Monday, October 31, 2011

Genesis 47:1-12

Jacob and his clan arrived in Egypt, and in this next chapter Joseph first brought in five of his brothers to meet Pharaoh. Don’t you wonder which of the five he chose? I’m guessing that for sure Judah and Benjamin were among the five, and probably Reuben... but who were the other two?? Pharaoh made small talk with the brothers, asking what they did for a living.

“Your servants are shepherds,” they replied to Pharaoh, “just as our fathers were.” They also said to him, “We have come to live here awhile, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants’ flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen.” (Genesis 47:3-4)

The brothers were working the family business: they were shepherds! Pharaoh agreed to let them settle in the best part of Egypt, the land of Goshen, where there was good pasture. It amazes me how God moves the hearts of men to grant favor to His people. Haven’t you had moments in your life when you have seen God move someone’s heart to do something of special favor to you? One of my coworkers called me yesterday to tell me that his daughter had received a scholarship offer from a Christian college for an enormous amount of money. I just kept saying over and and over, “It’s a miracle!” It was as if they had won the lottery in these tough financial times! Thank you , LORD!

Joseph then brought in his father to present him to Pharaoh:

Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, “How old are you?”

And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.” Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence. (vs.7-10)

Jacob saw his life in terms of a pilgrimage - as a journey through this short life to his real home with God. Hebrews 11:16 says of the patriarchs, “. . .they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” This heavenly perspective is one that sustains Christians in our journey on earth. The realization that this is NOT our permanent dwelling gives us hope during the tough times. Apparently Jacob, too, was looking forward to being out of this world.

Pharaoh wondered what the secret to Jacob’s longevity was, but Jacob’s answer must have been surprising. At 130, he called his years “few and difficult.” Beth Moore conjectures here that possibly Jacob did not feel his years measured up to those of his grandfather, Abraham (who lived to be 175), or of his father, Isaac (who lived to be 180) - not only in years, but in the measure of their faith to his. Beth writes, “His years were marked by deception. His own. His uncle’s. His sons’. The disappointments brought on by his offspring must have added to Jacob’s sense of failure. No matter how many comforts he’d known, his eyes saw his life colored by the dark shades of difficulty.” (The Patriarchs, P. 225)

Where in your life have you felt that you did not or still don’t measure up? Have you failed to reach the bar you saw set by your parents or a sibling? Are you seeing the dark shades as more prominent than the blessings? Beth reminds us that God can turn those difficult times into blessing and beauty when we ask Him. She writes of how light overcomes the darkness - even in the life of a loser like the thief on the cross next to Jesus: “The blackness of a thief’s entire life was instantly changed by a single drop of faith in the One hanging on the next cross.” (The Patriarchs, P. 226)

Jacob had much to be grateful for: he had been blessed with many sons, including one brought back from “death,” grandchildren, plenty of wealth, and, finally, the best land in Egypt as a place of refuge from the famine! God had indeed been good to Jacob! Can we find His blessings, too?


Friday, October 28, 2011

Genesis 46:28-34

Finally, we get to witness the reunion of Joseph with his father after 20 years of separation.

Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time. (Genesis 46:28-29)

I love that Judah is sent ahead “to get directions to Goshen.” No GPS or even Thomas Bros. Guide then! Jon Courson reminds us that Judah means praise, so the family would be lead by praise to this reunion. Beth Moore asks us to imagine the necks craning to see Joseph riding on his chariot in the distance, kicking up dust on his way to his father. Remember that Joseph was a 17 year old boy when his brothers sold him into slavery. There were a lot of physical changes to the man Joseph, who at this point in the story was completely “Egyptianized.” He would have had a clean shaven face, unlike his bearded brothers, and Beth Moore speculates that he may even have been “bare-chested and bedecked in brass and jewels. No beast-inflicted scars in sight.” Think Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments BEFORE the beard.

Now, this I find interesting. We have no record of the brothers explaining to their father how Joseph actually ended up in Egypt instead of in the stomach of a beast. Did Jacob wonder why there were no scars? Why is no one asking the obvious questions? The reality is that the reasons were a moot point once Joseph had his son back. The family was back together again, and Jacob had his precious Joseph in his arms. Joseph was so overcome with emotions, having stuffed them down for so many years, he “wept for a long time.”

Not only had Joseph changed, but Jacob was twenty years older, surely more frail, and showing the marks of grief on his face. He exclaims, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.” (vs. 30) Actually, Jacob lived another 17 years in Goshen, which Beth Moore points out gave him Joseph for 17 years before Joseph was sent to Egypt, and 17 years after the reunion, with 20 agonizing years in between. Anyway, Jacob declares he was ready to go home to God anytime now that he had his son back. I totally identify with Jacob here! After the weddings of my daughters, when I knew my girls had married men who loved the LORD and who would love and cherish them, I told God, “You can take me home any time now!” I had everything I’d ever dreamed of for my girls, and my job of raising them in Christ was competed! What joy! Everything else is the cherry on top!

I like that Jon Courson, in showing how Joseph was an example of Christ, asks us to visualize the reunion of the Father and the Son when Jesus returned to the right hand of His Father! Isn’t that a great image to ponder??? Then Courson points out that Joseph, like Jesus, became a mediator before Pharaoh for his family in the remaining verses of this chapter. He managed to get for his family the best land in all of Egypt! I like the idea of Jesus doing the same for me! As the ONLY mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), He’s my advocate before the Father and His desire for me is always what’s best!

