We are now in the thick of Joseph’s story. And God uses dreams to move Joseph’s journey along. First it was Joseph’s dreams that got him into trouble with his brothers. Next came the dreams of the Pharaoh’s head baker and cup bearer. Now Pharaoh himself is having dreams, dreams that no one can interpret. We see Joseph’s faith in God on display here. He has learned that God is working in his life and we see it here. Two years have passed since Joseph interpreted the dreams of the cup bearer and now, he remembers Joseph. Joseph is quickly brought before Pharaoh. Yes, he will listen to Pharaoh’s dreams, but it is God who gives the interpretation. Joseph may speak the interpretation, but God is the one who gives Joseph the words. God gets the glory here.
God is right smack dab in the middle of everything that is happening here. It is God who gives Pharaoh the dreams, God who reminded the cup bearer about Joseph, God who led Pharaoh to summon Joseph and eventually God who moved Pharaoh to choose Joseph to ensure the success of storing and distributing food. God has pruned Joseph back to exactly the place He wants him to be. Joseph has now been in Egypt for 13 years. He brought prosperity to Potiphar’s household. He brought blessing to the people in prison with him. Now God would use Joseph to save not only his family but an entire nation.
But the biggest thing God worked in Joseph was helping him to wipe out the pain of his brother’s mistreatment and the challenges he had faced in Egypt. Joseph was now ready to make a new beginning. Once the famine reached Canaan and Joseph’s family was without food, Jacob sent them to Egypt to buy food for the family. In fact, families from many nations descended upon Egypt to buy food. Scripture tells us the famine was worldwide. Joseph recognized his brothers immediately though they didn’t recognize him. As an Egyptian he would have had a very different look, and, they were not expecting to ever see Joseph again.
Many believe Joseph was cruel to his brothers, treating them harshly and toying with them. But as God had pruned Joseph, so Joseph was testing them. Because true reconciliation requires sincere repentance and a humble confession of sin. And it takes time to reach that point. Through Joseph, God brought his brothers to the place where they admitted the evil things they had done to Joseph and their father. So, Joseph spoke and acted in a way in which the brother’s hearts were revealed and God brought them to repentance. The brothers had no idea this Egyptian who stood before them could understand their language and he listened in as they discussed the evil, they had done to Joseph. They discussed his cries and pleas as he spent time in the cistern, and they recalled their hardness of heart. And they recognized they had done wrong. God was moving in their hearts and using Joseph to do that.
We look on as the brothers and their father debate going to Egypt a second time to buy food. They really had no other choice, but now they were expected to bring Benjamin with them. Jacob watched as the only other son of his favorite wife Rachel left with his brothers. He had already lost Joseph, and Simeon was in prison in Egypt. Each loss placed a heavy burden of grief on Jacob. But he finally came to a place where he was able to say so be it. Never would have Jacob dreamed he would get all of his sons back as a result of this trip. God was working in the hearts of the brothers, leading them to a place of reconciliation.
The brothers had much to think about as they made their way back to Egypt. In fact, they had three different problems in addition to the weight of their father’s chronic grief. Once again, they had to explain why they had the money from paying for the grain the last time. They had to figure out how to get Simeon out of prison and they had to keep Benjamin safe. It seems that Joseph had an early warning system so that when the brothers were spotted entering town, he was notified. Joseph arranged for a banquet at his house for the brothers, but they assumed they were in trouble and they would be punished out of sight. Someone knew about the money. They might even be killed.
Simeon was brought out to them…one problem solved. This brought relief but not peace. They never expected to be entertained at a banquet, especially by the same man who had dealt harshly with them on their last trip. Perhaps things were looking up. They left Egypt with food for their families, provisions for their journey home and all the brothers except Joseph. Their father Jacob would be pleased. That celebration was to be short lived.
Not long after they left Joseph, his steward stopped them, asking why they had stolen from Egypt once again. And someone had stolen Joseph’s silver cup. They defended themselves passionately. They were not thieves. Hadn’t they proved that by returning the money from their first trip? They went so far as to offer to have the guilty party slain. That is how sure they were of themselves. Until…the silver cup was found in Benjamin’s bag. They tore their garments, a sign of grief and despair. So many thoughts and questions must have run through their minds. Judah became the spokesman for the brothers. In a long and detailed plea Judah told Joseph how much Benjamin meant to their father. He offered himself up in the place of the boy. Now we see the brothers concern for both their father and for their youngest brother, Joseph’s only full brother.
Today’s reading leaves us there, hanging in the balance waiting to see what happens next. That is for tomorrow’s reading. But once again we will see God’s handprints all over everything.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W