GOD IS NOT MOCKED
Joseph: Man Of Faith...Image Of Christ
by Ron Ritchie
Last week I flew to Boise, where I was meeting Dave Roper in order to do
a men's retreat with him in McCall, Idaho. On the plane I got acquainted
with a woman of about thirty-five who sat next to me. While we were talking
I found out that she came from a Catholic background, and I shared with
her that I did, too. I asked her if she was still interested in spiritual
things, and she said, "No, not at this time."
I said, "You know, it's kind of wonderful, though, the background you
have---at least it helps you distinguish right from wrong morally."
She agreed with me. She was very humble, gentle, and pleasant.
As she passed me a coke from the flight attendant, I noticed a ring on her
finger, and I asked her if it were an engagement ring. She said, "Well,
it's kind of like, well actually it's...uh...well, actually I'm living with
a man and we're not married yet...When I was a senior in high school I lived
with a man who was twelve years older than I. Then I was married for eight
years and got divorced. And now I've been living with a very nice man for
the last five years. We're not quite sure when to marry, and I think it's
I sat there thinking, "I'm not a priest, you don't have to confess
all your sins!" But I couldn't help noticing that in her heart
she wanted to tell somebody something about her life because she knew it
wasn't right. She wanted a place where she could confess her sins and have
a sense of forgiveness by and reconciliation with the God she had known
as a child.
Most of us have a hunger to tell somebody that we went wrong and to find
out how we can get right. Who can wash away the guilt and pain and the sorrow
we've caused? Who can make us whole again? Who can restore our peace and
joy? Sin is devastating. It takes away the joy of life. It robs us of hours
of sleep deep in the night as we lie awake thinking over and over again,
"If only I had done this...If only I had said that...If they would
just call me...." We want to be cleansed, all relationships to be right,
all sins to be forgiven.
The Scriptures inform us that "...all of us have sinned and fall short
of the glory of God." Some of us are currently doing so. Some of us
are in a state of denial, in which we think that our sins will never be
exposed and we will never have to give an account to God or to those we
have hurt in our natural family or our spiritual family. But as we turn
to the life of Joseph, we will discover that God has his ways of holding
all of us accountable for our sins, for...
Time does not erase sin
When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to
his sons, "Why do you just keep looking at each other?" He continued,
"I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some
for us, so that we may live and not die."
Joseph (1910-1800 BC) was loved by God and his father Jacob (for he was
born of Rachel in Jacob's old age). However, he gave a bad report to his
father about his brothers' activities. His father also gave him a coat of
many colors. And he had two dreams from God in which he saw the family all
bow down to him. These things lit a fire of hatred in the hearts of his
half-brothers. When Joseph was seventeen they made plans to kill him, but
just then some Ishmaelite traders came by their camp; and they sold Joseph
as a slave to them for twenty shekels of silver (see Genesis 37). Joseph
was carried in chains to Egypt by those traders and resold to Potiphar,
the captain of Pharaoh's guard.
Then ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob
did not send Benjamin, Joseph's brother, with the others, because he was
afraid that harm might come to him. So Israel's sons were among those who
went to buy grain, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also.
Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the one who sold grain to all its
people. So when Joseph's brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their
faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them,
but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. "Where
do you come from?" he asked.
"From the land of Canaan," they replied, "to buy food."
Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then
he remembered his dreams about them....
While in Potiphar's house Joseph was unjustly accused of rape by his master's
wife and placed in the king's dungeon. But the whole time, "the LORD
was with Joseph." At the age of twenty-eight, while he was still in
the king's dungeon, he met the king's cupbearer and baker, who had offended
their master. One night they each had a dream that troubled them. Joseph
was able by the power of God to interpret their dreams, and in the end what
he said came true to the letter: The cupbearer was restored to his position
of honor, and the baker was killed.
When Joseph was thirty and still in prison, Pharaoh had two dreams that
depressed him, and failing to find any interpretation from his wise men,
he was informed by the absentminded cupbearer that Joseph was the man he
needed. The Lord gave Joseph spiritual insight to see that Pharaoh's dreams
were a foreshadow of seven years of abundance and seven years of famine
for Egypt and the surrounding nations. Then Joseph the prisoner spoke out
with the voice of a prophet and showed Pharaoh how he should administer
the land for the next fourteen years so his people would survive the famine.
