Joseph #11 “The Big Surprise”
Genesis 45 November 21, 2004
SI: When we started this study of the life of Joseph back in August, told you I
received tremendous insight from some sermons by Dr. Robert Rayburn of
Faith Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, Washington.
Wanted to mention that again, give credit where credit is due.
Main idea from him. So blessed, opened my eyes to this story like never before.
INTRO: When I was a schoolteacher
the faculty and staff planned a surprise party for the headmaster’s 50th birthday.
To appreciate the way we surprised him, have to know about his personality.
He was a feisty man, easily riled up. Senior football player, busted lip.
Not good quality. But talented, loved school. Mostly—easily riled up.
One evening we set up a big classroom for a party.
Custodian called, said caught students vandalizing. Come right away. Rm . 4
Then we all waited. In a little while heard door slam.
Heard footsteps running down hall. Burst into room with his fists clinched.
When we shouted “Surprise!” he was stunned. Face from anger, confusion—
then he threw back his head and roared with laughter.
What we have in this chapter is the big surprise when Joseph reveals himself.
To really appreciate, have to remember these brothers had been on an emotional
rollercoaster for months. All of their ups and downs were planned by Joseph.
Didn’t do to be mean but to cause them to begin to face the crime had committed
22 years before—selling their own brother into slavery, breaking father’s heart.
It worked. Lord used these things to soften the hard consciences of these men,
revive them spiritually, cause them to admit what had done was wrong.
So in addition to emotional ups and downs of being accused of spying,
silver in their bags, fear of this mean Egyptian—consciences were hurting.
Remember from last chapter—everything brought to climax of emotion
when Benjamin accused of stealing, threatened with slavery, Judah offered self.
Now walk with me through what happened next from brothers’ perspective—
in terms of human emotion, one of most dramatic moments in the whole Bible.
This Egyptian governor who had been speaking all of this time through interpreter,
shouted something in Egyptian and all his servants left the room.
Brothers found themselves alone with this man who frightened them so much.
Looked at them, stern face crumbled, he began to weep. Not few tears. Wailing.
Can imagine the brothers looking at each other nervously.
And then he looked at them and through his sobs he said in Hebrew—
“I am Joseph. Is my father still living?” So terrified, stunned, unable to answer.
The enormity of their sin against their brother,
their complete nakedness and exposure before him paralyzed them.
Then Joseph got control of his tears, Come close to me, please.
“I am Joseph your brother who you sold into slavery.” Increased alarm.
But then what follows is this marvelous testimony by Joseph.
I told you at the beginning, story of Joseph, story of God’s providence.
Have studied that all along, but here, in Joseph’s words,
have the wonderful doctrine of God’s providence laid out before us.
He says over and over. God sent me here. You didn’t send me here.
You did but you didn’t. God sent me here to preserve your lives.
Brothers begin to realize that everything that had happened to them had purpose.
Also realized their interpretation of things wrong 100% of time.
All along God, Joseph as hand of God, working sovereignly for good.
This chapter friendly heads-up to Xians. Have big surprise coming.
So big, even though know coming, will still surprise you.
The big surprise when Joseph revealed himself is just a taste of the big surprise
you will have when you get to heaven and the Lord reveals
all he has done in your life and all he has prepared for you.
When you get to heaven, see how everything fits together, will be stunned.
In this life, God sometimes gives you little glimpses of what He is doing.
But there is so much we don’t understand. Why God?, we ask.
Especially about the bad things. The sins, the sorrows, disappointments. Why?
We know Bible says all things work for good. Know doing and planning.
And we believe it. But when we see it, are going to be stunned.
Like person getting close to birthday. Thought of surprise party crossed mind.
But in the rush of life, disturbing phone calls, aren’t prepared.
Even the greatest faith cannot prepare you for the stunning revelation of God’s
hidden work in your life. Wonderful end of mysterious road of his providence.
Believing this gives you hope. Hope enables you to look at your life realistically.
Even the painful things. You can look at them and not deny them,
not fantasize different circumstances, not shift blame, not ignore.
Can look at life—the good, the bad, and the ugly—say to self:
One day I’m going to be surprised to see what God was doing through this.
So for now, I’ll face it. Deal with it by the grace He has given me.
So what will it be like when you get to heaven? When God reveals his hand?
What will cause you to be stunned and amazed? Three things in this story.
MP#1 You are going to be surprised by the reunion and reconciliation in heaven.
“Come close to me, please. I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt.”
Those words must have hit the brothers so hard it took their breath away.
The enormity of what they had done to their brother struck them as never before.
But Joseph assured them of God’s love, and of his love.
He told them that God had even used their crime against him for good.
Then what did Joseph do? He kissed and embraced Benjamin.
Then he kissed and embraced all his brothers.
You can imagine him going around the circle.
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, on down the line. The ten who had sold him.