While Joseph and Jacob could never get back those twenty years, I am certain that they made the most of the seventeen they had left! Some of us have had “lost years” that we wish we could reclaim: possibly years wasted in a bad relationship; years spent chasing the things of this world; years we weren’t the parents we wish we’d been, etc. And God actually has a promise for us about this kind of loss:

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten . . .” (Joel 2:25)

The LORD gave this verse to my mother years ago when she was mourning over the fact that she had not raised her four daughters in the LORD. She came to the LORD very late in life, as a result of my father being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s during his early 60’s, when my mother was only 53! Once she became a Christian, she was so saddened by her neglect to raise us in the faith. However, when she read this verse, she rejoiced that God would somehow redeem those years - and He truly did! In the same way, God redeemed this family from its dysfunction. We’ll see some of this in the next chapter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Genesis 46:1-27

Before we hop into the moving van with Jacob, let’s look back once more at Genesis 45:27-28 to see the change that had happened to him when he finally decided to believe that Joseph was, indeed, alive:

But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

Belief in the truth caused Jacob’s spirit to revive, and the father of the twelve tribes, Israel (note the name change), spoke out in faith. Jacob had been emotionally dead to his sons and was most likely feeling bone-dry in his relationship with God all of those years he believed there was no hope. Learning and believing the truth about Joseph positively breathed life back into this old man!

What in your life feels completely dead? Your marriage? Your relationship with your children? Your career? Your hopes for the future? What lie are you believing that is rotting your bones until they are all dried up? Beth Moore quotes Ezekial 37:3-6 in relation to this rebirth of Jacob and to the possibility of a revival of our own dead spirit:

He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

These verses specifically were a prophecy to Israel that the LORD would one day restore the Jewish nation, which had been taken into captivity. This prophecy was fulfilled when the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity, but it also had another fulfillment when the current nation of Israel came to life in 1948. If God could breathe new life back into Jacob, if he could restore the nation of Israel, surely he can revive what you believe is dead. Believe that the God who raised Jesus can also raise whatever you see as dead!

Back to Jacob. I can’t even imagine the joy that must have surge through him as he began the journey south! We see that as he headed down to Egypt, he stopped to worship his God and experienced another encounter with Him:

So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.

And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”
“Here I am,” he replied.

“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.” (Gen 46:1-4)

Back in chapter 28, when Jacob was leaving home to find his wife and escape Esau, he had his first vision from God.  God had promised him that he would go with him everywhere he went. That would include Egypt. Jacob did not need to be anxious about this move. God was going on ahead of him! I love the promise that his beloved Joseph, himself, would close Jacob’s eyes in death!

Verses 8-27 of this chapter give the names of the direct descendants of Jacob who went with him down into Egypt. Tucked in verse 12 is the royal line of Judah, his son Perez (whose mother was Tamar), and Perez’s son Hezron, from whom the Messiah would come. The total in Egypt, including Joseph and his two sons, was seventy - NOT including the wives! Four hundred and thirty years later, when the Israelites left Egypt, their numbers had grown to 600,000 men, NOT counting the women and children! Yes, God kept His promise! Don’t you love it?


Genesis 45:25-28 Revisited

So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. They told him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” (Gen 45:25-28)

Before we leave this chapter, I just wanted to revisit Jacob’s reaction to the news that his sons brought him. Like Thomas with the resurrected Jesus, Jacob would not believe the truth that Joseph was alive until he had seen tangible evidence. And even as he was doubting, the evidence was coming toward him in the wagons that Joseph had sent. Jon Courson, in his Application Commentary: Old Testament, has fun comparing these “wagons” with the ones God has provided with us. He writes:

“Like Jacob, many times we don’t believe the Word we heard. But the good news is that Jacob’s disbelief did not derail the wagon train Joseph had sent his way to pick him up and bring him to Goshen. You might be going through dry times right now in which you are spiritually famished. But I have good news for you: The wagon train has been sent your way. What wagon?” (Courson, P.197)

And then Courson lists the five wagons that God has provided for us: the lunch wagon; the station wagon; the welcome wagon; the bandwagon; and the covered wagon. The lunch wagon is the one that brings complete satisfaction for our spiritual hunger and thirst - for FREE!

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. (Isaiah 55:1)

Jesus affirmed that he is the bread of life, and that all who come to Him will never again be hungry or thirsty (John 6:35). Nothing satisfies like Jesus!

The station wagon is the promise that your family will carry both you and your family:

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Courson writes, “Your kids may have wandered away, but even if you’re pessimistic or full of doubt about them God promised that He will keep that which is committed to Him (2 Timothy 1:12), and will finish the work He began (Philippians 1:6) “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and not only you, but your family will eventually be saved as well,” declared Paul (see Acts 11:!4). The promises of God are intact gang. And even if you don’t believe it, the station wagon is headed in your direction to scoop up you and your family.” (Courson, P. 198)

Courson describes the welcome wagon as the amazing promise of I Corinthians 2:9.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Add to that the promise of John 14:2 in which Jesus promises that He is preparing a place for you and will, in fact, come to take you there, and you get the idea that we will truly be welcomed to our heavenly home, and that home will be beyond anything we could ever imagine!

The final two wagons Courson mentions are the band wagon (the one that guarantees we will all have a place in the heavenly choir that will be forever praising the LORD), and the covered wagon, that promises that ALL of our sins, past, present, and future, have been completely covered by the blood of the Lamb (Romans 5:1,2; Romans 6:14, and Romans 8:1-3).

My pastor often says, “The truest thing about you is what GOD says about you!” Jacob had believed a lie for more than 20 years. What lies have you been believing about yourself? That you are not good enough for God? That He would never accept you? Or maybe you believe that you ARE good enough on your own merits; that you deserve to be loved by God because you are such a righteous person?? We need to study God’s Word to know what is true about us. It is that truth that sets us free! God understands our doubts, and it amazes me that He so accommodates us! He sends in the wagons, or He allows a doubter to touch Him - whatever it takes! I love Jesus’ response to Thomas: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) That’s us folks! We have not seen Him with our own eyes, but we have believed Him by faith.

