The Great Reveal
Text: Genesis 45
Proposition: The greatest things that God could ever reveal to us are identity, sovereignty and residency.
Introduction: Last week we listened as Judah pleaded for the release of Benjamin to the point of offering himself in Benjamin’s place. We saw how intercession, substitution and redemption are the evidences of love. So Judah finishes his plea and there is this moment of silence just like before a judge hands down a verdict. Suddenly Joseph, who is like the judge, has the room cleared of all except he and his brothers, the accused. As they watch his face something incredible, something unexpected, something amazing happens. Joseph begins to weep, and not just weep but sobs uncontrollably.
Have you ever been the one who brings good news to your family… good news I passed the exam, good news I got the job, good news I’m coming home. Those announcements are told with a smile and laughter, but what kind of good news is so potent that it comes with tears and sobs of joy? I think it can only be the good news of either escape from death or the beginning of new life. Strangely, what Joseph is about to reveal to his brothers is both of these, let’s look at Genesis 45.
I. Identity Revealed is Like Freedom From Death. (Verses 1-4)
It was just two words that made their mouths fall open, two words that were so unexpected it terrified them, “I’m Joseph”. As he saw the looks of disbelief in their eyes, the wondering if this was a trap, Joseph asks a simple question that is meant to be like a bridge that will allow them to crossover into belief, “Does my father still live?” My father, who is your father, is he still alive? The NKJV and NASB says the brothers, “were dismayed in his presence”. That word can also be translated as ‘terrified’. I think the NIV probably is even closer when it says, “But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.” In fact it was probably safer to not believe what he said than it was to believe it. I mean these brothers had betrayed Joseph and if this really was him what was Joseph now going to do to them now? So, ‘terrified’ really is a better description of where they were. But it wasn’t just that, it was like he’d come back from the dead. This would be like going to the funeral of a close relative and then in the middle of the ceremony the pastor says that there is a special guest present who would like to say a few words and he opens up the casket and helps your loved one to sit up and then get out of the casket and they stand there and begin to speak to you… “It is I, don’t be afraid!”. Would you be dismayed, terrified, unbelieving yet unable to take your eyes off them? This was what is was like as the brothers recoiled from Joseph to the other side of the room. Look at what Joseph says next in verse 4, “Please come near to me.” It reminds me of the times when Jesus first revealed Himself after the resurrection to the disciples, to Mary Magdalene, to the two on the road to Emmaus, to the eleven in the upper room, to the group by the Sea of Galilee. Shock, disbelief, then as they came near to Jesus, as they clung to his feet, as they sat and ate bread with Him, as they put their finger on the wounds of His hands, feet and sides, they believed. When the identity of Jesus was revealed it was like freedom from death, and not just for Jesus. The revealing of the identity of Joseph was a picture of that, in fact you could say that as Joseph’s identity changed, so did the identity of his brothers also change. Previously Joseph had been known to them as the lord of Egypt, as a leader who seemed distant and cold yet now the identity of this man is revealed as being their very own brother. Previously the brothers had been starving Hebrews, men from a small tribe of Israel, men who had been arrested for theft and faced the reality of slavery. Now their identity has been changed to being the brother of Joseph, the chief administrator of all Egypt. Now their freedom is from hunger, poverty, slavery, to being brothers of the most powerful person in Egypt. When Jesus revealed His identity to you and by faith you believed that He died for you as your Savior, then your identity changed too. You became in the eyes of God as Jesus is in the eyes of God… righteous, without the barrier of sin, a child of God (Jn. 1:12). That identity meant a great, great freedom from death to new life. It’s the kind of good news that causes people to sob with joy!
II. Sovereignty Revealed Is Like Seeing With New Eyes. (Verses 5-9)
Let’s talk about one of the most controversial truths when it comes to describing God, let’s talk about His sovereignty. Have you ever seen those car seats for young children that have a small steering wheel for the child to drive? They can turn the wheel to the right or left and yet the car goes where the parent steers it. It doesn’t matter how hard they spin the wheel nor how sincere they are in steering, the car goes where the parent takes it. So do we have no control in the context of God’s sovereignty, is there no choice to make, what about our free will? We do make choices every day, we have been given a mind and a will and a body so God does expect us to use it. Our choices will have consequences, both good and bad but free will never trumps or beats the sovereignty of God.
Tom Wells in his book, ‘A Vision for Missions’, makes this statement, “Sin cannot dethrone God. That is what sin aims to do, but it misses its mark. Sin brings guilt to a man, but it does not bring him one ounce of sovereignty. God rules even when men imagine they are defying Him.” And that points us back to our text. Have a look at verse 5 as Joseph seeks to help his brothers understand how all this came to be. Joseph simply says, “God sent me before you to preserve life.” When you read Joseph’s story there is betrayal, slavery, temptation, false accusations, imprisonment, all these things that we would say are marks of there being no God in his life, and yet… Joseph says each of these things were part of how God’s sovereignty was bringing him to exactly where God wanted to be. It didn’t matter how hard the brothers had turned their little steering wheel, God was taking them in His direction. When the brothers see this, when they begin to understand and recognize the sovereignty of God they begin to see with new eyes. God is not absent or weak or cruel. His intention is to preserve life. Joseph sees the sovereignty of God putting him into a position of power so that Egypt and his family can survive the seven years of famine, and that was so. But the sovereignty of God always is greater than what we can grasp. What Joseph didn’t see is that the seven years of famine wasn’t going to be the end of the story. A different Pharaoh would come to power, the people of Israel would become slaves in Egypt for the next 430 years. They would grow as a nation to over 2 million people, but all as slaves. What was the sovereignty of God doing by such a long and difficult road? Perhaps the answer is that people of Jacob’s family had been trying to survive by marrying into other tribes and other beliefs. They were living by their own strategies rather than by faith, rather by what God was plainly revealing to them. The great reveal for the brothers and for Jacob was that God’s sovereignty cannot be frustrated and His purposes are for life, not death. This they saw with new eyes.
III. Residency Revealed Is Enough! (Verses 25 to 28) Residency refers to where you live and not only that but where you belong, where you have citizenship. The government of Canada would describe you as permanent residents, citizens of this country. In the story we are looking at this is just about to occur as the brothers are sent back to Canaan to collect their father Jacob and all their wives and children and then to bring them to where Joseph lives. They come with food and wagons and clothes and riches as evidence that this place where Joseph awaits them is real, is abundant and is their next residence. For the brothers being with Joseph might have been all about blessing, the blessing of having more food than you could eat, of having more clothes than you could wear, of having significance in a land of poverty. But for Jacob it meant just one thing, it meant seeing and being with Joseph. In Jacob’s words in verse 28, “It is enough.” Whenever we talk about God it is like this great reveal. The great reveal of Identity, of Who He is and how that changes my identity. The great reveal of His Sovereignty and how whether I believe in Him or not He still cares for me and directs me to a choice of faith in Him. And then there’s the great reveal of Residency, of wanting to know Him more, to be with Him, it is enough in every way! It’s why Jesus once said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” The great reveal of God is Identity… Jesus, Sovereignty…to preserve life, and Residency... that where He is you may be also.