Now We’ll See
Before we started, let’s go ahead and look again closely at verse 20.
Here’s what’s going on: the brothers of Joseph have conspired against him. They are plotting murder and deception as the way to get rid of him, and they say here in verse 20 — after they have proposed their evil plan — they say: “and we will see what will become of his dreams.”
So after the brothers have conspired to destroy Joseph, they say about his future: now we’ll see.
Now we’ll see — these are the most sinister and ironic words in the entire Bible, and they are relevant both to the story of Joseph and to our own lives.
A Great, Relevant Story
At one level, the story of Joseph here in Chapter 37 all the way through Chapter 50 is one of the most brilliant stories ever told. This is an amazing event in the book of Genesis that causes a ripple effect throughout the rest of Scripture. The wordplays in this story, and the reversals and the ironies are remarkable — this is a great story — and this story also matters for how we live. This story is relevant for your life. And I want us to get there.
So here’s the plan for the sermon. There are basically three parts to this chapter, and we’re going to look at them in three steps. There is:
Context, Characters, Conspiracy — we’re just going to walk through each of these three parts, and as we do, the relevance for us is going to increase.
Let’s pray and we’ll get started.
Father, as we are gathered here by your grace, with your word open before us, we ask that you would speak to us. Open our hearts, Father, and help us to receive what you have for us today. In Jesus’s name, amen.
And when it comes to the context, I’m talking about the high-level strategy of this narrative. The story of Joseph takes up a lot of room in the Book of Genesis, but this story is about much more than Joseph. Joseph is a key piece of the story, but there are at least two things happening here that are much bigger than Jospeh: one is looking back and the other is looking forward. I want to tell you what they are.
Headed to Egypt
First, if we’re looking back, the story of Joseph actually picks up on something God told Abraham way back in Genesis 15. Genesis 15 is the chapter where God makes his covenant with Abraham. God promises to bless Abraham; and Abraham believes God’s promise; and God tells Abraham in verse 13, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and [they] will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.”
Now we’ve already seen Jacob sojourn in a land not this own. Jacob sojourned as a servant under Laban for 20 years in Haran. But that was only 20 years, and God told Abraham that his offspring would sojourn for 400 years. Which means, we have not gotten there yet in this story.
And at this point, at the start of Chapter 37, Jacob is back in the land of Canaan. And so: how do Jacob and his sons end up leaving Canaan to sojourn all over again?
That’s the question Genesis 15 makes us wonder. How will what God said in Genesis 15 be true of Abraham’s offspring?
Well, there is a little hint in Chapter 37 that Jacob still hasn’t quite settled in Canaan. This hint has to do with how the “generations of Jacob” in Chapter 37 is contrasted to the “generations of Esau” in Chapter 36. Chapters 36 and 37 are meant to go side by side. We’re told in Chapter 36, verse 1: “These are the generations of Esau,” and then in verse 8 we’re told “Esau settled in the hill country of Seir.” And then we’re given just a list of names for the sons of Esau — almost like a box score.
But then Chapter 37 the situation with Jacob is different. Jacob has not “settled” anywhere, but instead he is living in the land of his father’s sojourning. Which means Jacob is still moving around in the land of Canaan; he’s not settled like Esau. And when the “generations of Jacob” are mentioned, we don’t see a list of names, but instead we see a story. Which means this whole thing is still unfolding. There is more to come for the sons of Jacob. And according to Genesis 15, there is like 400-years-of-sojourning more to come.
And now we know, if we keep reading this story to the book of Exodus, the place where the house of Jacob ends up sojourning is Egypt.
So in Genesis 15 God was foretelling Abraham that one day his offspring will be captive in Egypt,
and the Book of Exodus is where we see Abraham’s offspring captive in Egypt,
and the story of Joseph is the story of how that happens.
So looking back, the story of Joseph picks up and explains what God said in Genesis 15. This story bridges God’s promise to Abraham and the Book of Exodus.
And also the story of Joseph is bigger than Joseph because of how it looks forward.
And I don’t want to say too much about this now because we’re going to see this over the next 13 chapters, but the story of Joseph features the rise of Judah.