Then it says they talked with him.
What a conversation that must have been.
You wonder who talked first. Probably the brothers.
The told him how ashamed they were, how sorry they were.
They no doubt asked for his forgiveness again and again. Each of the ten.
And Joseph one by one assured each one he had forgiven them.
Then don’t you think Joseph began to talk.
He began to tell them the amazing story of the past 22 years.
He covered all the highlights. Being sold into slavery. Midianite traders.
Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife, three years in prison, cupbearer and baker,
Pharaoh’s dreams, his rise to power, his wife and two sons, 7 years of plenty,
the first time he saw the 10 brothers, his plan to get Benjamin to Egypt.
Think of how the brothers listened to this amazing story.
One preacher said: “With what suspense they must have listened to that drama unfold,
red in the face, shame and utter relief vying for the control of their hearts.”
Reunion and reconciliation will be one of the big surprises of heaven.
The Christian hope is that we will see once again loved ones who died in Lord.
But the biggest surprise of all will be reunion and reconciliation
with your elder brother Jesus Christ.
Now, you may say, I’m already reconciled with Jesus.
Of course you are.
But when you see Jesus, it will be like the brothers really seeing Joseph
for the first time in all those years.
The brothers had come to deep conviction that they had sinned against Joseph—
but when he finally stood revealed before him, were stunned, terrified.
The enormity of what they had done was vividly revealed.
You know that your sins crucified Jesus.
As a child you learned that Jesus died for your sins.
You have been saying that all of your life.
The old hymn puts it so well:
“Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.”
You know that. You believe it.
But when you actually look on the One you have pierced,
the callousness of your sins will strike you as never before.
Especially sins after you knew Jesus,
after you knew about the cross, his suffering, bleeding for you,
you will feel overwhelmed, shamed.
Then He will perhaps say: “Come near to me, please.”
“I am Jesus, your elder brother, whom you crucified.”
And those words will hit you so hard they will take your breath away.
But then all the shame will be flooded by sweet relief
when those pierced hands embrace you.
And then you will talk. And what a conversation that will be.
As you pour out your life to him, as he assures you of forgiveness,
and then he shows you how even at your worst,
he was working things out for your salvation.
Things ashamed of? Callously sinned against Jesus—after you knew him?
You can start to enjoy some of surprise of heaven now.
Come to Jesus in prayer and worship.
Confess sins, look at wounds, ask his forgiveness.
Can be assured he is even more sympathetic and forgiving than Joseph.
Open Gospels. Read about love for sinners—take heart.
MP#2 You are going to be surprised by the prosperity and abundant life of heaven.
Joseph says to his brothers:
You will live near me and I will provide for you and your families.
You will not need anything.
Then Pharaoh himself learns that the brothers of Joseph have arrived—pleased.
“I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.”
“Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.”
Then before they leave for Canaan to get Jacob and families—
Joseph just piles on the good things—clothing, silver, provisions.
There was famine everywhere, but these brothers were eating like kings.
The brothers sold Joseph for 20 pieces of silver.
And their return for that evil investment was, by God’s grace, wealth of Egypt.
One of the miseries of life in a fallen world is that we crave.
Our cravings drain our souls of contentment and thankfulness.
A man never earns enough.
A woman is never beautiful enough.
Clothes are never fashionable enough.
Cars are never shiny enough.
Gadgets are never modern enough.
Houses are never furnished enough.
Bank accounts are never full enough.
Food is never fancy enough.
Relationships are never romantic enough.
Never enough. Problem not that we don’t have. The problem is our souls.
We totally forget that we don’t deserve anything good because of our rebellion,
that every single good thing we have, no matter how small is a gift from God,
and that knowing God is the only thing ultimately satisfying,
and knowing Him the only way to really enjoy anything else.
One of the great surprises of heaven will be the prosperity and abundant life.
The sheer goodness of the new heavens and new earth will be stunning.
You know how the prophets and psalmist’s describe the new creation.
Lion and lamb laying down together, leopard eating grass like the ox.
Reaper overtaking the sower, abundance of wine and oil.
The trees of field singing, mountains rejoicing
We read from Revelation earlier in the service.
Those last two chapters describe new heavens and new earth.
Streets of gold, river of life, tree of life bearing fruit, leaves that heal nations,
crowns, wealth of nations, image piled on image.
But the thing that will make all of this goodness so surprising, you will be changed.
For first time you will perfectly understand that you deserving nothing.
Don’t you know brothers looked at everything Joseph had piled on them,
and all of his promises, and all of Pharaoh’s promises through Joseph,
and just shook their heads in amazement.
We sold him into slavery—we got 20 pieces of silver split 10 ways.
We deserved death for that—but God gave us the wealth of Egypt!
That is what you are going to be saying in heaven.
Look at my life and what I deserve.
And look at what the Lord has prepared!
