Missing OpportunitiesSeries: Traveling To Egypt
Do Not Quarrel On The Way
Don’t you hate it when someone has a great thing handed to them, and they just can’t help but mess it up?
Sadly, there are many examples of this in the world of athletics. Remember Michael Vick? He was a superstar quarterback playing for the Atlanta Falcons before he was busted in a dog fighting scandal and went to prison. But do you remember his little brother? He was even worse. Marcus Vick was also a super-talented quarterback who got a scholarship to Virginia Tech. But he was suspended and then kicked off the team after several criminal convictions and unsportsmanlike conduct on the field, including flipping off the crowd. He then declared he would go pro, but nobody drafted him. He played in one game as a free agent for the Dolphins before being cut. The latest news is that he was arrested last December for driving under the influence of drugs.
Here’s somebody who was given an extraordinary athletic gift. He was given a free opportunity to go to college, and could have probably made millions playing professionally, but he threw it all away.
Now when you hear stories like that, how do you feel? Don’t you think, “If I had been given those opportunities, I would have appreciated it! I would have made the best of them.” I hope so.
But do we ever risk throwing away even bigger blessings? That’s what we’ll think about as we continue our journey to Egypt with Joseph and his brothers.
II. The wonderful offer
When we left off last time, we were in chapter 45, and Joseph had just revealed his true identity to his brothers.
Gen. 45:3 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.
The brothers didn’t know what to think at first, but Joseph reassured them. He wasn’t angry. He could see that this was all part of God’s plan:
Gen. 45:5-7 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.
Now if you’re wondering, “wow! How did Joseph realize that?” Remember that he didn’t seem sure what to think when he first saw his brothers, but he’s had quite a bit of time to process this since then. At first he sent them home to get Benjamin, and there was a considerable delay in returning since Jacob didn’t want Benjamin to go. Sometime during all that, Joseph was able to step back and put the puzzle together in his mind and realize what this was all about. Plus he had those dreams from when he was a teenager. It all made sense to him now.
But it’s still a remarkable show of faith in God, and an amazing amount of grace and mercy on Joseph’s part not to hold any hard feelings against them. Instead of planning revenge against them, he’s been thinking about how this was all going to be a huge blessing for the whole family.
45:9-11 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’
Joseph has it all planned out. A perfect new home for the clan where there will be food enough for them and their animals.
When Pharaoh finds out the Joseph’s brother’s are here, he’s happy. Which makes you think Joseph must have kept his family troubles to himself. There’s a lesson here for us. I’ve known of people who had a falling out with family or friends or people at their church, and they shared their hard feelings with others. But then sometime later they worked things out. But guess what they couldn’t undo? The effects of their words.
Pharaoh insists that Joseph’s family come to Egypt:
45:17-20 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, 18 and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ 19 And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. 20 Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’”
If I understand him right, he’s saying don’t worry about packing. Just load everyone up in wagons and bring them here, where they’ll have whatever they want.
What a gracious offer! The brothers are sent home loaded down with gifts. Food, money, changes of clothes, and even food for the journey.
Just think of how their fortunes have changed! They came to Egypt hoping to find food for their starving families. They had received a rough reception the first time to say the least, and now they are coming back with Benjamin, hoping they won’t be arrested again.
Now they are about to head home loaded down with food and gifts and with an open invitation to come live in Egypt where there is plenty of food and they’ll have access to the best of the land! What’s more, their long lost brother Joseph is alive, and he’s forgiven them. The whole family will be back together again, and blessings are being showered on them. As Joseph deduced, this was God’s plan all along.
III. A warning
But notice that right as they leave, Joseph gives them a warning.
45:24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.”
Hmm… That’s interesting, isn’t it? Almost a little spoiler. We might wonder why Joseph had to say it. It was such a beautiful, happy moment, why bring up something negative?
Obviously, Joseph felt it needed to be said. Let’s think about that for a minute. What was he concerned about?
