Genesis 45:16-46:27 When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. 17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, 18 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.’ 19 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. 20 Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’”
21 The sons of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. 22 To each and all of them he gave a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. 23 To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.”
25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. 26 And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
46 1 So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2 And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” 3 Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. 4 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.”
5 Then Jacob set out from Beersheba. The sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6 They also took their livestock and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, 7 his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters. All his offspring he brought with him into Egypt.
8 Now these are the names of the descendants of Israel, who came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons. Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, 9 and the sons of Reuben: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. 10 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman. 11 The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 12 The sons of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez, and Zerah (but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan); and the sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul. 13 The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puvah, Yob, and Shimron. 14 The sons of Zebulun: Sered, Elon, and Jahleel. 15 These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddan-aram, together with his daughter Dinah; altogether his sons and his daughters numbered thirty-three.
16 The sons of Gad: Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi, and Areli. 17 The sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, Beriah, with Serah their sister. And the sons of Beriah: Heber and Malchiel. 18 These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah his daughter; and these she bore to Jacob—sixteen persons.
19 The sons of Rachel, Jacob’s wife: Joseph and Benjamin. 20 And to Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera the priest of On, bore to him. 21 And the sons of Benjamin: Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard. 22 These are the sons of Rachel, who were born to Jacob—fourteen persons in all.
23 The son of Dan: Hushim. 24 The sons of Naphtali: Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem. 25 These are the sons of Bilhah, whom Laban gave to Rachel his daughter, and these she bore to Jacob—seven persons in all.
26 All the persons belonging to Jacob who came into Egypt, who were his own descendants, not including Jacob’s sons’ wives, were sixty-six persons in all. 27 And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two. All the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy.
Once again, we’re nearing the end of Genesis. The home stretch is a remarkably encouraging section in no small part because, as we saw two weeks ago, it gives us a glimpse of the kind of restoration that fills the new heavens and earth. This week is no exception. In it we find a display of amazing common grace, another display of amazing covenant grace, and the beginnings of a family reunion. The main takeaway is that there is no corner of creation so remote or heart so hard that God’s grace can’t reach it. Therefore, while God’s plan to make all things right in Jesus has all kinds of twists and turns in this life (from our perspective), it is certain and awesome. Let’s pray that God would help us to see these things and then cause us to trust, obey, and worship Him more fully because of it.
This is a longer passage, but the story is pretty simple. Having revealed his true identity to his brothers, the Egyptians soon found out about Joseph’s family as well. Since he had become so important to and favored by Pharaoh, Pharaoh insisted that Joseph’s family be brought to Egypt and that they receive the best of all he and the land had to offer. With all the wealth, power, favor, authority, and pleasure of Pharaoh upon them (and especially upon Benjamin, 5x), Joseph sent his brothers back to Canaan to retrieve their father. He loaded them to the brim with gifts for their father and with a warning not to fight among themselves.
As you can imagine, Jacob wasn’t sure exactly what to make of the news. The text says that “his heart became numb, for he did not believe them” (26). It’s not clear why they would lie about this kind of thing, but it’s plain that Jacob didn’t fully trust his sons. Oddly, we aren’t told if the brothers confessed their sins at this point, but whatever they said clearly convinced Jacob since he agreed to return to Egypt with them.
Jacob and his sons loaded up all of their family and possessions, leaving no one and nothing behind, and traveled some distance to a town called Beersheba. There they “offered sacrifices to…God” (46:1). We do not know a lot about the nature of the sacrifices offered at this time (later the sacrifices would be prescribed and explained by God); only that they were an act of devotion.
That night, for a third time God gave Jacob a dream. The first concerned a ladder coming down from heaven (28:11-15). The second was about the sheep of his father in law, Laban’s, flocks (31:10-13). And the third, the one in this passage, was an assurance that God was indeed Jacob’s God and behind this miraculous return of Joseph. Indeed, it was a comforting, covenant reminder. God would be with Jacob in his journey to Egypt and allow him to prosper even more before dying in the presence of his long-lost son. What’s more, God promised in the dream to bring Jacob’s clan back to the promised land one day. They would prosper for a time in Egypt, but this would not be their home. This truly was the sweetest of dreams.
