In Genesis chapter 45 Joseph could not refrain himself in front of his brethren. He had listened to the dramatic, moving and compelling appeal of Judah on behalf of the lad Benjamin as he reported the words and voiced the fears of Jacob. The old man had anticipated problems and, as his life was bound up in the lad’s life, so Judah believed that to go up and the lad be not with him would ‘bring down the gray hairs of thy servant to the grave’, Gen. 44. 31. Judah’s appeal ended with the offer that he himself should ‘abide instead of the lad, a bondman to my lord’, v. 33. Such an appeal, such evident sincerity touched Joseph’s heart and he shows some of the concerns that we wish to explore
1. His Concern for Privacy
When Joseph could no longer refrain himself he said, ‘Cause every man to go out from me’, 45. 1, In effect he was dismissing the Egyptians. It was not appropriate that the sorrows of the past and the revelation of Joseph should be witnessed by outsiders. This was to be a private matter between Joseph and his brethren. The Egyptians later heard and saw the effects of what was taking place but into the secrets of Joseph’s heart they were not to be admitted.
It is the desire of the heavenly Joseph to be alone with His people too, for there, in the secret of His presence we can see the unfolding of the divine will and enjoy for ourselves the revelation of Christ to our hearts. How blessed it is, whether in private devotions, or at the Lord’s supper to be:
Shut in with Thee far, far above
The restless world that wars below;
We seek to learn and prove Thy love;
Thy wisdom and Thy grace to know.
The risen Lord is concerned that He and we should spend time together, alone in His presence, so that we may be able to understand and appreciate Him more fully. May we respond to His desire and enjoy the time together as He makes Himself known to us. Like Joseph’s brethren we know that Christ is Lord of all, but we need to learn that He is ‘My Lord, and my God’.
2. His Concern for Intimacy
Joseph’s brethren were troubled at what was happening and were quite unable to answer him. They were showing signs of the stress and strain of the journey, of being falsely accused, of being drawn before rulers and of the possibility of causing their father’s death by returning without Benjamin. Joseph is concerned that their terror should be dissipated as they stand before him, the one whom they had wronged and sold in days past. Consequently he says in verse 4, ‘Come near to me, I pray you’. Until now there had been a gulf between them and Joseph. They could not bridge it themselves; they could only stand without in fear. Yet, it is to be seen that not only do they have a need for reassurance, but it is Joseph who shows the desire for intimacy, ‘Come near to me’.
How blessed that our Lord is concerned that we should draw near to Him. Without His initiative we cannot respond; without His invitation we continue to stand without in fear. ‘And they came near’! What a joy to behold the sinner as he draws near at the Lord’s request. ‘Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith’, Heb. 10. 22. In that position of closeness he says, i am Joseph’. We are reminded of the words of the risen Lord, ‘I am Jesus’, as He revealed Himself to Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road.
The saints of God today have a need for closeness, reassurance and an appreciation of who Christ really is. Furthermore, Christ, like Joseph, is concerned that we should come near to Him. The world will cast us out. To whom shall we go? ‘Come near to me, 1 pray you’.
3. His Concern for History
Joseph is concerned that the brethren should have a proper understanding, not only of what happened, but also why it happened. What, or rather who, was behind it all and what was the purpose and end in view? Viewed historically, it was a sad tale of envy, hatred, pride and deceit. On reflection the brethren were appalled by what they had done, yet Joseph describes the story rather differently, ‘God did send me before you’, v. 5; ‘God sent me’, v. 7; ‘It was not you … but God’, v. 8. Joseph knew, and wished the brethren to understand the sovereignty of God in these matters. Although it appeared at the time to be evil, nevertheless God planned it for the ultimate good.
It is a concern of our Lord that we too should appreciate that all things work together for good to them that love God. If we are able to comprehend that, and to accept it, we will be able to be relaxed about opposition, envy and all the evils that are planned against us. We are in God’s hand and will not fear what man can do unto us. May we more fully appreciate that God is in control, that He is still on the throne and will look after His own. At the end of the journey we will look back and bless both the hand that guided and the heart that planned. He is concerned that we should live in the good of that now.
4. His Concern for Nourishment
Joseph was concerned that the nourishment that was available should be used to full advantage. Their lives were to be saved and he urges them, ‘Haste ye’, v. 9; Tarry not’, v. 9; ‘Ye shall haste’, v. 13. No time was to be lost. Famine was throughout the land and the food that was available through Joseph was needed desperately by Jacob and his sons. In fact, the nourishment would not only be for the brethren, but also for their father, his children and his children’s children, his flocks, his herds and all that he had.
The benefits of being near are innumerable and affect all we have. In a spiritual sense we need to sit at His table and partake of all that has been provided. And, too, to share it with others and allow it to affect ourselves, our families, our homes and all that we have, The Lord is concerned that this should be so, and quickly, lest we come to poverty.
5. His Concern for an Appreciation of His Glory
‘Ye shall tell … of all my glory’, v. 13. There was no doubting the glory that Joseph enjoyed. Chapter 41 tells us that he wore Pharaoh’s ring; was arrayed in fine linen; had a gold chain about his neck; rode in the second chariot; all Egypt bowed the knee before him. He was concerned that a true report, indeed a report based on personal experience, ‘all that ye have seen’, should be presented to those who had no knowledge of his present whereabouts and power.
It is today a concern of the Lord that we, His servants and His eyewitnesses, should tell out His glory. How much we have to tell depends on how much we have seen. If we have appreciated but little we shall have but little to tell. Is this the reason for our lack of convincing witness? Let us therefore aspire to see His glory. He is concerned that we should see it at first hand for ourselves and tell it to others.
6. His Concern for Benjamin
Joseph fell upon Benjamin’s neck and wept. Benjamin wept too. Clearly Joseph had a special affection for Benjamin, the youngest, and the most vulnerable of the brethren. He was a man who was concerned for ‘little ones’. There was a special relationship here, a unique closeness and a loving trust. How lovely to see that Joseph and Benjamin shared these things with each other.
So too our Lord had a care for little ones. He suffered the children; they had a peculiar place in His affections. We need to be aware that He still supports the young, the old, the weak, the vulnerable and those under pressure.
We ought to do so too, lest we be found to work against Him. If they share a special place close to His heart they must have a similar place with us as well.
7, His Concern to find Men of Activity
In chapter 47 Joseph needs to respond to Pharaoh’s suggestion for employment for some of the brethren. They were to dwell in Goshen, the best of the land, where there was a need for shepherds and for men to take responsibility. Joseph was concerned to identify ‘men of activity’ among them, v. 6, so that proper service could be rendered and the most made of the opportunities and challenges presented. Joseph himself had been a man of activity, in Potiphar’s house and in the prison where ‘whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it’, 39. 22.
The Lord still seeks to identify men of activity so that the work of the Lord might be accomplished in the assembly and in the world where shepherds are often despised. Opportunities abound and men that do the work will soon be recognised.
These were concerns of Joseph; they are concerns of the Lord too. We do well to be aware of them. Let us therefore draw near, enjoy the secret of His presence, understand the divine plan, partake of spiritual nourishment, speak of His glory, have a warm affection for ‘little ones’ and be men of activity among the people of God, as God, through the Spirit will help and encourage us.