(continued from Sept.)
c. He keeps the faith. He is faithful in performing his new responsibilities as sent here by God. Two sons are born to him. The first Manasseh, which means “causing to forget”, expressing that he could now forget the sting of being sold as a slave, since God was with him even here in Egypt. The second, Ephraim, means “double fruitfulness”, expressing hope for the realization of God’s covenant in the line of his generations, even though temporarily separated from the covenant family. What a marvelous power of faith in the land of his affliction!
The First Meeting of Joseph and His Brothers
I. The Occasion
A. The historical events that lead up to this confrontation.
1. Beginning with the determination of the brothers to slay Joseph (Gen. 37:19, 20), note all the events that work together to affect this meeting, particularly the events that account for:
a. Joseph’s being in Egypt.
b. Joseph’s being “governor” (Gen. 42:6) over Egypt.
c. Joseph’s brothers coming down to Egypt (Gen. 41:56, 57; 42:5).
2. Is not the history that culminates in this meeting full of seemingly accidental happenings? Does not Scripture itself indicate that, apart from the viewpoint of Divine revelation, an observer of this history would conclude that it could just as well have happened that this meeting never took place?
a. The Midianite-Ishmaelite company comes by just when Joseph is in the pit.
b. Joseph “happens” to be bought by a high-ranking Egyptian, who has access to the king’s prison where Joseph can make contact with the Pharaoh’s butler. (cf. Gen. 39:1, 20).
c. The Pharaoh “happens” to become disgusted with his butler while Joseph is in prison so that, through the butler, Pharaoh becomes aware of Joseph and his gift of interpreting dreams.
B. The absolute control, in all of this, of God’s Providence.
1. One of the most, if not the most striking and important truth in the whole account of Joseph is that of God’s providence.
a. What is the literal meaning of the word, providence?
b. What does genuinely Reformed theology mean with the term? (cf. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days IX, X and Belgic Confessions, Art. XIII)
c. According to Scripture as summed up in the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day X, what are the two elements of God’s providence? (cf. Hebrews 1:3 and Isaiah 45:7)
2. God’s providential control over the entire matter of the meeting of Joseph, as governor of Egypt, with his brothers, including all the events leading up to this meeting.
a. Are we to conceive of God’s control in this matter as does the philosopher (William James, The Dilemma of Determinism) so that God is the expert chess player, who at the very beginning is determined to win, that is, bring Joseph into Egypt and achieve a meeting of Joseph with his brothers, but who does not know (much less, determine!) what moves the other chess players, namely, Joseph’s brothers, Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife, etc., will make so that God’s “moves” are dependent upon those of men; however, since God is superior in wisdom and might, He can still achieve His purpose?
b. Are we to explain God’s control as consisting of his knowing beforehand what will take place, so that God is able to react, at the proper time, in such a way as will accomplish His desire?
c. In either of the theories above, is God really in control, that is, really God?
d. Whose hand (will and power) controlled the Devil as Satan worked in the hearts of the brothers to sell Joseph? Brought the merchants to the pit? Moved Potiphar to buy Joseph? Withheld the rain in Canaan to cause a famine?
3. God’s purpose with the meeting of Joseph, as governor of Egypt, with the brothers.
a. Did God purpose to bring Jacob and the whole Old Testament Church into Egypt? Did God decide this before or after the Church actually went into Egypt, that is, was God dependent upon circumstances (making the best out of a bad thing) or were the circumstances dependent upon God’s will (using also bad things for His good purpose)? (cf. Gen. 15:13-16)
b. Is there a deeper purpose of God in making Joseph ruler in Egypt and in the subsequent immigration of the Church into Egypt than the physical relief of the Church during the famine?
4. Apply the teaching of the Heid. Cat., Lord’s Days IX and X, regarding God’s providence to the event of the famine (Gen 41:54, 56; Gen 42:5).
a. What purpose does God’s providence serve, always, as far as “we,” God’s people are concerned?
b. Take note of and discuss the following in connection with God’s making the evil (famine) turn out for Jacob’s and the Church’s advantage?
1) A fierce evil is imposed upon “the face of the earth” in order to achieve the welfare of only a handful of the sufferers.
2) In what respects God made the famine turn out for the Church’s advantage.
(to be continued)