While trials can be painful, God often uses them to reveal unconfessed sin and lead us to conversion. Facing the prospect of famine and death, Joseph’s brothers unwittingly turned for help to the brother they once rejected. In this message, Alistair Begg shows how God used this trial to awaken guilty consciences so enemies could be reconciled. When we acknowledge our own guilt, we become aware of our need to be saved and discover Jesus’ great provision.
I invite you to turn with me again to Genesis 42, the portion of Scripture which we read some time ago. I want to suggest to you that we can make an adequate attempt to draw our thinking around the twenty-four verses which we read by noticing that what we have recorded for us here by Moses is a narrative which builds itself around three separate conversations. The first is brief, between Jacob and his sons; the second is longer, involving Joseph and his brothers; and the third is, again, somewhat brief, which takes place between the brothers in isolation—at least physically, it would appear—from Joseph himself. And so, I want simply to draw our thinking in that way this morning, noticing, first of all, the conversation recorded for us there in the opening two verses which is a dialogue involving Jacob and his sons.
Now, the context in which the conversation takes place we don’t need to wonder at, we don’t need to guess. We’re told that the pressing urgency of this particular family—and, indeed, of their nation and beyond that the then-known world—was this matter of famine. Scenes that many of us have only observed from afar in the kindness and providence of God—and yet scenes which others throughout the world have in our lifetime faced with regularity—were the experience of these dwellers in Canaan. And this particular gentleman by the name of Jacob had now, along with others in his country, reached the point where the considerations of food were no longer a matter of passing indifference but were a pressing urgency. If they got food, they would live; if they were unable to get food, then—like others—they would die. And so in that framework, he addresses a question to his sons, and it’s there for you in verse 1 if you just look at your Bible. He says to them, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?”
Now, this is a parental question, I would suggest. This is the kind of question that children don’t understand why it’s ever asked until they, in turn, become parents and find themselves asking questions like this. I’m not quite sure yet how it comes about, but this is the kind of question with which mothers have become very familiar two or three days into the summer vacation from school when the children are all sitting around, and the mother says, “Why do you just keep sitting there looking at each other?” In other words, “Why don’t you go out and do something?” And that frustration of parents comes out at various times, and there’s a whole host of questions which I won’t iterate for you, but you’ll begin to think of them in your own mind, and so he looks at his boys and he says, “Why do you just keep sitting there looking at each other?” Now, he’s addressing, in part, their striking lack of initiative. He’s observing the fact that presumably they were all looking at one another—everybody realizing the predicament in which they found themselves, recognizing the condition was grave—and each one hoping that maybe the other one would actually suggest something or do something, and yet nobody says a word. They all just continue to sit around and look at each other.
And so he follows his question with a word of direction. Verse 2: “I’ve heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down to Egypt and buy some for us so that we might live and not die.” Jacob was clearly a man who trusted in God. It is right for us to trust in God. If we’re going to serve him, we must always trust him. But trust in the Bible is always accompanied by action, and Jacob’s trust that God would provide did not cause he and his children simply to sit around and say, “Oh, I wonder how this will happen,” but rather, to take initiative in relationship to it and begin to open doors and pursue avenues which may well provide the answer to their question. God’s blessings are not the portion of the lazy.
In Psalm 37, for example, the psalmist says, “Trust in the Lord and do good.” And from time to time you meet people who say, “All I do is trust,” and then you meet other people and then all they do is do; and the balance of Scripture says we both trust and we do, and Jacob’s an illustration of that. And so—while he was clearly trusting that God would provide—he sends his boys to go and see what they can come up with in relationship to food. At least, he sends ten of them, but he’s not going to send the eleventh. He provides protection for one in particular—for young Benjamin, now his youngest, for Benjamin was the son of Rachel. Benjamin came from the same mom as did Joseph, and Jacob had already, some twenty years prior to this, had this dreadful experience of having bade farewell to his son Joseph, believing that he was going away merely for a short time—a matter of days—and still the pain was deep in his heart because, from the time that Joseph had walked down the dusty road away from his father to do his bidding, twenty long years had passed and he had never clapped eyes on him since. And so he is determined that he’s not going to go through that pain again, and he is prepared to send the ten, but he is not prepared to send young Benjamin. That’s the first conversation. That’s all that’s involved in it: a question, a word of direction, and an expression of his protection.