Tomorrow we’ll see Jacob and his family load up the moving vans and head down to Egypt. Great stuff!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Genesis 45:16-28

Today’s passage demonstrates perfectly the difference between the faith of Joseph and that of his father, Jacob. The good news is that God loved them both and had His hand on both of their lives.

We were witnessing the reunion of Joseph and his brothers, after Joseph had finally revealed himself to them. When Pharaoh learned that Joseph’s brothers were in town, he was excited and made an extremely generous offer to Joseph:

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and return to the land of Canaan, and bring your father and your families back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.’

“You are also directed to tell them, ‘Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come. Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.’” (Gen 45:17-20)

Only God could have opened Pharaoh’s heart to pour out such blessing! They would have not just a prime plot, but the BEST of all Egypt! This reminds me of one of my life verses:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us... (Eph 3:20)

God is able to do so much more than our puny minds can imagine, and He desires to bless His children. Pharaoh didn’t just offer to squeeze them in someplace - he gave them the very best part of Egypt! So Joseph sent the brothers back to get Jacob and the rest of the clan with wagons loaded with provisions for the journey.

To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes. (Gen 45:22)

This time, the other brothers apparently had no issues with Benjamin receiving so much more! They had more than enough and there was no need for competition anymore. However, when Joseph sends them off he gives them a final word, probably only half in jest, “Don’t quarrel on the way!” (vs. 24) In other words, “Don’t kill each other!” When they reached home, Jacob showed his pessimistic nature:

So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. They told him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” (vs. 25-28)

Here Jacob displayed all of the faith of “doubting” Thomas. He had no trouble, years before, believing the bad lie that Joseph was dead, but here he can’t believe the good truth that Joseph is alive. It is not until he sees the carts filled to overflowing that he believes. And I think we can understand this - he had been believing the lie for about 20 years. And all during that time, that lie had affected his outlook on life, to the point that he was unable to enjoy the blessings of his others sons and his grandchildren.

Jacob was the ultimate pessimist, and Satan knew just how to keep his eyes off of God, by keeping him focused on what he lacked, rather than what he had all along. During that same period, Joseph, who had been denied his family and had languished in prison waiting for justice, was focused on God. He relied on God to sustain Him, and maintained his trust in God throughout. Don’t you know people like Jacob? Maybe you are one of those “half empty” kind of people, who is so wrapped up in what trials you have faced, that you cannot imagine God at work in any of it. And don’t you want to be a person like Joseph, who saw God’s hand in it all?

Again, the good news is that God loved them both. Jacob came around when he saw the wagons, and we will look at what Jon Courson has to say about that tomorrow! I’m just thankful that our gracious God is so patient with us when we show the doubts of Jacob!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Genesis 45:6-15

But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. (Gen 45:7)

This is such a big “Aha!” moment for Joseph! The God of the universe had carried out His plan in bringing Joseph down to Egypt for “such a time as this.” While Joseph refers to their deliverance here as being from the famine they were then experiencing, we know this was also prophetic of the “great deliverance” from Egypt, which itself was prophetic of our GREAT deliverance from sin! And, even now, we are waiting for our final deliverance when the LORD comes again in His glory. History is HIS STORY. Everything that happens is within His sovereign plan. And He uses even evil deeds to bring about His plan (Joseph’s being sold into slavery, the crucifixion of Jesus the persecution of the church, your divorce, your financial disaster, etc.). God can and does bring good out of evil as He moves us to the end of history.

The death of Gadhafi yesterday reminded me of what an amazing year this has been historically. So much has happened in 2011, we can barely take it all in! The fall of several dictators last spring and yesterday points to the void in leadership throughout the world. While it was exciting to see these bad leaders fall, so far no one has stepped in to their vacancies to bring order out of the chaos. Where are the leaders ANYWHERE on earth??? This dearth of leadership certainly makes me look up for the return of Christ, because the antichrist can’t be too far behind! There will be such a need for a strong leader, the world will welcome him as their deliverer. Interesting to watch - we live in exciting times!

Back to Joseph and the boys. . . Joseph told his brothers to hurry back to get Dad and the rest of the family and bring them down to Goshen, where Joseph would be able to provide for all of them.

Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him. (vs.14-15)

Here is the precious reunion we’ve been waiting for! Finally Joseph embraces Benjamin and weeps over him. Then he kisses the other brother and weeps over them. Notice that it says specifically that Benjamin embraced him back, but we don’t see that with the other ten. Beth Moore says, “Not everyone is at the same emotional place at the same time.” Joseph had had more time to digest the reunion with the brothers . The brothers were still stunned by the revelation. “Afterward his brothers talked with him.” Wouldn’t you love to hear that conversation??

There are many more great things to share about this reunion - but they will have to wait until next week! I’m off to work!


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Genesis 45:1-5

Confession is so good for the soul! Haven’t you seen in your own life that when you ‘fess up to your failures and accept your responsibility for the messes you’ve made that the way is opened to forgiveness? When Judah humbly came to Joseph ready to pay the price for their sin, it opened up Joseph’s heart to his brothers. Finally, he could contain himself no more, and the floodgates opened:

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. (Gen 45:1-3)

As Beth Moore says, some moments are family moments, when it is time to send everyone else not in the clan out of the room. I’m certain Joseph’s attendants must have been completely baffled by his unusual behavior. They didn’t even have to put a glass to the door to listen to his cries - and it didn’t take them long to pass the news along to Pharaoh’s household! Talk about a news bulletin: "Joseph Comes Unglued!"

