We saw in the last few chapters the transformation of the heart of Joseph. Joseph begins speaking harshly to his brothers and throws them into prison. He sets his brothers up, believing that they will leave Benjamin to be a slave in Egypt to save their own skin. But that is not what happens. All the brothers come back to Egypt, and Judah of all people pleads for the life of Benjamin. So Joseph cannot hide his emotions or his identity from his brothers any longer. Joseph’s revelation of himself to his brothers is a surprise to his brothers who thought he was dead. But the brothers are not happy to see Joseph. In Genesis 45:3 Joseph asks if his father is still alive. But the brothers could not answer him because they were dismayed at his presence. They are terrified (NIV, HCSB). You can imagine the color going out of the faces of these brothers. The brother whom they sold into slavery because of their hatred of him now has power over them. Here these 11 men are in the house of the second most powerful person in Egypt. What will Joseph do? What will Joseph say?
I would like for you to put yourself in Joseph’s sandals at this moment. What would you say to your brothers? What would you do to your brothers? These brothers ripped you away from your family. They ripped you away from your home? They caused you to miss out on the fun years of your youth. They caused you to be enslaved in Egypt for 13 years, some of that time in a dungeon. These brothers have caused misery for your life. What will say now that you have the power over them? What will you do to them now that the tables have turned? Will you make them live in fear? Will you wield your power and strength over them? I think you will find what Joseph says to his brothers to be surprising.
Notice what Joseph says to his brothers in Genesis 45:4-13. First, come here. I am your brother that you sold into Egypt. Twice Joseph says that it was his brothers that sold him to Egypt (45:4,5). One can imagine the fear rising in the brothers as they approach the powerful ruler, Joseph. But what Joseph says next is staggering. “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves” (45:5). What? Did Joseph just say to not be angry or distressed about what they had done? Joseph does not say that he hopes their distress and guilt swallows them up and eats them alive until the day they die. Instead, Joseph offers peaceful words. Do not be angry with yourselves. Do not be distressed about what you did.
How can Joseph do this? What allows Joseph to have this kind of response, a response that is so unnatural? The answer is the sovereignty of God. Listen to what Joseph says. In verse 5 Joseph says, “God sent me before you to preserve life.” Notice verse 7, “And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to keep alive for you many survivors.” Then notice verse 8, “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.” How does Joseph have this kind of godly response? Joseph is depending upon the sovereignty of God.
Joseph recognizes that God is over all the affairs of the earth and he is relying by faith that God is working. Nothing in the scriptures suggest that God came to Joseph and told Joseph that God had done all of this. Joseph does not get this information while in prison or even once he is out of prison. What Joseph knows is that God is working in the affairs of this world and in the lives of people. God is active and uses the wickedness of people to fulfill his plans. God will do this again in the book of Exodus where he will uses the sinfulness of Pharaoh to prepare Israel for departure and set them free. I think our difficulty is the same difficulty that Habakkuk had when he cried out to the Lord. Why does God use sinful people to carry out his plans? The reason why God must use sinful people is because he cannot find any sinless people, can he? Where is God going to find sinless people to accomplish his plans? God is at work. God is doing something and it is not for us to have full understanding of what God is doing. For 22 years Joseph has been completely in the dark concerning what God is accomplishing. But it is not up to us to know or understand.
We notice this truth in Genesis 46. Joseph sends for Jacob and the rest of the family to move to Egypt because the famine was going to be severe for another five years. But there is a problem for Jacob. Jacob is living in the land promised to Abraham. This is the land of promise. This is the land that Abraham left his home to live in because he was called by God to do so. Listen to what God says to Jacob about this in Genesis 46:3. “I am God.” Really this is all we need to know and accept. But God continues and tells Jacob to not be afraid of moving to Egypt. God is going to down with them and God will bring them back out. It does not seem to make sense. Jacob is already living in the land and now they are supposed to leave the land! God does not explain all that is going to happen. God does not give sense to mystery that is before Jacob. “I am God” and God is working his plan. God will keep his covenant promises and that is all we need to know.
