Gen. 49:33; Gen. 50:1-21.
CHAPTER 2 — JOSEPH'S FORTY DAYS.
THE EFFECT OF DEATH; OR, CONSCIENCE AND ITS WORKINGS.
The forty days of Joseph are very interesting, because they make manifest the state of the souls of his brethren. The effect of those forty days upon his brethren was very far-reaching, I am persuaded. You see Joseph's brethren had sinned grievously against him, just as you and I have sinned against God, and although there may be a certain acknowledgement, that we are sinners, in everybody's history, there is never settled solid peace with God until a clean breast is made of the sin and the evil.
The reason why so many people today — while admitting the truth of Scripture and believing the gospel — are not in the enjoyed possession of forgiveness, salvation, and happy confidence in Christ, is this, that they have never had their guilty history really out with God. The last chapter of Genesis illustrates this very fully. A remembrance of everything, and confession of everything, then took place in the souls of Joseph's brethren. I have no doubt that it was the contemplation of the dead body of their old father for these forty days which brought it about. Death is a great reality. Men do not like death. They may tell me they do not fear it, and the scripture says truly, speaking of the wicked, "For there are no bands in their death" (Ps. 73:4); but after all death is a terrible calamity to man generally. I have seen men die carelessly and quite unconcerned, for Satan has got them in his grip, but the people that stand round about do not enjoy it. Oh, the thrill that goes through a man's soul when he first sees death! And it is quite right. The fear of death, of which Scripture speaks, is a right fear in the heart and history of a sinner. If you are kept face to face with death for forty days, as were Joseph's brethren, God will give you time to review your history as they did theirs, and if you are a wise person you will do it. But now I want you to see what led up to this.
Joseph is a very striking type of the Lord Jesus Christ; but the Lord Jesus Christ dead and risen. I do not talk to you of a Christ living on the earth, nor of a Christ dead in the grave, but I have to tell you tonight of a risen triumphant, victorious Man, whom God has made Lord of all. Observe that Joseph is a type of the Lord Jesus in this character. How he reached that position we will see, and to this end I am going to ask you to turn over the leaves of your Bible. We will go back, therefore, at once to the opening chapter of Joseph's history, and that you will find in Genesis 37.
Joseph is introduced to us in verse 2 as a lad of seventeen. I call attention to the age, because what came out at the close was this, his brethren had been partaking of the bounty of his hands for seventeen long years, but did not know his heart. Ah! there is many a person who has a sense of the bounty of Christ, but who does not know His heart. Well, we find Joseph was loved by his father. "The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand" (John 3:35). Joseph has a couple of dreams. First of all, there is the one in which he sees the sheaves in the field bowing down to his sheaf. And then he gets another dream, where the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to him. When he told his dreams his father rebuked him, and his brethren envied him.
This is just the history of Christ. He came into this world, which He had made as well as everything in it, but what took place? He was hated. He was not wanted. So Joseph's brethren hated him. His. brothers saw him coming one day, and they said: "Behold, this dreamer comes. Come now, therefore, and let us slay him" (vers. 19, 20). Similarly, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world, and when He came into the world the men thereof said, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours" (Mark 12:7). Joseph's brethren say, "Come now, therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast has devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams" (ver. 20). That is to say, they propose to murder him, and then to back up their murder by deceit and lies. That was the proposition, but it was not carried out because Reuben intervened, and Joseph was cast into the pit. But the murder took place with the Lord Jesus Christ. Men did kill Him.
Next we find that Joseph was taken out of the pit, sold for twenty pieces of silver, and became a slave. Our Lord Jesus Christ was sold for thirty pieces of silver, "a goodly price," says the prophet (Zech. 11:13). Judas sold his Master and his own soul in one moment. Many a man in this world thinks only of money. But stop, think of eternity, when all the money has gone, and when death has got his cold grip upon you, what then? Oh, my friend, you think of it now.
Joseph is sold to Ishmaelites, and they drag him down to Egypt. His coat of many colours is taken off and dipped in the blood of a goat, and with it his brethren deceive their father. They say to him, "This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no" (ver. 32). They deceived their father. Ah, you say, bad men. Have you never deceived your father? You are going to get time to think about it one day. Oh, but this is a very glaring case. I do not deny it, but sin is sin, my friend, and depend upon it, the day is coming when you will have to face it up. You may try and forget your sins, but stop a bit, God has a great memory and a long look-out. Many many years roll by, in fact they let about forty years roll by before it all came out. But mark, it must come out. "Be sure your sin will find you out," is a God-given word. Now, my friend, I do not know what your sin has been, but it will find you out. Their sin found them out, though the old man, Jacob, was deceived.
