Saturday, December 01, 2012

Genesis Chapter 48 ~ Nation Building, Adoption, & the Kingdom of God

Genesis Chapter 48

Rembrandt, Jacob Blessing the Sons of Josef, 1656
Approaching Jacob/Israel
Joseph was told that Jacob was ill, so he took his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. It was told to Jacob that Joseph came to him. Israel summoned his strength and sat up in bed and said to Joseph: "God Almighty [El Shaddai] appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, 'Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.' And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. And the children that you fathered after them shall be yours. They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance. As for me, when I came from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)." (vs. 3-7)

Gustave Doré
Joseph Brings His Sons to Israel
When Israel saw Joseph's sons, he said, "Who are these?" (vs. 8) Joseph said, "They are my sons, whom God has given me here." Jacob said, "Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them." (vs. 9) Israel's eyes were dim with age, and he could not see. Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them (vs. 10). Israel said to Joseph, "I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also." (vs. 11) Joseph bowed with his face to the earth, and Joseph took his sons, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near him. (vs. 13)

Israel Crosses His Hands
Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was younger, and left his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (Manasseh was the firstborn).

Israel Blesses Joseph & the Boys
Israel blessed Joseph saying, "The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." (vs. 15-16)

Guercino Jacob Blessing Ephraim and Manasseh before 1666
Joseph Tries to Correct Israel
When Joseph saw that Israel laid his right hand on Ephraim's head, it displeased him, and he took Israel's hand to move it to Manasseh's head. (vs. 17) Joseph said to Israel, "Not this way, my father; since this one is the first born, put your right hand on his head." (vs. 18) Israel refused and said, "I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations." (vs. 19)

Israel Blesses the Boys
Israel blessed them that day, saying, "By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, 'God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.'" (vs. 20) Israel put Ephraim before Manasseh, and then he said to Joseph, "Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow." (vs. 21-22)

Reflections on Genesis 48
(1) Nation Building
God is building a nation out of the weakest people on earth in Genesis: the Hebrews. Jacob's name becomes the banner over the nation: "Israel". The specific place that God promised to this people is the land of Canaan, but as we are seeing here they are sojourning to Egypt for a time (400 years).

(2) Adoption: Jacob's Blessing of Ephraim & Manasseh & Israel's Future Inheritance
This chapter focuses on Jacob's blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh, and the language of, "your two sons...are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine," shows that God is adopting Joseph's boys as Jacob's sons. (vs. 5-6, 9). God is covenantally adopting them for Himself through Jacob. Adoption: this is the earliest example of full adoption in the Bible that I know of, and it displays a glimpse of the power that adoption can impart (I don't think Abraham and Lot is an example of full adoption). Ephraim and Manasseh inherit Jacob's blessing as if they are his sons, namely having a share in the inheritance of the Promised Land (Shechem). Jacob (acting partially in the role of prophet/priest/king here) pulls Ephraim and Manasseh up to an equal level of inheritance with their 11 uncles (we'll see Jacob bless their uncles next, in Genesis 49). This chapter (and chapter 49) provide an explanation of how Ephraim and Manasseh receive a share in the inheritance of land along with their uncles. Also, Jacob's "greater blessing" of Ephraim explains how it is that Ephraim will become stronger. God ordained that the younger (Ephraim) would dominate the older (Manasseh), not unlike Jacob receiving the greater blessing from Isaac (through deception, but also God's fore-ordination). Ephraim, later in Israel's history, will become the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It started here. Also, it's important to note that this is not the particular seed through whom God will bring the Messiah (Jesus is in the line of Judah), although Jacob's favoritism of Joseph would seem to indicate that he thinks, and maybe even hopes, that it will be the main genealogical line of God's particular favor through which He will bring His Messiah.

(3) Jesus Christ: Dispenser of God's Covenantal Blessing of Adoption
Jacob is an instrument in God's hand here in his partial role of being a prophet, priest, and king. This points to Jesus Christ. Bruce Waltke makes this connection well:
Now Jacob mediates the blessing without the direct intervention of God to bestow it. Later, sacred personnel - the high priest (Num. 6:24-26) and king (1 Chron. 16:2) - mediate God's blessing on the generations of Israel, and the people's prayer for one another mediate blessing. The ascending Jesus Christ (prophet, priest, and king) and Son of God extends his pierced hands toward his representative church and blesses it (Luke 24:50-51). Today the Lord richly blesses all who call on him (Rom. 10:12). (Waltke, 602)
If we turn from our sin and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have the perfect Prophet, Priest, and King. We no longer need men (like Jacob) to be our prophets, priests, and kings, because Jesus Christ perfectly fulfills each office. We don't need to go to men in order to receive the covenantal blessing that God richly bestows upon His people, we need only faith alone in Jesus alone. Jesus Christ forged a better covenant through His blood. And our inheritance is not physical land on this earth, but the new heavens and the new earth that the Promised Land pointed to. We become heirs to the promises that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: "if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3:29). We have an inheritance, as God adopts men and women as sons with full inheritance rights through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3-14). 

What do we inherit, exactly? [1] First, heaven and God Himself. If we repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ we become fellow heirs (along with Jewish believers in Jesus Christ) of what the Promised Land of Canaan pointed to, Heaven (Eph. 3:6). Through Jesus Christ we inherit the kingdom of God (Eph. 5:5; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 15:50; Gal. 5:21). We become citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20). We also become God's chosen people. Through Jesus Christ, Yahweh becomes our God and we His people. Second, and not wholly different, we inherit eternal life (Matt. 19:29; Titus 3:7).