A few years ago I was at DisneyWorld and they had a time when you can join a Disney illustrator and learn how to draw a Disney character. We were told that we were going to draw Mickey Mouse. So she had us draw some lines and some circles. For the first many marks I could not figure out how we were drawing Mickey Mouse. I didn’t know if I was drawing the eyes or the ears. I did not know what this drawing was going to look like. It just looked like a bunch of random lines and circles from my untrained eyes. But by the end of the session, Mickey Mouse emerged from the paper. God is working the same way in this world. God does not explain what every line means or what every circles is doing. God does not have to explain himself for he is God. No one raised their hand to the illustrator and asked why she told us to draw a line or a circle. We just did what we told with the faith that Mickey Mouse would be there at the end though I could not understand at the moment how. In the same way, we do not challenge God but by faith believe that these lines and circles in life will form into God’s plans for his glory.
Can I have you see another thing from this event in Joseph’s life? Have you noticed that absolutely no miracles were performed and yet God is at work. God is just working. We often call this the providence of God. We recently studied the use of miraculous spiritual gifts in the scriptures and how those miraculous gifts stopped because only the apostles could give another person a miraculous gift. But I want you to see something. We do not need miracles to see God at work. We do not need a special outpouring to know that God is alive. God is busy in the affairs of the earth bringing about his purposes. God simply says, “I am God. I am in control. You can trust me. I will fulfill my promises.”
What Has God Put Me Here For?
Notice that Joseph not only recognizes the hand of God in the events that have transpired in his life. Joseph recognizes something else. He is in this position to save his family. God did not explain this to Joseph either. Joseph simply looked at his circumstances and realized he is was in a position to serve the Lord. He sees that he is able to preserve Israel’s sons as a remnant and keep them alive. Joseph recognizes that he has an opportunity. He has been put in a position to act and he will use it (45:9-13).
So often we can approach our life demanding that God give us what we want. God’s job is not to prevent inconveniences in our lives. Letting God be God and submitting to his reign and sovereignty means that we do not look for how we can make ourselves comfortable, but how these circumstances can be used for God’s glory. Joseph could have made this mistake. He could have looked at his power and wealth in Egypt and think this that is fair retribution for all that he has suffered. He could be living it up and have no regard for the plans of God. He could have executed revenge on his brothers. He could have done nothing godly with his position. He could have attributed his success to his own abilities and own power.
But listen to Genesis 45:8 again. “God has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” Joseph says it again in verse 9 that it was God who made him lord of Egypt. God has put me in this position. Joseph does not see that it was himself. It was not his brilliance of devising a plan that would save Egypt from the famine. It was all God. Since all of his life what about God, then Joseph is looking for what he is going to do for God. Joseph knew the covenantal promises made to Abraham. Thus Joseph describes how he can spare his family and save them from the famine. I have a role to play in God’s plan. I have a purpose on this earth.
I am saddened by how many people are looking for meaning and purpose in their lives but fail to see that the answer to that question is God. Your purpose is not to make more money, become more powerful, sell more stuff, do more things, travel more places, or whatever it is that we think we are waiting for in this life. Our life purposes are found in God alone. Friends, this is the meaning of the parable of the talents that Jesus gives to the world. Three different individuals were given different amounts of money (a talent was money in the first century). The point of the parable is to ask what you will do with what God has given you? Will we be filled with pride because we have been blessed by God or are found to be in certain circumstances? Or will we realize that God has put us in this position and humbling serve our God, whether we are in joy and prosperity or in pain and suffering? Think about this with Joseph. When he is in the pit, Joseph is relying on God and God is with him. When Joseph is in the dungeon, he is relying on God and God is with him. When Joseph is ruler over Egypt, he is relying on God and God is with him. Ask: What has God put me here for? What can I do for Jesus and his kingdom with the circumstances given to me? God has given you this moment. What will you do for the Lord your God?