Tears of Joseph - Genesis 45 — A Christian Growth Message - Hope 103.2

Tears of Joseph – Genesis 45 — A Christian Growth Message

Simon Manchester of St Thomas’ Anglican Church in North Sydney presents a three-part series on those in scripture who shed tears.

By Simon ManchesterSunday 5 Jun 2022Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute

A three-part series on those in scripture who shed tears by Simon Manchester of Hope 103.2’s Christian Growth podcast and pastor at All Saints in Woollahra, Sydney.

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Well, we’re beginning this morning a short series on people in Scripture who shed tears. The plan is not that this would be a depressing series or even a sentimental series, but that we would see that God uses difficulties again and again for very great results. One writer has said. It is tears, not smiles, that form the anvil on which joy in God is forged. Let me read that again. It is tears, not smiles, that form the anvil on which joy in God is forged.

In other words, if there’s no tears in our life, there’s a possibility there will be no anvil. And if there’s no anvil, there’ll be no forging of joy.

Well, whether your tears are on the outside, that is, you’re a person who shows your feelings easily, and your tears flow visibly or whether your tears are on the inside and you’re a person who grieves invisibly. All of us will eventually experience some heavy burdens, and some sadnesses, and it will help us a lot to know that these have not escaped God’s attention, but actually are being used by him to forge joy.

Today we’re going to consider the tears of Joseph in the Book of Genesis.

Now Joseph, if I might remind you, was the great grandson of Abraham, and he was the favourite son of Jacob, the precocious son of Jacob. Remember, Jacob had made for Joseph some kind of special coat. Whether it was colourful or long sleeved is not really clear. And the story of Joseph, the account of Joseph takes 14 chapters at the end of the Book of Genesis, and we discover in these chapters that he was one of 12 brothers, that he was sold into slavery by his brothers into the land of Egypt, that he was imprisoned while he was in Egypt for probably a while, and then miraculously released and promoted to the position of basically prime minister of Egypt.

And he was enabled by God to predict a famine. And he began to store food in Egypt, to which the nations around eventually came in order to get their rations to survive, including his own family. They had to leave their land and come to Egypt. And that, of course, is how God’s people came to be in Egypt.

So Joseph is a bit of a bridge. He’s a bridge between Abraham and Moses in the Old Testament. He is the great grandson of Abraham, but he’s also the first into Egypt, from where Moses would lead God’s people out.

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Joseph’s path, of course, is a downward-upward path. It is a path that goes very deep into the pits of prison and then miraculously comes up to the heights of power of effectively being prime minister. And he becomes really the saviour of Israel.

Now he’s a signpost or a shadow, or a preview of a much greater person called Jesus Christ, whose descent was much more serious into the very pits of hell and up, of course, through the resurrection into the very heights of heaven. And he has become the Saviour of the world.

What I want us to do this morning, just for a few minutes, is to see how God uses trials, which produce tears for transformation. Those are the three teas this morning trials, tears and transformation.

So let’s think, first of all, about trials.


And in the chapters of Genesis around Joseph, there are a number of trials. We could begin by saying that Joseph, young Joseph, was a trial to his brothers. He was spoilt rotten. He was a brat. It was difficult to have in the family. He told his brothers in his dreams that one day they would all bow down to him, that one day the stars, the moon and the sun would bow down to him. This is enough to be extremely irritating.

And on top of that, he was the sort of brother who would tell on his brothers. We would say he would rat on them. However, the trials that Joseph experienced were much worse. First, that they would sell him. That must have been incredibly terrifying as he headed off to Egypt to be a slave. And they simply told the father, Well, he’s been killed. And then when Joseph arrived in Egypt, he did manage to pick up a good job. But he was very soon wrongly thrown into prison, and he was probably in prison for a long time.

You may have been there for years and forgotten by everybody but God. He was not forgotten by God. God remembered him. John Newton, the great Christian pastor who was a slave trader in the past and wrote the hymn Amazing Grace says in one of his letters. “When our spirits are overwhelmed, he knows our path. His ear is always open, and though others may overlook and disappoint us, he will not when everything looks dark and we feel shut on every side when were brought to the lowest ebb. Still, our helper is the Lord.”

Eventually, since the Lord remembered Joseph, he was brought out and he was brought out in order to interpret a dream for Pharaoh, and he successfully interpreted the dream. And he was given the number two position in Egypt of being prime minister. Something like that. So it was a miraculous – rags to riches event.

We should not, of course, forget that Joseph’s father, Jacob, also experienced great trials in the losing of a son, a favourite son, and that must have been an enormous grief, even though he had not really lost him. But he thought he had. And so he went through years of grief, assuming that his son had been killed before. Eventually he was reunited.

