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Genesis 48:1-7: Find us faithful

48 Joseph took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. 2 When Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed.
3 Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me 4 and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’
5 “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. 6 Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers. 7 As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath” (that is, Bethlehem).

Jacob was coming towards the end of a long life. It was one lived under the blessing of God, in response to the call of God. But it was not a trouble-free life. For example, he was not immune from the heart-searing pain of loss (7), and he had not been inoculated against illness and death (1). His life had been ‘chequered’; his walk with God had been somewhat ‘up and down’. But at the end, he was able to give testimony to his family, and speak about the goodness of God. In all things, the Lord had been working for his good.

‘Jacob recounted to Joseph the promises God had given to him at Luz (Bethel), when Jacob was fleeing from Esau (Genesis 28:13-14). These promises had only just begun to be fulfilled: Jacob’s numbers had increased to seventy; and he owned two tiny parts of the “promised land”: the burial plot near Mamre and a ridge of land taken from the Amorites (verse 22).
Jacob spoke of the gift of the land as being an everlasting possession (verse 4); once before, God had spoken of the land this way (Genesis 17:8).’ ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.198.

May those of us blessed with children so live that we leave them a rich spiritual legacy.

“Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.” Psalm 145:4.

‘Surrounded by so great
A cloud of witnesses,
Let us run the race
Not only for the prize,
But as those who’ve gone before us.
Let us leave to those behind us,
The heritage of faithfulness
Passed on thru godly lives.
After all our hopes and dreams
Have come and gone,
And our children sift thru all
We’ve left behind,
May the clues that they discover,
And the mem’ries they uncover,
Become the light that leads them,
To the road we each must find.’ (From ‘Find us faithful’ by John Mohr).

Genesis 47: 27- 31: ‘By faith Jacob…’

27 Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.
28 Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven. 29 When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favour in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30 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.
31 “Swear to me,” he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

God is as good as His Word. None of His promises will ever fall to the ground. It is important to see verse 27 as the fruition of God’s Word to Jacob (46:3). God had proved Himself faithful to this man. Jacob had trusted Him and gone down to Egypt. He had been there for seventeen years already and he, and his family, were experiencing the blessing of God. They were living in the middle of the fulfillment of His Word. Now Jacob’s request to be buried back in Canaan was also an act of faith (see 46:4).

“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshipped as he leaned on top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21).

He was still a man of faith upon his death bed.

‘Egypt was a haven for Jacob and his family, and there God protected them and built of them a great people. But Jacob knew that Egypt was not his home, Canaan was; and he wanted to be buried there with others who had made the same pilgrimage of faith. He was a testimony in life, and he wanted to be a testimony in death. Despite his mistakes and failures in life, Jacob ended well.’ Warren W. Wiersbe, ‘With the Word’, p.44.

We can all thank God that it is not perfection He seeks, but faith:

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Jacob wanted his bones to rest in the land promised to Abraham and his descendants, that is Canaan. The bones of Abraham and Isaac were already there in the cave near Mamre, which Abraham had bought from the Hittites as a burial plot (Genesis 23:17,18). (Derek Kidner makes the rather lovely point that Jacob had already been reunited with his “fathers”, verse 30, before he was “buried” with them).

PRAYER: Lord God, please help me to walk by faith, not by sight, all the days of my life – and even in death itself.

Genesis 47:18-26: ‘Make me a captive, Lord…”

18 When that year was over, they came to him the following year and said, “We cannot hide from our lord the fact that since our money is gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left for our lord except our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we perish before your eyes—we and our land as well? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.”
20 So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields, because the famine was too severe for them. The land became Pharaoh’s, 21 and Joseph reduced the people to servitude,[c] from one end of Egypt to the other. 22 However, he did not buy the land of the priests, because they received a regular allotment from Pharaoh and had food enough from the allotment Pharaoh gave them. That is why they did not sell their land.
23 Joseph said to the people, “Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. 24 But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.”
25 “You have saved our lives,” they said. “May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.”
26 So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt—still in force today—that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh. It was only the land of the priests that did not become Pharaoh’s.

Jesus taught in Matthew 5:2: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The poor in spirit are the spiritually bankrupt. They know their bankrupt condition and they are not afraid to admit it. So they find the door to the Kingdom opened to them. I thought about these words of Jesus when I read Genesis 47:18. Similarly the people admitted their abject poverty to Joseph, but also their willingness to be his slaves; to be his in entirety. He could have them ‘lock, stock and barrel’ as it were. These were the same people who experienced the salvation Joseph made possible (25).