Judah is the fourth son of Leah, and there’s nothing super special about him yet in Genesis. He’s just one of Jacob’s twelve sons, but we know that later in the Bible’s storyline the family of Judah becomes very important. That’s because King David is a descendant of Judah, and ultimately Jesus is a descendant of Judah. So we know that Judah is kind of a big deal, but when do we start to see that in the Bible? When does Judah become an important part of the Bible’s storyline?
The answer is right here in the story of Joseph. And we’re going to see more of that.
Okay, that’s context. That’s high-level story stuff. But now let’s actually work our way into this story by talking about the characters.
The characters in this story are all the sons of Jacob. The story focuses on Joseph, but the story is really about Joseph and his brothers, and the first thing we see here is that they have conflict.
Believe it or not, Joseph and his brothers have relational strife.
And so just like we’ve already seen so many times in Genesis already, brothers are against one another. It goes back to Cain and Abel, and then of course there’s Isaac and Ishmael, and then there’s Jacob and Esau, and then in Chapter 37 we’re supposed to see right away that once again the whole brothers thing is not working out.
The Profile of Joseph
Apparently Joseph, at some point, had been working with his brothers in the fields and he brought a bad report about them to Jacob. We see that in verse 2, and it means that Joseph was kind of a tattletale.
Now add to this the fact that Jacob loved Joseph more than he loved his other sons, and Jacob didn’t hide that. Jacob made Joseph a really nice robe that caused Joseph to stand out from his other brothers. Verse 3 calls it a “robe of many colors.” And when I was a kid I watched a Bible cartoon that had Joseph wearing like a tacky rainbow jacket, and for years that’s how I have imagined this. I read “many colors” and I think about Skittles. But that’s not really what’s going on here. The point is that this robe was just nice. The “many colors” means that this robe was ornate. It was high quality. It was very expensive.
So Joseph is a tattletale; he’s his dad’s favorite; and he has a really nice coat.
Now add to this the fact that Joseph also had dreams. And he didn’t just have dreams, but he was the kind of person who likes to tell people what they dream. Do y’all know what I’m talking about? A lot of people have dreams at night, but then some people like to tell people what they dreamed (and some people like to do that first thing in the morning).
Joseph was that kind of guy. And Joseph’s brothers didn’t like hearing about what he dreamed because Joseph told his brothers that he dreamed they were going to bow down to him, and verse 5 says that they hated him even more for this. And apparently Joseph didn’t care because he had the same dream again, and he told his brothers again. Joseph said in verse 9, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
And so putting this all together, Joseph is a tattletale; he’s the favorite of his father; he wears really nice coat; and he told his brothers that he is going to reign over them. And so his brothers hate him, and you would too.
The text tells us four times how they feel about him: in verse 4, verse 5, verse 8, and verse 11. The brothers of Joseph hated him and were jealous of him.
This is the character situation in this story. It’s what leads to the brothers’ evil plan against Joseph.
And because we have seen so much conflict between brothers so many times in Genesis we should wonder if brothers will ever get along.
Will Brothers Ever Get Along?
Up to this point in the Bible, all we really know about brothers is that they hate one another. And so we should ask: Will brothers ever live peaceably together?
Will brothers ever have unity?
And the answer is yes, but most of the time no.
One of the worst effects of sin in this world is relational strife. Relationships are hard, and they break, and it’s painful, and we all have our stories. It is hard to work together. Teams are not easy. Brothers dwelling together in unity does not happen everyday, and in fact, it is so special that there’s a whole psalm about this. Psalm 133:
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
 It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
Psalm 133 in its context is envisioning the new creation. Psalm 133 is a picture of a restored earth, which means, brothers dwelling in unity is actually a taste of heaven.
What’s typical is fighting and division — and when we hear about these things happening, we shouldn’t be surprised. That’s the story of this world. The miracle is when things go well — the miracle is when brothers have unity, and it’s something you can only have because of the gospel. That’s why Paul commands unity to the church in Philippians 2, and that’s why it’s one of the enemy’s favorite targets.
On the Unity of Our Pastors
Brothers dwelling in unity is a piece of the new creation that we can experience in this old world, and I want to be upfront with you a minute. Just a little parenthesis here:
One of the greatest gifts to our church is our pastoral team, and one of the greatest miracles in our church is that we get along. It is a miracle that the eight pastors on our pastoral team have unity, and it’s not shallow, and it’s not accidental. We pray for it, and we sacrifice for it, and we wrestle God for it, and he has given it to us.
