Genesis 46:28-47:12 He had sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to show the way before him in Goshen, and they came into the land of Goshen. 29 Then Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father in Goshen. He presented himself to him and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while. 30 Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive.” 31 Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’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. 32 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.’ 33 When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 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.”
47 1 So Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, “My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan. They are now in the land of Goshen.” 2 And from among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. 3 Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were.” 4 They said to Pharaoh, “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.” 5 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. 6 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.”
7 Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. 8 And Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” 9 And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “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.” 10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the presence of Pharaoh. 11 Then Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. 12 And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their dependents.
Welcome back to Genesis. It’s been a month since we’ve been here, so I’d like to start off with a quick recap to bring everyone up to speed. The overall theme of Genesis is “Our Place in God’s Plan.” That is, Genesis establishes for all time God as God—creator-king and righteous-judge, the maker, orderer, and authority over all that has been made. It establishes mankind as a divine image-bearer, made by God for His glory, but also as having tragically given into sin and, consequently, under the unbearable wrath of God. And in Genesis we find established the unbreakable, gracious, and merciful promise of God to redeem fallen mankind through a descendent of Eve. (All of that in just the first three chapters.)
From there we learned that God would fulfill His promise of redemption through a covenant with Abraham. The covenant included the promise of countless descendents, a permanent home for them to live in, and, above all, a promise to be their God. For Abraham’s part, he was to receive God’s covenant promises in faith.
By God’s miraculous hand, Abraham had a son named Isaac. Isaac had a son named Jacob. And Jacob had twelve sons (who would become the 12 tribes of Israel).
Since chapter 37 we’ve been considering the story of one of Jacob’s sons, Joseph. Almost from the beginning, the story turned tragic. Joseph’s brothers hated him so much that they decided to sell him into slavery and then lie to their father about it (telling him Joseph had been killed by a wild animal). There were two main things that caused the brothers this much disdain. First, Jacob made it continually and abundantly clear that Joseph was his favorite son (from his favorite wife). And second, Joseph had two dreams indicating that he would rule over his brothers and parents. If all of that weren’t bad enough, while a slave in Egypt, Joseph was wrongly imprisoned for years.
Eventually, however, things took a radical turn and Joseph was released on account of his God-given ability to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. And then, in yet another remarkable twist, Pharaoh was so grateful and amazed that he put Joseph in charge of the entire land of Egypt.
Finally, during a time of severe famine (predicted and prepared for because of Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream), Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt looking for food. And because Joseph was in charge of its distribution, his own brothers came before him. Oddly, they did not recogize him. After running them through several secret tests to determine whether or not God had changed their hearts (which they passed with flying colors), Joseph revealed himself to them. In dramatic fashion, the brothers were reconciled. And with Pharaoh’s blessing they sent for Jacob, their father, in order that the whole family might dwell together in Egypt.
And that’s where we pick up this morning. At the ripe old age of 130, Jacob made the journey to Egypt, with all of his family and possessions, to be reunited with his long-lost son and fulfill the second dream God had given Joseph.
In short, in this scene, we find another family reunion and dream fulfilled. And in it, the main thing for us to see is the unshakable, even if unimaginable (who could have predicted that God would keep His word like this?), faithfulness of God. Grace, we are all building our lives upon some future hope. And in simplest terms, the object of our future hope is either God’s promises in Jesus, or anything else. There are no other options. It is passages like this one that show the rightness of hoping in God and the ridiculousness of hoping in anything else. Let’s pray that through this sermon God would grant us increased confidence in His promises above all else.
The story is simple and exciting. Kids, this is the kind of story that the stories you love to hear are based on. It has tension and drama, it has nobility and kindness, and it has intrigue and resolution.
As Jacob and his 70-person caravan approached Egypt, he sent his son, Judah, on ahead to let Joseph know they were near. Upon hearing this news, Joseph rode out to his father.
In an emotional reunion—after 23 years of hardship on Joseph’s part and 23 years of believing his son was dead on Jacob’s part—we read these words, “[Joseph] presented himself to [Jacob, his father] and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while” (46:29). Filled with a gladness he couldn’t have imagined even weeks earlier, Jacob felt himself ready to die and be with the Lord.
Regaining his composure, Joseph promised his family to go before Pharaoh on their behalf. He also instructed his brothers on how to best introduce themselves to Pharaoh and navigate their encounter with him; especially in light of the cultural differences between the two families.
Chapter 47 opens with Jacob doing exactly as he said he would—going before Pharaoh on behalf of his family. He brought some of his brothers with him and explained their situation. Upon being summoned and questioned by Pharaoh, Joseph’s brothers revealed their purpose and profession. And in an act of true magnanimity (ignoring the fact that the men were foreign shepherds), Pharaoh offered the best of his land to them and a job caring for his flocks.
Finally, Joseph brought his father before Pharaoh. Consider how strange this encounter must have been. The two most powerful men in Joseph’s live, both of whom had favored him for their own reasons, and both of whom were in a very important sense under Joseph by God’s design, met here for the first time. Joseph’s true father, advanced in age, weathered by life’s challenges, and ready to be with the LORD, repeatedly showed honor to, bestowed blessing on, and lamented before Joseph’s surrogate father.