Now, the second conversation is the one that begins actually partway through verse 7, but the context of this conversation is again set up for us in the opening part of verse 7 and also in verse 6 because there is a wealth contained in the phrase, “Now Joseph was the governor of the land.” If you perhaps are here this morning and this is the first time you ever read the story of Joseph, and you’ve jumped into it at chapter 42, you’re inevitably saying to yourself, “Well, I wonder how he came to be the governor of the land,” and if it has been a long time since you’ve thought of the story of Joseph, you may well have forgotten. For others of us, this is a word of reminder, but it is important for those who do not know that you understand what the background is to his being governor of the land. I mean, did he apply for the job? Was he short-listed? What happened to him? Well, you have to go back a long way—and we can go back a very long way—but let’s just go back as far as the day when he was seventeen years old and he got a coat. His father doted on him a little bit and gave him a richly ornamented robe. You can read about it in Genesis 37. The coat that has been referred to by Andrew Lloyd Webber as his “Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” It wasn’t just a coat, it was a coat, and the result of that was that his brothers were deeply offended by the fact that this fellow would be so preferred above them, so it seemed, by their dad. And so they hated him. They hated him because of his coat.
They hated him also because of his dreams. He had a couple of dreams, in particular, where it would appear that they had to bow down in front of him, and they saw him simply as an arrogant young character, and they wanted nothing to do with him. They wouldn’t even speak to him. They were, thirdly, disgusted with him because he brought a bad report of them to their father. He was seventeen years old; they were older. He would go places, see them doing things. He was particularly close to his father; his father might have said to him, “And what were the boys doing this afternoon or this evening?” or “Where were they last night?” And he took the opportunity to let his dad know that things hadn’t been going very, very well. Well, you only need a few older brothers to come down hard on you in relationship to that, and they didn’t like it. So while they were out looking after their sheep, their father decides that he’ll send Joseph on the journey I just mentioned to go see these brothers, make sure they’re okay, and then bring back a report. And when they see him coming in the distance, they nudge one another and they say, “Now’s our chance. We hate him. We are jealous of him. He is an offense to us. We don’t even like to talk to him, so why don’t we just flat out kill him?” One of them intervenes, another intervenes, and the upshot of it all is that he doesn’t die. He’s thrown down into a pit—in which there is no water, therefore he lands with a thud—and he is finally hauled up out of the pit when they see a passing caravan that is heading for Egypt, full of Ishmaelites, and they say to the Ishmaelites, “Hey, would you like to buy a slave?” Recognizing they can probably turn him for a profit, they say, “Sure.” So Joseph is pulled up, dumped on the back of a camel, and shipped off to Egypt where, again, in turn, he is sold on the auction block of Egyptian society. He’s fortunate in comparison to other slaves insofar as he ends up in a really plum position. He ends up in the home of Potiphar who was an official of the king. He was well set, liked Joseph, gave him the run of the place, concerned himself only with two things: one, what he was eating, and two, his wife. Unfortunately, his wife took a shine to Joseph, and that created a major problem. Joseph, in resisting her advances, is accused by her falsely of sexual impropriety, and as a result of that, he ends up in the jail, in the dungeon. While in the dungeon, he is able to interpret dreams for a couple of guys, one of whom he hopes will get his release, but the fellow goes away and forgets all about him.
Two years pass, and he’s forgotten; and while he languishes there, the pharaoh, he dreams, and nobody amongst the magicians of Egypt is able to interpret the pharaoh’s dream, and the fellow who had previously been helped with an answer to his problem suggests that the pharaoh might like to talk to Joseph. Joseph, in turn, says, “I can’t interpret dreams. God can, and I’ll do what I can for you,” and God gives to Joseph the ability to interpret the dream. Pharaoh is so unbelievably jazzed by this that he gives to him a fantastic job—the best job in the whole place, apart from the king’s job—and, since there could only be one king and he wasn’t about to die or give it up, Joseph had to get second in command, but he got a company car, he got a clothing allowance, he got a bunch of stuff. He was high society; overnight, he had made it. He no longer was chained in the dungeon; he was flying around in a chariot. And so it was that he became the governor of Egypt.