The Kingdom of God: "God's people in God's place under God's rule"
What is the "kingdom of God"? Graeme Goldsworthy sums up the kingdom of God well, writing, "the essence of the kingdom [of God] is God's people in God's place under God's rule." (Goldsworthy, 87). Vaughan Roberts helpfully describes Goldsworthy's description of the kingdom of God in the introduction of God's Big Picture (pg. 25):
The perfect kingdom. One day Christ will return. There will be a great division. His enemies will be separated from his presence in hell, but his people will join him in a perfect new creation. Then at last the gospel promises will be completely fulfilled. The book of Revelation describes a fully restored kingdom: God's people, Christians from all nations, in God's place, the new creation (heaven), under God's rule and therefore enjoying his blessing. And nothing can spoil this happy ending. It is no fairy story; they really will all live happily ever after. 
Through the gifts of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, God adopts us as sons. We are no longer our own, and our identity becomes that of a child of God, similar to how Ephraim and Manasseh's identity becomes that of "Israel" - God's possession. When our identity becomes consumed in Jesus Christ we begin to live for different hopes. Hopes that are eternal. Hopes that are unchangeable. Can you see how adoption, rightly practiced, can show something of the character of God in His work in the gospel? In Genesis 48 we even see a small shadow pointing to all of this. 
[1] In answering this question I referred to this resource: Arnold, Clinton E. Ephesians, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 93.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Genesis Chapter 47 ~ God's Sovereignty, God's Blessing, & God's Promise

Genesis Chapter 47

Settling in Goshen
Joseph told Pharaoh that his family was coming from Canaan, and that they were in Goshen. He took 5 from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh asked what their occupation was. They responded, "Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were...We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants' flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. And now, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen." (vs. 3-4)

Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land. Let them settle in the land of Goshen, and if you know any able men among them, put them in charge of my livestock." (vs. 5-6)

Jacob Blesses Pharaoh
Joseph brought Jacob in and they stood before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh (vs. 7). Pharaoh asked, "How many are the days of the years of your life?" Jacob responded, "The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning." (vs. 9) And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the his presence (vs. 10). Then Joseph settled his family in Egypt, the land of Rameses, and Joseph gave them all provisions and food.

There was no food in the land because of the famine; Egypt and Canaan languished. Joseph gathered all the money in Egypt and Canaan in exchange for grain. When all the money was spent in Egypt and Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, "Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone." (vs. 15) Joseph answered, "Give your livestock, and I will give you food." (vs. 16) So they did, and he did.

After that year they came again and said, "We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord's. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate." (vs. 18-19) So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, and made servants of the people from one end of Egypt to the other. The only land he didn't buy was the land of the priests, because they had a fixed allowance form Pharaoh.

Joseph said to the people, "Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones." (vs. 23-24) They responded, "You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh." (vs. 25) So Joseph made it a statute that Pharaoh would have the fifth of all the land with the exception of the land of the priests.

Israel's Settlement
So Israel settled in Goshen, in Egypt, and they gained possessions and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. Jacob lived in the land 17 years, he lived a total of 147 years. (vs. 28)

Joseph's Vow to Bury Jacob in Canaan
When the time drew near to Israel/Jacob's death, he called Joseph and said, "If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place." (vs. 29-30) Joseph answered, "I will do as you have said." (vs. 30) And Jacob said, "Swear to me." Joseph swore to him. Then Israel/Jacob bowed himself upon the head of his bed [or staff]. (vs. 31)

Reflections on Genesis 47
(1) God's Sovereignty
First, God is providing richly for Israel (also Egypt and the entire region) in the face of this famine. Even though Joseph is managing everything with Pharaoh's permission, we can't forget that God revealed what would happen, and established both of them in their positions at this particular time to be able to do what they do here. Further, it is God who makes plants grow - He is the true source of their food and all their provisions. If it weren't for God's creative and continual sustaining sovereign power, all peoples would have no hope of life.

(2) God's Blessing
Second, Jacob blesses Pharaoh from a position of humility. What exactly does this mean? Bless generally means to bestow goodness: emotionally [i.e. happiness], materially, or even spiritually. In verse 7 "bless" can also be translated "greeted" (i.e. Gen. 27:23), and in verse 10 it can be translated "said farewell" (i.e. Gen. 24:60; 28:1). If it is translated as "greeted" and "said farewell" in these verses, it carries the implication of including pronouncements of blessing in both the coming and going. 

So, what exactly is going on here? It's clear that God is showing that even though Jacob is inferior in the world's eyes, he is superior because of God's choice and favor. Hebrews 7:7 says, "It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior." Socioeconomic conditions, and someone's dependence on another, is not an indication that they are inferior to the one who is perceived to have more. All men are in the same condition regardless of their possessions and power, they are in need of God's grace. Jacob is inferior to Pharaoh in many ways, so it's important to recognize that his ability to bless Pharaoh doesn't come from his own power and superiority; rather, God's. Notice how he describes himself, "Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life." (Gen. 37:9) He sounds like a broken and humble old man, dependent on God's grace. God chose Jacob to be His own. God chose to set His love upon Jacob. Now, from this favored relationship with God, by no merit of his own, Jacob is able to "bless" others. This is clearly the beginning of the fulfillment of God's covenantal promises, "and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him." (Gen. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4) Ultimately, we are all dependent on God regardless of our circumstances. God is no respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34, KJV) Even though God's covenant people appear inferior here (and many times throughout history), in Jacob they go before the super-power of the world at the time, and pronounce a blessing. And consider this, through Egypt, God's promise to bless all the nations of the earth through His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be further extended: (1) In Israel's involvement in Egypt, a nation that has influence over much of the world; (2) as the history of how Egypt was sustained, and its role in sustaining others at this time of famine is retold time and time again; (3) and also through the events that will come to pass in the next 400 years. 

I think Victor Hamilton gets close to the point of what's going on here: "Jacob knows what it means to be the object of blessing. . . . Jacob once the recipient of blessing, now becomes the source of blessing." (Hamilton, 611) Replace "source" in Hamilton's quote with "instrument" or "conduit" and I think we're getting even closer to the point. God is blessing Pharaoh. Instead of being the source, Jacob knows what it is to be the object of God's blessing, both directly from the hand of God, but also through instruments in God's hands (even Pharaoh). This is similar to how Christians (people who know what it is to be extended grace through Jesus Christ), of all people, should be instruments of God to be dispensers and conduits of God's grace to all nations. Most of all by sharing the message of gospel of Jesus Christ with all peoples. (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8)

(3) God's Promise
Thirdin this chapter we see that God makes good on His promises to Jacob from chapter 46. He provides richly for Israel as he and his family walk by faith in God's promise to be with them as they go to Egypt. Further, Jacob has Joseph make a vow that will be part of the fulfillment of God's promise that, "I will also bring you up again." (46:4) This is also in fulfillment of what God said to Abraham: "Then the Lord said to Abram, 'Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.'" (Genesis 15:13-14) God established a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and here Jacob is reminding Joseph of this by having him make a vow in a similar mode to how Abraham had his servant make a vow with him. (Gen. 24:2, 9) [1] As we see here, and as we will continue to see, God will keep His promises. You can bank on it.