When he revealed himself to his brothers, they were terrified! Imagine their shock to find their “dead” brother, not only alive, but in such a place of high power. Joseph was in a perfect place to exact revenge, so I’m certain their chins had dropped to the floor and their knees knocked! The dark family secret was finally out in the open. Again, I’m wondering what Benjamin was thinking as Joseph uncovered the story, which was a far cry from the one he had grown up with!

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. (vs.4-5)

I’m certain that Joseph, up to this point, must have harbored some bitterness or anger - that maybe even he was not fully aware of. He had made a purposeful decision to forget what his brothers had done when he named his first son Manasseh, or forget. But whatever resentment he had harbored was completely released here, like the air out of a popped balloon. He draws his brothers close to him and assures them of their pardon, exhorting them to let go of their guilt and to see God’s plan and purpose in sending Joseph to Egypt. Wow! Don’t you wish we could carry that attitude with us always, so that, when the challenges face us we would alway respond with such grace and understanding of God’s sovereignty an absolute love for us?

Joseph was completely convinced of the goodness of God NO MATTER WHAT! And he had certainly been given years of opportunities to grow to this point. He had seen God’s faithfulness through so much injustice and personal suffering. We’ll see later in this same chapter how different this was from the character of his father, Jacob. And because He had experienced the mercies of God, he was able to turn around and extend them to his brothers.

If we harbor resentment and fail to look for God’s blessings in the midst of our trials, we will be unable to extend grace to others. And we will become the kind of person that others want to avoid! If you have a bent toward negativism and criticism, and if you feel burdened by the trials placed upon you, ask God to help you have the eyes of Joseph that LOOKED for God in everything, and ask him for the heart of Joseph that extended love and forgiveness to his undeserving brothers. After all, aren’t we ALL undeserving?? So much more great stuff to come in this chapter. . .


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Genesis 44:14-34

Yesterday we finally saw a turning point in this family, when the brothers united around Benjamin and turned back to Egypt to face their Egyptian accuser. The unity of these brothers, and of all of Jacob’s descendants would be crucial for their survival in Egypt and beyond. God had told Abraham in Genesis 15:13 that his descendants would be slaves in a foreign country for 400 years. After 400 years in a major nation it would have been nearly impossible to maintain their identity as a people and not be completely assimilated into the Egyptian culture. But the mistreatment they received in Egypt solidified their unity that began right here in chapter 44. Even to this day the Jews continue to maintain their unique identity within a world that has attempted over and over to annihilate them. What more evidence do we need of God’s divine plan for these people?

It’s this same characteristic of unity that Jesus said would identify his disciples. He prayed for this unity of purpose:

“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. . .

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:11,20-23)

Please read those verses in the context of all of John 17 which is His precious prayer for Himself and for His disciples and for us! Our unity is a sign to the world that we are in Christ. So, we can’t overemphasize, in this chapter of Genesis, how important it was that these brothers were finally coming together. Notice how Judah steps forward here as the leader when they return to Joseph’s house:

Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him. Joseph said to them, “What is this you have done? Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?”

“What can we say to my lord?” Judah replied. “What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves—we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.” (Gen. 44:14-16)

Joseph indicated that he knew by divination that they had stolen the cup, when, in reality, he knew because he had the cup planted in Benjamin’s sack! Beth Moore points out that Judah showed more integrity than Joseph here by accepting full responsibility for the theft and by his willingness to receive consequences. Joseph told Judah that it was not necessary for all of them to remain, only the one who had possession of the cup. After all, he wanted to keep Benjamin, but why would he want the others who had so mistreated him? But Judah again stepped forward and proved his concern for their father. It is this plea that proves the tipping point for Joseph. After relaying the story of his father’s losses (leaving out the minor detail of the brothers’ guilt in that), Judah makes this final argument:

“So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!’

“Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father.” (vs.30-34)

Judah was offering to be the substitutionary payment for the debt owed, just as Jesus, who was from the tribe of Judah, would become for all of us. Meanwhile, the emotional wall of defense that Joseph had tried to maintain is finally breached here. Tomorrow we see the amazing unveiling and the miraculous reunion!


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Genesis 44:1-13

As Joseph’s brothers prepared to head back home, Joseph ordered his steward to pack a surprise in Benjamin’s sack of grain:

Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.” And he did as Joseph said. (Gen 44:1-2)

This same steward had done this trick once before, but, as Beth Moore points out, the first time he was asked to do it he probably assumed that Joseph was being generous when he asked the steward to put the silver back in the brothers’ sacks. This time Joseph also tells him to plant the silver cup in one. Beth writes, “Surely the steward’s eyebrows were pinned to his hairline as Joseph issued his orders. Nevertheless, he obeyed them.” (The Patriarchs, P. 213)

Not long after they took off, Joseph told the steward to go after them and falsely accuse them of theft. Hmmm... Joseph was also falsely accused once, but now he was willing to do the same to his brothers. Can we see there was still some conflict in Joseph’s feelings at this moment? The brothers were so taken aback and so confident of their innocence that they made a rash oath:

"If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.” (vs.9)

When the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack their reaction became a literal turning point in the family dynamics:

At this, they tore their clothes. Then they all loaded their donkeys and returned to the city. (vs. 13)

Finally, the brothers were united in their purpose: to protect their little brother. They would all stand before Joseph together. Remember that they were only too happy to leave Simeon behind! I love how Beth Moore describes this change:

“Up until this point, Jacob’s family has been characterized by fragmentation. The only we’ve seen toward solidarity were for wrongful purposes, Joseph’s harm for example. Yet suddenly, the brothers unit all for one. The band that would hold them through four hundred years in a strange land first tightened here. If the silver cup was a test, the u-turn back to Egypt was a passing grade that would mark them for centuries.” (The Patriarchs, P. 214).

