Genesis 47:13-27 Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished by reason of the famine. 14 And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought. And Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. 15 And when the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.” 16 And Joseph answered, “Give your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys. He supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year. 18 And when that year was ended, they came to him the following year and said to him, “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. 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us 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.”
20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s. 21 As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. 22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land.
23 Then 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. 24 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.” 25 And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.” 26 So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; the land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh’s.
27 Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.
In another remarkable—albeit low-key—display of the good and uninterruptible plan of God to bless His people, we find that Joseph secured all Egypt for Pharaoh and therein demonstrated that all glory belongs to God. Under those banners and from this text, there are three main takeaways I hope to impress upon you this morning: 1. God is infinitely glorious, 2. God’s people are always blessed by God in order to be a blessing, and 3. Faithfulness to God does not mean comfort or ease in this life. Let’s pray that God would help us see these things and apply them to our lives. And let’s pray that God would help us remember that our only and certain hope in those things is the cross of Jesus and the power of the Spirit.
Once again, let’s begin with a quick recap of the simple story that unfolds in this passage.
It seems that the famine has gone from bad to worse. “Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished by reason of the famine” (13). As you can easily see, there are several amplifying words in that sentence—“in all the land,” “very severe,” and “languished”. Each of those modifiers are meant to ensure that the reader understands how dire the situation was. The famine, dreamed of by Pharaoh and interpreted and prepared for by Joseph (at God’s hand), was in full and crushing swing. Everyone in and around Egypt was suffering its effects.
Any food reserves were now gone. Consider how afraid everyone must have felt. To keep themselves from starving, then, the Egyptians willingly gave “all the money that was found in the land of Egypt” (14) in exchange for food. Joseph collected it and “brought the money into Pharaoh’s house” (14). (The point of this last statement is undoubtedly to highlight Joseph’s honesty. He did not skim anything off the top. He brought it all to Pharaoh.).
Without a doubt, that was a desperate measure for the Egyptians, and one that would have left the vulnerable people feeling even more vulnerable. And yet, even though they were without money, at least they had their lives, their animals, their land, and now, some food.
As you can imagine, however, in a famine as severe as this one, the food they purchased didn’t last long. With no money to purchase more, “all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, ‘Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes?’” (15). In response, Joseph sold food to the people in exchange for their livestock (their horses, flocks, herds, and donkeys). The people agreed to Joseph’s terms and sold all of their animals for food. The people had given up their money and now their animals, but at least they had their lives, their land, and some more food.
Predictably, the text tells us (18) that within a year they were out of food and desperate once again, “Because the famine was severe on them” (20). And again, their plea was, “There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land. Why should we die before your eyes…? Buy us and our land for food…and give us seed that we may live…” (18-19). And so, for Pharaoh, Joseph purchased all the land and all of the people in Egypt, “from one end of Egypt to the other” (21). The people became servants of Pharaoh and their land now belonged entirely to him as well.
Next, in rapid succession, the passage describes three interesting aspects of all of this. First, the text notes that the priests of Egypt (like the priests of Israel in later days) had a special arrangement with Pharaoh such that they did not lose their money, land, or freedom (22). Second, we’re told that Joseph not only acquired the people, their money, animals, and land, but also 20% of everything they would produce in perpetuity (23-24, 26). And third, the people were so desperate for food that they seemed genuinely eager for this arrangement (25). There is no evidence the Egyptians felt exploited by Joseph’s conditions. On the contrary, they seemed thankful.
The passage ends, then, with another statement about the shift from awesome promises made (by God) to awesome promises kept (by God), “Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt…and they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly” (27).
Just like last week, this is a remarkable story; especially for the chosen people of God. But also like last week, we’re left wondering what this has to do with us. As I mentioned in the introduction, there are three main takeaways that I’d like to share with you.
- God is infinitely glorious.
- God’s people are always blessed by God to be a blessing.
- Faithfulness does not mean comfort or ease in this life.
