Yesterday we looked at four ways to get from Joseph to Jesus. Let’s now look at a concrete example of how to do this by considering Genesis 45, one of the most beautifully Christ-like chapters in the whole Old Testament,
We’ll look first at the desire of Joseph brothers: “Can we get out of here?” (v. 3). Then we’ll look at Joseph’s desire for his brothers, “Come near to me” (v. 4).
Can we get out of here?
They were convicted by Joseph’s providence
The brothers had already been convicted by providence in previous chapters (42, 43, and 44), as Joseph tested them to see if they had learnt their lesson from the sinful way they had previously mistreated him.
Joseph so ordered events that the brothers were repeatedly brought face-to-face with their previous crimes and the consequences of them. They were convicted by providence, by the memory of their past misdeeds.
They were convicted by Joseph’s words
When Joseph saw their humbled reaction to providence and the distress they were in, he burst out crying, so much so that despite putting out all of the Egyptians from the room, his wailing was heard throughout the house of Pharaoh (Gen. 45:1-2).
In the midst of this extraordinary display of grief, Joseph managed to blurt out, “I am Joseph, does my father yet live?” If the brothers were distressed by providence, and by Joseph’s weeping and wailing, how much more when they heard these awful words, “I am Joseph.” Don’t they remind us of the words Jesus spoke to Saul of Tarsus after providence had done its work of convicting him: “I am Jesus whom you persecute.”
They were convicted by Joseph’s presence
“The brothers could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence” (3). They were speechless and terrified. This was the most uncomfortable place in the world for them at that moment in time. They would have given anything to be anywhere else but Joseph’s presence.
Joseph’s dealings with them, Joseph’s words to them, and Joseph’s presence with them combined into a perfect storm that deeply troubled them. “They were troubled at his presence.” “Get us out of here!” was all they could think of.
Isn’t this how God often deals with sinners? The same Holy Spirit that actuated and motivated Joseph in his skillful spiritual dealings with his brothers is the same Holy Spirit that acts through God’s Providence, Word, and presence to convict us of sin and to bring us to grief about our past life. So much so that we cannot but long to escape from the presence of the God who is dealing with us in this way. “Get me out of here!”
Come near to me
Despite this desire to escape, to run away, Joseph uttered the last words they expected to hear, “Come near to me.” Not “Get out of my sight.” Not “I never want to see you again.” Not “Arrest and kill.” But “Come near to me.”
His obvious desire was to comfort his brothers as quickly, as deeply, and as unmistakably as possible. He passeed on comfort in various forms.
First, he comforted them with his presence. Yes, the very presence they feared most, the presence they wanted to escape, that presence was actually their best and only hope. He didn’t keep them in suspense any longer but gave a full and free invitation to draw near into His protective personal presence. Come near, take a closer look, enjoy who I am.
Second, he comforted them with God’s plan. Three times he said “God sent me here” (5, 7, 8). He was not denying their sin. No, he was saying, “You sinned, but that was also part of God’s plan. You sinned, but God overrules sin for good.” In essence he was saying, “You sent me here for evil, God God sent me here for good.”And the good was not just the preservation of life in general, but the preservation of the seed of Abraham from whom would come the Messiah (7).
Third, he comforted by his promises. In verses 10-12 Joseph promised them a special place to live, a special provision for their children and animals, and a special nearness to him. No ill will, but tons of good will. “I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat of the fat of the land…the good of all the land of Egypt is yours” (18, 20).
Fourth, he comforted by his power. He emphasize his place and prominence in Egypt to assure them that ha had both the ability and the right to do them the good he promised them (8, 9, 13, 26). He could accomplish what he promised.
Fifth, he comforted by his passion. Look at the way he embraced and kissed not just Benjamin, but all of them, and he did so with tears (14-15). Look at his urgency as he pushed the brothers to get the whole family from Canaan to bring them to Egypt as fast as possible (9, 13). This was full-hearted, passionate longing to bless his brothers and the wider family too. He wanted to be with them and hung around chatting with them (15).
Sixth, he comforted with his provision. He sent them off to Canaan to return with his father and sent with them a huge caravan train of supplies – lots of clothes, silver, animals, corn, bread, meat, etc. When the brothers told their father that Joseph was governor over all the land of Egypt, “Jacob’s heart fainted, for he believed them not” (26).
They kept telling him all that Joseph had said and promised, but still Jacob would not believe them nor be comforted by them. But, “when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived” (27). He believed them when he saw Joseph’s generous provision, and agreed to go to Egypt on that basis.
The original Israelite readers saw Joseph as perhaps the most God-like man in their Bible, and here they see how the most God-like man deals with the most ungod-like men.
What an encouragement to Israelite sinners as they read this story of what God is like and how God deals with sinners. How this must have helped habituate them to the coming Deliverer who would be exalted over all His enemies to bestow salvation on His people.
God’s anointed Deliverer, His spirit-filled Savior, still comforts trembling sinners. He still says, “Come near to me!” and encourages us to do so by His presence, His plan, His promises, His power, His passion, and His provision. Don’t run away. Come near!