God’s Surpassing Sovereignty – Genesis 43

1
God’s Surpassing Sovereignty Genesis 43 12/8/19
Meet me if you would in Genesis 43 in your Bible.
In our verse-by-verse study of Genesis, we have been looking at the spectacular story of one of the most fascinating and godly characters of the Bible: Joseph.
We remember that Joseph was born to Jacob and Rachel when they lived in Haran.
Though he had 11 other brothers, Joseph was the apple of his father’s eye.
That’s why his dad made a special coat for him.
And that’s why his brothers hated his guts and sold him into slavery.
Well, as God would have it, Joseph was assigned to work for Potiphar the top bodyguard to Pharaoh, king of Egypt.
Then because of refusing to compromise with Potiphar’s wife, Joseph gets thrown into the royal prison.
There God sovereignly caused Joseph to be put in charge of the other prisoners namely the king’s cupbearer and baker.
They both have a strange dream which Joseph interprets, and they come to pass… just like he said. But when the cupbearer is released and reinstated, he forgets to put in a good word for Joseph. That is until two years later when Pharaoh has a dream.
Pharaoh has Joseph interpret his dream: there are 7 good prosperous years coming that will be followed by famine.
So, Pharaoh puts him in charge as prime minister to have Egypt.
For each of the 7 bountiful years, Joseph stores 20% excess in large granaries. From that surplus he would sell grain to those near and far when the 7 years of famine strike.
That’s when 10 of Joseph’s brothers in Canaan headed south to buy grain in Egypt.
The good thing is that they got lots of grain, but the bad thing is that the prime minister accuses them of being spies. Totally unknown to them, that great ruler is their brother Joseph (whom they thought was long dead).
So the mysterious man puts their brother Simeon in prison until what? Until those brothers would bring back their youngest brother, Benjamin.
That deal infuriates their father Jacob when he hears it. Recall the ultimatum he lays out: Genesis 42:38 But Jacob said, “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left.
2
In other words, “Not on my life.” Joseph is dead, and I’m not going to risk losing Benjamin.”
That all sounds fine, Jacob, unless you are in the middle of a famine.
And that’s exactly what we find out when chapter 43 opens. The focus in on Jacob’s family
A. Discussing a return to Egypt 1-15
Verse 1: Now the famine was severe in the land. 2 So it came about when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, “Go back, buy us a little food.”
This shows us Jacob has no idea the famine would last so long. For had he known the crisis would last 7 years, he would have told them to, buy us as much food as possible!
Yet Jacob fails to deal with the real issue. There’s ho hope of getting grain or securing Simeon’s release unless he complies with the ruler’s terms: send down Benjamin with the other brothers.
In fact, as we move along and watch what Jacob does (and doesn’t do), I want to give you 7 marks of wimpy leadership. Each of these flows from Jacob’s negative example.
1. The first is, a man who doesn’t lead well minimizes real threats.
In other words, he ignores the big issues going on.
He’s got his head in the sand regarding the pressing priorities of life.
Look again at the big issue Jacob conveniently ignores which his son reminds him of. Verse 3: Judah spoke to him, however, saying, “The man solemnly warned us, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’
Judah now tells his father Jacob for at least the second time that Benjamin had to go with them to Egypt in order for them to get grain from that powerful official.
The problem wasn’t in Jacob not understanding. The problem was in him not grasping the nettle and dealing with the painful issue head on.
Well, Jacob and his grown family are up against a pressing threat: starvation. Yet, Jacob refuses to budge and let the brothers take Benjamin with them to Egypt.
Second point on lousy leadership.
2. When a man fails to lead spiritually, he burdens other to have to fill the gap. And he’s OK with that!
3
In Jacob’s failure, there’s a leadership vacuum.
And that causes his son Judah to take the reigns of leadership. He steps up and intervenes.
He tells his father Jacob, verse 4: “If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. 5 “But if you do not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ ”
Jacob is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
And Judah makes it clear: “Dad, all you have to do is just let this brother go. But if you refuse, then the prime minister refuses to give us grain!”