As Genesis begins to come to a close, we can see that it is connected to the historical events that follow in Exodus. It's the same story. God is sustaining this family through whom He will bring the Promised One from Eve; the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the One who will come to conquer sin, death, and Satan (i.e. Gen. 3:15).
[1] See my earlier post Genesis Chapter 24 ~ Isaac Marries Rebekah. Also, I don't know if there is a connection between the mode of the vow and God's touching Jacob's hip socket as he wrestled with Yahweh. (i.e. Gen. 32:32, see my earlier post Genesis Chapter 32 ~ Jacob Wrestles With Yahweh)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Genesis Chapter 46 ~ Israel Goes to Egypt

Genesis Chapter 46

Jacob's Family from Canaan to Egypt

Jacob/Israel came with everything he had to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of His father Isaac (vs. 1). God spoke to him in visions of the night saying, "Jacob, Jacob." Jacob said, "Here I am." (vs. 2) God said, "I am God, the God of your father, don't be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes." (vs. 3-4)

His sons carried him, their little ones, and their wives in the wagons Pharaoh sent. They brought livestock and goods from Canaan, and all Jacob/Israel's offspring to Egypt.

Here's the list of Jacob/Israel and his descendants who came to Egypt:


All Jacob's descendants who came into Egypt numbered 66 (vs. 26). Three were already in Egypt: Joseph, Manasseh, and Ephraim. Further, it seems this leaves out Jacob too. So, the total of Jacob's house that came to Egypt (including Joseph, his two sons, and Jacob himself) was 70 (vs. 27; cf. Exod. 1:5; Deut. 10:22). [1] 

Jacob & Joseph Meet
Jacob had sent Judah ahead to Joseph to show the way to Goshen. Joseph prepared his chariot and went to meet Israel in Goshen. He presented himself to him and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while (vs. 29). Israel said to Joseph, "Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive." (vs. 31) Joseph told his brothers and Jacob's household, "I will go up and tell Pharaoh and will say to him, 'My brothers and my father's household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. And the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock, and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.' When Pharaoh calls you and says, 'What is your occupation?' you shall say, 'Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,' in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians." (vs. 31-34)

Reflections on Genesis 46

(1) Back from the Dead
Do you remember what happened in Genesis 22? That's where God asked Abraham to offer up/kill his son Isaac, the one through whom God promised He would establish His covenant. Here's how Hebrews 11:17-19 described what was going on in Abraham in that event: "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.' He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back." 

(2) Response of Worship
Isaac never died. Similarly, here again, we see another picture of a father figuratively receiving his son back from the dead, Jacob and Joseph. And what's Jacob's response to this news of his son being alive? It's similar to Abraham's (Genesis 22:13). He worships by offering sacrifices to Yahweh (vs. 1). Ask yourself this question, when you receive incredible news does it cause you to worship God?

(3) God Speaks
Then God speaks to Jacob, reassuring him that this is part of His plan to fulfill His covenantal promise to make Israel into a great nation. God strengthens Jacob's faith in what He tells him, and Jacob steps out in full assurance and confidence with his 70 descendants from Canaan to Beersheba to Goshen, in Egypt. Nothing happens outside of God's permission. 

This is instructive for us. We must pursue God's Word to evaluate what we should do. This doesn't mean we will hear God's audible voice like Jacob. No, we have His Word in the Bible. We should consult it. When we step out in faith, it's not because we have a dream or have convinced ourselves of a feeling of "inner peace" through our own opinions, but in asking God for wisdom in prayer, in seeking what His Word has to say about our circumstances, and seeking counsel from others who know God's Word about how they think God's Word would address us (even though counsel is sometimes hard to take, and sometimes it's wisely not followed). I'm not saying always "go against your gut", but I would say that just because your "gut" tells you something, it doesn't mean it's in line with God's Word. Friends, test the spirits: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1) Following your conscience is important, and in God's common grace we can still discern what is wise through our "gut", but we should be like Jacob here. Let our decisions be driven by God's Word, the Bible, not necessarily what our hearts and others tell us.

(4) The Land
God is doing something specific in this event in a "salvation-historic" sense. He is setting up a grand scene through which He will display His glory in saving His covenant people from Egypt, and instituting the Mosaic covenant in Exodus. This can be clearly seen in His promise to bring Israel back out of Egypt again (vs. 3-4). Further, God won't abandon His people. God is moving history to the next point in which more shadows and types will be set up to point to Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

This being said, there is a parallel to the Christian life here as Israel goes from a land of famine to the verdant land of Goshen. We can step out in full faith, assurance, and confidence in what God has called us to do, namely, repent and believe in Christ, knowing that His strong arm will bring His covenant people from this broken and fallen world to be in the most lush land imaginable. Through Jesus' perfect life, substutionary death, and powerful resurrection we can have hope that God will bring us to the verdant land that Goshen only foreshadowed, that the Promised Land was only a dim reflection of: Heaven. The "city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:10) Eternity in the blessed joy and pleasure of God's favor because of Christ forever. With our Savior forever.
[1] NOTE: First, the Bible does not contradict itself in adding up these descendant numbers. However we conclude that Moses came to these numbers it doesn't change the fact that the Scriptures are trustworthy, true, and without error (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21). Second, I believe that Jacob was intended to be included in the count with Leah's children, and in the final count of 70 who went down to Egypt. I believe the following theories of how Moses arrived at the number of 70 descendants are not likely: (1) That Asenath was Dinah's daughter by Shechem, (2) that Moses' mother, Jochebed, was an unborn infant when Jacob's descendants migrated to Egypt, (3) that there was some unborn infant that was counted, (4) that the list included another son of Dan, or lastly, (5) that the Holy One of Israel was included in the number. You can clearly see how I think the numbers add up by the way I counted above. Third, another issue related to this is that Stephen, in Acts 7:14, said Jacob's descendants included 75 people in all. Also, the Septuagint reads 75 descendants at Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5, but keeps Deuteronomy 10:22 at 70 people. Stephen and the Septuagint may have been thinking of Jacob's family at a later date, not necessarily the specific number at the time that they actually moved from Canaan to Egypt. I. Howard Marshall tries to show this specifically (Marshall, 146-7). I'm not fully convinced by his math. These texts do not contradict each other. Both the Septuagint and Stephen are correct on the number; however, the Hebrew text of 70 is the exact number of Jacob's descendants at the time of their migration.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Genesis Chapter 45 ~ Divine Sovereignty, Part 1

Genesis Chapter 45

Before his brothers Joseph couldn't control himself and he cried, "Make everyone go out from me." (vs. 1) No one stayed with him when he made himself known to his brothers, and he wept so loud that the Egyptians and the household of Pharaoh heard it (vs. 2). Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?" (vs. 3) His brothers couldn't answer because they were dismayed at his presence.

