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JOSEPH AND HIS BROTHERS
(SERMON #74 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)
A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., Pastor Emeritus
I don’t know how anyone could preach from the last few chapters of Genesis without drawing a parallel between Joseph and Christ. The comparison is so obvious that to miss it is to miss one of the great treasures of the Bible.
On the first Easter Sunday, very early in the morning, Jesus rose from the dead. In the afternoon of that same day He spoke with two Disciples on the road to Emmaus. Late that day, Jesus appeared to His Disciples in an upper room. He ate with them there, and when supper was over, Jesus explained to them all the things in the Old Testament Scriptures that concerned Him. When He came to the Book of Genesis He surely made reference to Joseph; He surely drew a parallel between Himself and the son of Jacob, the most Christlike figure in the Bible! Today we will focus our attention on Joseph and his brothers. In that relationship, Joseph prefigures Christ as the Saviour of sinners.
But before we go there, I will give a sketch of Joseph’s similarity to Jesus up to the point when he encountered his brothers. Like Jesus, Joseph was loved by his father. Like Jesus, he was hated by his brothers, and was envied by them. Also, he was conspired against, insulted, stripped of his clothing, and cast into a pit, as Jesus was put into a tomb. His coat was sprinkled with blood and given to his father Jacob, as the Blood of Jesus was presented to His Father in Heaven.
Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt, as Jesus was made of no reputation and sent into the world from an exalted place next to His Heavenly Father. Like Joseph, God was with Jesus when He came to earth, and everything He did prospered. Like Joseph, Jesus was tempted, and yet He did not sin. Like Joseph, Jesus was falsely accused, did not defend Himself, was cast into prison, suffered severely, was numbered with two transgressors, was delivered from the prison of the tomb by the hand of God, was exalted to the highest position over the world, was thirty years old when He began His life’s work, became the Saviour of all people, had unlimited resources to meet the needs of all. What a picture Joseph presented in advance of the Lord Jesus Christ! But now we will focus on Joseph’s relationship with his brothers – as a picture of Jesus’ relationship to sinners. In doing so, I am relying largely upon the writings of Dr. I. M. Haldeman, long-time pastor of the First Baptist Church of New York City. Here are several parallels between Joseph and his brothers, and Jesus and sinners.
1. First, Joseph’s brothers lived in a land where there was no corn.
Please turn to Genesis 42:5,
“And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan”
(Genesis 42:5; p. 60 Scofield).
There was nothing in their country to keep them alive. To continue there meant death. So Israel told his sons to go to Egypt and buy food there, “that we may live, and not die” (Genesis 42:2). Likewise, all sinners are living in this world that is stricken with spiritual famine, in this world where there is no food for the soul. Every lost person who finds salvation first realizes, like the prodigal son, that there is “a mighty famine in [the] land” – and there is nothing for him here but “husks that the swine...eat” (Luke 15:14, 16). As long as a lost person thinks there is anything in this world that can satisfy him and feed his soul, he will not come to Jesus, who said, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
2. Second, Joseph’s brothers wanted to buy what they received.
Look at Genesis 42:3,
“And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt”
(Genesis 42:3; p. 60).
The word “buy” appears five times in the first ten verses of this chapter. This shows that they had no thought of receiving the food free. This pictures the minds of lost people. They think they have to earn their salvation by doing something to please God. Every lost person thinks he can “buy” salvation by doing something that pleases God. The prodigal son said, “Make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15:19), that is, a person who works for what he receives. Lost men have difficulty believing that they can be saved, “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). It seems impossible to them that Jesus will save them if they simply believe in Him. That’s the way it was with Joseph’s brothers – and with every lost man and woman. But the Bible says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Titus 3:5).
3. Third, Joseph’s brothers needed to be wounded before they could be healed.
When they came to Joseph their brother they did not recognize him. They had sold him as a slave in Egypt. Now he had a shaved head, no beard, was dressed as an Egyptian, and was now the prime minister of all Egypt. Since they didn’t know he was their brother, they must have been afraid. But even so, they came to him with a self-righteous attitude. Then Joseph spoke “roughly unto them” (Genesis 42:7). Notice why he spoke that way to them. They said, “We are true men” (Genesis 42:11). The modern version translates it, “We are honest men.” Yeah, right! Real honest men! But Joseph knew better! He knew they had nearly murdered him, and had lied to their father, saying that he was dead! Real honest men!
And Jesus knows everything about you too! He knows every sin in your heart, and in your life. You can’t fool Him, any more than they could fool Joseph! “We are honest men,” “we are true men.” Well, that has to be knocked out of them! That is the way God begins His work on sinners. He wounds before He heals. He speaks “roughly” by the law. He says to your conscience, “You are guilty! You are a sinner! You are not a true man!”
How do sinners respond to that? At first they justified themselves. But at last they realize their sin. Please read verse twenty-one aloud,
“And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us” (Genesis 42:21; p. 60).