Now look at what spineless Jacob says: Verse 6: Then Israel said (that’s Jacob), “Why did you treat me so badly by telling the man whether you still had another brother?”
This gives us a third mark of an ineffective spiritual leader: 3. He shirks responsibility and blames others!
That’s what Jacob is doing. He’s saying “Sons, it’s all your fault! You wronged me by telling that ruler about your brother.
Well, when we blame others, it’s usually based on wrong assumptions. That’s the case with Jacob.
And that’s why the brothers must clarify. Verse 7: But they said, “The man questioned particularly about us and our relatives, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ So we answered his questions. Could we possibly know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?”
Here’s the 4th mark of a weak spiritual leader. 4. He lives pragmatically. He makes decisions based on what works rather than what’s right.
Those sons are saying, “Dad, we didn’t volunteer personal information. That prime minister asked us if we had another brother.
And they tell him the truth. We get the sense that Jacob would have been happier if they had deceived that official and said they didn’t have a brother.
The fifth trait of a spineless leader.
5. He lets others make sacrifices he himself is unwilling to make.
The negotiation continues in verse 8, “Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the lad with me and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones.”
Wow! Judah sees it like it is. To not take Benjamin back to Egypt would mean 3 generations of his family would die- his father
4
Jacob’s, his own, and the generation of his children. So, look what he offers his father.
Verse 9: “I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever.”
Judah is putting his life on the line to save the rest of the family. And Jacob is doing nothing.
Finally, Judah breaks the stalemate of indecision and exposes the Achilles heel of weak leadership: procrastination.
That’s the sixth mark of a wimpy leader: 6. He procrastinates. He waits and delays rather than having guts to make a tough decision.
Judah presses into Jacob in verse 10 saying: “For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice.”
Weeks, perhaps months had passed since those brothers had returned from Egypt and had been waiting to head back with Benjamin. They could have made 2 round trips to Egypt during that time of Jacob’s worthless waiting.
Scripture warns us against procrastination.
For procrastination is not just a bad habit. It can be serious sin.
Because to put off what we know we ought to do, shows a lack of self-control.
The Lord has shown me areas in my life where I need to be faithful to keep certain commitments in a timely way. These include a big writing project and filing paperwork.
How about you? Are there difficult tasks in your life that you tend to put off?
It could be finishing up a project you started. Or it might be following through with a deadline that you agreed to meet.
Or perhaps it’s failing to give the Lord the best part of your day in His Word and prayer.
Or it could be promptly obeying and not putting off what you know is God’s will for you.
The psalmist refused to do so and said, “I hastened and did not delay to keep Your commandments.” Psalm 119:60
Now you need to remember this with procrastination. Procrastination and putting off for tomorrow what you should do today is in fact a decision. It’s an awful decision to settle for the status quo and play it safe.
Well with Judah’s persistence and leadership, the deadlock is broken. And Jacob acquiesces.
5
Verse 11: Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.
At this point, Jacob has the full attention of those 10 sons. It’s a teachable moment to seize.
He could have said, “My sons, we’re in a tough situation where we are going to really have to trust God. Let’s take some time together in prayer to really give this matter to the Lord.”
We wish that was his reaction. But instead, Jacob’s default is to try to solve his problem on the human level.
Remember, Jacob is savvy. He figures the best way to win the favor of this Egyptian ruler would be through gifts.
King Solomon would later share that inspired wisdom in Proverbs 18:16 “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.”
So, Jacob tells his sons to bring the best products from Canaan for that top official.
That was to include 6 specific items (which suggests Jacob has been planning this for some time).
Ironically, three of them (aromatic gum, balm and myrrh) were part of what the Ishmaelite traders who bought Joseph had brought with them to Egypt (Gen. 37:25).
Top of Jacob’s list was balm. This gummy material came from the bark of a tree that grew in Gilead (that’s east of the Jordan River). It was a medicinal ointment.