Tomorrow we’ll look at Judah’s role in this drama, as we get closer to the end of Joseph’s masquerade. Again, the miraculous changes in this family can’t be overemphasized. I’m hoping we’re all paying attention!


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Genesis 43:24-34

In the last entry, I purposely left out the last part of verse 23. Here’s the verse in its entirety:

“It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.

The steward brought Simeon out from prison and returned him to his brothers. Time for some family rejoicing? Apparently not! There is no mention of any reaction whatsoever. Is this another example of their dysfunction?? We are just told what happens next. Joseph’s brothers, in his own home, were shown hospitality by the steward, who provided them water for washing their feet (aaahhh...), and food for their donkeys. They waited anxiously, with gifts ready, to meet the second-in-command in Egypt. I wonder what Simeon was thinking. . .

When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground. He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?”

They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed low to pay him honor.
(Gen 43:26-28)

Don’t you wish you had been there?? They were completely fulfilling the vision God had given the teenaged Joseph by bowing low to him. Yet, there is no indication that Joseph enjoyed this. We can see that he was still in emotional conflict, worried about his father, then anxiously looking about for Benjamin:

As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there. (vs.29-30)

Oh, this just brings tears to my eyes! He must have wanted so desperately to just grab hold of Benjamin and not let go! But he sensed that the timing wasn’t quite right yet. I’m thinking that God must have truly been holding Joseph back for there was work to be done in the hearts of these brothers!

After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, “Serve the food.” 

They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians. The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him. (vs.31-34)

This is an interesting picture of Joseph, setting his emotions aside and coming out to eat at his own table by himself. He was supposedly “Egyptian” in the eyes of his brothers - and Egyptians would not eat with the Hebrews. I happen to be studying Acts 10 this week in Bible Study Fellowship. In this chapter, God tells Peter that nothing He created is “unclean” and that Peter should fellowship with and give out the gospel to the household of Cornelius, a Roman centurion - a Gentile. There is so much bigotry in our world, isn’t there? The Jews wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles, the Egyptians wouldn’t eat with the Hebrews, and whites wouldn’t eat with the blacks in the south (just watched the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in DC). . . we could go on and on! The Bible proclaims with clarity that God is no respecter of persons, but we continue in our mistrust of anyone different from us!

At this point, Joseph’s separation actually increases the amazement of the brothers, who can’t figure out how they were seated in birth order, or why Benjamin gets all of the extra food! But they put aside their questions, because the food and drink made a terrific feast! The way to a man’s heart. . .     :)  Joseph watched in silence while he set in motion the next portion of his (God’s) plan. This is going to be another great week in God’s Word!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Genesis 43:17-23

The verses we’ll look at today have some great “gems” for us! When Joseph’s brothers were taken to his house, instead of being relieved or feeling honored, they were terrified and assumed the worst:

Now the men were frightened when they were taken to his house. They thought, “We were brought here because of the silver that was put back into our sacks the first time. He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys.” (Gen 43:18)

They were expecting to reap what they had sown here. Notice how they believed Joseph wanted to attack them, overpower them, and make them slaves - which is exactly what they had done to their brother! So they passionately pleaded their case to Joseph’s steward:

So they went up to Joseph’s steward and spoke to him at the entrance to the house. “Please, sir,” they said, “we came down here the first time to buy food. But at the place where we stopped for the night we opened our sacks and each of us found his silver—the exact weight—in the mouth of his sack. So we have brought it back with us. We have also brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in our sacks.” (Vs. 19-22)

It’s the steward’s response in verse 23 that we will focus on this morning:

“It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.”

It seems that Joseph’s steward worked closely with Joseph, for he knew about Joseph’s God, and he knew specifically the details of this particular business transaction. He assured the brothers that God must have put the “treasure” in their sacks, because their account was already paid in full! What a picture of what God has done for us!

The hardest thing for people to receive it seems is grace! We just can’t wrap our brains around the fact that our accounts have been paid in full. We have all heard this saying about what Christ did for us so many times, but we have difficulty personally applying it: “We owed a debt we could not pay; He paid a debt He did not owe!” We want to come to God on our terms, with our merits and gifts, but the Bible tells us our righteousness is like filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6)

There is NOTHING that we can add to the work of Christ on the cross! If we try to, either through some “religious” work - (a particular prayer, ritual, or work in the church) - or our own good deeds, we deny that Jesus paid it all. We in essence say, “What He did was not enough; I must do something to add to it.” We can offer our “works” as a sacrifice to demonstrate to the world the love God has poured out into our hearts, but these do NOT give us more favor before God or make us righteous. Paul wrote, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."  (2 Cor 4:7)

Now, Beth Moore adds another look at the “treasure” that was buried in their sacks. She asks, “How did God bury treasures amidst the rubble for Jacob’s sons in Egypt?” (The Patriarchs, P. 210). When I think of the “rubble” in Jacob’s family, I think of their wretched relationships and the disastrous dysfunction that had nearly destroyed this family. I think of all that Joseph suffered, being betrayed, beaten, sold into slavery, then falsely accused and imprisoned. I think of the agony of Jacob, who refused to be comforted by his remaining sons. And then I think of the famine that threatened to obliterate this family physically. There was rubble, indeed!