Now there are also trials for Joseph’s brothers. When the food ran out for Jacob and his boys, he sent them down to Egypt to get some food and they found themselves face to face with their brother Joseph. They didn’t recognise him, of course. He was now dressed like an Egyptian. He looked like an Egyptian. He sounded like an Egyptian. He acted like an Egyptian, and Joseph put them through some very serious trials. He made life tough for them.

Why did he do this? It was not revenge. We know from the text that he was absolutely fond of them from start to finish. But he was testing them to see if they were ready; humble for reconciliation. If they were still arrogant, angry, hostile – well, there was no hope of a reunion. And so Joseph was tough on them in order to test them and to see whether they had become humble and penitent. And so he began by accusing them of being spies in chapter 42:14 – in order to put fear into them, he demanded that their baby brother, their youngest brother, who was still back with Jacob, come down to Egypt as well.

When he sent them all back home with their bags of food, he stuck in the bags the money that they were meant to have paid for the food in order to frighten them. When they went back a second time and went home with their bags of food, he stuck into the bag of his young brother his royal cup in order to frighten them. What happened? Why has this happened? What have we done? Who did this?

And all of this was to bring them to the point of healthy fear, humility, penitents. And then eventually he was able to reveal himself in the reading that we had for us earlier. Now we need to see in this text of the Book of Genesis that every test that Joseph put them through was marked by great love for them. Time and again, as he was testing them, he would turn away to weep, and he wept over them and he wept for them.

And this is a little window into God himself who tests us, because if God’s servants could be full of compassion even while he was testing his brothers through the furnace, you can be absolutely sure that God, who is perfect in compassion, does not test or try us heartlessly or recklessly, but with great love and compassion.

Many years ago, I heard David Cook, who used to be the principle of Sydney missionary and Bible college, tell how his father became a Christian. David said his father was an average Australian atheist. A man who did a fair bit of drinking, smoking and swearing had no interest whatsoever in Christianity. And then he lost his job. Sometime in the sixties, in the recession, he lost his job and he had to go very humbly looking for work. And eventually he was offered some work at the AMP Society travelling in twos round, door to door selling insurance. The only problem was that there were 12 who had been employed, and one of them was a Christian called Ernie. And nobody wanted to go walking with Ernie.

And because David Cook’s father was the last one to be put onto the list, he was given the job of walking with Ernie. Some weeks later, David Cook said, his father came into his room, sat on the end of his bed and said to him, I want you to know that I’ve become a Christian. David said the old life disappeared. The drinking, smoking, swearing went out the window, a brand new life came in, and it all began with unemployment, humiliation, a devastation.

But God, you see, used the unemployment to bring a man to Christ. Who would bring his son to Christ, who would lead the Sydney Missionary and Bible College, which would impact the world. This is how God uses trials for great good. That’s the first of three.

Second, the Tears.


There are seven occasions in the Book of Genesis, where Joseph wept. None of them were for his own sake. He didn’t weep for being sold. At least we’re not told. He wept when he was sold. He didn’t weep when he was imprisoned, we’re told, were not told that he wept when he was forgotten in prison. We’re told seven times that he wept over relationships. Four times he wept with his brothers. Three times he wept for his father. It’s when the brothers came down to Egypt, and they began to show signs of being distressed that we’re told in chapter 42 he wept. Then, when his little brother arrived, he and his little brother were of the same mother, and when Joseph saw his little brother, he wept. Chapter 43 then he wept when he revealed himself to his brothers. In fact, he wept so loudly the people in other rooms could hear him. Whaling, they told in Chapter 45:2. He kissed all his brothers and wept over them.

Now these were not tears of grief. These were tears of joy. He wept when he saw his father. He was so joyful, the father who loved him, chapter 46. He wept when his father died, chapter 50 the loss of his father. And finally he wept when his brothers came to him after his father’s death and said, you know, our father said that you should be kind to us and forgive us for what we did to you. And Joseph wept because he realised his brothers had still not grasped that he was for them and not against them.

All of these tears of Joseph are bound up with relationships, whether it’s the grief of loss or the joy of reconciliation. Now we understand this, I’m sure. Don’t we hear this morning if you’ve never lost anyone? Well, maybe the tears have not flowed. If you have never been wonderfully reconciled, you’ve never felt the emotion of being reconciled.

Tears for you, maybe just a theory. But when loss is real, reconciliation is real. Tears can flow most of the days. For the past few weeks, I’ve been ringing a friend whose wife is dying, and he’s at her bedside every day. He’s been at her bedside every day for weeks, holding her hand as she slowly dies. He’s a builder. He’s a manly man. When I ring him, he always cries.

