Guided by God
This devotional is part of a series through the story of Joseph. You can read the whole series here.
As we come to Genesis 43, a quick recap is in order. Joseph has been ruling over Egypt about eight years. There have been seven years of abundant harvests, and Joseph has been an effective administrator, taxing and collecting one-fifth of the grain of the land and storing it in nearby cities until there was so much that it could not be measured. Now the years of famine have begun, and it was a famine that affected not only Egypt but also the surrounding nations. In Genesis 41:57 we read, “all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.”
Because the famine had reached Canaan, Jacob sent his ten sons to Egypt to buy grain, but Benjamin, the son of his beloved Rachel, he kept safe at home. Rachel only had two children, and the other one was Joseph whom Jacob presumed was dead, killed by some wild beast.
To buy grain, the ten brothers had to go to Joseph because he was personally managing the sale of grain to foreigners. When the brothers appeared before Joseph, they did not recognize him although he recognized them. When they last saw Joseph, he was seventeen years old, wearing a young man’s beard. Now he was thirty-eight and shaved like other Egyptians. People generally do not see what they believe to be impossible, and obviously they never imagined that the brother whom they sold as a slave to some Ishmaelites could ever become the ruler of Egypt.
When Joseph saw his brothers bow before him, he remembered the dreams he had as a teenager, dreams that he had recognized then were no ordinary dreams. With Benjamin still with his father in Canaan, Joseph realized that his dreams had not yet been completely fulfilled. To see the completion of those dreams, Joseph embarked on a plan that would force Jacob to send Benjamin to Egypt as well.
Joseph accused his brothers of being spies intent on finding an easy way for their people to plunder the land of Egypt. His brothers responded, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies” (Genesis 42:10-11). In other words, they were telling Joseph he could trust them. That, of course, is the real issue. Can Joseph trust the brothers who had kidnapped him and sold him into slavery? What kind of men have they become over the past twenty-one years?
After putting them in prison for three days, Joseph lets them return home, all except for Simeon, who will not be released unless they bring their youngest brother with them. Joseph warned them that only by returning with Benjamin would their words be verified so that they would not die as spies.
As we come to chapter 43, we see that Joseph’s plan worked. Forced by the famine to return to Egypt, his brother Judah prevailed upon Jacob to allow Benjamin to return to Egypt with his brothers. The first of Joseph’s two dreams was fulfilled, and this set the stage for Joseph to put his brothers to the test so that he would know what kind of men they had become.
They had, in fact, become honest men who loved their father too much to allow his favorite son, Benjamin, to be harmed. They were changed men, and this truth made a world of difference.
You may wonder, how did Joseph become so wise and so understanding? Joseph allowed himself to be guided by the revelation of God. God revealed his plan to Joseph in a dream, and Joseph followed the plan.
We are often faced with situations that require wisdom we do not possess. We find ourselves wondering, what are we going to do? Sometimes, the decision is a simple one because it is a matter of conscience, and the Bible reveals that to go against our conscience is a sin (Romans 14:22-23). Some decisions do not involve our conscience, and these can be more difficult. In these situations, we need to learn from Joseph’s example and follow the plan.
God has not revealed his plan for us and for the world in dreams because it is revealed already in the Bible, his written plan of salvation. The Son of God came to earth to give His life as a sacrifice for sin out of love for his bride, the church; the people God has chosen and called to faith in Christ. Nothing on earth is more precious to God than his people.
Another important fact is that Christ is coming again in glory to gather His people to Himself and to judge the unbelieving world with fire. Meanwhile, the gospel must be proclaimed, and God’s people must love one another because this is how Christ builds his church.
God does not make mistakes when He saves us. We are a part of his plan. Remembering this can help us when faced with difficult decisions. The guidance found in Proverbs 3:5-6 is also helpful: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Rev. Dave Durant is the Operations Director for Ministry to State.