A lost person must be made aware of his sin. He must say, “I am guilty.” He must be made aware that he is not an honest man, not a true man – that he is a sinner! That is why the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin. You must be wounded before you can be healed. You must have at least some conviction of sin – or Jesus will not seem necessary to you!
I have had several people tell me in the inquiry room that they don’t have enough conviction of sin to be saved. That is a very common error. Joseph Hart answered it well,
“If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all”
(“Come, Ye Sinners” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).
If you wait until you are better, or until you have more conviction – you will never come at all! All the conviction you need is the conviction that only Jesus can save you from your sin. If you are convicted enough to feel your need for Jesus, you can come to Him right now, today! But if you think you are good enough the way you are, you will perish without ever being saved!
4. Fourth, Joseph’s brothers were put in prison for a time.
I can’t go into all the details of the story. You’ll have to take the printed copy of this sermon home and fill in the story by reading the passages in your Bible. It’s enough for me to say that Joseph continued to treat them roughly to make them see their own wickedness. Remember, they still did not know he was their brother. Look at verse seventeen,
“And he put them all together into ward [into prison] three days” (Genesis 42:17; p. 60).
This was what they deserved. Sometimes God deals this way with lost people, leaving them imprisoned until they realize that they deserve nothing but punishment. By this treatment they are made to see how wonderful it is to be pardoned by Christ. Thus, they are abased before they are exalted. John Newton said,
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
(“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, 1725-1807).
Old Newton knew what it felt like to be shut up in prison, fearing before he found release in Jesus!
5. Fifth, Joseph’s brothers learned that deliverance is by grace.
After they had been in prison for three days, Joseph turned them loose. In Genesis 42:25 we read, “Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man's money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way.” This is a wonderful picture of the fact that salvation is free! The Bible says, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
As I studied these points from Dr. Haldeman, I realized that experiences like this would not be understood by many modern evangelicals. Because of the prevalence of “decisionism” today, a lost person would usually be told to say a quick “sinner’s prayer” and told that he was saved! Dr. Haldeman was giving the older way evangelicals thought about conversion, and I am convinced that the old way was a better way! (See Iain H. Murray, The Old Evangelicalism, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005).
Only when a lost sinner feels conviction of sin will salvation by the free grace of Christ seem important! The older evangelicals could shout, “Amazing grace! how sweet the sound – that saved a wretch like me!” or “Grace! ‘tis a charming sound!” or,
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
(“Grace Greater Than Our Sin” by Julia H. Johnston, 1849-1919).
But evangelicals seldom shout like that today! I actually read about modern evangelicals who said, “What’s so amazing about grace?” How sad! Conviction of sin and salvation in Christ can only come by the grace of God. The sinner cannot do anything to save himself. Jesus must do all the saving. The sinner is only told to repent and trust Jesus!
Joseph’s brothers paid nothing. Salvation cannot be purchased! Like Jesus, Joseph restored their money and pardoned them, “without money and without price,” as Isaiah put it! (Isaiah 55:1).
6. Sixth, Joseph’s brothers found that they could not “clear” themselves!
Turn to Genesis 44:16. They had been in the presence of Joseph without knowing him. Now they were going on their way with the food he had given them. But Joseph sent his steward after them to bring them back to him. Joseph’s steward is a type of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Holy Spirit brings the convicted sinner back into the presence of Christ. Now look at chapter 44, verse 16,
“And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants...” (Genesis 44:16; p. 63).
Before they had said they were “true men.” Now they didn’t know what to say! God had found out their sin, and they were not able to “clear” themselves! Only when the lost sinner feels that he is undone, and cannot “clear” himself in the sight of God, will Christ be seen as his only hope! And that takes us to the seventh point.
7. Seventh, Joseph made himself known to his brothers.
Please read chapter 45, verse 1,
“Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren” (Genesis 45:1; p. 63).
Notice that every man, other than his brothers, was told to leave the room. This shows that no one can go with you when you come to Christ. You must go to Him alone. When they were alone, Joseph made himself known to them!
Now read Genesis 45:15 and 16 out loud,
“Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him. And the fame thereof was heard in Pharaoh's house, saying, Joseph's brethren are come: and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants”
(Genesis 45:15-16; p. 64).
Everyone rejoiced! Joseph rejoiced. His brothers rejoiced. Pharaoh rejoiced. His servants rejoiced. That’s what happens when Jesus makes Himself known to a sinner! Jesus said,
“Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10; p. 1097).
This is the parable of the prodigal son, as given in the Old Testament! Yes! Yes! This is the story of the prodigal son in the Book of Genesis! Sinners are received and reconciled by our Joseph – who is Jesus! The lost is found! There is life from the dead!
We pray that today someone here may come to Jesus and trust Him. Trust Jesus as those sinful brothers trusted Joseph! Jesus will pardon your sin. Jesus will cleanse your sin with His precious Blood. Jesus will save your soul for all eternity. How we pray that you will trust the Saviour today! How we pray that Jesus will make Himself known to you!
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter; I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.
(“Have Thine Own Way, Lord!” by Adelaide A. Pollard, 1862-1934).