The prophet Jeremiah seeing the treachery of God’s people asks with a pain filled heart: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?” Jeremiah 8:22 Interesting, an Israeli named Guy Erlich works some land on the northern shore of the Dead Sea called the Balm of Gilead Farm. From his website, you can buy authentic Balm of Gilead bark and twigs for $500! Or, husbands, Christmas is coming, and you can get your wife a small bottle of Balm of Gilead perfume for $45.
Along with balm, the brothers were to take some honey as a gift. Honey was the basic source of sweetening in the Bible times. It’s mentioned 61 times in the O.T. and is highly commended to the reader.
6
The Promised Land was known as a land flowing with milk and what? Honey! (Ex. 3:8).
That was a picturesque way of saying it was a prosperous land.
In Proverbs 24:13 Solomon the father says, “My son, eat honey, for it is good, yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.”
Yet as wonderfully sweet as honey is to the taste, how much sweeter God’s Word is to the soul. That’s why David exclaims:
Psalm 119:103 “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
The brothers were also told to take gum with their present. It wasn’t chewing gum but was an oil (ladanum) from shrubs used to make perfume.
That’s similar to the myrrh they were also to take. Myrrh was a valuable sweet-smelling resin. It was the main ingredient in the holy anointing oil for priests (Exodus 30:23). It was brought by the wise men from the east to worship the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:11). And myrrh also was used in embalming the body of Jesus (John 19:39). These items were special gifts fit for a king. Yet Jacob knows tasty snacks would also be well-received by that great official. So, Jacob has his sons bring along pistachio nuts and almonds. These by the way are the only two kinds of nuts mentioned in the Bible, pistachios and almonds. Those would have been a gourmet snack to enjoy during a time of famine when food was scarce.
On top of all those gifts Jacob further advises his sons: 12th verse: “Take double the money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was a mistake.
Why take double the amount of money? To return the silver that had ended up in their sacks on the first trip to Egypt (after they thought they had paid for grain)!
Besides that, they were to have money for more grain they were hoping to buy on this second visit.
So, they are to take the gifts, the money, and Jacob adds with great reluctance (v. 13): “Take your brother also, and arise, return to the man;”
But now notice. Jacob hasn’t totally forgotten God. For he says, “and may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin.”
7
Well, Jacob expresses a wish, a blessing, that the all-powerful God will grant them favor in the eyes of that ruler and let Simeon (now in prison) and Benjamin return home.
His words about God may sound good at first, but look at how they end: “And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”
Jacob’s words are pitiful. For it’s not faith that he shows but fatalism.
That’s the 7th and last mark of a weak spiritual leader. He’s pessimistic, he expects the worse.
Instead, God calls husbands, fathers, and elders to be men of courageous faith in Him- to be men fully abandoned to His will regardless of the cost. They don’t live in fear but embrace the future in faith.
As the Apostle Paul neared the end of his 3rd missionary tour, a prophet named Agabus gave him an object lesson. It’s in Acts 21:11.
He took Paul’s belt and tied up his own feet and hands and said: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ In other words, they are out to kill you!
Well, the locals who loved Paul began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem.
Yet in response, Paul tells them with a huge heart of faith: (Verse 13) “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Wow, how can Paul be so fearless in the face of death? Because of what he would later write to the Philippian believers from a Roman prison: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
Back to the brothers in Canaan. We are told v. 15: So the men took this present, and they took double the money in their hand, and Benjamin; then they arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph.
The sons wisely listened to their father’s advice.
They took the gifts, money and most importantly their youngest brother. After around 2 weeks at the pace of a donkey, they arrive in Egypt.
With much trepidation, they stand before that great potentate of Egypt. And they wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that after
Discussing a return to Egypt they would be
B. Dining with the prime minister 16-34
Continuing in verse16: “When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house
8
steward, “Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon.”