We will now pass over the next two chapters, where you have, upon the one hand, the looseness of man in the history of Judah, and, on the other, the wonderful way in which a God-fearing young man is preserved. That is Joseph.
Then we come to the story of the prison-house, where Joseph is trusted by his master and by the keeper. Everything goes on well in his hand, and you have the story of the baker and the butler, and this is how Joseph is brought to the throne. The butler and the baker had dreams, and he is able to tell them their dreams, for God was with him. He says to the butler: "Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee to thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh's cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler. But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and show kindness, I pray thee, to me, and make mention of me to Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house" (Gen. 40:13-14). That is he says, When it is well with thee, think on me. That is like a very touching word of the Lord's. just before He went into death, He said, "This do in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). Christ has been cast out by the world, and He expects His friends will make mention of Him. I like to make mention of my best Friend.
That butler owed an immense deal to Joseph. But we read, "Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him" (Gen. 40:23). The next chapter (Gen. 41), however, introduces him to Pharaoh. We read that Pharaoh had a dream. He first of all saw seven fat kine, and then seven lean kine, and the lean ones ate up the fat ones. And then he saw seven good ears of corn and seven thin ears, and the thin devoured the full ears of corn, and Pharaoh could not understand what it meant. At this juncture the butler remembered Joseph, and he is brought out of the prison-house. He had gone into death in figure. But what Joseph did not go into really, Jesus went into. Scripture says He went down into death, that by His dying and rising again He might bring salvation to you and me. The interpretation of Pharaoh's dream is very simple. Seven years of plenty, and seven years of famine, and so great should be the famine that all that was brought forth in the seven good years should be eaten up during the seven years of famine.
Joseph then gives beautiful counsel to Pharaoh. His counsel is this. "Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine" (Gen. 41:33-36). The point was this, the future was to be provided for. Now there is a great principle there. Whatever you do not have, as regards this life, make sure for eternity. Look ahead. The future is there. Well, when Pharaoh hears this wise counsel, he says to Joseph, "Forasmuch as God has showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art; thou shalt be over my house, and according to thy word shall all my people be ruled; only in the throne will I be greater than thou" (Gen. 41:39-40).
Thus we find Joseph delivered from the pit and the prison-house. Pharaoh exalts Joseph. What a simple figure of the Lord Jesus Christ. Where is He now? Exalted to God's right hand. The Man who humbled Himself, and went down into death for the glory of God and the salvation of men, because there was no way of escape for them except through His death and resurrection, Him God has put at His own right hand. "The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Ps. 110:1). And again we read: "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven" (angels), "and things in earth" (men), "and things under the earth" (the damned) (Phil. 2:8-10). Without exception all must bow to Him. You say, When? That is not the point. Thank God, I have bowed now. Have you? Well, you say, I have never found the devil bow to Him, or confess Him as Lord. Ah, that is a bitter piece of work the devil has got to do yet. It is joyous work to me, I love to own Him. I have got into the dying thief's company. And what is that? "Lord, remember me." He owns Him as Lord. That is the moment of blessing you will always find in the soul's history.
Pharaoh says, "Only in the throne will I be greater than thou" (Gen. 41:40). Now, the Lord Jesus is in His own Person God. In the second chapter of Philippians it is exceedingly beautiful to see that what is due to God is going to be rendered to a Man. We read in the Old Testament: "I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That to me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear" (Isa. 45:23). Oh, but you say, that is God speaking, and He has a divine right to claim this subjection. Quite true, and He will have it. But notice, it is all going to be rendered to a Man, and that Man, the Man of sorrows, the lowly Nazarene. What He can claim as God, He is worthy of as Man, and God is going to make every created intelligence in the universe of God bow to Him, and own Him as Lord. Now, my friend, do not you miss the present moment to own Him.
Next Pharaoh says to Joseph, "See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt" (Gen. 41:41). What a change, from the prison to the palace, and by the side of the king, and he rules over the whole land. Do you know what the Lord Jesus said just as He was leaving this earth? "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18). I believe it. My Master and my blessed Saviour, all power is given to Him. I glory in being in His company. I glory in His service. I glory that I belong to Him. And if you never belonged to Christ before, make up your mind for Him tonight.
What do we read now? "And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck: and he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee; and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt" (Gen. 41:42-43). I do not doubt that when the cry went out, "Bow the knee," they said, To whom? To Joseph? That slave, that man who was in prison? Never! Methinks I hear many a proud Egyptian prince saying, Never will I bow, Perhaps you have said, I will never bow to Christ. Ah, wait a bit. Pride never filled your stomach. It may have filled your bosom. What will bring you down? A day of famine.
