Fear from Sin vs. Fear of God (Photo credit: Bjorn Giesenbauer, Creative Commons)
Read Genesis 42:3-38
In our last post on Genesis, we saw how Jacob encouraged his sons to go to Joseph for help from the famine, and where you and I can go to receive help when we experience famine, be it financial, physical, or emotional famine. (see previous post: Help in Times of Famine)
In today’s post we’ll see what happens to Joseph’s brothers when they meet with Joseph, for the first time in years, to buy grain. Then we’ll look at the secret to eliminating fear from your life.
After Jacob tells his sons to stop looking at each other for answers, and to go to Egypt for grain, ten of Joseph’s brothers head for Egypt. But Jacob keeps Benjamin with him, because he’s afraid something bad might happen to him. So Israel’s (Jacob’s) sons go to buy grain, because their area, Canaan, is one of the many areas devastated by the famine.
Joseph’s brothers will try to buy their grain, which will be their salvation, but they won’t be able to purchase it, because Joseph will give it to them for free. Our Joseph, Jesus, is the same. Our salvation can’t be bought, but we receive it freely, from the One who already paid the price, on the cross. (Isaiah 55:1)
So Joseph is the governor, and as the governor, it’s his responsibility to sell grain. So when Joseph’s ten brothers arrive, they bow down to him, all the way to the ground. Joseph recognizes his brothers immediately, but he pretends he doesn’t, and he speaks harshly with them.
Where are you from? He asks.
From Canaan, they reply. We came to buy food.
Joseph realizes, even though he recognizes his brothers, they don’t recognize him. It’s at this moment he remembers his dreams about them bowing down to him.
You’re spies! You come to scout our land to find where our defenses are weak. Joseph says.
Not so, my lord, the brothers answer. Your servants have come to buy food. We’re all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest. We’re not spies.
We’re honest, they say? Honestly, how can they claim such a thing. They sold their own brother into slavery, then lied to their own father about it. They told him Joseph was dead. Joseph had to test them, to reveal to them what was really in their hearts.
No way! Joseph says. You’ve come to see where our land is unprotected.
But they reply, Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man. We’re all from the land of Canaan. The youngest of us is still with our father. One of our number is no more.
Joseph says to them, It’s just like I said, you’re spies! And here’s how you’ll be proven to be so: On Pharaoh’s grave, you won’t leave unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of you to get him, the rest I’ll keep in prison, so your words can be tested to see if you’re being straight with me. If you’re not, then as sure as Pharaoh lives, you’re spies!
Then he puts them in prison for three days.
On the third day, Joseph says to them, Do what I say and you’ll live, because I’m a man who fears God: If you’re honest, let one of your brothers stay here, in prison, while everybody else goes back with grain for your starving families. But, you have to bring your youngest brother to me, so I can verify your words, and so you may not die.
So they say to one another, We see what’s happening here. We’re being punished because of what we did to Joseph. We saw how upset he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we wouldn’t listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us.
Reuben says, I told you! I told you not to sin against the boy. But you guys wouldn’t listen! Now we’re paying the price for his blood.
In Matthew 27:25 the descendants of these very brothers said of Jesus, “His blood is on us and on our children!” (see Matthew 27)
They don’t realize Joseph can understand every word they’re saying, (let alone he’s the very one they’re speaking of) because Joseph is using an interpreter.
Joseph turns away from them and begins to weep,
Jesus wept over his brothers in Luke 19:41.
…but then he comes back and gives instructions for Simeon to be taken from them and bound, right in front of them.
This is very interesting because Simeon’s name means hearing or hearkening. So the brothers leave Joshua without hearkening, even as the Jews left Jesus for crucifixion without hearkening. (Isaiah 6:9-10)
He gives orders to fill their bags with grain, and, to put the silver he received from them, back in their sacks with the grain. He also gave them provisions for their trip home. After all this is completed, they load the grain on their donkeys and head for Canaan.
On their way home, when they stop for the night, one of them opens his sack to get some grain for his donkey, and he finds his silver in with the grain.
My silver’s been returned, he says to his brothers. It’s right here in my sack with the grain.
