God Is In Control
This devotional is part of a series through the story of Joseph. You can read the whole series here.
In Genesis 42, we see the famine that Joseph foresaw taking its toll on the rest of the world. The sons of Israel are no exception. They hear of available food in Egypt and decide to make the long journey in order to buy grain. There, they meet the governor in charge of the exchange. Of course they do not recognize that this man is Joseph, their own brother who they conspired against and sold into slavery. And so, the first of Joseph’s dreams from Genesis 37 comes to pass: “And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground” (Genesis 42:6).
Joseph, however, is unwilling to reveal himself just yet. He plays on his brothers’ ignorance and backs them into a corner. They can either rot in prison or promise to return with their youngest brother, Benjamin.
Thus, we see Joseph putting his brothers to the test. Have they changed since their treachery against him? Scripture indicates a serious work of renewal has begun in their hearts. Once jealous and murderous toward their brother, they now demonstrate shame and remorse (v. 21). God has worked in their hearts such that they acknowledge their own sin and trust that their punishment is a just judgment from God (v. 22).
But even as they proceed with his request, Joseph turns up the heat. How will they respond when the circumstances are manipulated to look as if they have sinned again even though they are innocent? Again, the brothers reveal true repentance and humility. Again, they acknowledge God’s hand in judgment (v. 28). And again, they are willing to sacrifice themselves, especially to prevent any distress upon their father (v. 37).
In the immediate context, Genesis 42 reveals God’s divine providence to work all things according to his will. God fulfilled Joseph's dreams, and he has opened the door for true reconciliation between Joseph and his family.
But the larger context reveals God’s sovereignty on a much greater scale. This chapter begins with Joseph’s brothers, the forefathers of the people of Israel, traveling from the land of Canaan to Egypt. We need to be able to appreciate how remarkable such a plot point would have sounded to the story’s original audience, namely those in the Exodus community.
After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites had doubts about God’s providence. If this God was so sovereign and powerful, where had he been all that time while they suffered under their Egyptian taskmasters?
But in describing the brother’s journey to Egypt in Genesis 42:3, the author is also drawing his audience to a promise made in Genesis 15:13-16. The Israelites could be comforted in knowing that all that had transpired was according to God’s perfect plan even as they heard the tragic genesis of their enslavement.
Despite the betrayal and injustice which permeates Joseph’s story, it is ultimately one of great joy and assurance. Those who count ourselves among the people of God can rest knowing they serve a great king who is working all things to his desired ends. Nothing is out of his control, even in your own life today.
Robert Hasler is a Ministry Associate and cohost of The Will & Rob Show.