GOD IS INFINITELY GLORIOUS
This is one of those passages in which God is invisible in one sense. It should be plain to see that He isn’t explicitly mentioned even once. On the surface, it appears to be little more than a straight-forward account of Joseph’s shrewd business practice. At the same time, however, within the larger context, God’s glory and power are impossible to miss. Joseph’s presence in Egypt, understanding of the famine and how to navigate it, favor with Pharaoh, and remarkable thriving, are all clearly owing only and entirely to the hand of God.
It is because this passage is so much like our real life experience that it seems like the perfect time to stop and remember something that we must never allow ourselves to forget: God is infinitely glorious. Some time ago I wrote on three aspects of this claim. I’d like to briefly share them with you here.
First, there is a God. So many people today purport to believe in God without even batting an eyelash. The radicalness and amazingness of this claim is all but lost inside and outside of the Church. We speak of the existence and work of God so casually and flippantly that the claim comes across as more domesticated than staggering. But Grace, the reality is that believing in the existence of God is truly an earth-shaking claim.
Second, God is glorious. One of the most significant discoveries that can ever be made is that there is not only a God, but that God is glorious. For most of my life I believed in a semi-personal, generic, grandfather/butler type god. This god was powerful, but certainly not omnipotent. This god was wise, but certainly not omnicient. This god was occasionally concerned, but certainly not intimate and personal. This god was worth paying attention to, but certainly not surrendering fully to. This god was good, but certainly not perfect in every way. In other words, my understanding of God had some similarities to God, enough to trick me into believing I actually believed in God, but I know now that I was 1,000,000 miles from believing in the glorious God of the Bible.
Third, this God is infinitely glorious. Sunsets, mountains, and newborn babies along with certain paintings, books, musical compositions, and roller coasters are glorious (they are not ordinary, plain, common, dull, etc.), but their glory (and the glory of all created things) is contingent (meaning, it is wholly dependent on something else for any glory that it has) and finite (meaning, it has not always existed and, at some point, will cease to exist). God alone possesses a glory that is original and infinite. Grace, please do not fall asleep on the fact that the God of Genesis 47:13-27 is infinitely glorious—greater than you could ever imagine. Consider four passages from the Bible that speak directly to this.
Nehemiah 9:5-6 Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.
Psalm 29:1-11 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. 3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. 4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. 5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. 7 The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. 8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” 10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. 11 May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!
Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Revelation 5:9-14 And [heavenly creatures and elders] sang a new song, saying [of the Lamb], “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Stand in awe, Grace, and then ask yourself the question these passages, along with our passage for this morning, force us to consider: “Do you believe in this God?”. If this is not what comes to your mind when you consider God, I submit that you are not considering God. The God of the Bible is infinitely glorious. Don’t settle for a too-small god. And don’t settle for a too-small response to a God this awesome.
GOD’S PEOPLE ARE BLESSED TO BLESS
That leads to the second main takeaway. The second thing I’d like to highlight is that God’s people are always blessed to bless. That is, the blessing of God always comes to us—not to burry or hoard for ourselves, but—in order to be a blessing. This is meant to play out in two main ways.
First, we are to receive God’s blessing and then bless God with it. Above all, God’s gifts come to us in order that we might turn them back to Him in worship. Grace, please try to really get this: Rightly understood, the greatest blessing of God’s gifts isn’t the gifts themselves, but that they give us instruments for worship.
Picture someone you love hanging off of a cliff. You reach down to grab a hold of them and save them, but your arms are just a few inches too short. No matter how much you strain to reach them, you can’t. You long for something that would help you help them.
That’s what God’s gifts are for God’s people. We’ve tasted and seen that God is glorious beyond measure and we long for ways to express that to God. We long for the right words and actions to praise God. As hard as we try, though, we don’t have what we need in ourselves. But God’s gifts, rightly received, are exactly that; they are worship currency.
When God is our highest treasure, we don’t ultimately desire the things He can provide us. When God is our highest treasure, we ultimately desire more of God and ways to express our supreme satisfaction in God to God (that is the essence of genuine worship). Again, then, God blesses His people to give us the means to bless Him.
