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The Meeting

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 18, 2024 12:01 am

The Meeting

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 18, 2024 12:01 am

When Jacob's sons came to Egypt seeking help, they met a man they did not recognize--the brother they had sold into slavery. Today, R.C. Sproul shows how Joseph's response helps us understand God's loving discipline toward His people.

Get R.C. Sproul's New Hardcover Book 'Joseph: From Dreamer to Deliverer' and Teaching Series 'The Life of Joseph' for Your Gift of Any Amount:

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R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) was known for his ability to winsomely and clearly communicate deep, practical truths from God's Word. He was founder of Ligonier Ministries, first minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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Joseph's brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the earth. Already we see the beginnings of the fulfillment of the dream that Joseph had that got him in so much trouble with his brothers in the first place.

And here, over 20 years later, that dream is being fulfilled as they come and prostrate themselves before their brother. But they're not doing this as willing obeisance to Joseph because they don't know that they're bowing down before Joseph. There have been many twists and turns in the life of Joseph, dramatic events. But one of the most dramatic and interesting is when Joseph's brothers finally meet Joseph after all these years, although, as you heard R.C. Sproul just say, they don't yet realize that this is Joseph. Welcome to the Thursday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. As we quickly approach the end of this story of Joseph, you can go back and hear Dr. Sproul teach on the entire narrative when you give a gift of any amount at You'll receive access to the 20-part series and his new book, Joseph from Dreamer to Deliverer. When Joseph meets his brothers, he doesn't reveal his true identity.

In fact, he says he believes his brothers are spies. Does this call Joseph's character into question? Here's Dr. Sproul on the dramatic meeting after more than 20 years of Joseph and his brothers. As we come now to the next segment of the history of the life of Joseph, we move into that dramatic moment when, after all these years, Joseph meets his brothers again. Now, how many years have transpired since Joseph was sold into slavery by their brothers?

How much time has passed since these men saw each other? Remember, Joseph became prime minister of Egypt when he was 30 years old. He had been betrayed by his brothers when he was 17 years old, so that 13 years passed between the time he had been sold into slavery and the time that he was elevated to the role of prime minister of Egypt.

But remember, after that, there's seven years of plenty. So now, we have 20 years that have passed between the time that Joseph had been betrayed, and he sees his brothers again. Now, not only that, we know that the brothers didn't come immediately at the beginning of the seven years of famine.

Don't know exactly how long it was, but we're now over 20 years that have elapsed since these boys, or now men, had seen each other. And so, we read in verse 3 of chapter 42 this account. So, Joseph's ten brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt, but Jacob did not send Joseph's brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, lest some calamity befall him.

Now, this takes a word of explanation. If we would go back and look at the life of Jacob, we remember how he wanted to marry Rachel, who was the daughter of Laban. And Laban insisted that before he would give the hand of his daughter Rachel to Jacob in marriage that he would have to serve Laban for seven years, and Jacob labored for seven years. And at the end of that time, Rachel's elder sister Leah had not yet been married. And so, since it was a shame for the younger daughter to be married ahead of the older daughter, Laban did some treachery with Jacob and said, okay, now you can have Leah, and insisted that Jacob work another seven years for Rachel.

So, Jacob had worked for his father-in-law 14 years to get Rachel. In the meantime, he's having children from Leah. But the real love of his life is Rachel, and he longs to have offspring from her. But what happened to Rachel?

Initially, she was barren. And finally, her womb was opened, and she brought forth a son. And the first son born to Rachel was Joseph. And then the second son born to Rachel, who was the last son of Jacob, was Benjamin. So, Benjamin was the youngest of the sons of Jacob. And if Jacob doted on Joseph, because he was the son of his old age, how much did he then dote upon Benjamin, who was the son of his older age? And not only that, great pain came into the household of Jacob with the birth of Benjamin, because through complications of that birth, Rachel died.

So, there's all of that drama. Now, also keep in mind that when we talk about Joseph and his brothers, we are using a kind of shorthand and speaking somewhat in general terms, because it is true that these ten men who came down to Egypt were Joseph's brothers. Technically speaking, they were his half-brothers. Technically speaking, they were his half-brothers.

They shared the same father, but they did not share the same mother. The only full brother that Joseph had was Benjamin, his baby brother. And Benjamin does not go. And the reason Benjamin does not go is that Jacob is willing to risk his other ten sons. He's lost one as far as he knows, Joseph. He risks the other ten by sending them on this arduous journey to Egypt, but he won't let Benjamin leave home.

He wants to protect Benjamin. Now again, some interpreters of this text have said this is an indication of a fundamental lack of faith on Jacob's part, that Jacob is not like Abraham who is the father of the faithful, who goes out wherever God tells him to go, trusting in the promises of God. But Jacob, who had had the promises of God for his sons, is now waffling in his faith. And I think it's important for us to see that, that the biblical patriarchs, the biblical examples of faith were men of flesh and blood.