Joseph said to his brothers, "Come near to me, please, I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.' And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here." (vs. 4-13)

After saying all of this Joseph fell upon Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on His neck. And Joseph kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. Then they talked with Joseph.

Pharaoh and his servants were pleased that Joseph's brothers came, and he said to Joseph, "Say to your brothers, 'Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.' And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, 'Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.'" (vs. 17-20)

Israel/Jacob's sons did all of this. Joseph gave them wagons, provisions for the journey, a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave 300 shekels of silver and 5 changes of clothes. To his father he sent 10 donkeys loaded with goods, 10 female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for the journey. Then he sent his brothers away, and as they left he said, "Do not quarrel on the way." (vs. 24)

Jacob's brothers went back to Canaan to their father, and they told him, "Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt." The text then describes, "[Israel's] heart became numb, for he did not believe them." (vs. 26) After they told him what Joseph said, and after he saw the wagons, Jacob's spirit revived and he said, "It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die." (vs. 28)

Reflections on Genesis 45 
First, notice the emotion of these men. They aren't mere characters in a story, they are people, with deep seated emotions. Joseph wasn't able to control his emotions, and he wept so loud that the Egyptians and the household of Pharaoh could hear him (vs. 1-2). His brothers were dismayed or alarmed (vs. 3). Joseph told his brothers to not be distressed or angry with themselves for what they did to him (vs. 5). Joseph fell upon Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on Joseph's neck (vs. 14), then he kissed all his brothers and wept on them (vs. 15). When Jacob/Israel heard that Joseph was alive his heart became numb (vs. 26).

There's been a lot of discussion of biblical manhood these days, and it's helpful to point out that in the Bible, manhood is not antithetical to emotion. That being said, it's important to point out that our emotions don't control our actions, rather a deep seated faith in Yahweh does.

Second, what is it that grounds Joseph in the face of the deep emotions connected to his experience? A trust in God's sovereignty. He attributes everything to God:
  • Vs. 5 - "you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life."
  • Vs. 7 - "And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.
  • Vs. 8a - "it was not you who sent me here, but God."
  • Vs. 8b - "He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt."
Do you think that God's sovereign power and control over all things is troubling in the face of all the suffering and trials in this world? Friend, God's meticulous sovereignty over all things should issue to our despair, not because of the trials of this world, but because of the knowledge of His wrath that is coming against us because of our sin. Not only is God sovereign, but man is responsible for sin. Joseph is not absolving his brothers of their sin in verse 5, but explaining that God worked even through their wretchedness. But this knowledge doesn't issue to our despair if we repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus Christ we need not despair. We can find fresh courage and comfort, because of Jesus' substitutionary atonement. If we are counted as justified and as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, we need not despair. Rather, we find comfort in God's sovereign control. We know that for those in Christ all things work for our good and God's glory. (Rom. 8:28-30) He is working all things according to the counsel of His will. (Eph. 1:11) In Genesis 45 God is working to preserve the family line that He made a covenant to. God will not go back on His promises. You can see that even in His sovereignty here, Yahweh is preserving the family through whom He would bring His Messiah. He's working out His purpose to sustain His covenant. 

The third thing to note here is that Joseph's trials point to a Savior who would be falsely accused, beaten, flogged, spat on, whipped, have thorns pounded into His head, nailed to a cross through His hands and feet, and most of all, He would bear the weight of our sin. Jesus bore the eternal wrath of God for His people on the cross. Hallelujah, what a Savior! Jesus Christ, went to the cross for our sin. He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21), but it all went down according to God's plan. Yahweh was in control. Listen to how Peter put it on Pentecost:

Acts 2:22-24
22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know - 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it."

God was in complete control at the worst trial in history, and again, it was for the purpose of glorifying Himself in keeping His covenant promise to save His people through a Messiah. We should take solace in the sovereignty of God, even as Joseph did, knowing that God is working all these things our for our good and His glory. We'll see more on this theme of God's sovereignty before Genesis is done.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Genesis Chapter 44 ~ Judah's Substitution Part 2 & Joseph's Silver Cup Test

Genesis Chapter 44

Brothers Headed Home to Canaan
Joseph told the steward to fill the men's sacks with as much food as each man's sack could carry, and put the silver cup in the mount of the youngest one's, Benjamin's, sack (vs. 2). So he did it, and when morning came the men were sent back on their donkeys. They went a short distance from the city, and Joseph said to his steward, "Up, follow after the men, and when you overtake them, say to them, 'Why have you repaid evil for good? [Why have you stolen my silver cup?] Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he practices divination? You have done evil in doing this." (vs. 4-5) The steward did all of this, and they asked why he spoke to them this way. Then the brothers said, "Whichever of your servants is found with it shall die, and we also will be my lord's servants." (vs. 9) The steward said, "Let it be as you say: he who is found with it shall be my servant, and the rest of you shall be innocent." (vs. 10)

Alexander Ivanov, 1831-1833
Benjamin Has the Cup - Brothers Go Back to Egypt Again
Each opened their sack, and the cup was in Benjamin's sack, and they tore their clothes, and every man loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city (vs. 13). Joseph was still there when Judah and his brothers came to his house. Joseph said, "What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that a man like me can indeed practice divination?" (vs. 15)
Arent de Gelder, c. 1682

Judah's Intercession
Judah said, "What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? or how can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; behold, we are my lord's servants, both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found." (vs. 16) Joseph responded that only the man who was found with the cup will be his servant, but the rest can go back to their father (vs. 17). 

Judah went up to Joseph and said, "Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself." (vs. 18) Judah went on to tell him of his brother, and how dearly his father loves him, and that to not return Benjamin to their father would kill Jacob/Israel. He told him what Jacob said to him, "You know that my wife bore me two sons. One left me, and I said, 'Surely he has been torn to pieces,' and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in evil to Sheol." (vs. 27-29) He explained that Jacobs life is bound up with Benjamin's life (vs. 30), and that he will die and he will descend to Sheol.