Grace, do not let your blessing end with you. Whatever good you receive is from above (James 1:17). Take whatever good you receive, then, and use it to praise God. Consider how you might use God’s blessing of finances, family, food, talents, etc. to do that today.
Second, having first responded to God’s blessings by turning them into blessings for God, we are to then use them to bless the people in our lives—friends and enemies alike. That’s largely the thrust of this passage. Joseph was blessed by God and he turned that blessing into a blessing for Pharaoh. In that way, this passage is a fulfillment of God’s original promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God blessed Joseph, Joseph blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh blessed Joseph, and God blessed Pharaoh.
Grace, what do you have from God that you might bless others with? How, specifically, might you give more than the leftovers of your blessing feast to another in order to make it clear that God is your highest blessing? How might you be generous in such a way that is inexplicable apart from God being your greatest treasure?
God’s blessing to us is never meant to end with us. It is always meant to be turned back to Him in worship and then to others in service.
FAITHFULNESS DOES NOT MEAN COMFORT, EASE, OR PROSPERITY IN THIS LIFE
Our passage ends with these words, “Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.” This was clearly the result of God’s fulfillment of His promise. The Egyptians were entirely enslaved at the hand of Joseph. And as a result, all of this was clearly a time of comfort, ease, and prosperity for Abraham’s offspring.
The final main takeaway for us to see, however, is that faithfulness does not necessarily mean comfort, ease, or prosperity in this life. You might be wondering why I’m making this point in a time of comfort, ease, and prosperity in this life.
Again, in v.19, we read the starving Egyptians lament, “Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh.” Having done so, Joseph and his family knew freedom, prosperity, and control, while the Egyptians knew bondage, hunger, and service. But just four chapters later (Exodus 1:8-11) we read these words, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’ 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens…”.
The enslaver would soon become the enslaved. The comfortable would soon become the uncomfortable. The ones at ease would soon bear the burden. And the prosperous would soon become the oppressed.
All of this reminds us that our charge is to remain faithful to God’s promises no matter the earthly consequences. At times (as in our passage today), our faithfulness might lead to immediate, earthly blessings. And yet, we have no promise that it will be the case, or will remain if it is. Other times, as our Lord Jesus said (John 15:20), and the early Church continually experienced (1 Corinthians 4:12), faithfulness will lead not to pleasantness, but to persecution.
We must obey God, then, not because it necessarily leads to comfort, ease, and prosperity in this life, but because in our faithfulness through blessing and persecution, we demonstrate the genuineness of our salvation and our claim to the everlasting blessing of heaven.
1 Peter 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Do not set your hope on the fleeting, constantly changing things of earth. Set your hope on the permanent, Christ-secured things above.
In this passage we see a dramatic contrast between Joseph and the Egyptians. At God’s hand, Joseph knew nothing but plenty and prosperity, while the Egyptians knew nothing but desperation and hunger. This is perhaps most clearly seen in the fact that the Egyptians had to come back to Joseph for food three times, selling more of their stuff and selves each time, and yet always needing more.
More importantly, these things point us to another, greater contrast. Consider the Egyptian’s experience in this passage in light of Jesus’ promises in John 6.
John 6:33-35 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
The Egyptians were hungry. And they kept getting hungry even after giving everything they had. In simplest terms, they lacked within themselves the ability to satisfy their most essential needs.
Grace, this physical reality was meant to point us to the spiritual reality we all face day in and day out. Even more than we need food, we need to be reconciled to God on account of our sin. Whether we feel it or not, our spiritual hunger is far greater and more serious than our physical hunger can ever be. And yet, we have even less of an ability in ourselves to meet our spiritual needs than we do our physical needs.
But God, (Romans 5:8) “shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” My earnest prayer is that you would all come to the One (and only one) who can truly satisfy; who alone IS the bread of life; who alone can make it so you never hunger or thirst again. My earnest prayer is that you would believe on Jesus today, in order that you might know the forgiveness of sins, be reconciled to God, and gain everlasting fullness.