Pharaoh saw which Pharoah saw as "a devine spirit" in Joseph (see
41:38) and made him second in command over all the land and over all the
preparations needed to survive the famine. Joseph was free at last! And
God was going to continue to keep his promise to Abraham that out of his
"seed" he would offer salvation and blessings to the nations.
Joseph was of that spiritual seed, a man of faith and an image of Christ.
As the story opens in chapter 42, the seven fat cows of Pharaoh's dream
were now being eaten up by the seven bony cows. The famine had not only
begun, but it was affecting the land of Israel. The year was 1863 BC, and
Joseph was thirty-seven years old, serving King Amenemes I-IV or Senwosret
1-111 in the Strong Middle Kingdom (1990-1775 BC). Jacob and his family
also felt the pain of the famine, and in time the old patriarch gave instructions
to his ten sons that it was time to stop "looking at each other"
and get up and go to Egypt to buy some grain for the family. Jacob was still
feeling the loss of his beloved son Joseph, so he kept his last son Benjamin
at home with him. This would be the first of three trips to Egypt that the
brothers would take, each more emotional than the last.
One day while Joseph was administering the distribution of grain to those
who were able to buy it, Egyptians as well as foreigners, who should appear
in line bowing before him but his ten brothers! He recognized them immediately,
but they didn't recognize him. So Joseph acted like a stranger toward them,
and I'm sure his heart was pounding. After all, the last time he had seen
them some twenty years earlier, their faces had been filled with hatred
and jealousy as they tore his beautiful coat off of him and threw him into
a dry cistern, then within hours lifted him out and sold him to the Ishmaelite
slave traders. He could still remember them watching and mocking him as
those slave traders put his neck in irons and his legs in chains (see Psalm
105:16-22). He could still hear the ring of the twenty shekels of silver
dropping into his brothers' hands. He could still feel the fear in his own
heart as he was pulled away from his brothers by the impassive slave traders,
and the overwhelming sense of absolute helplessness and hopelessness that
followed. He who had been so greatly loved by his father, then so greatly
hated by his brothers, had been led into the slave market of Cairo, Egypt.
How dark the night of his heart had become!
But now more than twenty years later, those half-brothers were unknowingly
bowing before him, who was second only to Pharaoh in all Egypt. Now the
tables were turned. In his position was authority, in his presence was honor
and glory, and in his hands was the power of life and death. And he remembered
the two dreams that God had given him as a young boy: "We were binding
sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood
upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it"
(Genesis 37:7). This dream was about to be fulfilled. But Joseph's second
dream would not be filled until the end times (see Revelation 12): "I
had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were
bowing down to me" (37:9).
What a moment for Joseph. He needed to be careful, for he had no idea whether
his brothers' hearts of hatred toward him had changed. So he began the conversation
on a harsh note in order to test them.
Suddenly it was judgment time. As Joseph sat in his position of power and
authority before his brothers and the world of his day, so Jesus is now
and will be seen as the ruler of the world in the days to come. Some nine
hundred years after Joseph's time King David would write about the coming
Messiah (Psalm 110:1-2):
"The LORD says to my Lord:
Jesus himself told the Pharisees he was the fulfillment of this prophecy
(see Matthew 22:44f). After Jesus' death and resurrection, Peter told the
Jews that Jesus was the fulfillment of this prophecy (see Acts 2:34-35).
Then the writer to the Hebrews would nail the same truth home (see Hebrews
1:8-9). This prophecy will be totally fulfilled when Jesus comes again and
sets up his kingdom on earth in Jerusalem, and all the nations will come
to him and bow before him. "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory,
and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And
all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from
one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep [the righteous] from the
goats [the unrighteous]...And these will go away into eternal punishment,
but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:31-32, 46).
'Sit at My right hand,
Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.'
The LORD will stretch forth Thy strong scepter from Zion, saying,
'Rule in the midst of Thine enemies.'"
