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The Story of Redemption in the book of Genesis

April 28, 2024

Teacher: Mike Noel
Scripture: Genesis 42-47

Sermon Outline:

  1. Sanctification In The Life of Jacob: It’s Not About Us
  2. Sanctification In The Life of Judah Stop Living Like a Canaanite
  3. Sanctification In The Life of Joseph: God is Always at Work.


One of my summer jobs during my college years was working in a distribution center…

In most soap operas there is usually a lot of drama, troubles, scandals and sinful stuff going on.

As we continue our study of the book of Genesis and the patriarchs and their children we are confronted with the fact that their story sometimes reads like a soap opera. There is favoritism, there is hatred, murder and immorality. There are attempts to bring about God’s promise in ways other than trust in him: manipulation, deceit, control.

So why did Moses who wrote Genesis, why did he write their somewhat sordid stories? Most families tend to cover up the family sins but not so much with Moses. Well first of all he did so because the Bible is a book of truth; it tells things as they really are. Secondly he wanted to communicate that our God is able to bring about his plans and purposes in and through and despite his people. That’s good news for us - the fact that in the end God’s purposes, his plans and kingdom will come about through his power and not ours.

The purpose and plan that Moses wrote about in Genesis (and really what the whole Bible is about) centers around the promise that a Messiah would come and would redeem his people out of all their troubles most importantly that he would save them from their sins. And this plan, this seed of Abraham, this Christ would affect all the nations of the earth. Today as we look at these chapters in Genesis we see God at work in two big ways. He is at work bringing his eternal plan through Abraham’s seed. And secondly even as that plan unfolds we see him working individually in the lives of his people.

In the life of God’s people, sanctification is always going on. This is the work of the Spirit as he brings about godliness in the lives of those who belong to him. We see that happening with all the main characters in the Joseph story. John mentioned a few weeks ago that the Bible is a story of redemption. We see that story of redemption in the lives of the patriarchs and that same story of redemption is currently being written in our own lives. Because of God's grace and mercy it is an ongoing work that continues as long as we live. Let’s pray and ask God to help us to cooperate with that work.

I. Sanctification In The Life of Jacob: It’s Not About Us

Sanctification is always going on in our lives. This is true our entire life. We live in a fallen world and we are fallen people AND our God is a Holy God. He wants his people to be holy. Not in some artificial external way but that which starts within, as our hearts and minds are changed to be more in conformity with his word and who he is. To be more like Christ. Paul uses the word transformed into the image of Jesus.

And this process is an ongoing work. Parents, think of your children. Everyday you are working with them to think and to behave as mature children/ young adults. It’s an ongoing job! You are regularly working with them, helping them grow. And this is not only true for us with our children. God is also at work with his children.

Think of your own life as a garden. If you don’t regularly weed it what will happen to it? The weeds will take over. This is true even for the person who may have had a fruitful garden for many years. It does not matter. If you stop weeding it and cultivating it, the garden will soon be taken over by weeds. Every day we must do the hard (sometimes tedious work) of weeding out the effects of the world, the flesh and the devil in our lives. And we must put on Christ. This challenging task is not to be done in our own strength but God is at work in us through his word and his Spirit so we can be transformed.

For the young believer and for the seasoned saint a healthy lifestyle as a Christian includes embracing this work of growing in holiness every day. I have three points on how this work of sanctification is seen in our seen in our passage:

  • Sanctification In The Life of Jacob: It’s Not About Us
  • Sanctification In The Life of Judah Stop Living Like a Canaanite
  • Sanctification In the Life of Joseph: God is Always at Work.

So remember our story. Joseph the favorite son of Jacob is hated by his brothers and sold into slavery. Because God is with him he prospers as a house servant and as a prisoner. And in the providence of God he becomes second in command of all of Egypt. As the result of a great famine in the region his brothers come to Egypt to buy grain totally unaware that the man they are standing before is their betrayed brother.

As both Philip and Daniel discussed in previous teachings, Jacob was a work in progress (as are we! We’re being transformed but that’s a process!) It is encouraging to see the work of God in his life. There is definitely a progression of his devotion to the Lord as time goes on. But we see in our passage that even when Jacob was 130 years old that God was still working sanctification in his life. In fact what we see in these chapters is that even at this age he needed it. For what we find out is that Jacob was framing the whole incident around himself.