Judah described how he had pledged himself for the safety of Benjamin to Jacob by saying, "If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life." (vs. 32) Then he asked Joseph to take him and let Benjamin go back with the brothers to Jacob, because he couldn't go back to his father if Benjamin was not with him. He explained, "I fear to see the evil that would find my father." (vs. 34)

Reflections on Genesis Chapter 44
Here Joseph, by referring to "divination" twice, seems to test their faith in God. Would his brothers trust Yahweh by faith over the pagan practices of who they thought to be an unbelieving Egyptian ruler? It doesn't seem that they fear Joseph's "divination" as much as they fear how Joseph's actions will turn out for their father, Jacob. Either way, by God's grace faith is exercised here, in one of the most unlikely of places, Judah.

We see Judah offering up himself as a substitute, again. He exhibits a trust that this is all happening according to God's providence (vs. 16). This time the consequences would likely mean suffering in Egyptian bondage for the rest of his life. He has gone from selling Joseph into slavery to being one who is willing to become a slave so that his brother, Benjamin, would be set free (vs. 32-34). Not only did Judah offer himself as a pledge to Jacob if Benjamin should be lost (43:8-10), but now here, Judah offers himself as a substitute to Joseph for Benjamin's release (44:32-34). He follows through with his pledge to Jacob. Again, Judah serves as a typological arrow pointing directly at Jesus Christ.

In Genesis 43 we saw that like Judah, Jesus Christ became a pledge for our safety to His Father by offering Himself for us. So, here, we see a "type" that opens up another nuance of Christ's work on the cross. Like Judah, Jesus Christ actually offered himself in the form of a vicarious imprisonment, to become a captive for our sake. He didn't just pledge it, He did it. Though we are slaves to our sin, and we are utterly blind, dead, and helpless in our sin, Jesus Christ became His people's sin. He didn't just say He would, He did it. He received the just sentence we deserve for our rebellion. Not that Jesus became a slave to the power of sin in a way that He was overpowered, but He so identified with our impurity and guilt that He was bound by sinful men, torn and beaten, then nailed to a cross of wood (see the song below). Beyond that, He bore the eternal wrath of God in His body on that tree. It reminds me of this hymn:

The Power of the Cross 
Oh, to see the dawn 
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary. 
Tried by sinful men, 
Torn and beaten, then 
Nailed to a cross of wood. 

This, the power of the cross: 
Christ became sin for us; 
Took the blame, bore the wrath— 
We stand forgiven at the cross. 

Oh, to see the pain 
Written on Your face, 
Bearing the awesome weight of sin. 
Every bitter thought, 
Every evil deed 
Crowning Your bloodstained brow. 

Now the daylight flees; 
Now the ground beneath 
Quakes as its Maker bows His head. 
Curtain torn in two, 
Dead are raised to life; 
"Finished!" the victory cry. 

Oh, to see my name 
Written in the wounds, 
For through Your suffering I am free. 
Death is crushed to death; 
Life is mine to live, 
Won through Your selfless love. 

This, the power of the cross: 
Son of God—slain for us. 
What a love! 
What a cost! 
 We stand forgiven at the cross. 

The Power of the Cross 
Words and Music by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend Copyright © 2005 
Thankyou Music 

Judah is a foreshadow of Jesus Christ. Will you put your faith in Jesus' powerful work of substitution that Genesis 44 is pointing to?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Genesis Chapter 43 ~ Judah's Substitution, Return to Egypt, & Joseph's Benevolence

Genesis Chapter 43

Go Buy More Food
The famine was still going strong, and Jacob's family had eaten all their food, so Jacob said to his sons again, "Go again, buy us a little food." (vs. 1) Judah told him that the man told them they wouldn't see his face if they did not bring their youngest brother. So he said, if you send Benjamin with us we will go buy food, but if you don't send him we won't. Israel (Jacob) responded asking why they mentioned Benjamin at all. The brothers told him that "the man" had questioned them carefully asking about Jacob and if they had another brother, so they told him (vs. 7). 

Judah's Offer of Substitution
Judah said, "Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice." (vs. 8-10) Israel (Jacob) then said that if they had to go then they should take a present, some choice fruits, a little balm and honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, almonds, double the money (i.e. the money they mistakenly returned with), and their brother, Benjamin. And he said, "May God Almighty [El Shaddai] grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved." (vs. 14)

The Brothers Before Joseph
The brothers took the present, doubled their money, and took Benjamin and went to Egypt and stood before Joseph. When Joseph saw Benjamin he told his steward to bring the men into the house, slaughter an animal and make a meal for them, and the steward did this. The brothers were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph's house, and thought it was because of the money they returned with, and worried that he would assault them (overpower them and seize them as slaves). When they arrived at the door they began to plead, and confessed how they found their money, and how they had brought it back again. The steward replied saying, "Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks. I received your money." (vs. 23) He then brought Simeon to them, he gave them water, and they washed their feet, and he gave their donkeys food, then they prepared their present for Joseph, for He was coming at noon to eat there.

When Joseph arrived they brought him in and gave him the present they brought, and bowed down to him on the ground. He asked about their welfare and asked about Jacob and if he was alive. They responded that he is alive and well, and they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. Joseph lifted up his eyes and saw Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, "Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!" (vs. 29)

Joseph's Weeping at the Sight of Benjamin
The text then says this: "Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, 'Serve the food.'" (vs. 30-31)

The servants served Joseph by himself, and the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians by themselves - because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, it's an abomination to them (vs. 32). They all seem to have been eating in the same room though, only they were apart from each other, because the Bible says that they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and they looked at each other in amazement (vs. 33).

Portions were taken to the brothers from Joseph's table, but Benjamin's portion was 5 times as much as any of theirs. They drank and were merry [or "and became intoxicated"] with him.

Reflections on Genesis 43
First, the brothers left Simeon in Egypt to come home, and in chapter 43 they've been there for some time. Notice that Judah says that they could have returned twice in the time that has passed (vs. 8-10). It seems that quite some time has passed.

SecondIt may appear that Judah is lying to Jacob when he describes the specificity of Joseph's questioning them in verse 7, particularly asking how their father was and asking after another brother of theirs. Those details aren't outlined in chapter 42, but it doesn't seem like he's lying because Judah says this to Joseph's face in Genesis 44:18-19.