Ohhhhhh man, their stomachs do flips, and they turn to each other trembling with fear and say, What has God done to us?
When they arrive home, they tell their father Jacob everything that happened. They say, The man who’s lord over all the land spoke harshly with us and treated us like spies. But we told him, We’re not spies, honest! We’re twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is gone, and the youngest is with our dad in Canaan.
Then the man who’s lord over all the land said, This is how I’ll know you’re telling the truth: Leave one of your brothers here and take your food home to your starving households. But bring your youngest brother back to me, so I know you’re not spies and are honest. Then I’ll give your brother back, and you can do business here in the land.
As they’re unpacking, when they empty their sacks, each one of them finds his silver in his pouch with the grain! When Jacob and his sons see the money, their frightened. Their father says, You’ve deprived me of my sons. Joseph is gone, Simeon’s gone, and now you want Benjamin. Everything’s against me!
Then Reuben says to his father, You can put both my sons to death if I don’t bring Benjamin back to you. Entrust him into my care, and I’ll bring him back.
But Jacob says, My son won’t go down there with you; his brother’s dead and he’s the only one I have left. If anything bad were to happen to him on your journey, you would cause me to die from sorrow.
Fear from Sin:
All else being equal, the peace and absence of fear you experience is in direct proportion to how holy you live. Joseph’s brothers rightly determined their problems with the Egyptian governor were a result of their sinful behavior toward their little brother Joseph. As this dawned on them, their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling… (42:28)
Those who strive to live as close as they can to the words of Christ and the scriptures have less to fear. Think about it. Are you a heavy drinker? If you are, you fear getting nailed for a DUI — your heart sinks when you see the police officer’s light bar in your rear view mirror. Are you promiscuous? If you are, you fear catching an STD, or you fear pregnancy — you tremble when you see the pregnancy test strip turn pink. Are you someone who steals from work? If you are, you fear getting fired — your heart sinks when your boss calls you into his office. Do you like to look at porn? If you do, you fear getting caught — you tremble when your wife, or father, or mother walks in on you.
Fear is one of the inevitable byproducts of sin.
I’ll never forget the time a grade school age relative came to spend a few nights at a log cabin, owned by a friend of mine. This log cabin is deep in the mountains of Oregon, where cougars, coyotes, bobcats, and bears are found. This young boy was used to having his way with his parents and with his mother in particular. He was spoiled and not accustomed to living with limits and boundaries. When his mother dropped him off, she shared that she often had trouble getting him to go to sleep at night. At my friend’s cabin, when it came time for bed, this little boy put up quite a fuss. “I can’t go to bed because I’m afraid,” he said.
My friend didn’t wait for the boy’s excuses to escalate. Instead he bent down to his level, looked him in the eye, and said very deliberately, “Listen, I’ll protect you from everything. So when you’re with me, you don’t have to be afraid of anything — except for one thing — me. Do you understand?”
The little boy nodded, and within a few minutes he fell asleep. And he went to bed just fine every night, for the rest of his stay. In fact, when it was time to go back to his mother, he cried, because he wanted to stay with my friend at his cabin.
Fear of God:
That’s how it is with God. He wants you to know you don’t have to be afraid. He wants you to know He’ll protect you from everything. He wants you to know, when you’re with Him, you don’t have to be afraid of anything — except for one thing — Him. There’s a peace that comes with that. Fear of God results in obedience to Him. It results in a holier lifestyle. And a holier lifestyle results in less fear from sin.
God wants you to know fear of Him, so, like Joseph, you won’t have to live in fear of anything or anyone else.
In verse 18 Joseph told his brothers, “…I fear God.” (Genesis 42:18) Joseph’s life is a great example of someone who lived with a fear of God. He’s one of only a few people in the Bible of whom there’s no mention of sin. Joseph lived in fear of God, so he didn’t have to live in fear from sin.
Over the years I’ve noticed something. The closer I am to God, the more I fear Him. And the more I fear Him, the less I fear everything and everyone else.
Draw close to Him, and learn to fear Him.
And He’ll deliver you from every other fear.
“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”
-Jesus Christ, Luke 12:5
Blue Letter Bible
J.B. Jackson, A Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names (Bible Students Press 1908)