So how did God bury treasure in their sacks? He placed Joseph exactly where he needed to be for the salvation of this family, and the ultimate salvation of all who would receive the Savior coming from this family. Beth asks us to think about what “treasures” God has buried amidst our own rubble. What a thought! When I think about the rubble of Jacob’s family, I think about all of the “messed-up” families I know about (in addition to the one in which I was raised). Some have bigger messes than others, but all have plenty of hurt and injury to fill a book that no one would believe! It always cracks me up when I’m with friends who are sharing stories about their “crazy” families, that none of us sees ourselves as the crazy family member. Which makes me think: I wonder what the crazy family members tell their friends??? Do they think WE are the crazy ones?

Don’t you know (or maybe you’re in) a family that is falling apart, because hurting words have been said that just can’t be taken back? or betrayal has been too deep? Does your family seem beyond repair? That’s why I LOVE the story of Jacob’s crazy family. What an amazing group of crazies!!! Yet, in the midst of this rubble, God is going to pull out the treasure of eternity! Oh, doesn’t that give you hope for your family? Is there a way you can see God work forgiveness and healing back into your family? Will you be willing to be part of the healing? We’ll see that, at any time, Joseph could have justifiably taken revenge on his brothers. Instead Joseph will become an instrument of mercy and forgiveness, and by that be used as a tool for carrying out God’s divine plan! But first, he will test his brothers some more. . . Joseph is noble, but he's also human!  :)


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Genesis 43:15-16

So the men took the gifts and double the amount of silver, and Benjamin also. They hurried down to Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph. (Gen 43:15)

With all that the Bible tells us about God, His people, their history and their future, it is amazing what is NOT included in Scripture. I do love that Beth Moore asks her readers to conjecture about what is NOT described in this section of the story. We have not yet heard a word out of Benjamin! We have no idea what went through his head during this trip. Being Daddy’s favorite and being the baby of the family - even as a man - this was possibly the first time he had gone on a trip with his brothers. Because I am the youngest in my family of four girls, I am anxious to get into Benjamin’s head!

Being the youngest has some definite advantages, from which I truly benefitted. Everyone loved me and doted on me right from the start, which gave me lifelong confidence. I was able to observe my sisters and learn from some of their mistakes (although I made some doozies of my own). By the time my parents got to me, they were worn out and very hands-off! I interpreted this as trust, and honestly thought they gave me full rein because they trusted me. Turns out they just didn’t care what I did and couldn’t be bothered. The good news about that, however, was that I always wanted to live up to their trust (although I didn’t), so it had a positive effect on my behavior most of the time.

The downside of being the baby, is that you never grow up in the eyes of your siblings. At 61, I’m still feeling I’ll never quite be grown up enough for them or be taken seriously as an adult. From the time I was little I was always told to “wait until...” It was “Wait until you are in fifth grade - then the homework really starts!‘ Then “Wait until you are 16 and you can drive . . . wait until you are 21 . . . wait until you are married, then you’ll understand... wait until you have children. . . wait until you, too, go through menopause,” etc. :) The only bright point there? I will always be younger than they are!!! The truth is, I adore my sisters, and I know they love me - but I am never feeling quite adult enough. Can any of you relate to that?

So, it makes me wonder about Benjamin! Surely Benjamin knew about the mysterious “death” of his only full brother, Joseph. Was he fearful about going on this road trip with the guys, or did he see it as a time for potential bonding? Was he worrying about his father being left alone? Or did he see this as a great adventure? We’re not told. Note, though, that Benjamin is listed almost as one of the “goods” being taken down to Egypt: they took “the gifts and double the amount of silver, and Benjamin also.” I’m wondering if that reflects the attitude of the brothers. If you are an older sibling, you know that sometimes it’s a pain to be in charge of the “babies” of the family! Is this how they felt about Benjamin? Were they resentful of the fact that he was precious cargo? One thing I’m certain of is that the brothers were in a hurry to get this whole thing over with! They expected the worst, but Joseph was about to pour mercy on them:

When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare dinner; they are to eat with me at noon.” (vs. 16)

I don’t think I’ve ever noticed before that they were actually taken to Joseph’s own home. I always have seen this story played out at some official banquet hall. But Joseph takes them to his house. This was very personal and intimate. He orders a banquet for his brothers! Was he going to “forgive and forget?” Oh, there is so much more to these verses! Can’t wait to see the reunion tomorrow!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Genesis 43:1-14

Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me! (Gen 42:36)

When Jacob refused to let the brothers take Benjamin back to Egypt to rescue Simeon, Jacob blurts out what has been on his heart for a long time. For years he apparently had been convinced that these sons had been the cause of Joseph’s death, but in this scene, he so much as says so. His “Everything is against me!” shows that he was convinced he was the victim. Jon Courson notes that he is referred to consistently as Jacob, rather than Israel here, because he is anything but “ruled by God.” He will see soon that God has been in charge all along for the good of this family, at this moment he is wrapped up in the “woe-is-me” blanket.

This next chapter shows us what it took to get Jacob to change his position on Benjamin: an empty stomach!

Now the famine was still severe in the land. So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little more food.” (Gen 43:1-2)

You would have thought it was a small thing to run down to Egypt for a loaf of bread! Now we will see Judah finally step up to lead this family. Remember that it i from Judah’s tribe that the Savior is to come so we want to see God’s hand on this line. The last time we read specifically about Judah was in chapter 38, when he slept with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Not his best moment. However, he had redeemed himself by finally accepting responsibility for his sin (38:26). Sometime between chapters 38 and 42, Judah had moved back home with his family, and now he reminds his father what it will cost to get more grain. Reading this exchange makes me want to slap Jacob up the side of his head!:

But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’”
Israel asked, “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?” (vs.3-5) [Here’s where I want to smack him!]