So it is as the governor of Egypt that his brothers now meet him. Now, just picture the scene with me for a moment. Here is a group of men who are now all middle aged. They’re in their forties, early fifties. Life has gone by, their beards have grayed, their hair has fallen out a little, and they’ve been weathered by the sun, and they’ve been buffeted by family life, and they have their children and their wives at home, and they’ve come in obedience to their parental direction, and here they are. They are part of just a long line—a succession of folks—coming to Egypt because Egypt had become the soup kitchen of the then-known world. People said, “If we’re to live at all, we’ll have to go to Egypt,” and so the fact of the matter was there’s just a succession of these people, much as we see sometimes on our television screens, vast crowds of people making their way to the only source of life they could find. And in the middle of that sea of faces, largely unnoticed by most, were these ten characters—just ten more gaunt faces facing the prospect of famine and death—and now they look into the eyes of the governor of the land.
And here’s the thing on which this whole conversation turns: we’re told, if your Bible is open at verse 7, that as soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he made himself unrecognizable to them, by pretending to be a stranger and speaking harshly to them, and suggesting that he hadn’t a clue what was going on, by asking, “Where did they come from?” etc. Now, at first we may think this strange. “Oh, come on, he was their brother—they would instinctively know him.” No, think about it. First of all, twenty years had passed. He was seventeen the last time they saw him. Take your photograph from your junior year at high school when you go home and look at it, and then look at yourself in the mirror and determine just how much you look like that seventeen-year-old picture you have in your hands. You don’t look too much like it, and even if you’re only thirty-seven, it’s staggering how much you don’t look like it, and it is possible for people to walk past you in the streets, even though they were friendly with you twenty years ago at school. Twenty years had passed. His voice had changed. In fact, the language that he spoke had changed. He was speaking to them, Moses tells us, through an interpreter; and so they weren’t expecting this. His appearance was striking. In all of the finery of his position and status now in the Egyptian culture, there was no sense in which they would be expecting this at all. If the brothers had entertained any thought of finding Joseph when they went to Egypt, where do think they would have looked? They would have looked in the bazaars. They would have looked in the refugee camps. They would have looked in the places where the foreigners lived. They would have looked for other people of Hebrew descent. They would have looked for folks with beards and the right kind of clothes. They would have said, “Now, look, there’s somebody from Canaan!” The last place they would ever have thought to find their brother was in a chariot, second in command, dressed in all these designer clothes from Egypt, speaking a foreign language. And so while he was looking right into their eyes and they into his, they didn’t recognize him.
And so Joseph seizes the opportunity. As he looks on them, all kinds of dreams are flooding his mind. Indeed, the writer says that “he remembered his dreams,” in verse 9, and now, as they bow down before him, he needs to find out whether they still hated him, whether they felt any sorrow for their sins, any sense of guilt over their actions, and so he continues purposefully to conceal his identity by pretending to doubt their integrity. Now, we could have a long discussion some other time about whether it was right for Joseph to engage in pretense in the way that he did, whether dissimilitude is ever right for the child of God, but that’s a kind of theological red herring for the time being. Those of you who want to discuss it, we’ll set a place, get a large pot of coffee, and we’ll talk about it. But for now, most of you hadn’t even thought about it, and I shouldn’t even have mentioned it—but I have now done so … Ask someone else what it means. But the fact of the matter is, he determined that he would pretend for a larger purpose, and so he says to them, “Oh, you’ve only just come here because you’re spies. You just came in to see if there is a place that is unprotected in the land where you can make a line into us and perhaps steal from us.” “Oh no, my lord,” they say in verse 10. “Your servants have come to buy food.”
Now, you got to keep this in context. Remember: these chaps were rough. These weren’t milquetoast chaps. They had torn apart complete cities before this. They had murdered everybody in the whole area as a result of a violation to their sister. Remember that? They’re not in the business of having some really dressed up character that they don’t even know or like tell them that they’re spies, and you can imagine a couple of them, in particular, just reaching—reaching for their equipment, you know. “I’ll give him spies. I’ll give him … Who does this guy think he is, saying we’re spies?” But there was another emotion which obviously swallowed their anger, and the emotion must have been fear, for they were afraid of how this would come out and so they protest their innocence, and in verse 11, as an attempt to do so, they say, “We’re all the sons of one man.” Now, why did they say, “We’re all the sons of one man”? It’s clearly not simply a point of information. The point that they’re making is this: no sensible man, if he wanted to engage in spying, would run the risk of losing his complete family in the operation. I mean, you might send two, you might send three, but you’ll not send the whole ten. I mean, I don’t know a great deal about spying, but any times I read spy books or anything, I never saw them moving around in groups of ten, you know. It’s usually a guy hiding behind the telephone box, and then over there, when the light shines and everything—but not ten of them walking around.