All must give an account for their lives to God now or one day, in one of
seven judgments. One is the judgment at the cross. "...All have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). But God sent his
Son into the world to die for all our sins. The one who believes in Christ
as their Lord and Savior has been brought to court, sentenced to death,
and executed in the person of their Substitute, Jesus (see Galatians 3:13).
Second, there is the judgment we impose on ourselves of confessing our sins
to God in order to be cleansed (1John 1:9).
Third, God moves in among his spiritual children who refuse to confess their
sins and gives them divine correction and chastisement (see 1 Corinthians
Fourth, the judgment seat of Christ will have to do with a believer's works
and services and will include rewards or loss of rewards (see 2 Corinthians
Then for the world, there will be first the judgment of the nations. This
will occur, as we saw above, at the second coming of Jesus, when he sets
up his kingdom on earth; then he will deal with the nations based on the
way they treated Israel.
This will be followed by the judgment of Israel before they are restored
in the millennial kingdom (see Matthew 25:1-13).
And finally there will be the white throne judgment, in which all the unbelievers
from all the generations will have to appear before God, and if their name
is not found in "the book of life," they will be cast into the
lake of fire, which is called "the second death" (see Revelation
20:11-15). As the old Southern Baptist preacher Robert Lee used to say,
there will be "pay day someday."
Time doesn't erase sin, for only Jesus can erase sin and give a believer
a new heart filled with righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Wearing a mask doesn't erase sin
...And [Joseph] said to them, "You are spies! You have
come to see where our land is unprotected."
As Joseph remembered his dreams about his brothers, he realized that the
first dream would not be completely fulfilled unless all the sons including
young Benjamin and his father Jacob came before him in Egypt. So Joseph
devised a plan to get the whole family together. Egypt in those days feared
the stronger nations of the Hittites and Assyria, and it would only be natural
for the Egyptian army to always be on the alert for spies who were looking
for the weaknesses of this nation. So he accused the ten brothers of spying
"No, my lord," they answered. "Your servants have come to
buy food. We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men,
"No!" he said to them. "You have come to see where our land
But they replied, "Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of
one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father,
and one is no more."
Joseph said to them, "It is just as I told you: You are spies! And
this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not
leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of your
number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that
your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are
not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!" And he put them
all in custody for three days.
They had a strange reply, reflecting their responsible for the apparent
death of Joseph twenty years earlier: "Your servants were twelve brothers,
the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now
with our father, and one is no more." This sounds like a story that
they had probably told to many in the days after the untimely "death"
of their younger brother. And then they put on their masks of innocence
and honesty and said, "Sir, we are honest men; spies don't travel in
groups, especially not in groups made up of all brothers."
But Joseph said, "If you ever want to leave the land of Egypt, you
need to select from among yourselves one who will go home and bring this
younger brother Benjamin back here to prove you are not lying." He
knew that if they had gotten rid of him, they might have done the same to
Benjamin, since he was his full-blooded brother and the other favorite son
of their father Jacob. Then he placed them in prison for three days to think
about their position and to let them taste the life he had had to experience
for several years.
Wearing a mask may enable us to fool everyone else, but not Jesus. At the
Last Supper he said to all the disciples, "Truly, I say to you, that
one of you will betray Me." The disciples were at a loss to know who
it was. Peter asked him, and Jesus said, "That is the one for whom
I shall dip the morsel and give it to him." And then he gave it to
Judas. "And after the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Jesus therefore
said to him, 'What you do, do quickly.'" (John 13:21-27; see also 28-29.)
All must give an account to God, if not today then one day. Neither time
nor wearing mask will erase sin, for...
God is not mocked
On the third day, Joseph said to them, "Do this and you
will live, for I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers
stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your
starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so
that your words may be verified and that you may not die." This they
proceeded to do.
Joseph entered the prison and gave a witness to his brothers that he was
a worshipper of the one and only true God, Yahweh. (It must have
been a surprise to find a top-ranking Egyptian believing in Elohiym
the Supreme God.) He realized that if he kept nine of the brothers in prison
while one went back to Canaan and then returned to Egypt with Benjamin,
much time would be lost and some of his family might starve to death in
the process. So he offered to send all but one brother back to Canaan with
grain, with the threat of death hanging over the head of that one, should
they not come back.