Observe what follows in our chapter. Joseph was now thirty years of age. Thirteen years had rolled by since he had been sold by his brothers. And now there come the seven plenteous years. And then the seven years of dearth set in. "And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread." Now they were in for a famine, but Joseph's brethren could hang out for two years. And perhaps, my dear friends, you have hung out against the famine. Do you know what brought the prodigal to his father in Luke 15? There was a famine. Do you know what brought me to Christ forty-three years ago? Famine in my heart. Oh, you have heard the gospel dozens of times. You say, I am not going to have Christ just now. But already you have begun to find that the world does not satisfy you. Yes, you have an empty heart.
Notice, please, Pharaoh's injunction when the people were crying for bread: "And Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, Go to Joseph; and what he says to you, do" (Gen. 41:55). God's injunction is similar. Have you got your soul saved yet? No. You must go to Jesus. You would not bow before, but now you are hungry, you are anxious to be saved. Oh, you say, I will go direct to God. People do not want this blessed Man. They will not have Jesus. But stop, if you are going to have salvation you must get it through that Man, or you are never going to have it. Do you understand? Go to Jesus. Will not my works help me? No, and nothing else. You must have Jesus and Jesus only, or die in your sins. There is only corn where Joseph is. Salvation, typically, was with Joseph, and no one else, and to him all had to go or starve to death. This was true not only of Joseph's brethren, but the whole world.
Let us now come to Joseph's brethren to see how they get on, and what exercise of conscience they go through before they get their need met Pharaoh says, "What he says to you, do." Joseph opens the storehouses. When you come to Christ you will find an open storehouse. Jesus is an open-hearted Saviour who will save you on the spot. You must come to Him. Where is He tonight? At God's right hand. Think not of your works, but come to Jesus, and you will find all that you need.
Genesis 42 shows us Joseph's brethren a second time. After Joseph was governor over the land, and when the famine came where they lived, at length Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt. He says, I hear there is salvation to be had in Egypt, you had better away and get it. Well, away they go. And now they come to buy corn. But you will find that Joseph's brethren did not get it by buying. The money was returned in their sacks. We read, "And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth" (Gen. 42:6). They, who had opposed him so many years before, what is the first thing they do? They bow down. The moment of real blessing in your soul is when you first bow down to Christ. I do not mean externally, but when, in your soul, there is a bowing to the blessed Lord. But observe what Joseph does. "And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made him self strange to them, and spake roughly to them" (Gen. 42:7). Joseph knew his brethren. Stop, God knows all about your history, young man. And I tell you what it is, God's ways with our souls are always to bring us into real blessing. But we must get it in God's way. Did they get the corn immediately? No, he spake a little roughly to them. He knew them. You remember that Pharaoh had called Joseph's name Zaphnath-paaneah, which had a double meaning. It signified "A revealer of secrets" in the Coptic, and by collation with the Egyptian language is supposed to mean "Saviour of the age."
Now our blessed Lord Jesus Christ is the true Zaphnath-paaneah. He is the Revealer of Secrets, and the Saviour of the world. Will you turn to the fourth chapter of John, where a poor woman, who is living in open sin, meets the blessed Lord by the well. He says to her: "Go, call thy husband, and come hither. And the woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said to her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly." What did she say? "Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet" (John 4:16-19). He was the Revealer of Secrets. But what is the next thing? She does not run away. She says: "I know that Messiah comes, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus says to her, I that speak to thee am he" (John 4:25-26). He reveals Himself Because, mark, to a convicted sinner you will always find a Saviour revealed. So it was then. And she went and said to her neighbours, "Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" (John 4:29). The Samaritans came to Jesus, and thereafter said to the woman, "We have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42).
Joseph knew the secrets of their hearts. He knew them, but they knew him not. And then it says, "And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said to them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come" (Gen. 42:9). What did they say? "Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come. We are all one man's sons; we are true men, thy servants are no spies" (Gen. 42:10-11). Listen. "We are true men." Well, you say, if that is not a lie. Ay. Oh, my friend, you can put on what face you like with me or your neighbour, but you cannot put on a face with God. He knows you. "True men," forsooth! That is their verdict about themselves. What do you think of their hatred and hypocrisy? True men they were not, and they had to learn it. You too will have to face up about your sin before God, my friend.
What is the next thing? "And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not" (Gen. 42:13). Murder will out. "And one is not." That is their way of talking of their getting rid of their brother. They stood in his presence and did not know it. And now we read, "And he put them all together into ward three days" (Gen. 42:17). They got three days in prison, had time to think, and came to this right conclusion: "We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us" (Gen. 42:21). On the third day Joseph said, Go home, and bring your youngest brother to me.