Well, Joseph knew this, and he must have smiled to himself at their response, and he pushes them again, “Ach no,” he says. “You just come here to … Spies to see where the land is protected.” And then look at verse 13. “But they replied, ‘Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan.’” Now remember, Joseph knows all this. They don’t know that he is who he is; therefore, they don’t know that he knows. This is ironic. Remember when you couldn’t understand what “ironic” was, and do you realize now how hard it is to define it in a phrase? But this is it, in a story. “The youngest,” they say, “is now with our father,” and—get this line—“and one is no more.” Guess who’s “no more” —the guy they’re talking to! They are talking to Mr. No More. Now, I can’t wait to get to heaven to ask Joseph, “Just tell me how you felt when they said, ‘And one is no more,’ and you were ‘no more,’ you know.” He must have smiled to himself at that point and covered it up pretty well, but he continues to apply his line of pressure. Why does he do this? Why does he keep saying to them, “You’re spies?” And why spies? Did you ever think about that? I mean, of all the things he could have said, why did he keep accusing them of being spies? Well, it could simply be that spying was a large part of this peculiar famine time, and people were trying to find inroads into Egypt and find ways to take away the produce, and that may well be the case, but I think it’s more than that. I think that what he’s doing is he’s holding up a mirror to his brothers, and he is actually holding up to them the scene which happened to him all these twenty years prior to this because what were the three things that annoyed them about Joseph? Well, it was his coat and it was his dream, but it was that he brought a “bad report” to their father—in other words, that he acted like a spy when he was around his brothers. That’s how they saw him. They didn’t see him as part of the group; they saw him as an infiltrator, somebody who came alongside to get information and then to run away with it. That’s why, I imagine, when they saw him coming over the horizon in Shechem and they said, “Here comes that dreamer. Let’s kill him,” they must have looked at one another and said, “We’re not going to have him come in here, find out all this stuff that we’re doing, spy on us, and then go back and give the report to our father.” Because the reason that the son was sent to the brothers was so that he might bring back a report. Now, there was no sense in which in Jacob’s mind he was sending his son as a spy. There was no sense in which Joseph would go as a spy, but in the minds of these characters, whenever you’re up to dirty business, whenever you don’t have a clear conscience, whenever you’re doing things you shouldn’t be doing, then when people in the normal course of events just come and spend time with you, you will be on the defensive because you will regard them as seeking to take that from you which you don’t wish to volunteer.
And that’s exactly how they saw it, and so he says, “I’m going to accuse you of the very thing that you held up to me,” and if the conversation had gone like that at all, presumably he had protested that he was no spy, but he was only responded to with harsh words and imprisonment, and now they’re protesting that they’re not spies, and how does he respond to them? With harsh words and with imprisonment. He holds up a mirror to them. He wants them to see what it feels like. Have you had that experience in your life? You find yourself responding to the offense that someone has caused against you and suddenly it’s like a mirror—it’s like a light goes on—and you see. “But that’s exactly what I did to him, and I’d never thought about it before.” “That’s exactly how I treated her.” “That’s why I don’t like this feeling,” I say to myself. “I never considered it before because it’s actually showing me up in a mirror. It’s showing the horrendous nature of my own approach to things.” And, by taking this approach, Joseph was making a powerful appeal to their conscience and to their memory , and he puts them in the jail so they will have three days to think about it—and three days they have to think about it—and on the third day, our third conversation ensues.
Conversation number one, which led to a journey to Egypt. Conversation number two, which confronted the brothers. Conversation number three, where the brothers talk to one another. Now in verse 20 where he says to them, “Listen, I’m changing things around a little. I was previously going to keep nine of you here and send one back. What I’ve decided to do is I’m going to keep one of you here and send nine back.” If you’ve ever read anything of the hostages in Beirut, you will know that some of the tactics of those who keep hostages is to continue changing the plans on people because it is dreadfully unsettling to them, and Joseph had experienced this. Was he going to die? No, they were going to throw him in a pit. Was he going to stay in the pit and therefore die of starvation? No, they were going to take him out. Were they going to take him out and relieve him or were they going to take him out and dump him? And all of those emotions had gone through in his mind, and whether he’s giving them a taste of their own medicine or not we can’t say, but nevertheless, he creates this uncertainty in their minds by coming to them on the third day and saying, “This is what we’ll do. I’m going to keep one of you here. I’m going to send the nine of you back, and then you can prove to me that you are honest men if you will arrive here with my brother Benjamin,” and the way I read the text as it unfolds, it would seem to me that, having said that, he then left them. Although Moses tells us at the end of verse 20, that this they proceeded to do, in verse 21, there is a conversation which ensues. So we know what the answer is before the conversation takes place, but the conversation is crucial because in this conversation—I put it to you more than any other conversation they ever had in their lives—they now give an explanation of their hearts.