O that response of Joseph sounds so much like the father of the prodigal son: “bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry.” Lk. 15:23
Here we see in Joseph a wonderful example of the heart of God.
But God has brought us into His house not by slaying an animal but by slaying His own Son!
Friends, you and I deserved to die in our sins, but God gave Christ to die for us. Yes, He reconciled us to Himself through the death of His Son! Mercy there was great And grace was free Pardon there was multiplied to me There my Burdened soul found liberty At Calvary!
Joseph’s brothers deserved death, yet Joseph spares their lives and gives them grace.
Continuing in verse 17: So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18 Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph’s house; and they said, “It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys.”
If you were one of those 10 brothers, you would have been terrified too. You would have figured the money that ended up in your sacks on the last trip home- all that would be used to frame you.
And you might be thinking, this feast you are sitting down to could be a trap to kill you.
Well, they take opportunity to explain their side to Joseph’s servant:
Verse 19: So they came near to Joseph’s house steward, and spoke to him at the entrance of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food, 21 and it came about when we came to the lodging place, that we opened our sacks, and behold, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full. So we have brought it back in our hand. 22 “We have also brought down other money in our hand to buy food; we do not know who put our money in our sacks.”
So, they got that all off their chest. Yet I doubt that any of that information was news to that servant. For Joseph would have wisely filled him in on the details.
9
And I have a strong suspicion this is the very servant whom Joseph had told to put the money back in their sacks!
Now it’s absolutely astounding what that steward then tells those scared brothers:
23rd verse: He said, “Be at ease, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.
Wow, that Egyptian servant seeks to calm their fears? Why? Because that’s what Joseph wanted him to do! He wants to show mercy and kindness to these who had hated him.
Abraham Lincoln, no doubt inspired by biblical principle (Rom. 12:20), once asked, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Absolutely!
Just imagine them hearing these words: “Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.”
That’s far more than a subtle hint of who is in control!
For this is one of the most exciting statements in all of Genesis about the all surpassing sovereignty of God… even in little things!
I can imagine Joseph telling that steward exactly what to say. He may have made that man memorize every word. But here’s what’s most vital to grasp. God’s hand is in all of this! And because of that the steward can tell them, “Guys, no worries.”
Beloved, God calls you as His child, in the midst of life’s perplexing problems, to cling to His sovereign control!
Yes, God wants you to rest in it, nest in it, fully be blessed in His sovereign hand in all of your life!
Whether its raising children, finding sufficient work, navigating relationships, dealing with physical infirmities, trusting God to save a loved one, granting your heart’s desire, Christian, God lovingly cares for you in all of that.
We have been praying as a church that the Lord will open up the doors to medical school for Sean Kreiger.
Well, at one prayer meeting he shared, “I praise the Lord, I did not get accepted into a medical school!” And then just yesterday A.M., Sean shared with the guys at the men’s Bible study how thankful he is for how God in recent days caused him to be accepted in med school- and best of all, it’s close meaning he and Mia can continue to be a part of our church family!
10
O friends, as you walk in obedience to Christ and love Him and His church, revel in Psalm 103:19. “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.”
O what a blessing to bask in as believers- God’s sovereign control always actively rules over every single thing in our lives!!! Now that’s God antidote to fearing and fretting!
Watch God’s sovereign hand through that servant who continues to display undeserved love, verse 24: “Then the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys fodder.”
Now the brothers, including Simeon, are inside the house of this great prime minister.
As their donkeys were fed the brothers divvy up their gifts so each of them had some in their hands to offer him.
Verse 25: “So they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon; for they had heard that they were to eat a meal there.”
And now the time they had anticipated for many weeks- seeing the prime minister (whom they don’t yet realize is Joseph): When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand and bowed to the ground before him.
This is the first time all 11 brothers bow in great respect before Joseph. Perfect fulfillment of the dream God had given Joseph over 20 years before- their sheaves bowed down to his sheaf!
Those brothers were speechless in the presence of this great ruler. Picture him decked out in fine linen garments, with a golden chain around his neck and signet ring of Pharaoh!