Genesis 42:36–38 (ESV) — And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.” Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

Genesis 43:6 (ESV) — Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?”

I’m not denying that Jacob was being tested and tried. But he seems to make it all about himself. Did he forget that he had wives and many children and grandchildren that were also being affected by the famine and this situation? Have you ever met someone who fits this category? Everything is about them. If you haven’t then just look in the mirror! It is an affliction that affects all of us. The very essence of sin is that “it’s all about me!’. We all like sheep have gone astray, each has turned to his own way.

I can remember in college hearing and reading the Campus Crusade tracts that talked about having a life centered around God rather than centered around yourself. That’s part of the repentance process that begins when we are converted but continues long after.

I find in my own life that I must regularly pray “Lord help me to decrease. May Christ increase.” And I pray that because I’m aware of my need for it, the tendency to view all of life from a self centered focus. And the Lord gives us plenty of opportunities to see that it really isn’t about us - it’s about him and his purposes and glory. O happy will you be the more you learn this and live this. You will discover that your greatest joy and satisfaction is wrapped up in that.

One of the things I want to encourage us in, exhort us this morning as we discuss that sanctification is always going on in our lives - is that we need to grow in self-awareness of it. Are you a person who struggles with jealousy or greed or selfish anger or lust? Or just plain old selfishness? Whatever your besetting sins and weaknesses are, that’s a good place to start in being aware of God’s working in your life. He is the great orchestrator of details and circumstances that bump into our idols and sins. Be aware of what is going on in your life. Cooperate with the work of Christ as he seeks to sanctify you. Don’t be blind to it. Don’t think that it is optional.

Psalm 32:8–9 (ESV) — I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.

You would think that after 130 years Jacob would have reactivated better than he initially did and made it all about himself. Jacob was partly to blame for what happened with Joseph. Jacob hadn’t learned from the mistakes and sins of his parents, their sins of favoritism. He did the same thing with Joseph and provoked his other sons. I’m not trying to excuse their sins against him and especially against Joseph. But you wonder if Jacob hadn’t shown favoritism how might things have been different.

But God was still at work in Jacob’s life. God is so kind and merciful and long-suffering with us. (How we can be tempted to think that because of our failings and sins that God has given up on us). Psalm 130: If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

God is so good to not give up on us but to continue to write the story of redemption in our lives. We read in chapter 43 of a change in Jacob’s demeanor and faith. In verse 14 he states his desire, it’s sort of an expression of faith and at the same time it can be looked on as a prayer.

Genesis 43:13–14 (ESV) — Take also your brother, and arise, go again to the man. May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”

You see, God was at work dealing with Jacob’s idols and at the same time working good in his life. Genesis tells us that Joseph was the son of his old age and therefore had a special place in his life. But because of God’s sanctifying work Jacob changes. Jacob finally realizes that they won’t be able to get anymore grain unless Benjamin is sent. In Psalm 139 David writes that the Lord had hemmed him in. Jacob was hemmed in by these circumstances of life. Our Father in heaven often uses circumstances to hem us in. Jacob becomes willing to risk Benjamin’s life for the good of the family because the Lord had been at work in his heart. He had to let go of his idols.

What idols is God seeking to free you from?

The work of the Lord in Jacob’s life highlights how we should handle things that we love and desire. We should not cling to them. His desire was for Benjamin and Simeon to return. I believe this was his prayer. But he submits them to the Lordship of his God. He was no longer clutching them, putting them above God. But was entrusting them to him who can be trusted with all things.

Yes God was at work in Jacob’s life and because of his change of heart, because sanctification is always going on in our lives Benjamin was sent and the story continues.

II. Sanctification In Judah’s Life: Stop Living Like a Canaanite

Our second point has to do with God at work in Judah’s life. I stole John’s phrase from the story of Judah in Genesis 38. I think it’s a very accurate description of Judah’s spiritual life at that point. Chapter 38 is a very specific story of Judah’s life. We see him commit sins of immorality and deceit and hypocrisy - but he was not alone in his sins against the Lord. The other brothers had their own issues as well:

  • The killing of Shechem and Hamor and the entire city by Simeon and Levi: Genesis 34
  • Reuben and his father’s concubine Bilhah: Genesis 35
  • The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman. Genesis 46:10
  • Nine of ten brothers were guilty of selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites.

