Verses of Genesis 45
Genesis 45:8 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
GOD VIEWED IN JOSEPH’S ADVANCEMENT
Gen 45:8. So now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God.
BY looking through second causes to the first Cause of all, we learn to trace events to an all-wise Being, who “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,” and whose prerogative it is to bring good out of evil, and order out of confusion. To this view of things we are directed, and in this we are greatly assisted, by the Holy Scriptures; which draw aside the veil of mystery that is on the ways of God, and set before our eyes the most hidden secrets of divine providence. The history before us more especially affords a beautiful illustration of those ways, in which the Governor of the Universe accomplishes his own designs: he suffers, in many instances, such adverse circumstances to occur, as apparently to preclude almost a possibility of their terminating according to his original purpose: yet does he wonderfully interpose in such a manner as to bring them easily, and, as it were, naturally, to their destined issue. If in any thing his intentions could be frustrated, we should have found them fail in reference to the predicted elevation of Joseph above his brethren: yet that event took place at last, and that too through those very means which were used to defeat it: and Joseph, alter the event was actually accomplished, referred the whole dispensation to God, as its primary Author and infallible Director.
To elucidate this subject, we shall shew,
What part God takes in the actions of wicked men—
Though God cannot be a partaker in the wickedness of men, yet he may, and certainly does, bear a part in those actions which wicked men perform. We need go no further than the text, to confirm and establish this truth. That the conduct of Joseph’s brethren, notwithstanding it was ultimately instrumental to his advancement, was deeply criminal, can admit of no doubt: yet says Joseph, “It was not you that sent me hither, but God.” The question is then, What is that part which God takes in the actions of wicked men? To this we answer,
He affords them opportunities of perpetrating what is in their hearts—
[The brethren of Joseph were full of envy and malice against him: but while he was under his father’s wing, they could not give full scope to their hatred, because they were afraid of their father’s displeasure. To remove this difficulty, God so ordered matters that Joseph should be sent to inquire after the health of his brethren when they were at a distance from home. This gave them an opportunity of executing all that was in their hearts. But as the executing of their first intention would have defeated the plans of Providence, it was so appointed that certain Ishmaelite merchants should be passing that way, and that he should be sold to them for a slave instead of being put to death.
That we do not err in tracing these minuter incidents to divine providence, is manifest; for the elevation of Pharaoh to the throne of Egypt is expressly said to have been effected by God for that very purpose, that he might be an instrument on whom the divine power should be exerted, and in whose destruction God himself should be glorified [Note: Rom 9:17.].
But in thus facilitating the execution of evil, God does not make himself a partner in the crime: he only affords men power and opportunity to do what their own wicked dispositions prompt them to: and this he does, as in the instances before referred to, so also in every crime that is committed in the world. What our blessed Lord said to his judge who boasted of having power to release or condemn him, we may say to every criminal in the universe, “Thou couldst have no power at all to commit thy crimes, except it were given thee from above.”]
He suffers Satan to instigate them to evil—
[“Satan is always going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour:” but he cannot act without divine permission: he could not tempt Job, or even enter into the herd of swine, till he had first obtained leave of God. For the most part, God imposes a restraint on this our inveterate enemy; or, if left to himself, he would soon “sift us all as wheat,” and reduce us all to the lowest ebb of wickedness and misery: but at times he leaves the fiend somewhat more at liberty, and permits him to exercise his power over his wretched vassals. On these occasions Satan operates upon their minds with more than usual violence, and not only leads them captive at his Will, but instigates them to the commission of the most heinous crimes. Of these acts God is frequently represented as the author, whilst in other parts of Scripture their origin is referred to Satan. We are told that Satan moved David to number the people; and that he sent forth lying Spirits into all the prophets of Baal, that they might induce Ahab to go up to Ramoth-gilead to battle, where he was sure to fall. But both these things are also said to have been done by God [Note: 2Sa 24:1 with 1Ch 21:1 and 2Ch 18:20-22.]. The fact is, that God did these things through the agency of Satan; that is, he permitted Satan to act according to the impulse of his own mind, and left the persons whom he assaulted to comply with his temptations.]
He withdraws from them his restraining grace—
[Man needs nothing more than to have the preventing grace of God withheld, and he will as surely fall, as a stone, cast out of the hand, will gravitate to the earth. Now it is in this way that God often punishes the sins of men: he leaves them to put forth the depravity of their own hearts: he withholds those mercies which he sees they despised, and gives them up to follow their own vile propensities without restraint. To this effect, it is often said in Scripture, “So I gave them up;” “So I gave them up.” Yea, the sacred records speak yet more strongly, and represent God as “blinding the eyes of men,” and “hardening their hearts [Note: Exo 7:3; Exo 7:13; Isa 6:9-10, which is quoted six times in the New Testament.].” But we must not imagine that God ever actively concurs in the production of sin: in fact, there is no occasion for any active exertion on his part; nothing further is necessary than for him to withdraw his preventing grace; and evil will blaze forth, as fire will to consume the stubble, when no counteracting influence is used to extinguish the flames.]