“Surely,” they said, “we are being punished because of our brother.” Now, remember: they don’t know that Joseph is their brother. It’s not because he said, “Hey, I’m Joseph, and you’re in the jail,” and they said, “Whoa, there’s Joseph. There’s the jail. We’re being punished because of Joseph.” They don’t know it’s Joseph! He says to them, “You’re spies.” They say, “We’re not.” He says, “You’re going in the jail for three days.” They go in the jail for three days, and somebody says, “Do you know why we’re in the jail? Because of something that happened twenty years ago.” Do you think there wasn’t any other reason that they could think of why they were in the jail? It’s interesting, isn’t it, because, you see, God uses these encounters to bring us back to the places of our disobedience and our rebellion. Do you remember when we studied chapter 37, and we noted the callousness of their hearts? Genesis 37:23: “When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the richly ornamented robe he was wearing—and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.” Then verse 25: “As they sat down to eat their meal …” Do you remember we talked about that? About the things that can put you off your food, and how it could possibly be that brothers could take their own kith and kin, their own bloodline, throw him in a cistern—believing that he would rot there, that dehydration would take him over, malnutrition would finally consume him, he would be picked at and eaten by beasts—they could put him down there in a position of absolute abnegation and turn around and say, “Could you please pass me the ketchup?” How could the heart of man be so callous? But it is, and my hatred towards those that I love is the same hatred which consumes people with a larger sphere of opportunity who simply have the wherewithal to vent out their spleen in a way that you or I may be preserved from doing, either because of a lack of ability—but not because we are devoid of the feelings. And so they were exactly that callous, but now—twenty years on reflecting upon it—we discover, as Paul Harvey says, “The rest of the story.” What was the rest of the story in that event?
Well, they tell us. “Surely, we’re being punished because of our brother.” Number one: “We saw how distressed he was. We saw, when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen when he cried.” In verse 22: “We must give an account for his blood.” This was a red-letter day in the lives of these fellows because, for twenty years, they had been living a lie. For twenty years, they had kept up pretense with their father, making him assume again and again that Joseph was no more, all the time knowing that the deceit had laid hold of them deep, and if we think that in the twenty years that passed since that event they were able simply to ignore it, we don’t even know a modicum about human nature. Don’t you think that when they passed that same place on the journey they recalled those scenes? Don’t you? Don’t you think that they awakened in the night with their dreams so vivid that they perspired, and they had their hands over their ears because they could hear the cry of Joseph still from the pit—fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen years on—their brother crying out, “Oh, help me! Oh, help me! Oh, save me!” Because they’re being honest now, but to this point, they were unprepared to get honest. They, instead, simply gathered, as it were, their cloaks around them. They furnished their lives with what they could find. They found here and there a basis for their excuse and a cause for their forgetfulness, but to this point, they had never acknowledged their guilt.
Listen very carefully to this statement. This may be the most important statement that I make as I draw this to a close. The first signs of an awakening conscience is the admission of personal guilt —the first signs of an awakening conscience is an admission of personal guilt. Some of us are here this morning and have lived as long as these brothers with things in our past about which we have never personally admitted our guilt. I have counseled with people. I’m thinking now, not of anyone in Parkside Church, but I have two names in mind, and the character involved knows that this was wrong, knows that this chaos was caused, knows that this pain has followed, and he doesn’t think that it was a good idea, but he has not as yet acknowledged his own personal guilt, and there is no future for him. There is no usefulness for him. You will never get away with it just turning up the stereo. There has to come that acknowledgment.