Genesis 38 tells not just that Judah commits grievous sins against God and against others; but that he had a lifestyle that was evident that he was not walking with the God of his fathers. He was living like a Canaanite, not like one who knew El Shaddai. And his brothers were doing the same.

But God was at work in their lives. We don’t know for sure that it was a saving work in each of the brother’s lives. But as they go down into Egypt and are pressed by Joseph and even more so by the Lord, there is a clear sense to them that their sins have found them out.

Chapter 42 When Joseph tells them he will hold one of them and that all they have to do is bring Benjamin and he be released they say to one another:

Genesis 42:21–22 (ESV) — 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.” 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.”

On the way home they discover that their money is somehow still in their sacks” V 28 At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

They were aware that God was actively at work in their lives sovereignly bringing about these details. Are we aware of those things? I’m not saying that we should interpret everything that happens to us as a “sign from God”. But we should be able to discern when God is at work confronting us with our sins.

The Spirit of God was at work in their lives convicting them of their sins. They had enough self-awareness of God and his justice that they were able to put two and two together. Isn’t it amazing how the Lord orchestrates details in our lives that reveal and expose our sins. He’s the great orchestrator of life. He is at work in our lives so that we might turn from our sins and grow in godliness. Our God is omniscient - he knows all things. He knows the hairs on our head. The dreams and hopes we have. The trials and sorrows we carry and the sins we commit.

We can’t say for sure that each of the brothers were genuinely repenting, genuinely being converted but I think we can say that for Judah. In chapter 44 when Joseph arranges for his silver cup to be hidden in Benjamin’s sack he then tells the brothers that they can all go free except for Benjamin. At this point we see Judah display genuine sacrificial love and care for both Benjamin and his father Jacob. He demonstrates to Joseph the change that has gone on in his life. He puts aside any unforgiveness towards Jacob and his sins of favoritism both towards certain sons as well as to Rachel their mother. Judah’s mother was Leah the “unloved” wife. But Judah puts this all aside as he humbly entreats Joseph:

33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.” He is actually modeling a Christ like action, that of being willing to take the place of another and accept their punishment so they could go free.

We don’t know when this change started to happen in Judah’s life. It may have started at the end of Genesis 38 when convicted of his own sins and hypocrisy he declares his daughter-in-law more righteous than he. But the fact is he was a changed man. The Old Testament saints needed to be converted just as New Testament believers need to. Were they regenerated in the same way as New Testament believers? Theologians disagree over the specific work of the Spirit in the Old Covenant. But this much is clear - they needed to be saved through faith alone just as we do. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. And so too for Judah.

Judah was the “bad guy” in chapter 38. In chapters 43 and 44 he was the “good guy”. That’s what can happen when you stop living like a Cannanite and start living like a person who is living for God and his glory. Maybe you’ve been the “bad guy” in a certain situation. Whether it’s a relationship with your spouse or your children or your parents or a sibling maybe the main “blame” is on you. Judah’s example gives us great hope that if we turn from our sin in genuine repentance we can have a great effect on those you’ve wronged.

We see that happening in chapter 45 in one of the great dramas of the Bible:

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 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.

And then Joseph does an amazing thing. He does what Judah had done. He gives us a picture of our Savior. V4 Come near to me please.

Because of God’s work in and through Judah the story of redemption was continuing to be written. And that takes us to our last point.

III. Sanctification In The Life of Joseph: God Is Always At Work

Our third point highlights the fact that for the Christian sanctification is always going on. Even in the life of a mature believer. Joseph is one the few examples in the Old Testament of one who lived a “blameless” life. Or at least close to it. When I say blameless that’s not a completely categorical statement but it’s basically to be above reproach which means that no one can legitimately rebuke you or make any charges against you that will stick. Joseph lived this type of life. Yes, maybe he could have been a little wiser at age 17 in how he related his dreams to his family but his life was marked by righteousness and wisdom and that God was with him.

