved on to the blessings? Well, the real point of this whole chapter, this relocation, is to show how the Israelites in their relocation from Canaan to Egypt are supremely blessed. Remember, that’s one of the big themes throughout the book of Genesis, that God’s people are blessed, that He promises to Abram blessing, and note all the ways here, even as they leave the Promised Land, that they are supremely blessed.
They’re blessed, most obviously, in being preserved and protected. They’re given food in the midst of famine. Not only that, they actually have a possession in the land of Goshen. Did you notice that? Almost no one else in all of Egypt owns any land except for God’s people. And surely there is a connection here. Who still owns land in Egypt? Only the priests of Egypt have land, which is prefiguring that these 70 Israelites who have come down to Goshen are in themselves, in fact, a kingdom of priests, as we will find out later in the book of Exodus. The only people left in Egypt who can own their own land are the Egyptian priests, and this rag-tag group of 70 persons from Canaan who are we know a kingdom of priests. Because of course Moses wrote this book when the people were on the cusp of reentering the Promised Land, had already received the word from the Lord that they were a royal nation, a kingdom of priests, and so surely as some of the children even were hearing this story, they might have nudged mom or dad and said, “The priests, that’s us. We became a kingdom of priests.”
They are supremely blessed. They now have a position of blessing even greater than the native Egyptians.
And just as God had promised to Abraham, not only are they blessed, but through them the nations are blessed.
Look at chapter 47, verse 7: Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.
This is exactly what the Lord had promised to Abraham all those many years ago, “I will bless you and the nations will be blessed through you.” So here we have Abraham’s grandson literally blessing the nations.
Then we see at the end of this section. They are enjoying not only the Abrahamic blessings, but the blessings of Eden. Look at verse 27: “Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and,” see if you recognize this language, “were fruitful and multiplied greatly.”
Ah, that was the creation mandate from the very beginning, for these image-bearers in Genesis chapter 1. They were to be fruitful and to multiply and so here they are again, few in number though they are compared with the great dynasty of Egypt, yet they have a priestly possession of the land, they are a blessing to the nations. Without Joseph all of Egypt would be starving, without his dream that God had given him, and now they are in that position to see the restoration not only of the Abrahamic blessing but of the Edenic blessing.
This family had been through a great deal of heartache, sin, disappointment, pain, and they could have dwelt on all of that. Even as the Israelites recounting these stories written down by Moses all those years later, wandering in the wilderness, they might have been tempted to fixate on their problems and fixate on their pain, and God doesn’t dismiss that. But He wants them to notice here the blessing.
While they might be tempted to dwell on all that was wrong, “Well, we’ve left Canaan, there’s a famine, we have to start all over in a foreign land, look at everything that’s going wrong,” yet God wants them to see all that they had. Blessing even in the midst of sorrow.
Now I said last week that this is graduation season and you all know that, and all sorts of you people warned me, “You just wait until you get a graduate and you have to send them off to college.” Well, yes, it’s penetrating even my deep, Dutch, stoic reserves. I don’t like it one bit and he hasn’t even left yet. It is harder than I thought and many, many of you parents, grandparents, have gone through the same ordeal. In fact, as I was feeling very sad about the end of high school for my oldest son and all of these things, I texted my mother and I said I’m sorry we all moved away from home. Except for my youngest sister, the youngest siblings are always, they always think things through. I was hoping for some words of encouragement from my mother. She just said, “Yeah. It stinks.” Well, I’m sorry.
There are lots of reasons to think about what’s lost, what’s gone, what’s in the past, what you can’t get back, and yet there are even more reasons to be grateful. Now many of you experienced sadnesses much, much more heartrending than the normal growing up and sending off of children, but even in the midst of those, there are blessings that God means for you to see. It may not always feel like the blessings are outweighing the difficulties in the moment, but if you have your eyes open, if you have your ears tuned, even in the midst of sadness there are many, many blessings: Life, food, shelter, memories, God’s grace and promises for the future.