It’s the acknowledgment of Luke 15: the young guy who takes all that he has and goes away from his father’s house. “‘Give me the portion of goods that is allotted to me.’ And the father divided unto them his living. And not many days after, he took his journey into a far country and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And there arose a great famine in the land.” Isn’t that interesting? “There arose a great famine in the land.” As long as the band was playing and the money was flowing and the parties were happening, he was just going for broke, but the famine came and showed him: Your life is frail. “And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country who sent him into his fields to feed the pigs, and he was so hungry that he would fain have filled his stomach with the slop and the pig swill that he was giving to the pigs.” He was that hungry, and no one came to give him anything. “[A]nd he began to be in want,” and then it says: “And when he came to himself, he said …” Not, “This is my father’s problem. He should have never given me the inheritance. He should have been smart enough to know that I couldn’t look after the inheritance. After all, I always spent my allowance within twenty minutes of getting it. It’s my father’s fault. If my brother had really cared for me, he would have run back after me and said, ‘No, don’t go.’ So, it’s his fault or his …” No, no, no, no, no. “When he came to himself, he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and I will go to my father and I will say unto him—I will say unto him, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. And I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’” And the person who comes to Jesus like that is guaranteed an unbelievable party, but the stiff-necked Pharisee, with twenty years of religion wrapped safely around us, where we obscure from others and from ourselves—except in those dark watches of the night—the things with which we’ve never dealt, for us there is no hope until the acknowledgment of personal guilt.
That’s why some people think they’re Christians and they’re not, ’cause they’ve been prepared to acknowledge that this wasn’t really that brilliant, and that wasn’t really so smart and, “Really, I ought to stop doing that and start doing this.” So they said, “That wasn’t brilliant. Why don’t I stop this and start that?” Well, fine. That’s okay, but that’s not what the Bible calls conversion. What the Bible calls conversion is when a person says, “I’m absolutely flat-out guilty, and I deserve death for my crimes, and unless there is someone who can come and pay a price which I deserve to pay, then the price is going to have to be paid.” And, of course, that’s the good news. Do you see where this is going? Isn’t the interesting thing—at least, it is to me—the one, for the brothers, the one against whom they had offended was the very one who held their lives in his hands? Does that make you think of anybody? Isn’t that a picture of Christ? The one against whom I have offended is the one who holds my life in his hands.
You review the story, and it is clear that they had no interest in Joseph. For twenty years they’d ignored him; they hated him before that. They didn’t recognize Joseph, and verse 23 tells us that they did not know that he could understand them. Now, there’s another whole sermon I feel coming on, but our time is gone. That is what is true of all of us by nature concerning Christ: we have no interest in him, we do not recognize him, and we do not know that he understands us.
And we actually have to wait until chapter 45 to this great amazing scene which I can’t imagine getting to, we’re going so slowly, and you even worse, you’re saying, “We’ll never get to it this side of Christmas,” but the amazing scene when they who do not recognize him have the veil taken away from their eyes and they see him as he really is. And so you sit this morning and you say, “I wonder why these events in my life have unfolded as they have. I wonder why I face the famine of this experience or the dungeon” or whatever else it is. God uses these famines to remove the customary supports. He uses the loss of loved ones, and he uses the loss of jobs, and he [uses] all these customary things that make us think that we have the world by the tail in order that he might bring us where he brought these brothers: to an awareness of their great need and then, in turn, to the discovery of great provision. What would they have cared if, back home in Canaan, they had all the fun and all the food they could ever want? They would never have made the journey. It is only when God shows to us that the cupboard of our own ingenuity is bare that we will then go humbly to he who is the Bread of Life. That’s the story of Joseph. You and I have a story too. What’s yours?
Our God and our Father, we thank you that from your Word, in the story of your servant, we see mirrored before us the wonder of your son Jesus, who was despised and rejected by men. He was one from whom people hid their faces, and yet despite all of the despite and all of the rejection, he—against whom we had most offended—held out to us the offer of life and liberty and joy and fullness. Father, I pray that you will take your Word and write it in our hearts—especially for any who have come today not knowing really where they stand in relationship to these things, and as you’ve spoken through your Word, so you call them to yourself. Grant that they might come in humble trust and genuine repentance and lay hold upon your great and precious gift. And now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one today and forevermore. Amen.
 Psalm 37:3 (NIV 1984).
 Luke 15:12–14 (paraphrased).
 Luke 15:15–16 (paraphrased).
 Luke 15:14 (KJV).
 Luke 15:17–19 (paraphrased).
 2 Corinthians 13:14 (paraphrased).