But God! But God was continuing to work even in the life of one who was living a consistent God honoring life. Think about the life of Peter. In the first 12 chapters of the book of Acts we see Peter as the leader of the Apostles and the early church. But at some point the

Apostle Paul had to oppose him for his hypocrisy in that his conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel. It doesn’t matter who you are, sanctification will be going on in your lives until the day you go to be with the Lord in glory.

With Joseph it’s a little complicated. It’s hard to say that he was intentionally or blatantly sinning against his brothers when he meets them after 20+ years. In fact his behavior in general is commendable. But there are definitely things going on in his heart. We don’t know all that was happening but I think one can surmise that he was struggling with how to respond to them. Part of it might be him testing them (but also he was still dealing with some things). He first speaks to them roughly and throws them in prison then releases them. Then returns their money to them. Then sets up a ploy where Benjamin is caught with a stolen cup.

It is understandable that there is turmoil in Joseph’s heart. These are the brothers who sold him into slavery. They had hated him. Surely he was struggling with unforgiveness and with what was the wise and just way to handle the situation. When he concocts the scenario with Benjamin being caught and then imprisoned he may have been testing them to see if they had changed from those who would sell or abandon a brother.

It’s also possible that he was going to have them all go home except Benjamin, his beloved brother and have him stay there in Egypt with him. That might have been his plan but if it was it wasn’t God’s plan.

The dealings of Joseph reveal that even when others sin against us we are still called to respond according to God’s will and not our own. Even when we’ve experienced hurtful and harmful things we must still look to the Lord and trust him. He is still to be our refuge and fortress. When we are sinned against by others we must not try to deal with it apart from engaging the Lord and his grace. What would he have us to do? What is the right response? What does his word clearly tell us? How can I find his grace to do what is right?

Yes, we must be wise and prudent in handling these situations but we must also make sure that we are trusting God and following his ways. So whether it’s a small disagreement or a bigger conflict, may we allow the sanctifying work of Christ to go on in our lives.

Chapters 46 and 47 are the aftermath of this great drama. The family is restored and reunited in the land of Egypt. Because of God’s work in and through him, Joseph was able to see how God had used all his sufferings not only for his good but for all his family and for the Messianic seed of Abraham and the eternal plan of God to continue.


Let me make a few comments as we close:

The drama in the book of Genesis is very instructive for us as it shows us real life, real sinners, real emotion, real grace. That’s the world we live in. We, like the patriarchs have all acted and done foolish, silly and outright sinful things. Just as we can be tempted to look at them or to look at other Christians and wonder “how could they do such things” - we should be reminded that others may be wondering the same thing about us.

“Our (individual) story” is a story of redemption. It’s still being written:

If you’re not a Christian, today can be the first day of your story. Turn to the Lord. The saving response to those living in the NT…

To those of us who are “older” believers - keep fighting the good fight, the fight of faith. Keep embracing the work of the Spirit as he seeks to conform you into the image of Christ. Follow Joseph’s example and live a God honoring life right to the end. He died in faith. C50 I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

If you’re a Christian and there areas that you have been living like a Cannanite know that God is sovereignly working in your life to bring you to repentance. Don’t think that he is unaware of those sins in your life. Don’t think that he has given up on you. Let the beautiful work of redemption be written in your life. Be like Judah - he turned and changed and became part of the wonderful story of the Messiah.

For all of us who are Christians remember this, sanctification is a lifestyle. It’s what you signed up for when you came to the Lord. Everyday embrace it. It will help make you holy and happy for the glory of God.

Keep this in mind. The grace of Christ comes to us in many ways but three primary ways are: through his Word, through his Spirit, through his people.

So here are three things to consider concerning changing to be more like Jesus:

  1. Pray for the work of the Spirit in your life and for you to be aware of it.

Psalm 139:23–24 (ESV) — Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

  1. Learn to connect your thoughts, words and deeds with God’s words. Not in some legalistic manner but in a way that helps you to evaluate how you are living. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 as well as the lists of things that Paul tells us to either put on or put off are very helpful. They are great indicators of how we are living and where we need to change.
  2. Make sure that Biblical fellowship is going on in your life. Have a person or people who you can share your struggles and sins with and who will give you honest biblical feedback.

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