They replied, “The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family. ‘Is your father still living?’ he asked us. ‘Do you have another brother?’ We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?” (vs.3-7)

I’m choosing to hear patience in his voice as Judah tries to reason with his father here:

Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.” (vs.8-10)

Judah reminds Jacob that the survival of the entire family depends on their taking this trip (which they could have done a long time ago, had Jacob been reasonable). And here Judah accepts full responsibility for the success or failure of the trip. Although, the reality is that he and his brothers had already been bearing all of the blame from their father for years anyway! I love how Beth says,"Guilt and blame were the stakes holding up the family tent.” Can you relate?

Jacob finally relents - what choice did he have? He sends them off with gifts to attempt to appease the Egyptian prime minister (even as he had done with Esau years before), and finally calls on God’s mercy:

Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” (vs.13-14)

Jacob was at the breaking point, and he recalls the God of his fathers, God Almighty, El Shaddai. Beth Moore points out that in chapter 17, when Jacob left his father, Isaac invoked the blessing of God Almighty on Jacob, but, at this point, when this family was barely holding on because of its dysfunction and need, Jacob asked for mercy! How often what we need is not blessing, but mercy! Only God, in His mercy and grace, could bring good out of this family!

Jacob sends the boys off with little hope as he agonizes, “I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” Are you seeing any trust and expectation here? Me neither! Just a lot of whining! How small is our picture of God Almighty sometimes!! We have the benefit of knowing the ending of Jacob’s story, so we can shake our heads at him. But Jacob was in the midst of this thing, just as you and I are now in the midst of our own situations. Are we looking to God with expectation, anticipating His mercy and blessing?? Or are we whining and feeling hopeless? “God Almighty” means just what it says: He is the God of the universe; He holds all things together, including our present situations. He has a sovereign plan. Let’s trust Him!


Monday, October 10, 2011

Genesis 42:18-38

When we last saw Joseph, he had thrown his brothers into prison on charges of spying. He told them that one of them should go back home to get the youngest brother, while the rest stayed in prison, to guarantee the arrival of Benjamin. He kept them in custody for three days while he figured out how he should proceed.

On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do. (Gen 42:18-20)

Joseph had changed the demand, most likely because he feared God! Instead of keeping nine and sending one home, he does just the opposite. I’m thinking he probably realized that his family was suffering in the famine and would need the majority of brothers to return with the grain – and one hostage was enough. As they were being sent on their way, minus Simeon, they realized that their guilt had caught up with them:

They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us.”

Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

He turned away from them and began to weep, but then turned back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes. (vs. 21-24)

Talk about drama! The brothers had no idea that it was Joseph standing in front of them, and they didn’t know that he understood all that they said. It had been more than 20 years since they had sold him into slavery - years of agonizing with the guilt as they witnessed the pain of their father. And they were on their way to bring Jacob more bad news. As they headed out of Egypt, the brothers went with sacks filled with grain, provisions for their journey, and a surprise in every sack: their silver, which they had given to Joseph in payment for the grain. Uh-oh!  Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?” (vs. 25)

Finally back in Caanan, the brothers gave Jacob the bad news that they had to return back to Egypt with Benjamin in order to rescue Simeon:

Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!”

Then Reuben said to his father, “You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.”

But Jacob said, “My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow.” (vs. 36-38)

You’ve got to love Reuben! At least he stepped up like a man each time, accepting responsibility, not only for their guilt, but here for the safe return of Benjamin. He was so sure that he would be able to bring Benjamin back, he put his own sons’ heads on the chopping block. And then, you just have to shake your head at Jacob, making the unbelievable claim that Benjamin was the only son left to him! Ouch! No matter what they did, these brothers could never win their father’s heart, for he was so focused on the sons of Rachel, his favorite wife. Apparently his concern for Simeon wasn’t enough to risk losing Benjamin! It boggles the mind to think how differently things could have been for this family had Jacob loved his children equally and unconditionally... Are we learning this lesson?

Jacob put his foot down: they would not go back for Simeon! We’ll see tomorrow what changed his mind.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Genesis 42:1-17

When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”

Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also. (Gen 42:1-5)

The narrative that begins with this chapter would make a good nighttime soap opera! Think Dallas with 12 brothers instead of just JR and Bobby! The dynamics of this family are clear in the first verse, when Jacob, thoroughly disgusted with his sons, basically said, “You idiots! We are in trouble here! Why are you all just standing around with your hands in your pockets? Get down to Egypt and get us some grain - NOW!” Apparently their relationship with their father never improved after they got rid of the competition!

And, you have to figure that Jacob suspected their involvement in the disappearance of Joseph so many years ago, because he refused to send Benjamin, the baby, with the others, because he was afraid that harm would come to him. He had no problem with sending the other ten into harm’s way! Jacob had learned nothing about the problem of showing favoritism!

So the ten older brothers headed down to Egypt, along with throngs of others who were seeking relief from the famine.

Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the one who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked. (vs.6-7)

Wow! Wouldn’t you love to have been the fly on the wall to witness this? This is one of those Biblical scenes that you hope are on God’s DVD player! It’s not until verse 9 that we’re told Joseph remembered his dreams, but they were finally fulfilled - the brothers were bowed down before Joseph.

While he recognized them immediately, his initial reaction was to act like they were strangers, but we can only imagine what was going on inside his brain! He had made a decision to forget them, but here they were actually in his face. He decided to mess with them! Hmmm... he doesn’t immediately run to hug and kiss and forgive? I love that Joseph was so real! He is not at the place of forgiveness yet, and all of those feelings of hurt, betrayal, and abandonment came bubbling up from within. After charging his brothers with spying, and their protests of innocence Joseph exacts a little revenge:

Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies! And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!” And he put them all in custody for three days. (vs.14-17)

So now who’s in prison? Imagine the brothers’ terror! This man had complete power over their future - and they knew their entire family was depending on them to keep them from starvation. What would their father think? It would kill him to let Benjamin go! You just know that on a TV soap opera, the episode would end with the closing of the prison doors and a long camera shot of their faces!