There are a lot of things we’re still trying to figure out as a church, things we want to do and improve and all that, but one steady stream of health into this body is from our pastoral team, and so I want to say to my seven pastor-brothers, and to their wives, thank you. You are a great blessing to me and to our church. And church, please pray for us. Okay, close that parenthesis.
So the characters in this story are Joseph and his brothers, and they hate him, and that’s what leads to the conspiracy. This is where it gets most relevant.
The story goes like this: We see it in verse 13. One day Jacob sends Joseph out to check on his brothers because apparently Joseph is a reliable informant on what his brothers are doing, and so Joseph goes out to find them, and eventually he gets pointed in the right direction; and then as Joseph is walking closer to them, the brothers look and they see Joseph in the distance.
So the brothers can see Joseph, but he’s far enough away that he can’t hear them talking, and so as Joseph is on his way, they begin to conspire together. In verse 19 they say:
Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.
But then Reuben has a better idea. He has his own conspiracy within the conspiracy. Reuben doesn’t want to kill Joseph, but he wants to throw Joseph in a pit so that later he can come back and rescue him and present him to Jacob — Reuben wants to stage himself as a hero.
So as all this conspiracy and deceit is going on, finally Jacob gets to them, and in verse 23 they surround him and tear off his nice coat, and they throw him in a pit like Reuben suggested.
And then they sat down to eat lunch.
Which is such a bizarre thing. We’re told in the text that Joseph is in a pit without water, and his brothers are sitting by having lunch.
And then they see a caravan of traders, and Judah suggests another idea. Rather than let Joseph die, Judah says they should sell Joseph to these traders, and they all agree. And it’s a little confusing in the text because the Ishmaelites are mentioned three times, and then in verse 28 the Midianite traders are mentioned. I think these are the same people, but the reason Midian is mentioned in verse 28 and verse 36 is because Midian is going to be important in the story of Moses (see Exodus 3:1). There are all kinds of little details in this story that matter, but the main thing we need to know here now is that Joseph was taken to Egypt.
Then Reuben finds out his plan is not going to work. And meanwhile the other brothers stick back to their original plan and they fake Joseph’s death by soaking his coat with goat blood and by telling Jacob that a “fierce animal” has devoured him, which is just another subtle irony in the text. The word for “fierce” is the Hebrew word for “evil.” And the only “evil animals” in this story are the brothers themselves.
And then when Jacob hears about Joseph’s death, he is distraught, and he mourns and refuses to be comforted. And he says in verse 35, “I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.”
Then the last thing we see in Chapter 37 is that Joseph is in Egypt. We’re told that twice, in verse 28 and verse 36. Joseph ends up in Egypt.
Back to the Sinister, Ironic Words
And this is just the start. The story of Joseph gets even more intense, but it all comes back to this conspiracy in Chapter 37. And the whole story of Joseph is really centered on verse 20 when the brothers decide to destroy Joseph and then they say: now we will see what will become of his dreams.
Now we’ll see.
These are the sinister and ironic words that sort of ring in our ears throughout the rest of this story, and this is where it starts to hit close to home. That’s because we should hear in these words not just the brothers of Joseph, but these are the same words spoken by every enemy of God about God’s plans for his people.
These are the same words that have been spoken over and over again for thousands of years. Every Satanic scheme against God and his people have included this little line: now we’ll see.
We read it here in Genesis 37 said about Joseph;
we read it in the Book of Job said about Job;
and we should imagine that it’s also said about us even in this present day.
If you trust in Jesus, if you are a follower of Jesus, you are part of the people of God; and God has plans for his people — God has plans for you — and the enemy is always trying to destroy those plans. And in every new attempt to destroy the work of God in your life, the enemy says about you: now we’ll see.
We have to use our imaginations here. Can you imagine that being said about you?
Satan’s conspiracy against God’s people is a conspiracy against you, and he says about you:
Now we will see what will become of their lives;
now we will see what will become of their faith;
now we will see what will become of God’s plan for them.
Now we’ll see.
And what will they see?
This feels so open-ended. It seems so risky and unknown, and at least here in the Book of Genesis we can read to the end and find out what happens, but what about for my life? What about for your life?
If the enemy conspires against us, what will the outcome be?