As they go back to fetch this younger brother, one of them opens his sack and finds his money in the mouth of it. And we read, "And their heart failed them, and they were afraid" (ver. 28). A bad conscience is an awful companion. But it is a great thing, if you have a bad conscience, to heed it. Ah, how it pulls one up. And they begin to think about their sins. They say, "What is this that God has done to us?" (Gen. 42:28). Ah, God knows all about you, my friend. It is like a woman that walked some miles to see a minister one Monday morning. He had been preaching the night before, some miles off, on that text, "Be sure your sin will find you out," and on her entering his study he inquired what he could do for her. "Oh, it's all about that ere book, sir," she replied. "I never spoke about a book," he said. "Oh, yes, it's that ere book, sir." "But I never mentioned a book." Then it came out. Twenty years before she had stolen a book from a friend's house, which she had seen and liked, and now the text had woke her up. "Be sure your sin will find you out." It woke her up. God be thanked if you are waked up.
Joseph's brethren were getting waked up; as they say, "What is this that God has done to us?" God was putting His finger upon their consciences. When they get back to their father, they say, "The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country" (Gen. 42:30). My friend, if you could interpret God's ways you would find them to be all love. You think He is rough. No, no, He loves you with all His heart, and He has given His Son for sinners like you and me.
But their sacks of corn are soon emptied, and the famine was very sore. And their father said: "Go again, buy us a little food. And Judah spake to him, saying, The man did solemnly protest to us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food: but if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said to us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother. And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words" (Gen. 43:3-7). My friend, God means you to have everything out sooner or later. If you put it off, it will be an awful thing to have it out with the Lord Jesus Christ at the judgment-seat. Condemnation can be the only issue then.
Joseph's brethren put off going down; but hunger is a cruel taskmaster, so, willing or not, they feel they must go down. "And their father Israel said to them, If it must be so now, do this: take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds" (ver. 11). Oh, how many people think they must bring God a present. You say that it is very foolish. Yes, but you think you can propitiate God by what you bring — and a way out of the difficulty is suggested. Take Him a present. You are too late. All His claims have been met in the death of His Son, and His heart is free to come out now with the fullest blessing.
Well, down they go again. "And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home" (Gen. 43:16). See, what does God want? He wants you brought home. "Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon." And now we read, "And the men were afraid" (Gen. 43:18). Ah! it is wonderful how fear begins to work on the conscience when a sinner feels he is not right with God. They were afraid because the money had been returned. But then Joseph's steward says, "Peace be to you, fear not" (Gen. 43:23). If you are in real exercise of soul, you will sooner or later find somebody with a bit of gospel for you.
Presently we read that Joseph came in, and once more they bow down, and then they ate. And now see what hearts were theirs (and what hearts are ours). "And they drank, and were merry with him" (Gen. 43:34). Think of it. He put them very much at their ease, you say. Yes, but their sin had not yet come out. They did not know at this moment who he was. Young man, how can you eat and be merry when you know your soul is unsaved, and, if you die in your sins, that you are going to everlasting perdition? But such is the heart of man.
But the next chapter takes us a step further. "And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph's house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground" (Gen. 44:14). They had gone away and were on their way home, but Joseph's silver cup was in one of their sacks, so they had to come back. And Joseph was still waiting there. He was waiting for them, and Judah had a sort of feeling that they were discovered. Joseph says, "What deed is this that ye have done?" (Gen. 44:15); and Judah says, "How shall we clear ourselves?" Friend, are you anxious to clear yourself? Listen to me. Confess your sins. That is the necessity. To that point were Joseph's brethren brought, as they say, "God has found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord's servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found" (Gen. 44:16). Tell me, what iniquity was there in relation to the cup? None; but it served to rouse conscience. It brought up the twenty pieces of silver, and the wickedness of their history in days gone by. Well said the poet, "Conscience makes cowards of us all," and miserable was their state as they say to Joseph, "And let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh" (Gen. 44:18). But the truth must come out. And it is a great thing when the conscience is thus divinely reached.
I pass on to Genesis 45, and there I find they are in Joseph's house, and Joseph is with them once more. I do not doubt he felt that the work was done in the conscience. You will find there is a deep sense in their souls of how terrible their guilt was. It is like the third chapter of Romans: "That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Gen. 45:19). I cannot justify myself. I do not want to. Because when my mouth is stopped with the sense of my guilt that is the moment God's mouth is opened in grace, and when I cannot justify myself that is the moment when God will justify me in grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
At this point Joseph says: "Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known to his brethren. And Joseph said to his brethren, I am Joseph" (Gen. 45:1). What a revelation! "Doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence. And Joseph said to his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you." My friend, does not this bring out the heart of Christ? You know what the Lord said to Saul of Tarsus, who had been bitterly opposing Him. Saul said: "Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest" (Acts 9:5). What did these men hear? "I am Joseph." What did that convicted man hear? "I am Jesus." Oh, come near to Him. Friend, if you have been afraid of Him, be afraid no more. Let all that fear and dread of bygone days be a thing of the past, and where you are just now say, "Blessed Lord, just as I am, I come."