So here as they relocate in the midst of all the pain this family has endured, yet God wants them to see you are supremely blessed.
Relocation. Prior to that, here’s the other movement, the second one, reunion. You look back at chapter 45, the end, and then chapter 46. This is a chapter of a section of high drama and emotion. After more than 20 years, father and son are reunited. At first, Jacob can’t even believe what he hears.
Verse 26 of chapter 45. It’s all too good to be true, but when the brothers recount the story, show all they got from Egypt, Jacob believes, and you see at the end of chapter 45, verse 28, Israel, another name for Jacob, said, “It is enough; Joseph, my son, is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
And in chapter 46, Jacob receives another dream. Often when Jacob has been afraid in the book of Genesis, when Jacob needed a nudge, when Jacob needed reassurance, when Jacob was on the cusp of maybe doing the wrong thing, God appeared to him in a vision, and so He does here again.
Verse 2, chapter 46: “God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. ””
He needed that word of reassurance. Remember, they were supposed to be in Canaan. That was the Promised Land. Abraham probably shouldn’t have gone to Egypt in chapter 12 the last time there was a famine, or one of the many times there was a famine. Isaac also when there was a famine made his way down to Egypt to a stop there in the land of Abimelech in Gerar.
But this time God says, “No, no, no. You’re doing the right thing. This is of My doing. Go down there. I will make you into a great nation and I won’t forget you. Do not be afraid.”
Jacob sets out again by way of Beersheba, verse 5. He’s an old man now. He must be carried in a wagon for the journey. And the end of this chapter tells of the emotional reunion.
Turn the page to verse 29: “Then Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father in Goshen. He presented himself to him and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while.” Then verse 30 of chapter 46: “Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive.””
If the relocation in chapter 47 is about the big theme of blessing, then reunion in chapter 46 is about the big theme of promise, that God is doing all that He had promised to do.
If you see, just in turning in the page, most of chapter 46 is comprised of another genealogical list, starting at verse 8: “Now these are the names of the descendants of Israel.” Another list, another section of names, but the key is the conclusion. If you look at verse 27, the last sentence: “All the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy.”
Seventy. Okay, seventy. Seven times ten, it’s not that the Bible has codes, but numbers are symbolic of something, just like in our culture 13 is perceived to be unlucky. Well, they have certain numbers. Seven being the say of the week, the day on which God rested. Seven times ten, seventy, is a number of completion. Yes, you’re a small people among a great dynasty, but this is exactly where I want you. You may be small, you may be fledgling, but you are a complete nation as I want you to be at this point in your history.
And, if you’ve been with us through the long series through Genesis, perhaps you can remember the other time where we had seventy connected to a nation, or actually two nations. Way back in Genesis chapter 10. Remember Genesis 11 is the tower of Babel where all the nations come apart, but chapter 10 is the so-called table of nations and there you count them up, there’s seventy. It’s not a coincidence because seventy is this number of totality, of fullness, of perfection, of completion. It’s a stylized list there in Genesis chapter 10.
The point between Genesis 10 and 11 is that even though these nations are rebellious and scattered in Genesis 11, they are yet under the lordship of the one God in Genesis chapter 10 and therefore in Genesis 12, with Abraham, God has a plan to save all of these nations. He counts the nations in chapter 10, they’re scattered in chapter 11, and then He promises in chapter 12 to Abraham, “Ah, but through you all the nations of the earth will be blessed. I haven’t forgotten about the nations.”
So surely it’s not a coincidence. Seventy nations in Genesis 10, seventy persons in this little nation of Israel in chapter 46. Because this people of Israel will be the means by which these 70 nations will find their redeemer. This little people will be the connection point so that all the peoples of the earth will be blessed.