There won’t be many listening to this who haven’t experienced loss in relationships, whether it was a difficult childhood, whether your family is difficult, whether your spouse is difficult or your siblings are complicated or you’ve gone through a separation or a divorce or bereavement, or you’ve lost a friendship and you just don’t know how to get it back together.

Or then there’s the great joy of getting back together with somebody and how much that means to you. Tears, whether outward or inward. And if you were to ask me about the challenges of 2021 I would say that Covid for me has been a one out of 10 problem. I know it’s been a lot worse for others but for me, it’s been a one out of 10. Aches and pains. Getting old. One out of 10 working with students, two out of 10 steering a new church, three out of 10 difficulties in family. 8- 9, 10 out of 10 relationships.

But we discovered that these tests and these tears are not wasted that God wonderfully transforms through them. And that’s the third and the last thing this morning transformation.


Do you realise that what God is doing through all of these trials is making his people go forward in faith, hope and love? That’s what God does through the trials and the tears. He causes us to go forward, not backwards in faith, hope and love. If our life was all smiles, there would be no anvil on which joy could be forged. But because there are trials and tears, there’s an anvil on which joy can be forged. So if you read these chapters, Genesis 37 to 50 you’ll see that there is a great transformation in God’s people.

First of all, Joseph. Joseph, we begin to read about him in Chapter 37. There’s nothing really positive to say about him. He’s a pest. But by the time he’s been sold into Egypt, we read in Chapter 39. He’s begun to fear God. When he is asked by Pharaoh to interpret a dream for him, he says, It’s only God who can do this. He testifies to God.

When the brothers eventually arrived and he reveals himself to them, he says, three times It’s God who sent me. It’s God who sent me. It’s God who sent me. And he says, God has made me the leader. The prime minister of Egypt, Chapter 45:9. And beautiful words to finish in Chapter 50:19-20 he says to the brothers, “You intended to harm me. God intended it for good. You plan bad things. God planned good things.”

Joseph has become a giant of faith, and the brothers are transformed.

Take his brother Judah, for example. Judah had suggested selling him in chapter 37 but when the time came and they needed a hostage to stay in Egypt until the younger brother came down, Judah said, I’ll be the slave. I’ll be the prisoner. Take me, I will go to prison. I will stand in. In other words, the brother has moved from selfishness to sacrifice.

Joseph has been transformed. He’s become a great truster in God. The brothers have been transformed, become humble, God fearing.

And the trials and the tears have been the anvil on which the faith in God has been forged. As one commentator said of the tests, which are conducted by God, the Son and the frost break them open to God. The Son and the frost break them open. Joseph becomes full of forgiveness. The brothers become full of repentance.

Now, I said at the beginning of this brief message that on a small scale, Joseph has it downward and upward journey in order to bring food and life to the people of Israel. It’s clear from the New Testament that Jesus, through his downward journey, first to becoming a man and then to becoming a sacrifice. And then his upward journey through the resurrection and up to the throne of heaven is able to bring new life to the world. And when you belong to Jesus Christ, you see your trials in a new lens.

He’s testing for good to increase your faith, to increase your hope, to increase your love I often get puzzled by people who are always saying to me, take care, take care, take care. If I look after myself intolerably, there’ll be no progress. The Bible doesn’t say that I should be so interested in taking care, but I should be interested in following him.

That’s the great way forward, isn’t it? And there will be some trials and some tears in some transformation. When you become a Christian, the tears which you experience a balanced by the truth that God is at work working for great good and the transformation which Jesus achieves in his people is not some local nicer personality. It’s a deep spiritual and eternal transformation, as we’ve just sang in our second him where we pray finish, then thy new creation, pure and spotless. Let us be let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored and then changed from glory into glory. Till in heaven, we take our place until we cast our crowns before thee lost in wonder, love and praises.

The New Testament says our troubles see a great, eternal good.

Now my friends let me close by saying this to you. Do you think there’s a Joseph somewhere just outside this building who you could go and find who will provide forgiveness for the wrongs that you’ve done and who will provide all your food for you, who has great power and great love. I tell you, Joseph is dead, but there is a person called Jesus.

Jesus himself is able to forgive all sins. He is able to give a brand new life. He is able to, with his power and love, look after you every step of the way. He’s full of grace and truth. He may send trials, but they are either to bring you to him or to build you up in him. And these trials and these tears will one day finish and we will be transformed in glory.

Let’s thank him. Let’s pray together.

Our gracious God. Thank you for what you have done. And for what you do and for what you will do through the Lord Jesus, we pray that you would give to us a true faith in him, a trust in him when things are good and bad and the great hope and joy of knowing that this will come to an end, this path of the cross, and be replaced by the crown.

We ask this and we thank you in Jesus’ name. Amen.