This section of Genesis closes with a list of the 70 offspring of Jacob who traveled with him to Egypt. What a family reunion that would be. And yet, while 70+ people is large for a reunion, it was still a far cry from “I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted” (Genesis 13:16). As we’ll soon see, part of God’s plan in reuniting this family in Egypt was to change that in spectacular ways.
That’s it. As I said, this passage tells a pretty simple story. Nevertheless, embedded in this simple story are displays of amazing common grace, saving grace, God’s beneficent presence, and the beginnings of greater covenant fulfillment. And as we consider each, we’ll find that there is no corner of creation so remote or heart so hard that God’s grace can’t reach it.
AMAZING COMMON GRACE (45:16-23)
As a young man, I didn’t know it, but I was not a Christian. I did not know or believe in the gospel. To be clear, I was never hostile to God, and I never disbelieved the teachings of the church, but I also never understood things enough to believe in them even if I had wanted to.
Nevertheless, I distinctly remember being taken advantage of by a friend who figured out that if he made me “swear to God” I wouldn’t lie. God put in me a healthy fear of attaching His name to a falsehood. I had no problems lying under ordinary circumstances, but when God’s name was invoked, it was different. On the other hand, my friend had no such reservations. The time I remember most clearly involved him stealing a tape I’d just bought to copy it and swearing to God that he hadn’t.
The question is: Why did I feel this unwillingness to sin against God even apart from true faith in God? Because I wasn’t a Christian, the fear I had of misusing God’s name wasn’t tied to the presence of the Holy Spirit in me. It wasn’t tied to a specific belief in a specific passage of the Bible or promise of God. It wasn’t true conviction.
To expand the problem even further, why didn’t God immediately send Adam and Eve (or every sinner) to hell, once they sinned? Or, a bit less dramatic, why do people who continually rebel against God enjoy meaningful friendships? Why do non-Christians perform acts of sacrificial service through organizations like Doctors Without Borders or the Red Cross? How are those who reject God as God able to contribute to medical advances that save lives, paint beautiful pictures, or make excellent music?
The answer to all of these questions—from why I feared God without truly knowing God to non-Christians making great music—is something called “common grace.” Theologians distinguish between the common and saving grace of God. In simplest terms, “Common grace is the grace of God by which he gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation. The word common here means something that is common to all people and is not restricted to believers or to the elect only” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 570).
While the term “common grace” (like Trinity) never occurs in the Bible, it is taught throughout. Perhaps the clearest text on the matter is Matthew 5:45, in which Jesus declared, “[The Father] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” In simplest terms, the common grace of God is the only thing that keeps things from being as bad as they would be if sin were not restrained.
Examples of common grace, big and small, are so numerous in the Bible that they’re nearly impossible to miss. The two that stand out the most to me are (1) when Cyrus, king of Persia, released the Jews to return to Jerusalem in their exile and even paid for the temple to be rebuilt (Ezra) and (2) our passage for this morning.
Would you stop to consider what’s really happening here? God’s common grace was upon the ruler of Egypt such that he was able to recognize God’s blessing of Joseph and trust Joseph to manage his entire kingdom in its most vulnerable spot. As if that were not enough, upon hearing the news of Joseph’s family, Pharaoh insisted on blessing all of them in shocking ways.
45 16 When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. 17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, 18 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.’ 19 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. 20 Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’ ”
The fact that the very next ruler in Egypt would act in exactly the opposite way toward the Israelites helps us to see this for what it is. It really is akin to one of us being sold into slavery and then prison in some oil-rich Muslim-led country, only to be made second in charge to whoever is in power. And not only that, but being so favored by the person in charge that they couldn’t wait to bring your whole family into their country to bless them with the best they had to offer. Rightly understood, the measure of God’s common grace on display here really is shocking. Pharaoh didn’t truly trust in God (he wasn’t saved), but for the sake of His covenant people, God poured out His common grace on Pharaoh such that he acted in ways that are impossible to explain otherwise.