And there was always a mixture of fear and doubt that was diluting the purity of their confidence in the promises of God. We may have expected Jacob to act heroically and say, I'll risk all of my boys because after all I'm entrusting them to the providence of God. But he was not prepared to do that, and so he leaves Benjamin at home. Jacob did not send Joseph's brother Benjamin, for he said, lest some calamity befall him. And the sons of Israel went to buy grain among those who journeyed, for the famine was in the land of Canaan. Now verse 6 of chapter 42. Now Joseph was governor over the land, and it was he who sold to all of the people of the land. And Joseph's brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the earth. Already we see the beginnings of the fulfillment of the dream that Joseph had that got him in so much trouble with his brothers in the first place.

And here, over twenty years later, that dream is being fulfilled as they come and prostrate themselves before their brother. But they're not doing this as willing obeisance to Joseph because they don't know that they are bowing down before Joseph. All they know is that they are in the presence of the prime minister of all of Egypt, and the last thing in the world they would expect would be for that to be Joseph. They're assuming that Joseph is dead. The last thing they would assume would be that the man standing before them was Joseph. Now, why didn't they recognize him? Well, a lot of years had passed, and a lot of changes had taken place in this Joseph, who was seventeen and now is in his thirties and maybe even forties, and not only that, he's attired in the garb of the Egyptians. He's clean-shaven. He's wearing the styles of the Egyptian clothing.

He's wearing the opulence of royalty. All of these things would work to conceal his identity visually from his brothers. Now, it's interesting that in this encounter, one of the things that Joseph is careful to do is not to speak. He does not speak to them in his own language, but rather communicates to them through an interpreter. Again, another step to conceal his identity from them.

Let's look at the text. We see in verse 8, Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. What a moment that must have been when here, as busy as Joseph is, administering this whole reserve grain program for his people and then giving audiences to visiting merchants and dignitaries who are trying to buy some of the surplus grain to take home, and his secretary says, oh, by the way, there are some other people in here who want to buy some of your grain. Joseph's very busy. He walks in. The last thing he expects to see are these brothers, and it's a wonder he didn't faint when he saw them, but he did recognize them, and he recognized them instantly.

And can you imagine the jolt to his soul this episode would have been? But what Joseph does is to begin a program of playacting, of shrewd deception and dissembling, again, which has provoked some to criticize Joseph and to see him as a simple liar. Luther has an interesting view on this. He keeps calling what follows now in this encounter with his brothers an elaborately conceived game that Joseph is playing.

But Luther does not see in this a game of sinfulness or even a game of vengeance, but he likens it to the kind of game that God often plays with us, with our own people. The kind of game, I'm not sure game is the proper word for it, but the kind of manifestation that parents do when they discipline their children. Every parent knows what it means to feign greater anger with their children than they actually have in the process of disciplining them. I know as a professor of students, sometimes when students do things that are wrong, it doesn't surprise me at all, and it doesn't upset my soul, but in a display of pedagogical extreme, I say, how can you possibly do that? And I'll try to act with them like I'm really upset when I'm not the least bit upset, but I am doing this in order to awaken them to the seriousness of the matter, just as we may do these kinds of games with our children in the process of disciplining them. I know that sometimes parents paddle children out of personal anger and abuse them.

I can remember being told when I first got married, never, ever, ever discipline your children out of an expression of uncontrolled rage on your own part. But think in terms of your love and your concern for the child, and even as God tends to put on a frowning face towards the children that He loves, He chastens those whom He loves, and insofar as God is chastening those whom He loves and shows us the divine frown, Luther calls this a sweet and just heavenly game. Not game in the frivolous sense, but game in the sense that God is pretending to be more distressed with us than He actually is for a redemptive purpose, to bring us to repentance just as the parent scolds the child in order to bring that child to an awakening and to an awareness of what is wrong and what is right. And this is the way Luther describes the game that Joseph is playing here, and that Joseph has several things that he's concerned about. One, he wants to find out the state of his father. Two, he wants to find out the state of his blood brother, Benjamin. Thirdly, he wants his brothers to come to a knowledge of truth and of godliness. And so, exercising his authority as the prime minister, he does not immediately reveal himself to his brothers, but enters into this calculated deception, which becomes all the more complicated as we will see. Now, notice what happens here initially.

It's fascinating. We're told that Joseph recognized them, but he acted as a stranger to them and spoke roughly to them. Now, we know he still loves them from subsequent passages where his heart melts, and he goes into another room, and he weeps over his brothers and over his family, but he deliberately speaks harshly to them, acting as a stranger. And he said to them, where do you come from? Well, he knew where they came from. Doesn't God Himself say to Adam, Adam, where are you? Did God know where Adam was? Was God acting as if He didn't know for His own divine purposes or for His own purposes of reproof, for chastisement, and the sanctification of Adam and Eve? But so Joseph acts in this manner.