To remove all objection against his participating in the actions of wicked men, we proceed to point out,
The benefit arising from acknowledging Him in them—
It may be thought that such an acknowledgment, if it did not make God a minister of sin, would at least represent him in a very unamiable light; and that it would tend to justify men in their iniquities. But we affirm, on the contrary, that such an acknowledgment is calculated rather to bring good to man, and honour to our God.
It affords us sweet consolation under our troubles—
[Were we to look no further than to second causes, we should be grieved beyond measure at the instruments of our affliction, and be filled with apprehensions at their malevolent desires. But when we reflect that our enemies are no more than the sword in our Father’s hand, and the rod with which he corrects us; when we consider that his design in correcting us is widely different from theirs [Note: Isa 10:4-6.], and that after he has made use of them for our good, he will cast them into the fire [Note: Isa 10:12; Isa 10:16.], and receive us to his bosom in an improved state [Note: Isa 10:24-27.], our minds are pacified, and we say, “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.” What a source of comfort was this to Job, when the Sabeans and Chaldeans slew his servants and his cattle! “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” It is thus with all the sons and daughters of affliction, when once they can view the hand of God in their trials: they adopt the language of the Psalmist; “I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it.”]
It disposes us to a ready forgiveness of those who injure us—
[It does not incline us to palliate their faults, as if they were mere unconscious instruments impelled by the force of Him who made use of them; (for in all that they do, they act as freely as if God bare no part at all in their actions:) but it inclines us to pity, to forgive, and pray for them, as slaves to their own passions, enemies to their own welfare, and real, though unwitting, benefactors to our souls. This effect is strongly exemplified in our text: Joseph saw the hand of God overruling the designs of his brethren; and from that consideration, he not only readily forgave them, but entreated them “not to be grieved or angry with themselves;” since, whatever had been their intentions, God had made use of their counsels for the accomplishment of his own gracious purposes: yea, thrice does he repeat this idea as a ground whereon he would have them satisfied with the dispensation, as he himself also was [Note: –8.]. We have also a similar effect mentioned in the history of David. Shimei, in the hour of David’s adversity, loaded him with execrations; and Abishai, eager to avenge the insult offered to his master, desired permission to go and kill him: but David forbade it, saying, “Let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David: let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him: it may be that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day [Note: 2Sa 16:5-12.].” Thus shall we also mortify all vindictive feelings, when once we discern that our enemies are agents for Him: we shall say with Stephen and our blessed Lord; “Lay not this sin to their charge:” “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”]
It fills us with an admiration of the divine wisdom—
[It is impossible to trace all the parts of this history, and not adore the wisdom, whereby the various incidents in Joseph’s life were made to concur to the production of one great event, the preservation of Jacob and all his family. If we contemplate the still greater diversity of circumstances, whereby Jesus was made to fulfil the Scriptures, and to effect the redemption of the world; or the astonishingly mysterious designs of God relating to the excision of the Jews, as the means of engrafting the Gentiles into their stock; and the restoration of the Jews, as the means of bringing in all the fulness of the Gentiles; I say, if we contemplate these things, we are necessitated to exclaim with the Apostle, “O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out [Note: Rom 11:33.] !” In like manner, the more we are habituated to trace the mercies of God in our own personal experience, and the numberless instances wherein he has made “the wrath of men” and devils “to praise him,” the more heartily shall we join in the adoring language of Moses, “Who is like unto Thee among the gods? Who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders [Note: Exo 15:11.] ?”]
In prosecuting this subject, we cannot but be struck with the following reflections—
How happy is the Christian in this world!
[Those that know not God, have no refuge to flee unto; no consolation under the trials they endure, no security against the evils they dread. But the true Christian is persuaded, that, though he navigates a tempestuous ocean, he has an all-wise, almighty Pilot at the helm: and “therefore he will not fear though the waves thereof roar, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” He knows not indeed what will be the precise issue of impending calamities; but he knows that it shall be precisely such as his heavenly Father sees to be best for him; and with that assurance he is satisfied. Thus is he kept in perfect peace, because he “trusts in God.”]
How happy will he be in the future world!
[Here “he walks by faith, and not by sight.” He believes that things are working for his good, because God has said that they shall do so. But in heaven he will have a perfect discovery of all the links in that chain of providences, whereby he has been brought to glory. He will see the importance of those things which once appeared most trifling, and the necessity of those things which once were most distressing, and the perfect harmony of those things which once were involved in the most impenetrable darkness and confusion. What cause will he then see to bless and adore his God! What views will he then have of the unsearchable depths of wisdom, which ordered every thing for his good! Well may he leave himself at God’s disposal now, when such shall be his recompence at last! Let us then commit ourselves entirely to God, and be satisfied with all his dealings towards us: and “what we know not now, we shall know hereafter.”]
Verses of Genesis 45
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.