If “now we’ll see” is said about us, do we have any hope?
Three Words of Comfort
So much of the Bible is written for you to have hope in the midst of affliction. And even today, like in this moment, you might be right in the middle of “now we’ll see” and if you are, I want you to know that the Bible is full of truth that is meant to comfort you. And so here in closing, I want to give you three words of comfort.
#1. God is sovereign over details.
This is something we’ve already seen in Genesis, but it shows up again so vividly in the story of Joseph. It has to do with all wordplays and reversals that are happening in this story. All kinds of little things that we read in Chapter 37 are going to show up again later — in fact, even in Chapter 50 we’re going to be pointing back here to Chapter 37.
There are details happening in this chapter that part of God’s greater plan, and that’s important to know because a lot of times in our affliction, when we’re under attack, it just feels chaotic. It can feel absurd and pointless, but in reality, there is not a single hair on your head that is outside the knowledge of God (Matt. 10:29–31). In reality, God’s sovereign care for you is meticulous.
There’s a great sentence in John Calvin’s Institutes, and I just ran across this last week, and it’s so beautiful. Calvin is talking about the providence of God and he says: “we may safely rest in the protection of him […] upon whose nod depends whatever opposes our welfare” (201). Which means, whatever is coming your way …
… it has to pass through the nod of your Father who loves you. Every detail.
God is sovereign over details. Here’s the second word of comfort:
#2. The fog never stays.
Something special about Chapter 37 is that we read important words and details here but we don’t know that they’re important until later. When we read them at first it’s kind of like a fog hangs over the text because at this point in the story, in Chapter 37, we don’t know where this story is going. The details are not clear to us yet. Chapter 37 is kind of like fog (and snow) in early October. It doesn’t stay that way. We’re going to keep reading in Genesis, and eventually the sun is going to break and the fog is going to disappear and we’re going to see. There are things we cannot see in Chapter 37, but we are going to see them in Chapter 50.
And it works the same way in your life. You are going to have moments in your life that are as foggy as Genesis 37, or as foggy and snowy as it was last Sunday. But hold on, brothers and sisters, it’s not going to stay. God will make sun shine again, and you will see. One day we will see it all.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan his work in vain
God is his own interpreter
And he will make it plain
Last thing here.
#3. The story of Jesus is your story.
I said back at the start that the story of Joseph is relevant for our lives, but there’s another person and another story that is even more relevant, and it’s actually to this person and his story that Joseph is meant to point.
Since the earliest Christian readers of Genesis, Joseph has been understood as a “type” of Jesus. That means, Joseph is a person in the Bible that is meant to resemble and point to Jesus. Joseph is a foreshadowing of Jesus who is to come.
It means that when Jesus was tempted, we were tempted.
And when Jesus obeyed, it’s like we obeyed.
And when Jesus was sentenced to death, it’s like we were sentenced to death.
When he was crucified, we were crucified with him.
When he was buried, we were buried with him.
And when all the enemies of God said about Jesus “now we’ll see” … when all the enemies of God said that about Jesus, they said that about you.
And we can see the resemblance in this story: Joseph is a beloved son betrayed and abandoned by his closest companions, and sold to the handcuffs of Gentiles for a handful of silver.
And that’s just Chapter 37.
The connections to Jesus only grow deeper, and here’s the comfort for us:
with the story of Joseph we hope things will work out for us like they worked out for him,
but with the story of Jesus we know things will work out for us the way they worked out for him.
That’s because the story of Jesus is our story.
Church, because we are united to Jesus by faith it means that everything that Jesus faced he faced on our behalf —
And that is our comfort. Because what did they see?
They saw the greatest reversal there could ever be. They saw the death of death in the death of Jesus because Jesus did not stay dead. Jesus is resurrected. Jesus lived the truest life and he won the greatest victory, and that life and that victory is yours if you are united to him. By faith in Jesus, the story of Jesus is your story. And there is no greater comfort.
And that’s what this Table sings to us every week.
When we take this bread and cup, we are remembering that our lives and our hope and our future is all bound up in Jesus. All his benefits belong to us. All his blessings are our blessings. God has good for you in Jesus. And so we eat and drink in gratitude and confidence.
So if you’re here this morning and you are united to Jesus by faith, we invite you to eat and drink with us.