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!


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