‘They were willing to serve their saviour…We shall never know the real blessedness of living, its peace and joy and strength, till we have utterly surrendered to Christ’s supremacy.’ F.B.Meyer.

Tom Hale again helps us with potential difficulties in this chapter:

‘Joseph’s actions sound cruel to our modern ears, but in ancient times such actions were considered proper – and still are in many parts of the world. Joseph was not “exploiting” the people; he was giving them the means to survive. He gave them seed to plant, and allowed them to keep four-fifths of all the produce for themselves. Yes, the people had lost their ownership of the land, but they now had both food and security. And they were grateful’ ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.198. (In a footnote Hale underlines the generosity of Joseph’s policy saying, ‘Today in many parts of the world, tenant farmers get to keep only half the produce for themselves.’)

‘See how we depend upon God’s providence. All our wealth would not keep us from starving, if rain were withheld for two or three years. See how much we are at God’s mercy, and let us keep ourselves always in his love. Also see how much we smart by our own want of care. If all the Egyptians had laid up corn for themselves in the seven years of plenty, they had not been in these straits; but they regarded not the warning. Silver and gold would not feed them: they must have corn. All that a man hath will he give for his life. We cannot judge this matter by modern rules. It is plain that the Egyptians regarded Joseph as a public benefactor. The whole is consistent with Joseph’s character, acting between Pharaoh and his subjects, in the fear of God. The Egyptians confessed concerning Joseph, Thou hast saved our lives. What multitudes will gratefully say to Jesus, at the last day, Thou hast saved our souls from the most tremendous destruction, and in the season of uttermost distress! The Egyptians parted with all their property, and even their liberty, for the saving of their lives: can it then be too much for us to count all but loss, and part with all, at His command, and for His sake, who will both save our souls, and give us an hundredfold, even here, in this present world? Surely if saved by Christ, we shall be willing to become his servants.’ Matthew Henry.

PRAYER: ‘Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free. Force me to render up my sword And I shall conqueror be. I sink in life’s alarms When by myself I stand; imprison me within thine arms, And strong shall be my hand.’ George Matheson

Genesis 47:13-17: He’ll carry you through

13 There was no food, however, in the whole region because the famine was severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine. 14 Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in payment for the grain they were buying, and he brought it to Pharaoh’s palace. 15 When the money of the people of Egypt and Canaan was gone, all Egypt came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? Our money is all gone.”

16 “Then bring your livestock,” said Joseph. “I will sell you food in exchange for your livestock, since your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them food in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and donkeys. And he brought them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock.

“And he brought them through that year…” (17a).

There are certain years (or days, or weeks, or months) when you wonder if you’ll make it through. You’re hanging on by your finger-nails. Maybe, like Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:8, you feel “under great pressure, far beyond” your “ability to endure.” Perhaps you can also say, like him, that you despair “even of life.” Paul goes on to say, “Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (verse 9). Then looking back, some time later, you can say, ‘I trusted the Lord and He brought me through that year.’

We are continuing to think of Joseph as a ‘type’ of Christ. Times were desperate in “both Egypt and Canaan” (13). Eventually, when the people had no money, they came to Joseph and said, “Give us food” (15). In the crisis they looked to him, not to themselves. All their hopes were fixed on him. They trusted in him. They were total believers in his wisdom, ability and resourcefulness. They cast themselves upon his mercy, and he did not fail them:

“…he brought them through that year with food…”

So it is with Jesus. If we trust in Him, He will carry us through.

I believe the missionary, Hudson Taylor, was once asked, ‘Is pressure good for you?’ His reply was, ‘Yes, so long as it presses you nearer the heart of God.’

PRAYER: Lord, help me to understand that no problem I face is too big to handle, so long as I look to you for the answer.

Genesis 47:7-10: Blessed to be a blessing

7 Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, 8 Pharaoh asked him, “How old are you?”
9 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.” 10 Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence.

‘Jacob was a blessing in Egypt. He blessed Pharaoh (47:7,10), Joseph and Joseph’s sons (48:15,20), and all twelve of the sons of Israel (49:1ff.). God blesses us that we might be a blessing. Circumstances change, but God never changes.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.44.

God blesses us to be a blessing – even in ‘Egypt’, amidst the pomp and splendour and corruption of this rotting, dying world system. It’s been pointed out that Jacob was not ashamed to give testimony before Pharaoh.

