What God Really Wants to Know About You
What does God Really Want to Know About You?
1. I want to place a principle before our minds in this message.
a. Let me show you that in a few passages of Scripture:
b. Deuteronomy 8:2: "And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that he might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”
i. One of the reasons for the trial of the wilderness wanderings among God's OT people was to test them to see if they would do what they said they would do.
ii. That was stated again a few verses later.
c. Deuteronomy 8:16: "In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end."
2. It is important for us to understand that, with regard to testing, what was true of God's dealings with them back then is true of His dealings with us today.
a. Listen to 1 Peter 4:12: "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you."
b. Peter is saying here, "Don't think it strange when troubles come upon you. God is testing you to see if you really mean what you say about your relationship with Him.
3. There is a great parallel between our testing today and a test that took place during the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis.
a. In that test the lesson was clear: An inquiring God wants to know if we really mean business in our claims of allegiance to Him.
b. We are going to cover several chapters of Scripture in this message.
c. We'll begin in Genesis 43:16.
4. This is the eighth lesson in our series on the life of Joseph. Joseph is Prime Minister of Egypt.
a. His family lives in Canaan. A famine has hit the land, forcing the eleven sons of Jacob to come to Egypt to buy grain. They did not know that the man they stood before when they came to buy food was their brother, Joseph, whom they hated and sold into slavery 23 years earlier. Neither did they know that a key situation was about to be reversed. Joseph would be in charge this time.
b. The men didn't recognize their brother. Joseph recognized them, however, and decided to test them to see if they had changed their murderous ways since he had seen them last. He accused them of being spies and put them in jail. Three days later he released all of them except one, Simeon. He allowed the released brothers to return home with their donkeys and their food. He instructed them to bring their youngest brother Benjamin back with them to prove their story that they were not spies. Simeon was held as collateral. Unknown to them before they left, Joseph had his servant slip the money they had paid for the grain back into their sacks. When they finally discovered it on the trip home they realized that they were in a lot of trouble. If they returned for Simeon, they would be accused to stealing the money and killed or put into slavery. If they stayed home where it was safe, they would have to abandon their brother.
c. To the brothers' credit, they tried to return to Egypt right away to get their brother. Their aged father Jacob however, refused to let Benjamin go with them.
5. Genesis 42:38 holds the record of Jacob's words: "My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow."
a. So they didn't return for Simeon until they were again running out of food. It was Judah who succeeded in convincing his father to let them return with Benjamin. If they didn't go they would die of starvation.
b. They loaded up their donkeys with the money they had found in their sacks and a big gift for the Egyptian ruler in the hope of appeasing his wrath, got Benjamin, and headed south for Egypt. We will pick up the story there.
c. (Read 43:15)
i. Put yourself in Joseph's position for a moment. The brothers had not returned to Egypt immediately as he had expected they should if they were concerned about Simeon. It wasn't their fault but Joseph didn't know that. He had probably begun to wonder if they would return at all. Now they were back, but was it because of their concern for their brother Simeon or because they were again out of food?
ii. For Joseph to know for sure there would need to be another test.
1. Joseph Tests.
A. (Read v. 16-18)
1) They were still worried about that money that had been found in their sacks.
2) They had no idea how it got there.
3) As soon as they arrived at Joseph's house they began to try to explain their predicament.
B. (Read v. 19-22)
1) Better that they admit their knowledge of the money ahead of time, they figured, than have to be confronted by Joseph.
2) So they spilled the whole story.
3) The house steward's response must have greatly surprised them.
C. (Read v. 23a,b)
1) Can you imagine the brother's bewilderment at that?
2) "It's OK, guys. I had your money all along. Your God must have put it there."
D. (Read v. 23c-24)
1) Oh the confused looks that must have been on their faces!
2) Things shouldn't be happening like this!
E. (Read v. 25-28)
1) Remember Joseph's childhood dreams?
2) They're being fulfilled here!
F. (Read v. 29-30)
1) At that point Joseph nearly lost it!
2) He hadn't seen Benjamin for 23 years.
3) When he was sold into slavery Ben was just a little boy.
G. (Read v. 31-32)
1) The reason for the separation in eating-places was this: they were herdsmen.
2) They kept and ate cattle.
3) The Egyptians on the other hand worshipped cattle.
4) So no Egyptian was about to eat with or touch someone who ate their sacred animals.
