And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.
Terror struck like a bolt of lightning into the hearts of Jacob’s sons when the Egyptian ruler dismissed his servants, including his interpreter, and in their native tongue said, “I am Joseph.” The greatest sin of their lives had been committed against him, and now they saw him standing before them with absolute power as one who was raised from the dead. The brothers were dumb with fear. Joseph, however, knew the answer to their fear. In his own life he had known many such times of trouble and worry. Comfort he had always found in only one place, with God. Thus he directed his brothers also toward Him. “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. For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.”
With these words ringing in their ears, there could be little doubt left with the brothers that this was really Joseph. His appearance was still quite different. He was a mature man now, dressed after the fashion of an Egyptian lord. But now that he had dismissed his interpreter and spoke in their native tongues, there was the old familiar ring in his voice. But even more familiar were the words that he spoke, words that spoke of God and of His covenant grace toward His people. This had always been Joseph’s chief characteristic, a readiness to speak concerning their relationship to God. Then they had scorned him for it. They had ascribed it to pride, as though he were trying to make himself more righteous than they, thereby impressing their father. Now they recognized that same familiar faith in God; but it struck them quite differently. They themselves were different men. Then they had been living in sin and in arrogance and had counted any sign of faith in God a matter of self-righteousness and pride. But now they had been brought unto humble repentance; the same faith, which before they had despised, brought a glow of warmth into their souls. His faith looked upon their lives from a viewpoint which they had not so much as dared to imagine. So great had been the grace of God for them that, while they had yet been reveling in their sins, He had been directing their lives so that even their iniquity might be turned unto their good.
Moreover, it soon became apparent how deeply the love of God had become implanted in Joseph’s heart. Not only had he forgiven them their sin against him, that for the brothers would have been more than enough reason to be forever grateful, but he laid before them his most gracious plan for the future. “Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not: and thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast: and there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty.” That Joseph’s love for his father would continue could be understood, but that they should all be included in a plan to care for all of their needs for the future, was more than their minds could understand. It was a glorious example of the extent of Godly love.
Fear had subsided and in its place came a joy too great to be expressed. The words of Scripture speak for themselves. “And he (Joseph) fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him.” Only one who has experienced the forgiving power of the love of God can appreciate the greatness of the joy that found expression that day through tears.
It was not long before Pharaoh heard of the fact that Joseph had met with his brothers. His reaction is the best demonstration we can have of the love which he felt for Joseph. Immediately there arose in his heart the same thought which had arisen in Joseph’s. He summoned Joseph to him and commanded, “Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan; and take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.” Pharaoh’s appreciation for Joseph knew no bounds. He looked upon Joseph, not just as a counselor in material things, but as a spiritual companion and advisor. He was more than willing to receive into his land all of the believers in Joseph’s God. Lest Joseph should hesitate at his overflowing generosity, he added also this, “Now thou art commanded, this do ye.” He would use his full authority to do what was best for Joseph. All of their needs were to be fully provided for. “Take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.”
Joyfully the brothers set forth on their way bearing the message of Joseph, “Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not . . . And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and all that ye have seen; and ye shall haste and bring down my father hither.” It was beyond a doubt the most wonderful message they could ever bring to their father. Jacob had never really been able to reconcile himself to the idea that his son Joseph should be dead. There had been something in Joseph’s youth that made him feel that God had had a further purpose for Joseph to fulfill. That it had come to naught, he never could completely accept. The brothers knew this and could visualize the pleasure which their message would bring. Nonetheless, to be the bearers of this message would from another point of view be very hard. For years on end they had lived under the pretense that they knew nothing more about Joseph’s end than a blood-stained coat could tell. It would be a relief for them to unburden their conscience before their father, but, as is always true, this confession would still be hard. Very discreet had been the parting command of Joseph, “See that ye fall not out by the way.” There was a real danger that as they looked forward to the explaining of all that had happened before their father, they would begin to point fingers at each other, looking for one upon whom the greater blame might be laid. Joseph wisely warned them to guard against such temptation, causing a falling out among each other on the way.
With amazement Jacob saw the approach of his children. Not only were all eleven of his sons to be distinguished, but they wore new and costly garments upon their backs, there were many more animals in their procession besides those with which they had left, behind them they drew wagons such as were unknown at that time outside of the land of Egypt, and all were burdened down with vast amounts of food of many different kinds. But, if what Jacob saw was amazing, it could not begin to compare with the words that fell upon his ears, “Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt.” It was more than Jacob could believe, and his heart grew faint within him. Year upon year had passed and he had never been able completely to believe that Joseph was really dead, and now that he heard otherwise, that too was too much for him to accept. Only after he had heard the whole story from beginning to end, and after examining again and again the gifts, did he finally find the strength of conviction to answer, “It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.”
There was a feeling of suppressed excitement in the household of Jacob as they made preparations for their journey to Egypt. There was ample reason for eagerness. Soon all reason for worry and fear about the shortage of food and the famine would be gone. They would be amply supplied out of the bounty of Egypt. In fact, they would be recipients of royal favor as the family of Joseph. Most of all, they were all caught up into the eager anticipation of Jacob as he looked forward to his reunion with Joseph. Nonetheless there were also those things which suppressed their feelings and even contributed a twinge of sorrow. First of all, of course, there was the responsibility of the elaborate preparations which had to be made so that every member of the household could safely undergo the move. But even more there was the fact that they were going to leave the land of Canaan for an extended length of time. The land of Canaan was their home in a very peculiar sense of the word. Not only had they and their fathers lived there for many years, but the land had been given them as an eternal inheritance by covenant promise of God. Although they moved to Egypt, Canaan would always be their home. None actually realized how long their stay in Egypt would be, but even the thought of a temporary stay away from the promised land could not leave them without a taint of sadness.
It was not until they were started on their way, however, that doubts began to trouble Jacob. Ever since he had heard of the Lord’s gracious care for Joseph, his spiritual convictions had flashed more brilliantly than ever before. It served so wonderfully to verify all that he had ever learned about the covenant faithfulness of Jehovah. But as he thought upon the covenant of the Lord, he remembered how that its promises and blessings had always been immediately connected with the promised land of Canaan. His fathers before him had fled that land because of famine and the results had been most sad. His own twenty years in Haran had been as years of banishment. Thinking upon this he hardly dared to proceed. Not knowing what to do, he stopped at Beersheba to sacrifice to God. That night God appeared to him in a vision and said, “Jacob, Jacob. I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.” Arising in the morning Jacob proceeded joyfully upon his way.
Approaching the land of Egypt, Jacob sent Judah ahead to announce their arrival. Once Joseph had heard that his father was approaching near, he could withhold himself no longer. He summoned his chariot and hastily set forth to meet them. Many years had passed since they had shared their spiritual joys together; yet very few days had passed when they had not thought each one about the other. Many a prayer had ascended unto heaven in each other’s behalf. Their final reunion was marked by a long and tearful embrace. The depth of Jacob’s feelings is best seen in the prayer that finally escaped from his lips. “Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.”