Joseph gave them three days to stew in fear, while he most likely had to get himself together and figure out what he should do. I imagine their was a lot of inner turmoil - and yet, because we know that Joseph had great character, and because we know that God was with Him, we can also be assured that Joseph would have been in prayer. I can’t wait for the next episode!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Genesis 41:46-57

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt. During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure. (Gen 41:46-49)

I’ve put the verbs in this passage in bold font, because I want us to see that once Joseph received his promotion, he did not sit at a big desk with his feet up, calling for coffee while others did the hard work. Joseph was a hands-on, servant leader! He immediately got busy traveling around Egypt preparing for the coming famine. God does not call us to “easy!” When He gives a call, it is to put us into action, whether in ministry at the church, the workplace, or the home.

So Joseph did the job he’d been called to do - he collected the food produced during the seven good years, and stored it for the lean years. He had two sons prior to the famine, and the names he chose are significant in what they tell us about Joseph:

Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” (vs.51-52)

Jon Courson and Beth Moore have different takes on the purpose in the name of Joseph’s firstborn. Courson believes that Joseph was truly honoring God, because He had made Joseph forget the suffering, much like Paul when he exhorted the Philippians to forget the past:

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14)

Beth Moore finds irony in the fact that by naming his firstborn Manasseh (Forget ), Joseph assured the fact that every time he called Manasseh’s name, he would remember what he was trying to forget! The truth is, in order to get beyond a hurtful past we really do have to come to terms with it. Joseph seems determined to get over it, but we’ll see in the next chapter, the pain is still just below the surface. However, Joseph does recognize the sovereignty and blessing of God in bringing him to “the land of my suffering,” the place where God made him so fruitful. In fact, Ephraim means “twice fruitful.”

All of us yearn for and cherish our “mountaintop” experiences with God, when we’ve had a truly special spiritual encounter or feeling of true closeness with God. But have you ever noticed that the higher up you go in elevation on a mountain, the fewer the trees? Mountain tops are mostly rock! Very little actually grows on the peaks. The real growth is down in the valleys, where the rain falls. That is where are the fruit grows! And I’m certain that, if we look back on our valley moments, our places of suffering, we will be able to point to the fruit God produced in our lives during those times. He desires that we bear much fruit (see John 15:8), which is probably why Jesus made that great promise that “in this world you will have tribulation!” (John 16:33)

Joseph had these two boys before the famine, and I’m sure he enjoyed every bit of those seven years of abundance! Don’t you wonder how he determined to be a father after his own experience? Don’t you suppose that his dearest wish would have been that these two boys be very close and loving toward each other? I’m sure he did not want to make the same mistakes as Jacob did. However, there was much good in Jacob, at least in his love for God and his love for Joseph, that he would have wanted to emulate. 

When we look back at our own childhoods, I’m sure there is much we can all find to regret and to criticize about our parents, yet we have to acknowledge that we would not be the people we are today if it weren’t for them. We need to honor our parents for they surely had a part in our coming to Christ!

Joseph, who wanted to forget his past hurts, was about to come face to face with all of it! The famine finally came, and we see in the last verse of this chapter that God is setting up a divine appointment: And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world. (vs. 57) Stay tuned!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Genesis 41:41-46a

God baptized me into the criticism of man to inoculate me against the approval of man. - Beth Moore

I love this quote from Beth as it relates to Joseph - and US! Joseph had years of suffering under the hatred of his brothers, being sold into slavery, then being falsely accused and imprisoned. God needed to work humility into the cocky teen who had strutted his stuff, proudly wearing his coat of many colors. Joseph was given a vision from God that one day his family would bow down to him. But first he had to have the pride weeded out. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (I Peter 5:6) Apparently the “due time” had come for Joseph! At last, he was ready to assume authority in the land of Egypt, with a heart fully submitted to his God.

So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, “Make way!” [or “Bow down!] Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.” Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Gen 41:41-46a)

This was heady stuff! Joseph had just been plucked from prison, dressed to the hilt, and paraded before the people in a chariot! Is this an illustration of the “Peter Principle?” Had Joseph been promoted to the level of his incompetence? Well, that would be the case if God had not been with Him.

God can gift and skill people for public service and business in ways the exceed formal education. - Beth Moore.

One of the main points that Beth Moore makes in this portion of her study, The Patriarchs, is that God does not just put Christians into ministry within the church. He needs the light in the darkness, so He positions His people in places of authority within the corporate and political world, within the public school system, etc. Besides Joseph, we have the examples of Moses, Deborah, David, Esther, Nehemiah, and Daniel. Even Paul was also a tentmaker! We sometimes think that only the pastor can be used by God. However, whether it is in the board room or the family room, God can and does use His people wherever they will submit to His authority and call.

So, if you have been called to a place of greater authority at work or in public service, ask God to give you the intelligence you don’t have, and the discernment and wisdom He gave Joseph. Beth Moore defines discernment as “the ability to know something I couldn’t possibly know.” Only God can give us this!

Joseph was about to take over one of the most powerful jobs in the world. Pharaoh had recognized Joseph’s discernment and wisdom as being due to the presence of God in his life. (vs. 39) Do people see His presence in our lives? Does this distinguish us from others as it distinguished Joseph? We’ll see tomorrow how Joseph handles his new job!