Joseph is an outsider.He’s part of this crazy, hillbilly family. Joseph grew up in a peculiar family. His father had four wives. He had 13 kids with 4 different women, 12 sons, 1 daughter. Joseph was the baby in the family, his father favoured him. Because of that, his brothers got really, really jealous. One day they faked his murder and convinced his father that he had been killed.
We pick up the story at the point where, at last, life is good. He’s rich, powerful, famous. He’s married. His life has made a turn for the better.
1. God will get you
“Now Joseph,” – verse 6 – “was the governor of the land, the one who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.”
Why did Joseph get in trouble in the first place? He had a dream where his brothers bowed down, and here they bowed down. Moral of the story – God will get you.
It took twenty years but they bow down.
2.There’s a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.
“He remembered his dreams about them,” – verse 9 – “And said, ‘You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.’”
If there is someone who is dangerous and who has done evil to you, you better make sure that they’ve actually changed before you get close to them again. Forgiveness is I forgive you. Reconciliation is forgiveness and trust.
We can forgive people, but trusting them, they’ve got to earn that back. They’ve got to demonstrate that they’re not dangerous like they were; that God’s got a hold of them and they’re different.
“They said to one another, ‘Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was,’” – Joseph – “‘when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us.’” They’re confessing their sin.
You’re starting to see the boys operate with a conscious – acknowledgement of sin. We did wrong to our brother. That was a horrifying day. We should have never did that. Now it’s coming back to get us.
“Reuben replied,” – and he comes off kind of moral and pious, but he’s the guy who slept with his dad’s wife. The kid has some issues.
“Reuben replied, ‘Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?’” (v22)
3. It’s okay to test people before you trust (v25)
The boys are starting to realise that their life belongs to God. “You know what? We sinned against Joseph. We also sinned against God. Now God is dealing with us because of the sin we committed against Joseph.” They’re starting to ask the question that all Christians should ask, and that is, “God, what are you trying to teach me? God, what are you trying to do? God, what’s the point here? I know you’re in this. Where are you? Where are we going?”
Get to know somebody before you trust them, especially somebody who has hurt you and sinned greatly. Before you just embrace them and trust them and make yourself vulnerable to them, you can forgive them, but before you reconcile, you should give them a little time and make sure they’ve actually changed.
4. Sometimes working through relationships, particularly with family members, takes a lot of time. And it’s not like a TV sitcom – 22 minutes when you take out the 8 minutes of commercials. It doesn’t just wrap itself up like Jeremy Kyle show.
Sometimes people take time to trust them, to get to know them, to build trust, to observe them, to have them prove themselves to you.
This story takes time because relationships take time because sin separates people. God brings them together, but it takes time to work through the details.
a. If you have been sinned against greatly, you can learn from Joseph.
Forgive, love, serve, bless, stick with God, and move on. He didn’t lie there in a heap in Egypt, just an emotional basket case, saying, “My family’s separated. I don’t know my dad. I’ve been wronged.” He did his job; got married; raised his kids; mowed his lawn.
You say, “But I was sinned against. My dad abandoned me. My uncle molested me. My mum hated me. My brother lied about me. Well, all true, but it may be 21 years before they get straightened out. And that’s a good chunk of your life, so you don’t want to blow it. You still belong to God. He can still bless you. He can still give you a good life. And the rest could be picked up later. Move on.
b. For those of you that have sinned greatly like the brothers.
You’ve done evil. You’ve hurt people. You’ve ruined relationships. You have said and done deplorable things. A lesson from the brothers is this. Repentance is the only solution. They realised they’d sinned against God and against Joseph. And they have been reconciled to God.
They’re not yet reconciled to Joseph, but because they confessed their sin; because they own their sin; because they name their sin openly, that means that they have become honest men.
You and I, when we sin, we need to be honest. We need to just say it. “That was wrong. I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have done that. That was just wrong. I did wrong. And let me prove to you that I’m changed so you can trust me again.” That’s what’s going on. And over both of these relationships is God, who rules the providence in the life of Joseph – brings everything together just like he wants.
Our God is a God of reconciliation. The problem is sin. The answer is God. He knows what to do with sin. He’s the only one who knows what to do with sin.
c. Jesus needs to be at the centre of that change
Jesus- like Joseph – comes into the earth, is sinned against. He’s despised, rejected by his brothers. He is put to death. He forgives sinners by rising from death though he, himself, committed no sin, and died as a substitute in their place. Jesus then takes away sin so that people can be reconciled to God. He’s our mediator between man and God. And he takes away sin that separates us from people, so we don’t need to kill each other and declare war. We could forgive each other as God in Christ has forgiven us.
The result then is that grace and love and mercy and blessing is the hallmark of the Christian life, and that sin doesn’t need to separate us from God and people; that Jesus is going to take away sin, forgive us, reconcile us first to God so that God could change us.
The brothers have been changed. Joseph has been changed. He’s no longer that impetuous, arrogant young kid that he was. And the brothers are no longer the thieves and the liars and the crooks that they were. God’s been working on everybody, and because everybody knows God, and God is working on everybody, as they draw closer to God, they’re drawing closer together.