Third, what are we to do with the steward's reply: "Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks. I received your money." (vs. 23) We know it was Joseph by way of his steward that the money was put in the sacks (42:25). A few things to note about this: (1) The steward here is probably telling the brothers what Joseph told him to say. (2) The brothers paid their money for the grain, and by God's providence through Joseph's command, the steward filled their sacks, they had rightly paid what was owed. (3) The steward's statement is not false, God, through the instruments of Joseph and the steward put the money back in the sack. God works through means, and here the God of their Father, Jacob, worked through means to put money back in their sacks. Later, Joseph would recognize this explicitly as well saying, "And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life." (45:5) (4) All of this said, this is creating a false sense of security for the brothers in what Joseph will do next in chapter 44. Nahum M. Sarna wrote this about this verse, "The reassuring reply of the steward is intelligible only on the assumption that he is privy to Joseph's scheme. His purpose is to lull them into a false sense of relief, reinforced by the release of Simeon." (Sarna, 301) I think Sarna is reading more into the "priviness" and "purpose" of the steward than the text allows here. The intelligibility of the steward's words does not hang on reading "behind the text" to perceive attitudes and intentions of the steward's heart. That said, this exchange is setting up what happens in the next chapter, that's for sure. Whether or not the steward is aware of that, who knows? I think it's more intelligible to see that the steward really was acknowledging that Yahweh through the means of Joseph and himself put the money back in their sacks. Could he be trying to deceive? Yeah, but I don't think the text gives us the data to know that with 100% certainty.

FourthIt is affecting to see Joseph's response of weeping. By God's grace Joseph is the temporal, small "s", "savior" of both Egypt, the surrounding regions, and even of his own family. He's certainly not perfect in all regards, but there are a number of things about his character that are good for our consideration. First, regarding what biblical manhood is. Joseph's character of "biblical manhood" outlines courage, perseverance, dependence upon God, and a full expression of emotions. Not uncontrolled emotion willing to weep at every little thing, and yet he feels deeply. It's important to take note of these qualities lest we confuse "biblical manhood" with a lack of emotion, and an inability to love fully, suffer genuinely, and feel deeply.

Pointing to Jesus Christ
Second, Joseph's being an instrument for "temporal" salvation, being saved from famine, definitely points to the Messiah that God would provide in Jesus Christ. Many Christians around the world suffer starvation, but Jesus teaches us that we do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from God, the Scriptures. Christians feed on Christ by faith, and we know that if we lose our life because of physical starvation, we have an eternal feast being prepared for us, where one day the spiritual reality of that feast will merge with the physical, as our bodies our raised on that last day. That said, a number of Christians, especially in the West, don't suffer for lack of food. Joseph's physical provision points to our spiritual need. All of us suffer the famine of sin, and because of our sin we deserve God's eternal wrath, where there will be no eating to satisfaction. We need Christ above all things, and we need to feed upon Him by faith. We are all invited to come and feast at Christ's banqueting table, and if we would only repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we can be assured of this glorious event.

Judah's substitution here is also a typological arrow pointing directly at Jesus Christ. After all, Jesus is a descendant of Judah. In the previous chapter Reuben offered his children as a substitute (which would also be terribly difficult), but that wasn't quite as strong as Judah's offer here of himself. Unlike Reuben in Genesis 42, Judah offers himself as a substitute if Benjamin should be lost, "I will be a pledge for his safety," and, "let me bear the blame forever." (vs. 8-10) Judah is the firstborn, and here he is taking responsibility fully upon himself. Judah, in a twisted way, saved Joseph in Genesis 37:27, he learned the difficulty of loss in chapter 38, and now here he's offering himself as a surety and a substitute for Benjamin. His offer of substitution for Benjamin is how the Lord will save His chosen family, we need only to watch how it plays out. This points to Jesus Christ who would come from Judah's family line. Through His substitutionary atonement, Jesus Christ, became a pledge for our safety. He is the firstborn of many who would be brought to salvation through His blood (Rev. 1:5). By going to the cross to die for our sins in order to bring us to God, it's as if he owned Judah's words here, "Let me bear their blame forever." Jesus was tortured and beaten then hung on a cross with nails driven through His hands and feet only to suffocate to death, but that wasn't the worst of it. He bore the sin of His people in His body, and He suffered the eternal wrath of God on that tree in our placed condemned He stood. He became our sin, and through the power of His person and His work on the  cross He infused us with His righteousness, so that we have become His righteousness if we are repenting and believing. This substitutionary attitude of Judah would come all the way to the Messiah who took our place on the cross.

The story of Joseph and his brothers is not done yet though. Is all well with this family now? We'll see in Genesis chapter 44.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Genesis Chapter 42 ~ Joseph's Encounter & Test of His Brothers

Genesis Chapter 42

Seeking Relief from Famine
Jacob, Joseph's father, learned that Egypt was selling grain and he said to his sons, "Why do you look at one another?" (vs. 1) So, he told them to go buy grain so they could live, the famine had reached Canaan. 10 of Joseph's brothers then went down to Egypt to buy grain; Jacob didn't send Benjamin because he feared harm would come upon him (vs. 4).

Joseph & His Brothers
Joseph was the governor, and his brothers came and bowed with their faces to the ground before him (vs. 6). He recognized them, but treated them like strangers speaking roughly asking where they were from (vs. 7). They didn't recognize him. At this point he remembered the dreams he dreamed of them, and accused them of being spies (vs.9), but they claimed to be honest men, and not spies (vs. 10). They then described where they were from, and how they had left their youngest brother with their father, and that their other brother is no more (vs. 13).

Joseph Tests His Brothers
Joseph accused them again of being spies, and tested them, he swears on Pharaoh's life that they cannot leave his presence unless their youngest brother comes (vs. 14-15). He said to send one to bring their brother while they are all confined, and he put them in custody for 3 days (vs. 17).

On the 3rd day Joseph said if they did what he said, they'd live because he fears God (vs. 18). He then let them all take grain to their household, but kept only one brother in custody, but they still must bring their youngest brother back to Joseph, otherwise they would die. So they agreed. They then said to each other that they were guilty regarding their brother Joseph, and that because of what they did to him is why this current distress has come upon them (vs. 21).

His brother, Reuben spoke up and said, "Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood." (vs. 22) They didn't realize that Joseph understood them while they were talking, for there was an interpreter between them. Joseph then turned away from them and wept (vs. 24), then returned and spoke to them. He took Simeon from them and bound him before them, and he gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to replace every mans money in his sack, and give them provisions for the trip. 