God even works out His plan and His promise through Egypt’s prejudices. Now we skipped over it, but Egypt we’ve seen earlier, has a kind of class prejudice. They have a kind of ethnocentric prejudice, as lots of people in history have been. People tend to be prejudiced towards the out group, towards people who aren’t like them. It takes the sovereign work of God and the Gospel to change that in the human heart. So they naturally don’t like Hebrews because they’re Egyptians. Not only that, but they don’t like those who work in the flock, they have a kind of class elitism.
So Joseph, in working out the Lord’s plan, ensures that this works towards their favor, that Joseph is going to make sure that they acknowledge before Pharaoh. Look at verse 34 of chapter 46. Pharaoh’s going to say, ““‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.””
Joseph is very smart. He knows, he’s been in Egypt a long time, he knows they have this class kind of prejudice against shepherds, against keeps of the livestock. Oh, you know, whatever that might be in our culture. They’re sort of lesser people. And Joseph says be sure to mention not only that that’s your profession, but this has been your father’s profession. This is who you are, all the way down: “We work with smelly animals. You’re right, Pharaoh, we don’t smell so good. You’re not going to want us, you’re going to want us to put a little bit of distance from you.” Sure enough, Pharaoh says, “Okay, well, we better put them in Goshen.”
It’s not only the best of the land, but it allows them to maintain something of their own identity, retain something of their unique status, and a place for them to flourish, enjoying the benefits of the land, without being compromised by it.
And if you know your biblical history, it will be years later when a Pharaoh comes to throne who does not remember Joseph, that he turns around and says, “Wow! All these years later, these Israelites out in Goshen have been multiplying like crazy and they’re making us all a little nervous because they’re not just a little family there, they’re a whole other nation.” And so they will become slaves.
So even in this reunion, God is showing how He is true to His promise.
And then we end where we began. Although it comes first in the narrative, this movement of reconciliation is where we start, because humanly speaking, without reconciliation there would have been no reunion, there would have been no relocation. So we start there and now we end there.
Let me just say in passing, and you’ll see this played out in just a moment, but have you considered what bottleneck may be in your life because you have not made an effort at reconciliation?
Reconciliation, reunion, relocation. The promise, the blessing, all of that turns on this hinge of reconciliation. If this doesn’t happen, they don’t have the happy reunion with Jacob and Joseph. If that doesn’t happen, they don’t get all resettled in Goshen and enjoy the fat of the land here. And might it be some bottleneck of blessing in your life because you have not sought reconciliation?
Last week’s sermon was about how do we change, and the point in the text was that we change by owning our mistakes, and not just our mistakes, but by owning our win.
Well, when people change, will you change in your attitude toward them?
See, last week was, “Do you want to change? You gotta own your sin.” Well, that’s hard. This is also hard. Because, okay, we listened, some of us listened to last week’s sermon for some other people, that’s right. That was really good, Pastor, I love how you preach to other people in my life with problems.
But what if that person in your life who drives you crazy actually owns their sin and they change? Can you believe that God can change them? And if they change, will your attitude toward them change?
We see in this section, which we read at the beginning, the steps for reconciliation. We can summarize it in four short sentences. These sentences are not exact quotations from the story, but they perfectly capture what is going on here. So just four short sentences, and I think you’ll immediately see how relevant these are in your life as you think about to whom you need to be reconciled. Four short sentences in this movement of reconciliation.
Here’s the first sentence, here’s where it begins: We’re sorry.
That really was the point last week. Recall from the sermon last week, I pointed that eight times in Genesis we have this Hebrew formula mazoth asith, which means, “What have you done?” or “What is this you have done?”
It’s a question asked to Abraham and Jacob and Laban and Isaac and Cain and seven times when this question is asked, seven times God’s people answer poorly. Seven times they fail. What is this you have done? And they don’t own their sin.
But not the eighth time. This is what we saw in chapter 44. Look at verse 15: “Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done?” Mazoth asith. ““Do you not know that a man like me can indeed practice divination?” And Judah,” though he’s the fourth-born he’s become the leader of the brothers, he’s speaking for all of them, “said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? How can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants.”
