Midweek Lent 6 – Genesis 45:1-20
Joseph’s brothers tell everyone that Joseph is dead, but they don’t really know that for sure. Likely over 20 years of telling the lie of what happened to Joseph, they have just started to believe it to be so, but in reality, they have no idea. And so, if you had hooked Joseph’s brothers up to a lie detector, and asked them where they thought Joseph was today, over 20 years since they last saw him as he was carried away into slavery by the Ishmaelite’s, you would have gotten one of three answers: Dead; slavery; or a free man, but living in absolute poverty.
They may actually think he is dead, but not because a wild animal killed him, but rather because slavery doesn’t exactly increase your life expectancy. Slaves were often purchased, worked into the ground, and then left to die. And besides, after how annoying Joseph was at home, how much more annoying would someone else find him in theirs, and what got Joseph into trouble in the first place, would be his death sentence now.
Still in slavery is also a valid option. Perhaps Joseph got in good with someone and they gave him an easy job. Joseph hardly broke a sweat at home, so he would not be of much use doing field work or building projects, but maybe if someone needed a house cleaner or a babysitter, Joseph could do that.
The last option is probably the least likely, although still possible. Joseph could have been set free in any number of ways, but since he had been an unpaid slave for so long, what could he do but sit on the streets and beg? If Joseph is a free man, he is probably a miserable man, who just wants to die.
Notice none of these options are close to what actually happened, but they are what one could reasonably deduce happened based on the circumstances. There is no other story of someone being sold as a slave who is then elevated to power and prestige in all of Egypt, so why should it happen now?
True to form, even after Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, they still don’t believe him, because the circumstances are just too far beyond the realms of human belief. There is no scenario where this could have happened.
Joseph is clearly the last person they expect to see selling them grain in Egypt.
On the flip side however, you could likewise say that Joseph probably never expected to see his brothers again either. He remembers the dreams he had as a boy where his brothers bowed down to him, but did he ever really expect it to happen? Over 20 years, did he decide that their paying homage to him would never happen?
How unexpected are the faces of the brothers when they bow before him and ask for grain? How unexpected is it that the brothers actually brought Benjamin back, and that they really do care for him and do not want what happened to Joseph to happen to him, if for no other reason than for the sake of their father?
There are many unexpected faces today, in this most unexpected place. Did Abraham ever envision his descendants leaving the land that God had promised him to go to Egypt, where his own great-grandson would sit at the right hand of Pharaoh?
And yet they will, and he is; the Lord has paved a way for the salvation of His people, and the means through which that salvation will be brought about is Joseph going to Egypt ahead of everyone else, and preparing a place for his family.
You don’t expect this to be the case, and yet, this is how God has decided to work, in order that in the future, there might be an even more unexpected face in an even more unexpected place.
For who is it that stands before the Pharisees? Who is it that stands on trial before Herod and Pilate? Who is it that is dressed in a purple robe, and forced to wear a crown of thorns? Who is it that is rejected in favor of Barabbas? Who is it that is forced to carry His own cross? Who is it that hangs on the cross and suffers and dies? Who is it that will be laid into a tomb?
It’s Jesus. Jesus the very Son of God. Jesus who sits at the right hand of His Father in heaven in power and glory. Jesus who was present from the very foundations of the world. Jesus who is without sin. Jesus who kept the law perfectly. Jesus who is in no way deserving of the punishment that He must now endure. Jesus, the one to whom all in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow the knee.
You just don’t expect to see the holy Son of God suffering and dying, especially not for a worm like you. Jesus is in your place. You are the one who deserves the beatings and the mocking and the nails and the spear and the suffering and the agony. And yet, Jesus takes your place, for this is the means by which God has determined to bring about your salvation.
And with Jesus in your place, there is a new even more unexpected face in an even more unexpected place. Without Jesus, you deserve nothing but death and hell; but now that Jesus has born your punishment in your place, you now find yourselves in the glories and the splendors of Paradise forever.
By His death and resurrection and ascension, Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for you, and that place is the glories of eternity in heaven.
And this will not just be for you, nor for those who pass the mustard of your own test of who is worthy of salvation.
For no doubt on the Last Day, there will be some unexpected faces in unexpected places. Some will look around at the gathering of the faithful that Christ has drawn to Himself and be amazed at who they see, but will likewise be amazed at who they do not see.
For the wonders of this famine in Egypt is that Joseph, with the blessing of Pharaoh, is selling not just to those in Egypt, but to all who come from all over seeking grain, even the brothers who make their way from Canaan, and are reunited with Joseph. For Christ does not just make this salvation available to those who fall into certain categories, rather salvation is available to all people. That is the true wonder of the work of Christ on the cross; is that it is for all those who you would never expect.
And like the brothers who leave the hell of Canaan to live in the prosperity of Egypt because of Joseph, now you, because of Jesus will not have to endure the sufferings of this world, but can bask in the eternal glories and the splendors of your heavenly Father in glory forever.