"And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now, therefore, be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life" (Gen. 45:4-5). You see it is the same as you have in the Acts of the Apostles, where the apostle Peter tells the convicted people in Acts 2 that their action in slaying Christ had really been the carrying out of the fore-ordained purpose of God. The guilt of man was none the less of course. "God did send me before you to preserve life." Jesus says, I know you have sinned against Me, and you have not loved Me, but see what God sent Me before you to do. To save your lives by a great deliverance. Blessed Saviour! He has come and given Himself for our sins, and now He invites the confidence of every heart that is here. And tell me, will you not trust Him? Is Jesus not worthy of the confidence of your heart? So was Joseph, and I find they did to a certain measure trust him, but not fully, as the sequel shows.
Now let us pass on to Genesis 50. Seventeen years have rolled by. Jacob was one hundred and thirty years old when he went down to Egypt, and he died at one hundred and forty-seven. Joseph's brethren lived in Goshen, and he had lavished his love upon them, but after all they did not know his heart. It is very like what one often meets nowadays. People have believed the gospel in a certain way, but they have not had it all out between God and themselves, and therefore they do not know His heart. It was similar in the case of Joseph's brethren. There had not been any real confession on their side. Little wonder they were not perfectly at ease. They thought it was all right so long as their father lived, but when he passed away matters had to be settled. Joseph at length has to lay his father at rest, and Scripture gives us this simple but striking account of what took place. There was this mourning for forty days.
Let us go into the chamber of death. It will do you no harm. It was not for one day, but for "forty days." Every one of those ten men then said to himself, It has come, the old man is gone, and what will happen now? Again conscience woke up. As they look at the corpse of their father, their conscience works. You face death for forty days, and I tell you what you will do. You will say to yourself, I should like to be right with God; I should like to be right in view of death myself. So, evidently, death told on these men tremendously. Look at the effect on them. The funeral was over. "And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did to him" (Gen. 50:15). So, sometimes, speaks an undelivered soul of the Lord. Christ hate you? My friend, He loves you deeply, tenderly, truly. Oh, there is no love like the love of Jesus.
Notice the next thing which Joseph's brethren do. They send a messenger. They would have been far happier if they had gone themselves individually. "And they sent a messenger to Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say to Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin." I have a very grave doubt whether the old man did say this, but they knew the time had now come when they had to get thoroughly right with Joseph, and this could only be effected by an honest acknowledgement of the past. So with you, my friend, and God. If you do not confess downright you will never get peace. Hear David's statement regarding this: "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer" (Ps. 32:3-4). This misery was his while he cloaked up his sin. Now note the contrast, and how he illustrates the New Testament statement: "*If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). He evidently made a clean breast of all his sin in regard to Bathsheba, as detailed in Psalm 51. Observe the result. "I acknowledged my sin to thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin" (Ps. 32:5). So say Joseph's brethren. "For they did to thee. evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake to him" (Gen. 50:17). What is the meaning of that? Their distrust pained him. Beloved friend, if you want to chill and pain the heart of Christ, distrust His love. Nothing touches our hearts like being distrusted. He loves to be fully trusted.
"And his brethren also went and fell down before his face," when they found what was in his heart — tenderness, nothing but love. They are at his feet most truly, and most real in their confession. "And they said, Behold, we be thy servants. And Joseph said to them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God. But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it to good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive" (vers. 19, 20). He does not minimise their guilt, but pardons it in grace.
The curtain falls on this instructive history with words which surely made their hearts profoundly happy. And if you have had a doubt about the goodness of God, hug that doubt no more. "Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones." He cares for them. Yes, "And he comforted them, and spake kindly to them" (ver. 21). It is the ministry of love. Friend, trust the Lord Jesus. If you have never yet been able to say, I really can believe my Saviour, will you not say it today? Lord Jesus, I bow, and I come to Thee. I own my Saviour. Have it all out with Him. And what will you find? "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Should this be the case, I think you will be thankful for Joseph's forty days. If where you are just now you turn to Him, with "Lord, I believe," you will find He will fill your soul with peace, and joy, and gladness just where you are. Now, friend, do be simple, and trust Him now.