The brothers then loaded their donkeys with grain and left, and one brother opened his sack to give his donkey food where they were staying on the way, and saw money in the mouth of the sack. He told his brothers, and their "hearts failed them," and they were trembling, and they said, "What is this that God has done to us?" (vs. 28) 

Arriving in Canaan to Jacob
When they arrived back in Canaan they told Jacob what had happened with Joseph, the test, and everything. Then as they emptied their sacks every man's money was there, and they were all afraid (vs. 35). Jacob then told them how they had bereaved him of his children: Joseph and now Simeon, and that they would now take Benjamin.

Reuben's Guarantee
Reuben then said, "Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you." (vs. 37) Jacob responded, "My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol." (vs. 38)

Reflections on Genesis 42
God is at work among the nations, and here we see that God is using Egypt, and particularly a Hebrew in Egypt - Joseph, to save His covenant people in fulfillment of promise He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

First, we see Jacob say to his sons, something to the effect, "Don't just stand there and stare at each other, go get food from Egypt so we don't die." I don't want to read more into that then what the text allows, but you get the sense that Jacob's sons are lazy and clueless when it comes to having knowledge and a drive to provide for their family. So, at the direction of Jacob they go to Egypt.

Second, we see something of the affect and use of a guilty conscience. Joseph's brothers immediately attribute their difficulties to their sin against Joseph (it may be triggered because Joseph said he fears God). 13 years have passed, and their guilty consciences seem to be continually dogging them. They know they have sinned, and not only against Joseph, but their sin was primarily against God, "What is this that God has done to us?" (vs. 28) The text doesn't let us know if they are saying this in an accusative fashion or if it's just a recognition of the truth of their situation. The only way we can take this is that they are acknowledging God's sovereign control over all things. God has done this. They were responsible for their actions. After all, they chose to betray their brother, they chose to sell him before Reuben could save him, they chose to lie, smearing blood on and ripping up Joseph's coat. They chose to lie to their Father. They know though that God saw all of that, and they seem to be admitting that they are accountable to none other than Yahweh. What a terrible thought in the face of sin. If we're honest we have to admit that we've done wrong before God too. If we should be identifying with anyone in this passage it probably should be Joseph's brothers. Praise God that through faith in Jesus Christ we can be cleansed of our shame and guilt. We can be infused with the righteousness of Christ by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. 

Third, should we test people when they sin against us like Joseph does here? Probably not. This is a specific salvation historic event. That said, it's not such a bad thing for people to feel the gravity of their sin. If we think but lightly of our sin we will likely think lightly of our Savior. God used Joseph's hiding of his identity to work reconciliation in the covenant family here. Whether or not they thought of their sin against Joseph, and primarily against God, every day for the last 13 years, they certainly were thinking of it this day. And in God's graciousness through Joseph, He let's them contemplate this for a while. The bondage of their brother reminds them of what they deserve, the reliance they have on another - namely, Joseph's mercy - reminds them that they must be humble because they are not the sovereign judge of men. After all is said and done, they are humbled to realize that they are not the great men that their pride and egos would deceive them to be. I'm not saying we should test people like this when they sin against us, but it is not wrong to let people consider their guilt and shame. That said, don't forget to show them how they can be saved. Not salvation from a famine, slavery, etc., but salvation from sin - salvation from the wrath of God. God's perfect justice and mercy meet at the cross, help people to be rid of their shame and guilt there, at the cross. Joseph's encounter with his brothers points us to Jesus. Joseph's particular test was specific to this event in salvation history, but it's helpful and useful for us to know something of the wretchedness and evil that we must be redeemed from too.

In the face of a worldwide famine God is preserving the line through whom He will bring Christ into the world. I think Bruce Waltke's paragraph on this chapter is helpful. So, I'll end this post with it:

"God, through the famine, initiates the saving process by forcing the family to confront their past and each other. Joseph's harshness also helps to heal the fracture and to restore the family to God. Simeon's detention in Egypt reminds the ten brothers of how they treated Joseph, and for the first time they recognize the Moral Governor of the universe at work in their lives. Their consciences are awakened to confess their guilt (42:21-24) and to fear God (42:28). They take responsibility to retrieve Simeon from prison (42:19, 24) and to protect Benjamin from harm (42:37; See 43:1-45:28). Upon their return they show sensitivity to their father's emotions, and loyalty that unite a family are now being fashioned. Through the famine Joseph comes to rule over Egypt and the sons of Israel become worhty to becalled the people of God. Both God's famine and Joseph's harsh speech confront the brothers with life and death (42:2, 18, 20). Through these severe mercies the fractured family is being healed."
Waltke, Bruce Genesis a Commentary With Cathi J. Fredricks (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 550.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Genesis Chapter 41 ~ Pharaoh's Dreams & Joseph's Redemption

Genesis Chapter 41 

2 years after the cupbearer forgot about Joseph interpreting his dream in prison, Pharaoh dreamed a dream.

Pharaoh's Dream Part 1 ~ 14 Cows By the Nile River (vs. 1-4)

(1) He dreamed that there were 7 cows healthy and plump eating reed grass.  
(2) He, later in the same dream, then saw 7 cows, ugly and thin which he had never seen in all Egypt (vs. 19), coming after the healthy cows. 
(3) The 7 ugly/thin cows ate the 7 attractive/healthy/plump cows, and they remained thin and ugly afterward (vs. 21). 
(4) After this dream he woke up.
Pharaoh's Dream Part 2 ~ 14 Ears of Grain (vs. 5-7)
Pharaoh then had a 2nd dream.

(1) He dreamed that there were 7 ears of grain, plump and good, on one stalk. 
(2) He, later in the same dream, then saw 7 ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. 
(3) The 7 thin ears swallowed up the 7 plump/full ears. 
(4) After this dream he woke up.
Joseph Interprets Pharaoh's Dreams
In the morning his spirit was troubled, and he called for Egyptian magicians and wise men to interpret his dreams, but none could. At this, the cupbearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh about how Joseph interpreted his and the former chief baker's dreams correctly. Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they cleaned Joseph up before he came before Pharaoh. So Pharaoh said, "I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it." (vs. 15)

Joseph answered, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer," or “Without God it is not possible to give Pharaoh an answer about his welfare.” (vs. 16) Pharaoh then told him his dreams (which are outlined above). After recounting the dreams he said he told the Egyptian magicians, but that they couldn’t interpret the dreams (vs. 24).