Where do you come from? And they said, from the land of Canaan to buy food. This is the first truthful thing that they've said to Joseph in a long, long time, and so far they are speaking the truth. So, Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him, and Joseph remembered the dreams which he had dreamed about them, and said to them, you are my long-lost brothers, and you just bowed down before me, and you fulfilled that dream I told you about so long ago.

Now, let's all be friends. That's not what he said. He said to them, you are spies. You have come to see the nakedness of the land. That is, you've come from some enemy nation to spy out Egypt to see how weakened we have been the ravages of this famine. That's a reasonable part of this deception. You can see that the brothers would understand why the prime minister of Egypt may be suspicious of them, particularly when they come in a band of ten.

Why don't we just have a single representative coming down there to make the request? Ten of these Hebrews come into the court of Egypt, and they want to buy food. Joseph says, no, no, no. You're spies, and you've come here to see how weak we are. And they said, no, my lord, but your servants have come to buy food. We are all one man's sons. We are honest men. Your servants are not spies.

Here you have truth mixed with lies. We are all one man's sons. That's true.

We are honest men. That's not true. Your servants are not spies.

That is true. But he said to them, no, you've come to see the nakedness of the land. And they said, your servants are twelve brothers, the son of one man in the land of Canaan.

And in fact, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no more. So inadvertently, they're revealing information to Joseph that Joseph wants desperately to hear. Now he knows that his brother Benjamin is still alive, and he also realizes that they're assuming that he, Joseph, is dead. But Joseph said to them, it is as I spoke to you, saying, you are spies. In this manner, you shall be tested by the life of Pharaoh. Interesting oath that he swears by Pharaoh. You shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of you and let him bring your brother, and you shall be kept in prison, that your words may be tested to see whether there's any truth in you, or else by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies. So he put them all together in prison for three days. Now do you notice the proposal that Joseph makes first?

He said, I'm going to put you to the test. You say you're not spies. I think you are spies. And if you're really not spies, you'll send your youngest brother down here.

Why didn't you bring him in the first place? And so what I'm going to do is I'm going to put all of you in prison except one, and I'm going to send one of you back to go fetch your brother, but the rest of you are going to jail. Now it would have been perfectly legitimate and just for Joseph simply to put them all in jail and let him rot there for the same time that Joseph had rotted in prison because of them. But instead, he says, I'm going to put you all there, and he put them there in prison for three days. And then Joseph said to them on the third day, do this and live, for I fear God. If you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined to your prison house, but you go and carry grain for the famine of your houses and bring your youngest brother to me, so your words will be verified and you shall not die.

So now, Joseph changes the terms of the test. Now he's saying, I'm going to be kind to you and merciful. I'll let all of you out of prison. I'll let all of you go home except one. First, only one could go home.

The rest stay in prison. Now he flip-flops that and says, one of you stays and the rest of you can go home, and this is your test. We mentioned in our session today that Joseph played a kind of game. He entered into a masquerade in which he feigned greater anger towards his brother than he actually felt, and in so doing, in one sense, mirrored and reflected the way God sometimes manifests Himself to us. Have you ever had the experience of assuming that God was so angry with you that there would be nothing you possibly could do to assuage His wrath and to restore a right relationship with Him? I think it's very important for us as Christians to understand the chastening of God and to understand that even when we come under the discipline of God and God appears, as it were, with a frown on His face, that this, in reality, is a manifestation of His loving-kindness and His filial care for us as His children. Now, we know that from the Word of God, so we ought never be in despair even when we fall into sin and when we come and repent, for which God's chastening is designed to cause us to do. We ought not, then, be afraid for the permanent anger of God, but knowing that He loves us.

God does love His people, and His discipline is a good thing for our good and His glory. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind as we spend a week considering the life of Joseph and what that teaches us about God and about the Christian life. Last month, Ligonier Ministries released a new book from R.C. Sproul, Joseph from Dreamer to Deliverer, and we'll send you a hardcover copy of that book when you give a gift of any amount at, or when you call us at 800-435-4343. In addition to the book, you'll receive lifetime streaming access to Dr. Sproul's 20-part series on Joseph. Go back to Joseph's dream and the circumstances of his imprisonment and the comfort that can bring as we navigate life's disappointments, trials, and even betrayals. Give your donation today at, and take time this year to reflect on the God of Joseph, the God of Providence. Tomorrow, we come to the final message in this series, and we'll see that while Joseph's brothers meant their actions for evil, God meant them for good. So join us tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-18 02:25:20 / 2024-04-18 02:33:32 / 8

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