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
You can start to enjoy some of this surprise of heaven right now.
It’s called contentment.
Contentment is that wonderful surprise that comes when you look at your life
as God has arranged it and see it as a precious, undeserved gift from him.
And you are able to say, “I have enough.” Enough to live. Enough to give.
Paul calls contentment great gain.
It is the rare jewel of the Christian life you should strive for.
It is a little taste of heaven on earth.
Ask God for it. Ask him for contentment.
Don’t pray first—Lord, give me this or that.
Pray, give me contentment with the life you have given me.
Help me to see I’m like the brothers who sold Joseph.
MP#3 You are going to be surprised by the tears, the many tears of heaven.
This is the happiest chapter in the Joseph story but this is also the chapter
with the most tears. Why are there so many tears if brothers reunited?
Why are their so many tears if rifts of the family are healed?
Why did Joseph weep? Why did Benjamin weep?
Why did they weep when God’s perfect plan, overruling of evil revealed?
Why do people sometimes cry when they hear good news?
You will notice that the people who cry at good news
are people who are used to hearing only bad news.
It is part of living in a fallen world that we harden our hearts to bad things.
We protect ourselves against it. We learn to expect it.
Someone told me recently that they were in public,
and their child began to talk to a wheelchair bound elderly woman,
a woman whose speech and body was crippled by a stroke.
And the woman, and her elderly sister, pushing wheelchair began to weep.
Why? Why did they weep when a child began to talk to them?
Because they had hardened themselves to accept the fact that the sister’s stroke
had cut her off from the pleasure of friendly chit-chat in public place.
Who wants to get roped into an embarrassing conversation with a person
you don’t know whose speech is slurred by a stroke?
These women understood that is the way most people think.
They expected most people to ignore them or just greet them with a formality.
They no longer felt the loss of being cut off from normal conversation.
They didn’t cry when people didn’t talk to them. Used to it.
So when a child talked, their hearts cracked open, began to weep,
because they had forgotten the loss this stoke had caused.
Were startled by the simple goodness of a friendly conversation.
Joseph was a man who learned how to deal with bad things.
He was sinned against by his brothers, suffered many blows along the way.
He came to expect that life would have its hardships, was at peace with that.
Remember his comment in chapter 41, had forgotten his trouble and father’s house.
If you had asked Joseph about brothers selling into slavery,
could have told you the story without a single tear.
But when he suddenly saw his brothers before him, not cruel and heartless,
but changed men, tender-hearted, full of sacrificial love.
When, with that remarkable offer of Judah, rifts of family healed—
Joseph’s heart cracked open and he began to weep.
because in the presence of such startling good, evil and loss felt once again.
What will happen when you meet the Lord, and you see for the first time
how everything in your life, even your greatest disappointments,
even the wrongs and betrayals committed against you—
are overcome and overwhelmed with good?
One of the surprises of heaven will be thorough outpouring of emotion,
when you see how Lord has overcome everything with good.
Listen to Dr. Rayburn:
"No," you say, "there are no tears in heaven." Oh, I think you are mistaken about that! There are no tears of a certain kind—tears of mourning and sorrow and pain—we are told that. But, what of tears of joy that are fed and purified by the recollection of things past. No one can love Christ as he must be loved by his people through eternity without the recollection of his or her sins and guilt while in the world. And no one can rejoice to the fullest, who does not weep with joy. When the Lord Christ returned to heaven after the terrible agonies of his humiliation for us, do you not think there were tears in his eyes—tears of the purest joy and relief after all of that indescribable pain and sorrow. He was and is today a true man. The Scripture says that he feels himself the sorrows of his people. Are there no tears in his eyes, from time to time, there at the Right Hand? We will be there! I promise you who are Christians! And the tears. Yes, even the tears. As all that was bad and evil and hard and so profoundly regrettable through our lives is recalled only to be swept away in a flood of the purest, sweetest tears.
You can start to enjoy some of this surprise of heaven now.
When you come to believe, as Joseph did, that even the painful things are in
Lord’s hand. That even though some people might mean it for evil,
God means it for your good—then can be tears of joy.
Not perfect, mixed with bitterness in this life—as Joseph’s were.
There were years that had been lost. Were pains not totally healed.
But there was a taste of true, surprising joy none the less.
CONC: Said at beginning of study—
Story of Joseph is the story of God’s providence.
God’s providence is mysterious.
There are twists and turns. There are pleasures and pains along way.
But where does God’s providence end?
Heaven—life with Christ, new heavens and new earth.
And in heaven, all that is mysterious shall be bright at last.
And what a surprise that will be.
What conversations with Lord,
what amazement at his provision,
and what sweet tears of joy.
Believing this gives you hope.
Hope enables you to look at your life—the good, the bad, and the ugly—say to self:
One day I’m going to be surprised to see what God was doing through this.