No excuses. No rationalization. No blame shifting. No counter accusation. No complaints. No blame it on parents or the system or whatever, just, “You’re right. We’re guilty. We’re sorry.”
That’s sentence number one.
Here’s sentence number two: “We’re sorry,” that’s what the offender says, and then the offended says, “Come near to me.”
You see this in chapter 45, verse 4. “Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.””
Jacob [sic] had not taken delight in testing his brothers. He drops now the pretense. He no longer employs a translator. Remember, up to this point he’s been speaking through a translator. They don’t know that he knows what they’re saying. No more subterfuge, no more testing. How he is eager to bring them close.
Not only does Joseph welcome them back, he seeks to care for them. He’s more concerned with their feelings than his feelings. Verse 5: “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves.” That’s an amazing statement.
It could have been that for 20+ years he seethed and plotted his revenge. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” But he doesn’t. Twenty years later he’s eager to forgive. He’s thinking now of their well-being. This is really remarkable. How can Joseph respond so graciously?
Well, I just want you to think of some things, lest you quickly turn to someone that you’ve hurt and you say, “Well, why aren’t you acting like Joseph?” Well, remember, he did have 20 years. Second, they’ve expressed contrition. They’ve really come to see their guilt. And notice it’s not them saying to Joseph, “Hey, well, you know, no biggie. It all kind of worked out for good. Whew. Close call.”
No, Joseph sees that for himself. And also notice Joseph here is in a position of power. It would be different if somehow he still had a reason to fear, you know, and would have to be unwise and say, “Come near to me, you who hurt me and are going to hurt me again” in some assault or some very tantamount way. No, he understands that that is gone and so he can say, “Come near.”
Now how does Joseph come to this amazing response? He does it because of a belief in divine sovereignty. Don’t think that the doctrine of divine sovereignty is something that Reformed people do to throw their elbows around or something that we hold up to think that, well, we know the Bible better than other people. This is a source of profound comfort and direction. It’s not some esoteric point of theology.
Notice what he says three times. Verse 5: “Do not be distressed or angry because you sold me here for God sent me here.” Verse 7: “And God sent me before you.” And again in verse 8: “It was not you who sent me here, but God.”
Obviously humanly speaking, yes, they did it and they were responsible. Joseph isn’t saying, “I don’t care about sin anymore.” No, Judah’s admitted they were guilty, it was a sin, they are responsible. But Joseph can see the bigger picture and he understands, “You know who is ultimately behind this? You know who sent me down here? It wasn’t you. It was God.” Three times.
Good theology is the basis for good relationships. That’s why we care about theology. At least one of the reasons. It’s because of his firm belief in the providence of God, in divine sovereignty, that he can look to his brothers and say, “God had a plan in this.” Now, he didn’t see it the moment he was in the bottom of the well. He didn’t maybe know it when he was betrayed in Potiphar’s house and languishing in prison. But now, 22, 23 years later he can see it.
So he says, “Come near. I know what you were doing, but God was doing something much better.”
And then he even goes one step further: “Let me help you.” He doesn’t excuse their sin, but he extends comfort and compassion. Verse 11: “There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come.” I don’t want you to come to poverty.
Remember, Jacob and Esau had a lot of relational tension and they came together and it was pretty good, they didn’t come to blows, but then they went their separate ways in peace.
Here, we have full-blown reconciliation. Don’t you love that little sentence at the end of verse 15? It can look like a throw-away, but it’s precious. “After that, his brothers talked with him.” I wonder what they talked about. They had a lot of catching up to do. Initially, when they learn it’s Joseph, they’re dismayed, verse 3. This has gone from the best to the worst day of our lives real quickly. It went from the best to the worst to the best, and they realize that Joseph is not here to seek revenge, he’s not here to kill them, to punish them. He actually wants to provide for them and care for them and seek out their comfort and compassion. So they talk. That’s what brothers do. That’s what family should do. Church family should do. That’s what friends should do. That’s what your own physical, biological family should do. That’s often the bottleneck, isn’t it? You’re just not talking.
