As we recall all the parental favoritism, jealousy, lies and deceit, sibling rivalry, rebellion and murder that took place in Jacob's strife-filled family it is absolutely amazing that God could orchestrate a plan that would reunite them and relocate them to Egypt where a family of 70 grows to the nation of Israel (appx. 2 million people) in 400 years. God truly can and does cause all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28) Because of the amount of material in these four chapters I will highlight the key lessons that we can apply to our lives today.
Joseph the forgiver and reconciler – a picture of Christ – Joseph's amazing forgiveness of his brother's evil against him paved the way for the reunion of all twelve tribes and the 70 family members who journeyed to Egypt and multiplied into a great nation as God had prophesied. (Gen 12:2, 15:5) This was not just a family reunion but the birth of nation that God would use to bless all the nations of the world. (Rev. 7:4-9) Joseph was inspired to forgive his brothers because he believed in the promises and purposes of God. "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.'" (Gen. 50:20-21) Likewise, we are to believe in the promises and purposes of God and, like Joseph, be reconcilers of people to God and people to people. "A man reaps what he sows. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (See Gal. 6:7-10)Also, Paul reminds us of our calling from God to be reconcilers: "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." (See 2 Cor. 5:14-20) As we live for God's purposes, the Great Commandment and Great Commission, we can hope for the ultimate reunion of loved ones and former "enemies" as well in eternal bliss with our Lord and each other and supernatural forgiveness as modeled by Joseph, may be a means of grace God uses to bring this about.
Joseph employs the wisdom of God – not mere human wisdom. – Earlier we saw how Joseph used godly wisdom to bring his 10 brothers to a place of conviction and true repentance. James 3:13-17 shows the dramatic difference between human wisdom and wisdom from God. In this account Joseph uses godly wisdom as he prepares his brothers to be humble before Pharaoh and yet honest about their occupation as shepherds. "Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians." This would allow the Jewish people to be totally separate from the Egyptians (the city dwellers) and not be tempted to intermarry and by worldliness. Peter likewise tells us how to relate to those with authority in this world. "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king."(1 Peter 2:12-17) Though commentators differ on Joseph's wisdom to tax the people, in the end the people were grateful to him for saving their lives. (47:25) "The movement of peoples from their farms into the cities was a significant event in the social and political affairs of ancient Egypt and a result of the famine. In order to buy grain, Pharaoh's people, with the exception of the priestly class, became serfs of the crown (v. 22). Relocation of the population to urban areas would make food distribution easier (v. 21). After the famine, farmers were required to hand over one-fifth of their crops. This was not exorbitant by ancient standards; eastern kings often demanded from one-third to three-fourths of the crops of peasants. With the land now in the possession of the state, Joseph imposed a system of taxation on the people. The state supplied the seed for planting, but one-fifth of the proceeds became the property of Pharaoh. This became standard practice in Egypt (v. 26). The people responded with gratitude (47:25) because Joseph had saved their lives." Radmacher, Earl D. ; Allen, Ronald Barclay ; House, H. Wayne: Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary. Nashville : T. Nelson Publishers, 1999, S. Ge 47:20
Jacob finishes well. – It is hard to imagine the range of emotions Jacob must have experienced as he heard that his long lost (and favored) son was alive. Then immediately he is faced with the decision to move to Egypt. Earlier his father was forbidden by God to go to Egypt (26:2) and Abraham really got in trouble for going to Egypt. (Gen. 12:1-10) Also bear in mind that he is 130 years old and very settled in Hebron. It is hard to move when you are young, much less 130. Yet he longs to see Joseph and there is no food in Canaan. But most importantly we see Jacob act in faith. "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." (46:27-28) "So Israel (Jacob) set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. (This is another act of faith following the example of Abraham and Isaac. See 21:33 and 26:35) 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 (his descendents) back again. And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes." (46:1-4) Through his act of worship and faith, God speaks to Jacob and reassures him that it is His will for him to go to Egypt. Likewise, as we worship God and offer our very lives as a sacrifice for His purposes, He reveals His perfect will to us. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Rom. 12:1-2) Then Jacob arrives and embraces Joseph (can you imagine that scene) and later blesses Pharaoh, carrying out God's call for Israel (both the nation and here the man – Jacob/Israel) to be a blessing to all nations. "Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven." (Jacob lived with Joseph the first 17 years of Joseph's life and the last 17 years of his own life.) "Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried." "I will do as you say," he said. "Swear to me," he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff." "He is the only hero of faith in Hebrews 11 to be commended as a worshiper. (MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: The Believer's Bible Com.) "By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff." (Heb.11:21) Then Jacob blesses his 12 sons (see chapters 48 and 49; Note: his words are really prophetic of their future, both good and bad based on their obedience to God) and adopts Manasseh and Ephraim as his own thus giving Joseph the double portion Reuben should have received as the firstborn. "In his blessing, Jacob reaffirmed his great faith in the living God. Despite the self-serving acts of his youth, Jacob's faith had matured. Jacob used the definite article with the word God to emphasize "the Genuine Deity" (as in Gen. 6:2; 22:1; 27:28; 31:11; 46:3). He identified God as the One whom Abraham and Isaac served." Radmacher, Earl D. ; Allen, Ronald Barclay ; House, H. Wayne: Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary. Nashville : T. Nelson Publishers, 1999, S. Ge 48:5-7
Grace versus nature – the crossed hands of God – "Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim's head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh's head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn." As a mature man of faith now Jacob has seen how God's ways are often not the way people naturally think. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isa.55:8) Thus Jacob could assure Joseph that it was God's plan to bless Ephraim over Manasseh. If we are not wise in the ways of God we will reduce God's ways to natural cause and effect – I do so and so and expect a certain outcome. "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Cor. 1:26-29) Thanks be to God for the crossed hands of God at the cross. We received mercy, grace and eternal life and the Perfect One received God's judgment and wrath. (2 Cor. 5:21) But on the third day God resurrected Him from the dead and He will come again in glory to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.
What spoke to you through this message?
Joseph was inspired to forgive his brothers because he believed in the promises and purposes of God. Do God's promises inspire you to forgive your enemies? (See Gal. 6:7-10) How could your forgiveness of someone who hurt you be used by God?
"By me (the wisdom of God) kings reign and rulers make laws that are just." (Prov. 8:15) Note in James 3:13-17 the difference between human wisdom and wisdom from God. How can we apply this to our business decision and especially in our relationships? What are some ways we can gain godly wisdom?
Jacob finishes well. What impressed you most about Jacob's faith as he moved from despair in Canaan (Gen. 42:36-38) to faith and hope in Egypt?
Scripture memory verse: "By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff." (Heb.11:21)