In Psalm 84:5-7 we read:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;

the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

God’s pilgrim people live transformative lives, even in the barren places of the world. They bring refreshing in arid places. They are blessed to be a blessing.

I am slightly intrigued by Jacob’s words:

“The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult…”

‘Few’? It sounds like a long life to me. Yes, but in the light of eternity life is short even when it is long. “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14b). We all look back and say, ‘Where did it all go?’ Life whizzes by. Jacob recognised he had not lived as long as his “fathers”.

‘Difficult’? Yes. Jacob had his trials for sure. But I’m thinking to myself as I read this that a lot of his difficulties were ‘babies’ of his own conceiving.

Someone said, ‘We make our decisions, and then our decisions turn around and make us.’

But don’t miss the point that, with his many flaws and imperfections, God nevertheless blessed Jacob and made him a blessing. Thankfully, we do not earn the grace, the goodness of God. Otherwise none of us would experience it.

PRAYER: Lord God, I cannot point the finger at Jacob, nor at anyone else. I am aware that I am a ‘cracked pot’. But thank you that you take the imperfect and make them a blessing, in spite of their imperfections. Thank you for using even me.

Genesis 46:28 – 47:6: God’s providence

28 Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, 29 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[h] and wept for a long time.
30 Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.”
31 Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and speak to Pharaoh and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were living in the land of Canaan, have come to me. 32 The men are shepherds; they tend livestock, and they have brought along their flocks and herds and everything they own.’ 33 When Pharaoh calls you in and asks, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 you should answer, ‘Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.’ Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians.”

47 Joseph went and told Pharaoh, “My father and brothers, with their flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen.” 2 He chose five of his brothers and presented them before Pharaoh.
3 Pharaoh asked the brothers, “What is your occupation?”
“Your servants are shepherds,” they replied to Pharaoh, “just as our fathers were.” 4 They also said to him, “We have come to live here for a while, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants’ flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen.”
5 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you, 6 and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock.”

‘So Jacob came to Egypt, no longer feeling old.’ Or so goes the song at the conclusion of ‘Joseph and the amazing technicolour dream coat.’ Personally, ‘I’m not sure about the ‘no longer feeling old’ bit, but I get the sentiment the song is wanting to convey. What a touching scene in 46:29. After years of separation, the father and beloved son were reunited.

Although this is more implicit than explicit, I think we are meant to see God’s providence in that Jacob’s family were settled in “Goshen”, away from the general Egyptian populace. Here they could grow, and keep their culture and customs. It enabled them to maintain their distinctive identity. In this place they would prosper and thrive, and have opportunities to employ their gifts. Oh, and by the way, Goshen was no slum:

“…settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen” (6a).

We go on to read in verses 11, 12:

“So Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed. Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their children.”

They had all the space they needed to grow and develop. Their needs were generously taken care of.

We may trust God with the details – great and small. He knows where He wants us and He will provide.

Genesis 46:7-27: Multiplication!

“7 Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters—all his offspring.8 These are the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) who went to Egypt:Reuben the firstborn of Jacob…
26 All those who went to Egypt with Jacob—those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons’ wives—numbered sixty-six persons. 27 With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob’s family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all.”NIV

“With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob’s family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all” (27).

“Your forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky” (Deuteronomy 10:22).

Today’s passage contains a long list of names, and for the purposes of space I have included only the beginning and ending of the said list above. We tend to see these lists as somewhat uninspiring and hard-going. But I’m grateful to Matthew Henry and Tom Hale for helping to make my heart sing over the inspirational truth they uncover in this text:

‘We have here a particular account of Jacob’s family. Though the fulfilling of promises is always sure, yet it is often slow. It was now 215 years since God had promised Abraham to make of him a great nation, ch. 12:2 ; yet that branch of his seed, to which the promise was made sure, had only increased to seventy, of whom this particular account is kept, to show the power of God in making these seventy become a vast multitude.’ Matthew Henry.

‘In this section we are given the names of Jacob’s sons and grandsons who made the journey to Egypt. We are told that sixty-six direct descendants of Jacob made the journey (verse 26). If one adds Jacob himself and Joseph and his two sons born in Egypt, the total number of Jacob’s family that settled in Egypt (excluding daughters-in-law) comes to seventy persons (verse 27). Seventy seems like a very small number compared with God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would be like the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5; Deuteronomy 10:22). But God has no problem multiplying numbers. No matter how small our number, no matter how tiny our offering, God will multiply it (Isaiah 60:22) Indeed, there is only one number God can’t multiply: zero.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.197. (Tom Hale adds a footnote in which he says, ‘God can create something out of nothing, but He can’t “multiply” something that does not exist. We may think that our labour or our offering is insignificant, but it is not insignificant to God; He will multiply it. He will not multiply what we do not offer to Him.’).

