We start to see in chapter 42 the reason that Joseph was sent to Egypt: the preservation of the nation of Israel. We see the near fulfillment of Joseph’s dream when his brothers bow down to him. In Joseph’s reaction to his brother we do not see needless cruelty, rather, as an Egyptian leader, Joseph understood the Egyptians distrust of outsiders, and he played the part. Additionally, as we will see, his heart ached for his family and also over what they had done to him. How often fallen man acts in anger when what we really feel is hurt…
Upon hearing that Benjamin (Joseph’s only full-blooded brother) was kept behind, Joseph designs a ploy to get him to Egypt. His kindness of returning his brother’s money is interpreted on their part as both a bad thing, and as an act of God. We see in Jacob’s refusal to let the nine brothers take him to Egypt that same favoritism that he learned from his own parents, and that he played with both his wives and his children before.
In chapter 43, we see the famine get even worse. When Judah refuses to go back to Egypt without Benjamin, Jacob asks why they would even tell the man that they had another brother. Notice that the story is twisted a little by the brothers. They do not want to take any responsibility for the predicament in which they find themselves.
And, reluctantly, Jacob sends them back with Benjamin. This is the beginning of the fulfillment of what God told Abraham: his offspring would be strangers in in a land and serve there for 400 years (Gen 15:13). But it is the beginning of the fulfillment of what God told Abraham: He would judge that nation and send His people out with great possessions (Gen 15:14).
When the brothers come to the steward of Joseph’s house and tell of the money they found the first time around, he rightly tells them that is was their God that did it. More often than not, as we have seen, God works through the ordinary circumstances of life. But as we see with this story, God is always orchestrating those circumstances to achieve His purposes. And we see here the second time that Joseph’s brothers bow to him – the near fulfillment of the second dream.
In chapter 44 we read of the little game Joseph plays with his brothers. The eleven learn that even with the best laid plans, we have much less control than we like to believe we do. The chapter ends with the offer from Judah to stand in the place of Benjamin and take the punishment in his place. This is a pointer to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and His standing in our place at the cross.
We see a few things in our passage today. First, sin still abounds. The brothers aren’t so much remorseful for their treatment of Joseph as they are concerned for the retribution God may pay them for their sin. We can’t say that Joseph was completely honest with his brothers in these chapters, either. And Jacob continues to play favorites, as he was literally willing to forfeit Simeon’s life to save Benjamin’s.
But what the eleven brothers don’t know is that things are not what they seem. Joseph never intended them harm, even though from their point of view the situation is pretty bleak. We will see in the next chapter how they realize that all that has happened served for their good, and the good of God’s people. But for now, they feel that things couldn’t get much worse. And I would imagine that Joseph felt that way for the thirteen years he was a prisoner in Egypt. And now he was beginning to see how it was for his good, and the good of his family.
What we learn from this is two things. First, we have far less control than we want to believe we do. Second, God has far more control than we seem to think He does. And especially in times of suffering, or want, or uncertainty, we forget that a good God is in control. And no matter how many times we look back and see how that trial or that suffering turned into such a blessing, we still forget. Thank God He is in control.
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. – 1 Corinthians 1:9 (ESV)