Joseph then described what the dreams meant. They are one and the same dream, and, “God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.” (vs. 25) The 7 good cows and good ears of grain are 7 years, and the 7 ugly cows and blighted ears of grain by the east wind are 7 years of famine. Then again Joseph said, “God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do.” (vs. 28) 7 years of plenty in Egypt are coming, but then 7 years of famine will come in Egypt, “And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about.” (vs. 32)

Joseph’s Counsel
Joseph then gave counsel to Pharaoh to select a discerning and wise man and set him over the land of Egypt, and to appoint overseers over the land and take 1/5th of the produce of the land during the plentiful years, let the overseers gather all the food in the good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it as a reserve during the 7 years of famine that are to come.
Joseph is Chosen to Be Over the Land of Egypt
Joseph’s proposal pleased Pharaoh, and Pharaoh said, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God? [or ‘of the god’s’]” (vs. 38) Pharaoh then said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command [or ‘and according to your command all my people shall kiss the ground’]. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” (vs. 37-40) So Pharaoh took his signet ring and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain on his neck, and made him ride in his second chariot, and they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” (vs. 41-43)

Pharaoh then said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all Egypt,” (vs. 44) and he named him Zaphenath-paneah, and he gave him in marriage to Asenath the daughter of Potiphera priest of On (vs. 45).

7 Years of Abundance
All of this happened when Joseph was 30 years old. During the 7 plentiful years he gathered up the food and put the food in every city from the fields around it. He gathered it up in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he stopped measuring it, because it could not be measured (vs. 49). Before the famine came Joseph had two sons:
(1) Manasseh, “For...God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” (vs. 51) [Manasseh sounds like the Hebrew word meaning “making to forget”] 
(2) Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (vs. 52) [Ephraim sounds like the Hebrew word meaning “making fruitful”]
7 Years of Famine Begins
The 7 years of abundance ended, and 7 years of famine began, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. When Egypt was famished [starving hungry and thirsty], the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, and Pharaoh told them to go to Joseph, and do what he says. (vs. 55) So as the famine spread, Joseph opened the storehouses [“all that was in them”], and sold it to the Egyptians. Then all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe all over the earth.

Reflections on Genesis 41
First, notice that Joseph is 30 years old (vs. 46). When his trials started he was 17 (Gen. 37:2). He was stripped naked and left in a pit, then sold into slavery, then falsely accused, then imprisoned in Egypt, then forgotten by the cupbearer - 13 years of misery. Was Joseph's dream that he would rule over his family just a farce? Was God playing some kind of demented trick on Joseph just to get kicks out of watching him writhe in pain and depression? No!!! God was working His purposes for His own glory, but also for Joseph's good. As we see here, in Genesis 41, God was not only for Joseph's good, but for Pharaoh's good, for all the people of Egypt's good, and even for the whole earth's good. Joseph surely desired for God's timing to be to get him out of his nightmarish circumstances as soon as possible, but God's timing is perfect, and we see a small glimpse of that in this chapter. If we knew God's purposes for His glory and for our good we would surely choose God's timing, but often we don't know His purposes, so we toy with depression and throw temper-tantrums along the way. We should trust Him, because His timing is perfect, even though we often wouldn't have chosen it. He is for our good if we are His. That said, when the Lord begins to reveal the purposes for which He delayed, we can look back over the specific contours we walked and trace the line of His bountiful grace, and say, "I get it now, it all makes so much more sense than it used to." We may not be able to say that in this life, but if we are His people we will one day when we are with our Lord and He wipes away every tear from our eyes. I'm reminded of the popular quote, "God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart."*

Second, notice that God, in contrast to the "magicians" "philosophers" and "wise" people in the world, alone is wise, knowledgeable, and in meticulous control. No one else could give interpretations of Pharaoh's dreams, not even Joseph, and look at what the text describes about God:
Vs. 16 - God will give an answer, or without God it is impossible to give an answer.
Vs. 25 - God has revealed what He [God] is about to do.
Vs. 28 - God has shown what He [God] is about to do.
Vs. 32 - God fixed what will happen, and God will shortly bring it about. 
Vs. 39 - God has shown. [Pharaoh is speaking here]
What does all this mean? Only God can interpret dreams, and it's impossible to do it without Him. In these specific dreams of Pharaoh, God is working to bring to pass what He revealed in Joseph's dreams 13 years earlier. But God's doing something else here too. Let's not miss the forest of Israel and God's grand redemptive plan for the individual tree that Joseph is. God made a promise to Abram in Genesis 15:13-14, remember? "13 Then the LORD said to Abram, 'Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.'" What is that land? Well, here we're beginning to see that it will be Egypt. How would Israel end up in this land of slavery? Certainly not by choice, right? Well, it appears not, but we need to let the rest of the story play out over the rest of Genesis.

God is merciful and gracious here to show what He is about to do. God has fixed what Pharaoh's dreams reveal will come to pass, and He will make it happen. Man is responsible too though. God is in control over time, events, and people, but the people make decisions and are active agents in doing the things that God brings about. He has fixed these things, and He not only fixes events and then passively lets someone or something else enact them to come to pass. No, He does it and brings it to pass Himself. (41:25, 28, 32) He's actively doing this while the people are active too. The world is the stage for this display of God's grace and mercy to the point that even an unbeliever, Pharaoh, is crediting God to have shown the interpretation to Joseph.

God is continuing to preserve His people in order to bring about the promised Messiah from Eve's lineage as it is further seen in His sovereign choosing of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 3:15; 15). Now, here in Joseph's temporal redemption from the literal pit, we see a little more of a glimpse about the circumstances that surround His steadfast love expressed in His preservation of the people of His covenant, and in how ultimately in Jesus Christ He will redeem a people from their sin.

Pointing to Jesus Christ
Joseph clearly prefigures Moses here, who will lead Israel out of slavery in Egypt, another picture of redemption. But both both Joseph and Moses' redemption accounts prefigure Jesus Christ's. That Jesus Christ suffered the greatest misery of all, taking upon Himself the sin of His people. Being tortured and then raised upon the cross to bear the eternal wrath of God in His own body on the tree for His people. Then, 3 days after His death, He was raised from the dead defeating, sin and death. If we would repent and believe, we can know with certainty that it was our sin that He defeated, and we can be assured of our redemption through Him.

* Many attribute this quote to C. H. Spurgeon, but I don't know of a reference.