Once again, the passage ends just as Joseph said it would: “Then Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land…as Pharaoh had commanded” (47:11).
This really is an intriguing and heart-warming story, but what are we to make of all of this? There are a handful of (mostly familiar) themes on display in this passage concerning God, us, and the world we live in, that are as true and important today as they were then. Our main takeaways and applications will come from wrapping our heads and hearts around these themes, and then testing our lives against them. Do you understand them? Do you believe them? Do you love them? Are they really the lens through which you see the world? Are you living consistently with them? These are the questions to ask as we (re)consider the main themes of this passage.
God’s Curious Faithfulness
The first theme ought to be the most familiar of all: the curious faithfulness of God. We see this primarily in the full fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams and the manner in which they were fulfilled. Back in chapter 37 God gave Joseph two dreams. In the first, Joseph’s brothers bowed before him. That dream was fulfilled in 42. Joseph’s second dream was that even his parents bowed before him. That dream was finally fulfilled here.
The key for us to see is that this wasn’t the first time God had been faithful. Through 47 chapters of Genesis, God has never failed to keep a promise. The Christian claim is that He never will. But why would we believe that. The first answer is because God said it. We ought to believe God simply because He is God. But the second answer is that we ought to believe it because of the abundance of one-sided evidence we have in Scripture. Our evidence is in the ever-increasing, and uninterrupted stack of promises kept—just like we have here. God’s faithfulness is unwavering.
God’s faithfulness is certain and it is often curious. It is curious in that He typically keeps His promises in ways no one expected. Is there any chance Joseph could have imagined God fulfilling His promises in the ways He did? Through betrayal, slavery, imprisonment, being forgotten, being remembered, and being given the power of God to interpret dreams and the wisdom of God to properly respond to them…through all of these things, God was faithful. He was curiously faithful.
Remember both of these things, Grace, as you hold fast to God’s promises to you. God will be faithful, without exception, even if it’s in an entirely different way than you expect or imagine. It is good and right to trust this, and build your life entirely upon it, in part because of God’s faithfulness in stories like this one.
Remember also that even though this was a full fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams, it was only a partial fulfillment of God’s covenant promises. This act of faithfulness was a means to a greater end—the end of fully and finally reconciling a people to Himself.
God’s Sovereign Reign
The next main theme for us to see is another familiar one in Genesis. The things that have taken place in the lives of God’s chosen people have not ultimately been the result of chance or human cunning. They have ultimately been the result of God’s sovereign reign.
Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” Likewise, Isaiah 54:6-7 says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other. 7 I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.”
In other words, God is sovereign over rulers and hardships. Are there clearer examples of these things than the in our passage for this morning? God had made a promise to Abraham concerning his offspring. In this passage God kept that promise through turning the heart of a king to Abraham’s offspring, by granting Abraham’s offspring the ability to predict and navigate a world-wide calamity.
Remember this as well, Grace. The sovereignty of God may bring with it a number of philosophical questions, but it is the unmistakable teaching of God’s Word. What’s more, it is unmistakably presented as a source of great hope and worship for the people of God. It is because God is sovereign that He can be perfectly and curiously faithful to all His promises. My favorite football team won yesterday, they’ve won every game this year, but almost all of them have been in doubt until the very end. God too is undefeated, but His victories are never in doubt because all power and authority belong to Him. Even when it looks like things are hanging in the balance (as they did in the barrenness of the patriarchs and imprisonment of Joseph and the cross of Jesus, they are not. God’s sovereignty makes them certain. And it is because of these things that it is good and right to trust wholly in God.
Cultural Differences (46:31- 47:4)
Another key theme in this passage, albeit subtle and probably unexpected, is the handling of cultural differences between the Egyptians and Israelites. These differences stem largely from Babel (Genesis 11), where God dispersed and confused the languages of mankind. From that moment on many different cultures formed and made certain aspects of life on earth even more challenging. This might seem like a small thing, and in some ways it is, but our passage gives quite a few verses to it and so I need to say at least a word about it.
From 46:31 to 47:4 Joseph subtly tried to prepare his shepherd-brothers for, and guide them through, their interaction with the ruler of a country in which “every shepherd is an abomination” (46:34). It is clear that Joseph was well versed in Egyptian culture and that his brothers were not. And it is also clear that even though Joseph was God’s anointed, he was deferential to certain customs of the people among whom they were sojourning.
This matters to us for two main reasons. First, it matters because it is a reality in the world today. The first time I remember really grasping this was through the experience of a friend of mine who was a missionary in the Middle East. She would exercise each morning and then take a shower before going to purchase her groceries. After some time, she was politely informed that this was entirely, culturally inappropriate as only prostitutes went out in public with their hair wet. The most recent time I experienced this was a few weeks ago while teaching in Serbia. One of the missionaries helping at the school publicly spoke about burping. He mentioned it because there was (what all of us would think of as) a funny episode in the history of the school that involved a student burping. It was immediately and awkwardly obvious that the audience at the graduation didn’t find it as funny as we would. Different words, expressions, mannerisms, jokes, and topics, mean different things in different cultures.