The KJV says: “See that ye fall not out by the way,” which I take to mean, “don’t have a falling-out.” The NKJV says, “See that you do not become troubled along the way,” but the NASB, NIV, and ESV render it quarreling. Clearly Joseph is concerned about some kind of dispute. But why?
Well, Joseph knew them. He had his own experience with them, but he had forgiven that. But he had also seen them quarreling earlier.
42:21-22 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.”
A clear, “I told you so.” And maybe Joseph was concerned that even now they would continue to bicker about who was at fault.
And there was probably good reason to be discussing that on the way home. Can you think of why?
What were they going to say to their father? “We’ve got some good news, and some bad news. The good news is, Joseph is alive. He’s in Egypt. He’s doing great. He wants us to come live there. The bad news is, we know how he ended up in Egypt.”
Joseph must have figured his father didn’t know what had happened to him. Judah had said earlier:
45:19-20 My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ 20 And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother's children, and his father loves him.’
They were still going with the story that Joseph was dead. But now Jacob was going to find out he was obviously very much alive.
Can you imagine Reuben saying, “Well I wasn’t going to kill him. I was planning to rescue him from the pit later!” And Judah could say, “Well I was the one who spoke up and said not to kill him but to sell him instead. I saved his life.”
You can imagine how that might have easily turned into an argument. But the fact was, they were all in it together. Furthermore, arguing about it wouldn’t help anything now, and could in fact put the whole thing in jeopardy.
Everything was working out perfectly. They had so many good things going on and more blessings to come. The whole family would be saved. All they had to do was make the journey home and back without falling apart and turning on each other.
You’ve probably seen where this is going.
What do we find in Jesus? There are so many parallels, it’s amazing.
Eph. 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places
Just as through Joseph, every good thing Egypt had to offer was made available to his brothers, through Jesus, we have access to every blessing in the heavenly place.
Eph. 1:7-8 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
The brothers found in Joseph grace, mercy, and forgiveness. We find the same in Jesus.
They also were given the offer of a new home in a better place where everything they needed would be provided and they would have access to the best of the land.
Eph. 1:11-12 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
Eph. 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
It’s almost too good to be true. Just as the brothers didn’t seem to know quite what to think of Joseph, it’s hard for us to comprehend the love that has been showered on us.
Eph. 3:17-19 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
That’s what we’ve found in Christ. Far and away better even than the grace and mercy and riches the brothers found in Joseph.
So what do we have to do now? All you have to do is—make the journey. And don’t fall out along the way. Don’t fight and fuss and ruin the whole thing.
Eph. 4:1-3 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Imagine how tragic it would be to be given all the best of heaven and throw it away by fighting and bickering.
Yes, we’re going to irritate each other sometimes.
Eph. 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.
Satan would love to steal away our inheritance. Even though we’ve found mercy and forgiveness, he hasn’t given up on spoiling it all. He’s looking for an opportunity, and our anger could be the perfect open door.
Imagine how upset Joseph would have been if he found out later that only half the brothers came back to live there because they got in a big fight on the way home. He would have been grieved.
Eph. 4:30-32 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
I’m not sure exactly what that “grieving the Holy Spirit” refers to, but in the context we can be sure that if God’s people do not maintain the unity of the Spirit, but break up into fighting factions, that would grieve the Spirit.
Eph. 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
We must make our journey in love. How silly would it have been of the brothers to fight over who did what to Joseph when Joseph had already forgiven them? Similarly, we’ve been forgiven by God of our sins, so why should we hold grudges and refuse to forgive each other?
We must learn to imitate God and walk in love, looking to Jesus our example.
Joseph’s brothers listened to him. They went home, told their dad, and brought back the whole clan to Egypt in one accord. Let’s learn from their example, and Joseph’s warning.
We all cringe at the thought of an athlete throwing away a professional career over some stupid lapse in judgment or petty fight in a bar or whatever.
We can see how foolish it would have been for the brothers to mess this opportunity up.
But how much worse would it be for us to have all the riches of heaven waiting for us and throw it away by quarreling along the way?