“The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly” (Isaiah 60:22).

Further thoughts on Genesis 46:1-6: ‘The future is your friend…’

‘ “Here I am,” he replied’ (2b).

‘It would not be easy for Jacob, now 130 years old, to leave the land God gave him and go to Egypt. Moving to a new home is usually a difficult experience, and the older we are the more difficult it is. Furthermore, Abraham got into trouble in Egypt (12:10ff.), and God had stopped Isaac from going there (26:2ff.).
But Jacob was able to go with confidence and peace because he was sure of God’s promise and presence (46:1-4). In the crisis hours of life, God speaks to us and assures us when we take time to worship. Furthermore, Jacob knew that God had gone before him and that Joseph was there making everything ready for him. The future is your friend when Jesus is your Lord and you follow Him.’ Warren W.Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.44.

So, when you know God is telling you to go…

• Go with worship – with thankfulness and joy (1). Has not God been good to you thus far on your pilgrimage? You have been blessed with much already that you can carry into your new season of life (6). Although, sometimes you have to leave certain ‘baggage’ behind before you can move on. It’s interesting that Pharaoh had told them not to bring these things. Whatever, ‘We’ll praise Him for all that is past, and trust Him for all that’s to come’;
• Go available (2): ‘Here I am, wholly available; As for me, I will serve the Lord.’ Let this be our song, even into old age (and possible obscurity.) We can still be ‘wholly available’ to God;
• Go unafraid (3a);
• Go trusting in God’s purpose (3b), surprising though it may be;
• Go trusting God’s presence and promises (4a);
• Go relying on God’s provision (5). We regularly find His provision to be amazing and surprising;
• Go with hope (4b): Ultimately, all will be well. Whatever may lie in the intervening period, a true believer knows that the final chapter is a great one. We may not yet have lived in its pages, but we do know it’s a happy ending.

‘He was not only to go down into Egypt, but to go there under divine guidance and protection. When we visit Egypt at our own impulse we shall land ourselves, as Abraham and Isaac did, in temptation and failure; but when God bids us go, we may make the journey with absolute impunity. Though we walk through the dark valley, we need not fear, if He be with us.’ F.B.Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.32.

Genesis 46:1-6: Unpromising soil?

“So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.2 And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!” “Here I am,” he replied.3 “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. 4 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.”5 Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. 6 So Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan.” NIV

“Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there” (3).

This is precisely what God did and where He did it. We only have to look at Exodus 1:7 to see it. God knows precisely the condition of ‘soil’ we require, in order to to grow into what He wants for us. This is true of both individual believers and Christian communities. There is nowhere God cannot work, and we should not fear to go anywhere He may send us.

‘…who would have supposed that the promise would be realised amid the pressure and persecution of Egypt!…faith is led by very uncommon paths. Trust and obey!’ F.B.Meyer.

‘Even as to those events and undertakings which appear most joyful, we should seek counsel, assistance, and a blessing from the Lord. Attending on his ordinances, and receiving the pledges of his covenant love, we expect his presence, and that peace which it confers. In all removals we should be reminded of our removal out of this world. Nothing can encourage us to fear no evil when passing through the valley of the shadow of death, but the presence of Christ.’ Matthew Henry

‘When compared with the last two sections this one seems rather subdued, with long lists and the gloom of Jacob’s impending death. But this is the third and most decisive journey to Egypt, in which Jacob left Canaan, the land of promise, for Egypt, the land of future slavery. Was this a big mistake? No. Jacob’s migration was not prompted just by Joseph’s invitation; it was divinely authorised. 46:3-4 records the only divine vision in the Joseph story, and in it Jacob is told ‘to go down to Egypt’ and is assured that ‘I will go down…with you, and I will surely bring you back again’ (cf.28:15). The stay in Egypt was to be only temporary; it was indeed part of the divine purpose (cf.15:13-14). The section ends with Jacob enjoining Joseph to bury him with his fathers in Canaan (47:29-30). God’s promises were to be fulfilled.’ G.J.Wenham: ‘New Bible Commentary’, pp.88,89.

PRAYER: Lord, please guide all our steps (and our stops) and may we never to fear to go where you send

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