And that leads to the second reason this matters. It matters because rightly loving people often means being aware of the cultural differences between us. This is not to say that every aspect of every culture is equally truthful and honoring to God, but it is to say that it is really difficult to love well when we are ignorant of the cultural differences between us and the person/people we are trying to love.
This is true of missions (as we just saw in the two examples I shared) and it is true of marriage. Even if both the husband and wife grew up in the same neighborhood, when they get married, they are joining two cultures. Inevitably, one of their families placed a higher emphasis on punctuality or achievement or creativity or bluntness in communication or godliness or athletics. To love your spouse well is to get to learn as much of their culture as possible, in order to navigate the differences; learning from and encouraging the good, and graciously admonishing the bad. It is true of missions, marriage, work, and many other inter-personal aspects of our lives.
Joseph masterfully navigated the cultural differences he was faced with and helped his brothers to do the same. The end result, according to God’s grace, was the further blessing of him and his family, as well as Pharaoh and all of Egypt.
Godly Responses to Common Grace in Unbelievers (47:7-10)
Another theme worth noting is that of blessing others for God’s common grace in them. Jacob, the patriarch of his family, had seen a lot of hardship in life, and more importantly, experienced the mighty power of God. For these reasons, he stood before Pharaoh with a different posture than did his sons. They were far more deferential and submissive (“your servants”). He was less deferential and formal. Though in earthly terms, Pharaoh was the superior, Jacob is portrayed as the one in a higher place. Nevertheless, Jacob repeatedly put a blessing on Pharaoh. Jacob recognized the kindness of the Egyptian ruler, he recognized God’s favor in allowing Pharaoh to be blessed through Joseph, and therefore he did not hesitate to bless Pharaoh twice.
Whatever goodness we find in others is the result of God’s grace in their lives. If God did not restrain sin in them, they would know nothing but evil and wickedness. For that reason, it is right to acknowledge and encourage unbelievers when they act rightly. This is, for instance, why we pray for and submit to the governing authorities in our lives, even when they are not Christians (Titus 3:1). It is why we can partner with unbelievers in fighting for certain causes. It is why we seek ways to honor our bosses even if they are not trying to honor God in their leadership. And this is why Jacob blessed Pharaoh. At least in his dealings with the chosen family of God, Pharaoh acted honorably.
The Slow Rise of Judah (46:28)
The second to last theme that I want to (very briefly) point out is the slow rise of Judah. Throughout the entire story of Jacob’s offspring, Joseph has taken center stage. Slowly, however, Judah is moving toward the fore. Eventually we’ll find out, as I mentioned several weeks ago, that it will be through Judah’s line, not Joseph’s, that the Messiah would come. Judah began to stand out in 44 and he takes another step forward here as Jacob sends him to meet Joseph while they were still in Goshen. Joseph was the second youngest and Judah was the third oldest. Neither were “supposed” to be the one through whom the chosen line would come, but as God often does, He would accomplish His purposes in ways that confound the wise.
The main takeaway for us here is to refuse to put our hope in the appearance of things. Jesse’s oldest son looked the most kingly, but David was chosen. The disciples were uneducated men, rejected by most, but Jesus chose them. Paul was a murder, but God gave us most of the NT through him. And Joseph was favored and prominent in Genesis, and yet it was third-born Judah that God chose. Practically, stop believing that you can tell which of your neighbors or friends or family members or kids might hope in Jesus. Stop deciding who to serve based on how they look. Stop using common-sense to decide which promises of God to believe and commands to obey. The slow-rise of Judah is a reminder that God does not work based on and is not bound by appearances.
We Are Not Home Yet
Finally, and perhaps most practically, we see the theme of sojourning, wandering. Jacob, Joseph, and their whole clan were in a place of great blessing. But the promised land was Canaan, not Egypt. This was not meant to be their home.
Grace, don’t try to make your home where you shouldn’t. Above all, this means not attaching yourself to transient things. It is good to enjoy God’s blessings wherever He gives them, but it is bad to mistake them for His greatest blessing—being in His presence. We do not yet know God as we were made to know Him. Therefore, to be entirely content in this life is to be satisfied in some idol. We’re made for something more than what this world has to offer, so even in God’s present blessings, we must always be people of longing on this side of the new heavens and earth.
As you probably know, in less than a generation, this very same family who was currently struggling to count their blessings would be enslaved by the very same people who blessed them so richly. One big reason that God inspired Moses to include so much on this Pharaoh’s kindness was to provide proper contrast with the animosity of the next. Such is always, eventually the case in this life because this world is broken by sin. God’s covenant people were not at home yet in Genesis 47, even as we are not yet home today. We are meant to be a people who long for the return of Jesus, not a bit more health, wealth, and comfort.
This story, along with all the stories of Genesis are meant to come together to give us complete cause to trust in all of God’s promises. And all the stories of Genesis are meant to come together with all of the stories of the Bible to give us an increasing understanding of God, ourselves, and God’s offer of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Trust in Him today that you might be forgiven of your sins and brought into everlasting fellowship with God.