They said to one another, "Surely we are being punished because of
our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his
life, but we would not listen; that's why this distress has come upon us."
Reuben replied, "Didn't I tell you not to sin against the boy? But
you wouldn't listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood."
They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using
He turned away from them and began to weep, but then turned back and spoke
to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this
he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7). Here these brothers were some twenty
years after they had sold Joseph into slavery, and all ten with one voice
of grief cried out with the full knowledge that finally God had caught up
with them for their sin against their brother so long ago. The sin was repressed
but not forgotten by all of them, and not forgiven. "Surely, we are
being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when
he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that's why this
distress has come upon us."
Now we get new insight into that horrible day back in Canaan when Joseph,
the much beloved and favorite son of Jacob, was sold into slavery. It was
not just a simple heartless transaction. They surely must have seen his
face over again hundreds of times in their minds as they lay on their beds,
and heard his voice crying out in bewilderment and panic: "Don't kill
me! Don't sell me! What have I done to deserve death? Please, for God's
sake, for our father's sake, don't do this!" But in spite of his pleading,
they went ahead and sold him. They mistakenly thought that they had gotten
away with their crime against their brother Joseph.
But now they saw their sin. Joseph was trying to get them not only to see
their sin but to repent, which would be followed by a joyful reconciliation.
"For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption,
but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life"
Reuben, the first-born of Jacob and Leah, self-righteously said, "Didn't
I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn't listen! Now we must
give an accounting for his blood." For they thought they had killed
him indirectly by selling him to the Ishmaelites. God had spoken to Noah
a universal spiritual principle (Genesis 9:5):
"Whoever sheds man's blood,
The brothers were openly reviewing their sin against Joseph, thinking that
he didn't understand their Hebrew language (and it may be true that he had
forgotten much of it, but as they spoke in front of him he understood every
word through his interpreter). At that moment Joseph had to turn away from
them, for he saw that they really did believe in God and understood the
full consequences of their sin, that now it was time for them to be held
accountable before God. He wept because he saw that these hard-hearted half-brothers
were beginning to repent of their twenty-year-old sin against him. And they
also were coming to the point of realizing that they could not escape the
judgment of the ever-present Yahweh. Reconciliation was ultimately
possible! Joseph then turned back to them and told them that he would keep
Simeon in jail while they went back to get Benjamin. I am sure that he had
Simeon bound in exactly the same way he himself had been bound before their
eyes twenty years earlier, and led him away.
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made man."
Joseph was again like our Lord Jesus, invisible but always present. And
as he wept over his brothers and their sin, so Jesus would one day weep
over Jerusalem: "If you had known, even you, the things which make
for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days shall
come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround
you, and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and
your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon
another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."
All must give an account to God, if not today then one day. Neither time
nor wearing a mask will erase sin, for God is not mocked. But if we are
willing to confess our sins, he is rich in mercy toward us (see Ephesians
A token of mercy
Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each
man's silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey.
After this was done for them, they loaded their grain on their donkeys and
Leaving Simeon in jail, Joseph had their bags filled with grain, then had
the silver they had used to pay for the grain hidden within the bags, and
sent them home. In the course of the trip one of the men opened his grain
to feed his donkey and found the silver. He showed it to the other brothers,
and "their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and
said, 'What is this God has done to us?'" They were saying in effect,
"This whole trip is of God---now we have to give an account for the
way we treated Joseph! First we are accused of being spies, then we have
to leave our brother in jail as security and somehow come back with Benjamin,
and now we find our silver in our bags and we will be accused of being thieves...Somehow
God is behind all these events and we are being set up for the judgment
we really deserve." Joseph's placing their silver back in the bags
is part of the answer to their question, "What is this God has done
to us?" They had meant all they did to Joseph for evil, but God meant
it for good (see 50:20).
At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack
to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack.
"My silver has been returned," he said to his brothers. "Here
it is in my sack."
Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, "What
is this that God has done to us?"