5) Joseph staunchly observed this custom so as not to give away his identity.
H. (Read v. 33)
1) Joseph lined them up at the table according to their age.
2) Wait a minute!
3) What's going on?
4) They were astonished.
I. (Read v. 34)
1) Besides the fact that this strange Egyptian ruler line them up according to their age, for every plate laid down for each of them, Benjamin received five!
A) Pretty soon his place at the table was loaded with food.
B) Imagine a bewildered Benjamin peering out from behind it all.
2) What is Joseph doing?
A) He's putting them to the test!
B) Remember how they were jealous of him so many years ago because he got that fancy "coat of many colors"?
C) He wants to know if they're still going to be jealous of their younger brother!
J. (Read 44:1-2)
1) Apparently well to do Egyptian households were equipped with a "divining cup."
2) This was a large cup made of a precious metal that was used in their belief that they could contact spirits.
3) (I don't believe that Joseph did this, but apparently such a cup was in his house).
4) He had this cup which was an Egyptian's most prized possession put in Benjamin's sack.
K. (Read v. 3)
1) These guys are thinking that all is well.
2) Wow, what a nice man!
3) They thought he was going to kill them and he fed them instead!
L. (Read v. 4-9) Oops! You shouldn't have said that!
M. (Read v. 10-13)
1) Joseph has carefully engineered the circumstances to bring these brothers to a place where they have to make a decision about what kind of men they are going to be.
A) Will they return and let this fearsome Egyptian take their youngest brother, or will they put their lives on the line to save his life?
B) Twenty-three years before they sold their brother out for their own selfish reasons.
C) What will they do now?
2) It occurred to me as I was studying this that God does the same thing with us.
A) He providentially leads in our lives to bring us to places where we have to decide whether we are going to live for Him or sell out in our attempt to avoid the trouble.
B) Why does He do that?
(1) For the same reason Joseph is doing it to his brothers.
(2) Listen again to that quote from Deuteronomy that I read to you earlier: "that he might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not."
3) Joseph wants to know if, when things are tough, these brothers will betray one they have said they love.
A) God wants to know that too, about you and me.
B) Remember what Peter said in I Peter 4:12?
C) "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you..."
4) The most common explanation I have heard among us for the reason Christians have trouble in life is that God wants to make us stronger.
A) That is certainly true, but He also wants to know whether we really mean what we say - whether we will keep our promises we made to Him to be faithful when it is tough or if we will shrink back for our own convenience.
B) It is easy to be faithful as Christians when things are going our way.
C) Will we still serve Him though when it costs us our comfort or convenience or even our lives?
D) Will we confess Him or deny Him in the clutch?
E) He wants to know and He will push us into these kinds of situations until He finds out.
N. Sir Thomas Moore in the biographical drama, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, is in prison for his faithfulness to his beliefs and his commitment. His daughter Meg comes to him and tries to convince him to waffle on his promise just this one time. In a response that typifies how we should all answer, He tells her: "When a person makes a promise, Meg, he puts himself in his own hands like water. If he opens his fingers to let it go, he need not hope to find himself again!"
1) Brothers of Joseph, when it looks like you're going to suffer, will you sell out your brother or stick with him?
2) Christians, when it looks like you're going to have to suffer, will you sell out your Lord or stick with Him?
A) Will your faith be like water that runs from open fingers or will you be faithful?
B) It's a valid question and God wants to know!
2. The Brothers Respond. (Let's see how these brothers do.)
A. (Read v. 14)
1) Notice those words, "Judah and his brother..."
2) If you look back in the story you will remember that it was Judah who persuaded the brothers to sell Joseph.
3) Pay attention to who speaks in this thing.
B. (Read v. 15)
1) OK. What are they going to do?
2) All they have to do to be able to go home in peace is say something like, "Well, our brother Benjamin did it, so you can take him," and then go home and tell their dad, "Dad, he got himself in the trouble. He stole that man's cup. We did all we could to save him, but he must reap what he has sowed."
3) But they didn't do that!
C. (Read v. 16)
1) Wow! What a confession of wrong!
2) We're guilty and we deserve to be punished!
A) God has found us out.
B) The only thing we can do is give ourselves up."
3) What "iniquity" is Judah talking about here?
A) The "iniquity" that has been on their minds since they came here!