Joseph then breaks the silence. Verse 27: Then he asked them about their welfare, and said, “Is your old father well, of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” They bowed down in homage.
This isn’t small talk. Talk about the pistachios and almonds would have been.
Joseph here models wise and strategic conversation. For Joseph has a tender heart and genuinely wants to know how they and their father are doing.
At this point, imagine the 11 brothers standing some distance away from Joseph.
Because we find out, verse 29: “As he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, he said, “Is this your youngest
11
brother, of whom you spoke to me?” And he said, “May God be gracious to you, my son.”
Remember, Benjamin is Joseph’s only full brother. They were the only two sons born to Rachel. So, there’s a cherished bond between them.
Notice, Joseph greeting to Benjamin. Not, “hey bro!” Great to see you” but “God be gracious to you.”
Remember, the 11 of them still don’t recognize that this is their brother Joseph! Yet his words, “May God be gracious to you my son” should have leaped out to them.”
For Joseph here speaks as the spiritual father, and he pronounces a great blessing packed with grace on Benjamin.
It sounds so much like the blessing Aaron would later give to God’s people: “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you.” Num. 6:24-25
Seeing Benjamin and his brothers- all that overwhelmed Joseph. He loses his composure.
Verse 30 reports that: “Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there.”
Friends, Joseph wept. And Jesus wept. They both wept from tender hearts for the lives of others.
Of Jacob we are told (v. 31): “Then he washed his face and came out; and he controlled himself and said, “Serve the meal.” 32 So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians.”
Egyptian protocol required that they as a people eat separately from Jewish foreigners. Joseph wisely follows that to conceal his identity.
And he does something else that baffles those brothers.
The first shocker in verse 33: “Now they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment.”
The brothers couldn’t believe their eyes. How in the world could this great official seat the 11 of them exactly according to their birth order? For they were seated at their table from oldest to youngest!
12
By the way, the possible combinations of the order of how 11 people together can be seated. It’s called a permutation.
There are actually 39,916,800 possible arrangements of how 11 people could be seated. So the brothers have to know it’s not just a coincidence that they are seated in perfect order!
Maybe the wheels are slowly beginning to turn in their minds: “Wow, somehow it seems this guy somehow knows us!
The second big surprise, 34th verse: “He took portions to them from his own table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they feasted and drank freely with him.”
Why does Joseph give Benjamin a huge portion that’s 5 times bigger than the other brothers get?
Two reasons. First, Joseph has a special love for Benjamin. And he shows that by heaping on extra food on his plate.
Second, Joseph is testing the brothers to see how will react toward Benjamin. Will they do anything to show envy or hatred toward him (as they had decades before had shown Joseph)?
You can be sure; Joseph was watching those other 10 brothers like a hawk.
And as they feast together as brothers, he sees joy not jealousy
All that is unmistakable evidence of one massive reality: God powerfully changes lives!
For He was mightily at work in the lives of those brothers, shaping their characters, subduing their pride, and showing them His sovereignty rules over all!
Friends, God is in the business of changing lives.
He powerfully changed those brothers lives, and if you belong to Him, He’s powerfully at work in your life.
Take heart Christian. God orchestrates the big and small events in your life to conform your character to Christ.
And He calls you to rely on Him and rest in Him.
For He sovereignly cares for you!
13
God’s Surpassing Sovereignty Genesis 43
HCBC 12/8/19
Intro. Gen. 42:38
A. Discussing a return to Egypt 1-15
Psalm 119:60
Prov. 18:16
Gen. 37:25
Jer. 8:22
Ex. 3:8
Prov. 24:13
Psalm 119:103 Ex. 30:23 Mat. 2:11 John 19:39
Acts 21:11
Phil. 1:21
B. Dining with the prime minister 16-34
Lk. 15:23
Rom. 12:20
Psalm 103:19
How would God have me respond as an obedient doer of His Word?