When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him
all that had happened to them. They said, "The man who is lord over
the land spoke harshly to us and treated us as though we were spying on
the land. But we said to him, 'We are honest men; we are not spies. We were
twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is no more, and the youngest is
now with our father in Canaan.'
"Then the man who is lord over the land said to us, 'This is how I
will know whether you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers here with
me, and take food for your starving households and go. But bring your youngest
brother to me so I will know that you are not spies but honest men. Then
I will give your brother back to you, and you can trade in the land.'"
As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man's sack was his pouch
of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened.
Their father Jacob said to them, "You have deprived me of my children.
Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin.
Everything is against me!"
Then Reuben said to his father, "You may put both of my sons to death
if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring
But Jacob said, "My son will not go down there with you; his brother
is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey
you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow."
Once they returned home, they all told their story to their father Jacob,
especially the fact that this Egyptian official thought they were spies,
so they had had to leave their brother Simeon in prison as security that
they would come back with Benjamin and thus prove they were not spies. But
the brothers were trapped by their past. They couldn't tell their father
the whole story of what they had done with Joseph some twenty years earlier,
nor the death threat on their lives.
They had told Joseph, the governor of Egypt, "Your servants were twelve
brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest
is now with our father, and one is no more." They now said to their
father that they had told the governor, "We were twelve brothers, sons
of one father. One is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in
Canaan." The memory of what they had done to their brother Joseph was
beginning to rub on their consciences.
Then they emptied their sacks of grain, and each man found his silver returned.
Then Jacob and his sons became fearful and thought it was a trick. Jacob
said, "And now you want me to give you my son Benjamin, having already
lost Joseph to death and Simeon as a ransom in Egypt? You have deprived
me of my children! Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more and now you
want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me! I am helpless, between
a rock and a hard place. We need the grain or we will all die, but as it
is I am losing my sons slowly one by one." Jacob was also losing the
greater picture and the promise of the Abrahamic covenant that had been
repeated to him in the dream from God when he was on the way to his uncle
Laban's home in Syria as a youth.
Reuben, the spokesman, said, " Father, let me take Benjamin with us,
and if I don't return with him you can kill my own two sons. Entrust him
to my care." But we know Jacob could not trust Reuben, for years earlier
Reuben had violated his father's bed by having sexual intercourse with his
concubine Bilhah (see Genesis 35:22; 49:3-4). Jacob responded, "No!
My last son Benjamin will not go to Egypt with you, for if I should lose
him like I lost Joseph, I would go to my grave with deep sorrow." Meanwhile,
this decision left Simeon rotting in an Egyptian jail. These brothers were
being tested to see if they would abandon Simeon as they had abandoned Joseph
when he was seventeen.
But behind all this tension at home was Joseph back in Egypt with a heart
of mercy toward his brothers, in the Spirit of the Christ who was to come.
For Christ told his disciples, "...Love your enemies, and do good...and
you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful
and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." (Luke
All of us have sinned against God and each other sometime in the past, and
some of us are doing so currently. Some of us are in a state of denial,
in which we think that our sins will never be exposed and we will never
have to give an account to God or to those we have hurt. But neither time
nor wearing a mask will erase sin, for God is not mocked. Some of us have
been convicted by the Holy Spirit and have repented of our sins against
God and others, and we have found that as we are willing to confess our
sins, he is rich in mercy toward us. Joseph reflected the image of Christ
our Lord, who is more than willing to forgive us if we will but confess
our sins to him and then be willing to go to those we have sinned against
and ask for their forgiveness. Then we can all enter into the joy of reconciliation
with our Lord Jesus and our brothers and sisters.
My new friend from the plane trip is priceless in the sight of God, but
at this moment she is still accountable to Him for her sins. On the other
hand, for those of us who have confessed Jesus as our Lord (Romans 10:9-10)
our sins are forgiven. A door is now open to go before Him to confess our
sins daily (1John 1:9). As a result of our confession, our Lord fills our
hearts with wholesomeness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit without the
fear of judgment, guilt, or condemnation (Roman 8:1).
Catalog No. 4420
January 22, 1995
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