B) Remember that first day when Joseph accused them of being spies and took them into custody?
C) These were their words back in Genesis 42:21: "Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us."
4) A full admission of guilt and acceptance of responsibility for wrongs done without making excuses had to come before there could be any reunion with Joseph.
A) Likewise, a full admission of guilt and accepting of responsibility for wrongs we have done without making excuses has to come about before there can be any reunion with God!
B) When you or I have done wrong, God is going to push us into situations where we have to decide whether we're going to come clean and admit our wrong with no excuses or whether we're going to continue to cover up or blame others. (He wants to know!)
5) Look at Judah's confession!
A) No hedging.
B) No excuses.
C) No saying, "But the circumstances were so tough we had to sell our brother."
D) Just, "What can we say? How can we justify ourselves? We're guilty."
6) Until any person is willing to come to that point, there can be no reunion with God when wrong has been done.
A) Ah, but was it really genuine or was it simply their caving into the inevitable?
B) "We're caught so we'll admit it, but we really aren't sorry."
C) Joseph still needed to know.
D. (Read v. 17)
1) Ah, he's testing their loyalty to their dad as well!
2) How will they handle that?
E. (Read v. 18-34)
1) Hey! At last! That's what Joseph has been looking for!
A) Judah says, "We're guilty, and furthermore, I'm most guilty. I really cannot bear to see my dad suffer anymore over this. Please let me make amends by offering my own life instead of the boy's."
(1) Is Judah's heart genuine?
(2) Is this true repentance?
(3) Yes! We see it by looking at the fruit: Judah's unwillingness to allow his wrongdoing to hurt anybody else.
B) Earlier I told you that there is a parallel between Joseph's forcing these men toward a decision and God doing the same thing with us.
F. There is also a parallel between what Joseph was after and what God is after in us.
1) Joseph wanted and God wants repentance that is based upon unconditional surrender and the desire not to promote further sin!
2) If you or I, when we're finally pushed into the clutch of having to make a decision to do right, just mouth the words, but really don't make God's concern our concern - we really don't want to come clean of our evil - then we haven't truly repented.
3) I'm reminded of the two kinds of sorrow that Paul spoke of in II Corinthians 7:10 in a case of some who are confronted with their sin.
A) "For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death."
(1) It is the "sorrow of the world" when you are sorry you got caught and sorry you have to face the consequences. (The focus is something like, "Poor me. Look at how I've damaged my life.")
(2) The "sorrow that is according to the will of God" is when you are glad you got caught, sorry for all the damage your sin has caused, and you don't want it to hurt anyone else.
B) One who has sinned and has the "sorrow according to the will of God" can be forgiven.
C) One who merely has the "sorrow of the world" will never be forgiven and the rift between himself and God will never be repaired.
G. Had these men not confessed, I don't believe Joseph would have received them.
1) Likewise, unless we truly repent, God will not receive us.
2) Look at the outcome of Judah's repentance. (Read 45:1-3a)
3) Next week we are going to look at the joyous reunion of the family of Jacob.
1. A small boy dialed "O" and asked the operator to call a number for him. He didn't speak clearly, so she couldn't understand him. After repeating the number four times, he blurted out, "You operators are dumb," and slammed down the receiver. Hearing this, his mother was shocked and somewhat indignant. She called the operator and made the boy apologize. Later, when his mother left the house, the boy got back on the phone. "Is this the same operator I talked to a little while ago?" "Yes," came the reply. "Well, I still think you're dumb!"
A. That boy's apology is like the repentance of many people.
B. Forced to face up to their sin when they're caught, they mouth the words, but there is no change of heart, no new action, no new motivation, no godly sorrow.
2. In the final analysis, Judah wasn't like that.
A. Joseph had to find out before their relationship could be restored.
B. Repentance means that I own what is my part of wrong behavior. I accept responsibility for my part of what is wrong and commit myself to new behavior. I don't make excuses. I don't cite difficult circumstances or "personality conflicts" or anything else that "made me do it against my will." I realize that if it comes to me, God expects me to handle it. If I allowed myself to get "out of control," still I don't make that an excuse. I own my wrong and accept responsibility to change.
3. Have you done that?
A. Is your repentance for things done past and present genuine?
B. An inquiring God wants to know, and he will push you into situations from time to time to get the answer.
4. Repentance is a pre-requisite to salvation.