Talking is both the symptom of the disease and also the cure for the disease. The absence of it is the symptom, that sort of icy chill that comes into the family dynamic, and we never talk anymore.
Now maybe that’s not your fault. Romans 12 says, “In so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all.” Maybe you’ve done all you can do. But if there’s more you can do, don’t you want to get to this place of verse 15? “And after that they talked.” Again, with each other. “Let me help you,” Joseph said.
And then there’s one other sentence: “We’re sorry,” “Come near,” “Let me help you,” and one other sentence I don’t want you to miss. Here’s how I would summarize it: Don’t look back. Don’t look back.
I get that from verse 24: “Then he sent his brothers away and as they departed he said to them,” this is a profound little verse, ““Do not quarrel on the way.””
Joseph knows the human heart. God knows the human heart. He knows what they are liable to do as they return to Jacob, their father, and as they have to explain to Jacob, “Actually, Dad, remember all those years ago when we said Joseph had been torn by a wild beast?” They’ve got to explain how is he alive? “Well, actually, Reuben here is going to explain what happened. Uh. Judah, Simeon. It was Simeon’s idea.” They have to explain, “No, we were so jealous, we wanted to kill him, we threw him in the pit, we sold him to traders.”
Joseph knows on the way back from the journey, after the glow of all of the reunion wears off, they’re going to be probably at each other’s throats: “I told you we never should have done this. How are you going to explain this to Father? What? You said. No, you did it.”
So Joseph tells them, “Don’t look back. Don’t quarrel on the way. No, this is not the time for mutual recrimination. Yes, just tell the truth. Explain things to Father.”
If Joseph forgives them, how much more should they forgive one another? That’s what joseph is saying. “I don’t hold this against you anymore. It’s time for you to move on. It’s not the time for you to settle scores with each other. I didn’t settle my score with you. You should not settle your score with one another.”
We’re sorry. Come near. Let me help you. Don’t look back.
Four short, simple sentences, and yet lead to this profound Christian reality called reconciliation.
Now here’s just what we need to think about as we close and as we move to the supper. Isn’t this the way of Jesus in the Gospel? When you’re tempted to think, “But, Pastor, you don’t realize how deeply someone’s hurt me. They do not deserve come near, let me help you.” Of course they don’t deserve it. You know who else doesn’t deserve it? You. Me. Some of us, some of you, have been profoundly sinned against. But if you belong to Jesus, you’ve been forgiven more than you have to forgive.
Isn’t this what we do when we come to the Lord Jesus? “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’ve been a sinner. It’s my fault. No one else’s. It’s my fault. I’m guilty. Born into sin and unrighteousness. I’ve been not walking in Your way. I’m sorry.” And what does Jesus tell us? Those who were far way, He brought near by the blood of the cross. And not just brought near, but Jesus turns to us and says, “Let me help you. I’ll bless you. I’ll keep you. I’ll let my face shine upon you. I’ll be gracious unto you.”
What do we read so often in the New Testament? “And forgetting what is behind.” No, no, no. That’s dead. Put off the old self. That’s crucified. The old man dead, buried. Live now to Christ.
There’s a reason the Gospel is called a ministry of reconciliation, because that’s what Christianity is about. Horizontally with one another, because first of all vertically we can be reconciled to God.
Come to the cross this morning, friends, and say you’re sorry. And when you do in Jesus’ name, He says, “Come near. Let Me help you. Don’t look back.”
Let’s pray. Gracious Father, we thank You for this mercy, this ministry of reconciliation, and as we think upon our own lives, we confess that we have often withheld to others the forgiveness that you have so freely given to us. We confess before You that we have often made excuses, rationalizations, complaints, rather than owning our sin. We confess, O Lord, that we have not turned to You, that we have thought You to be stingy and miserly in Your mercy. So we ask that You would have mercy upon us, for Jesus’ sake, thanks be to God. Amen.