* Index - Mendelsohn's Sermons on Joseph
* Online Scripture text: Genesis 42

Genesis 42: Testing and Tensions
given 29 March 2003 by Bob Mendelsohn, at Beth Messiah, Sydney, Jews for Jesus Australia

The Middle East is on the news. It's in the News. It is the news, or so it seems. Every morning I go to the computer and read the NY Times and other sources of immediate dispensing of the issues and the buzz. The TV has overnight recorded the NBC Today show from the US and I can hear that perspective. And then Channel 7 has the morning news going with the implications for Australia of the war against Iraq. And tensions are mounting worldwide. Oil prices are continuing with gold to fluctuate. Stocks are one day higher than ever before in England and the next day at their lowest in years.

There is severe testing for Saddam and the world in general. Each week 10s of thousands of protestors show up in one major city or another declaring the illegality of the war and the disposition of the masses for peace.

Testing and tension. Those are the themes of the week and those are the themes of the scripture we read today. And we see the testing in the story of Joseph and the brothers. This is the first time the brothers have seen Joseph in 20 years and my oh my has he changed. Not only in clothing and manner, but in language and in power. He is another man compared to the 17 year old runt he was before. He was sold into slavery by them. He was loved by their daddy, but despised by them. They hated him increasingly for his visions about being exalted. Now they will meet again. Let's turn our attention to Joseph and his brothers Part 2.

Tested (42.1-35)

with hunger (1-2)
After a couple years of famine, the brothers are standing around looking at each other. What do we do now? The father Jacob insisted they travel the 250 miles, 6 weeks round trip journey to Egypt. What prevented their considering doing this before? Perhaps the long arduous journey. Perhaps the way that rich (enough) people are regarded as they come into a foreign country. After all they were going to buy their own food, not be a nuisance or unnecessary weight to anyone.

But foreigners are not a protected class of people. Look at the way immigrants are considered in the Gulf War Number 2. Look at how new Iraqi immigrants who are citizens of Australia, now numbering over 20,000 in the last 10 years are considered. Imagine if you lived next door to one of those 20,000. Would you look at them with suspicion? Do they deserve this? Of course not. Foreigners are called aliens and that's not usually a welcoming word. In fact it's off-putting to both sides.

They were haunted by the memory of their brother Joseph (42.13, 17-24) Even though it's 20 years on, that they bring up Joseph now is amazing to me. I don't know how often his memory arose in conversation among the boys, but it's not unusual by circumstance. Conscience has a way of digging up the past and arousing doubts and fears about the present within us.

With harsh words (6-14)
Joseph accuses them of being spies. Are they spies? Not at all. So why does he do this? To make them long for each other and to long for truth. He wants truth to conquer these often misguided brothers. Since words can cut deep, like poetry can bring a salve to a broken heart or a comforting song to a hurting soul, so the penetration can be sword like and here is no exception. The difference is that there is no salve. He wants truth to be in them since they had so often lied in the past.

With confinement (17)
Maybe in this way the brothers would feel the pain of the 2 years of Joseph or the time in the pit awaiting Market Day for slaves in the Ishmaelite trader village. Joseph wants the boys to feel the pain of prison. By the way, the word "Prison" here is simply house arrest and a different Hebrew word than the usual for prison or jail. Still they were unable to depart at will.

With surety (15-16, 18-20) [down payment]
How awful to be one of the remaining brothers knowing that the caravan would be leaving to papa. Who wanted to separate himself from his brothers? Reuben promised his father that Jacob could kill his sons if Reuben didn't bring Simeon back to his father. In other words, this isn't about death and life, but basically Reuben is saying "my sons are now yours" if I don't bring all the boys back. He is taking full responsibility, which he always should have done.

With confession (21-24)
Joseph is waiting for relationship to be restored. That's the whole point of this unfolding drama. He was the prince of Egypt the last 7-9 years. He is now 39 years old and has a chance to get back together with those who harmed him as a youth. But all the while he resisted the temptation to evil and to anger. He stood firm like he had with Mrs Potiphar and did not give in to temptation. God help us in this regard.

Look at Joseph's weeping. (6 times in the text (here, with Benjamin in view (43.29), when he revealed himself (to brothers (45.2), when he met father (46.29), when his father died (50.1) and when forgiveness is restored (50.17) Weeping is a good thing for a man to do, not to wallow in his own self-pity as he might have done, but for the joy of restoration of relationships.

Why Simeon? Perhaps because he was the oldest brother after Reuben who acted kindly. Simeon was cruel (34.25, 49.4-7) and was dobbed in to produce a possibility of repentance and returning to the Lord.

Time of Tension (42.25-43.15)

We will talk at length about this section of our study at next week's lesson. Let me however list them for you now.

Fear and perpleity (25-35)
Despair (35-38)
Then more next time….. Delay, Unbelief, etc….

Purpose of God in temptation was to weed out the sin in our lives. He tests us to show us His worth and worthiness. He tests us to remind us of ourselves and our natural inclination to evil. He tests us to teach us to depend on him. This was true in the Garden and it's still true today. It was true of Joseph in the pit and in Potiphar's house. It was true for the brothers when they were tempted with hatred and with famine. What will we do with evil and its luring to us?

Bob Mumford in his 1973 book "The Purpose of Temptation" talked about the 4 Ps. That is the four things that attend the child of God in temptation. They are God's promise, His principles, the problem and the provision. This was true in the Garden and as Israel wandered in the wilderness. It's true concerning salvation that is, how we know we are truly save and going to heaven. God promised it to us in the Scripture. His principle or determined plan and counsel is that it is fixed in Y'shua. The problem is that we don't always feel saved or act what we are. The provision is the assurance of salvation in the Messiah as we again connect with the Lord's word and His plan for us.

Same with Joseph and the boys. And same with you and me and any of the promises of God in these and any days.


Here are some things I see in our text in summary, and maybe you can add some to your own list as well:

  1. Don't shortchange the plan of God with your own methods of making things happen.
  2. Temporary hurt inside is worth the glory of restored relationships

  3. Honesty is still the best policy
  4. Revelation of the truth is costly to all concerned

* Index - Mendelsohn's Sermons on Joseph
* Scripture text: Genesis 42