Let me say one more word on common grace; a very practical word. On Friday morning a few guys get together to eat donuts and solve the world’s problems (“talk smart”). One member of the brain trust wondered aloud, “How can so many in our world be so unreasonable?”. His simple point was that many people today seem unable to recognize the folly of their ways. It’s a good observation and question, and the answer is, once again, common grace. Romans 1 makes clear that when people reject God, He sometimes judges them by removing a measure of common grace, and therein a measure of reason, conscience, and decency. To be clear, sin is so deadly and corrosive that apart from some restraining (common) grace of God, the unbelievers of the world would completely stop believing that things like life, truth, fidelity, love, generosity, and responsibility are good. Bad would be called good, and good would be called bad. In case you hadn’t noticed, in increasing measure, that’s exactly what’s going on around us.
In our flesh, this realization tempts us to anger or despair. Certainly, that’s what many in the media, TV preachers, and others who profit from fear want. But in the Spirit, this is simply another call to proclaim the gospel and another reminder that the saving grace of God is our only hope. This isn’t anything new (even if we’re experiencing it in new levels). And it isn’t even anything more dangerous. In fact, the removal of common grace simply reveals what is always the case, but harder to see—that sin is always heinously deadly and corrosive.
As things (perhaps) get worse around us, then, the Bible’s call is not to yell at the clouds, become crippled by fear, or head for the hills. It is, rather, to thank God for making our inheritance secure regardless of the state of the world, and then proclaim even louder the only good news that can pierce this present darkness. Our hope is not in the amount of common grace God has chosen to bestow on the world around us. Indeed, in a relatively short amount of time, the surprising lack of common grace experienced by the Israelites would equal that which they experienced here. Israel would soon be enslaved by the same people who here rolled out the red carpet for them. Again, remember, Grace Church, our hope is not in common grace at all. Our only hope is God’s saving grace, and this passage helps us to see that there is no corner of creation so remote or heart so hard that God’s grace can’t reach it.
HINTS OF FAITHLESSNESS (45:24-28)
That leads us to the next section. Briefly, I want to point out something from 45:24-28. I want to do so because it teaches two powerful lessons and has an even more powerful implication. What do I want you to see? Twice in these few verses, the integrity of Joseph’s brothers is questioned. It seems that these men, who had been tested over and over again, and been found faithful over and over again, were not yet above suspicion.
In the first instance, Joseph felt the need to warn them not to fight on the way back to get their father. In 45:24 Joseph said to his brothers, “Do not quarrel on the way.” Similarly, when the brothers finally arrived home to tell their father about Joseph and his summons, Jacob didn’t believe them.
The first lesson is that even after true repentance, the consequences of sin can linger. There’s something really significant for all of us in that. When you sin, confess and turn, know that you are immediately and fully forgiven by God, and then be patient as the sting wears off for those you harmed in your sin. And if you’ve been painfully sinned against, remember the unqualified and undeserved forgiveness of God as you plan your next steps. And the second lesson is that we will not be finally sanctified until death. Joseph’s brothers’ repentance really seemed genuine. And yet, that is not the same as saying they were sinless. By God’s design, we will continue to battle sin until we die. Make war on your sin, then, but at the same time remember that you are acceptable to God only on account of Jesus’ righteousness.
All of that leads to the even more powerful implication. Grace, in these hints of faithlessness or lingering effects of sin, we are reminded for a second time that our only hope is God’s grace, but this passage helps us to see that there is no corner of creation so remote or heart so hard that God’s grace can’t reach it.
DREAM-BASED COVENANT REASSURANCE (46:1-7)
Almost immediately after Jacob agreed to go with his sons to Egypt, we’re confronted with a third reminder of the remarkable grace of God. As He had several times before, God visited Jacob in a dream. And once again, we can’t understand this passage rightly if we don’t put ourselves in Jacob’s shoes.
He had long mourned the death of his son. He had long lamented the faithlessness of his other sons (whom he likely suspected in their brother’s death). Seemingly on a dime, then, Jacob’s sons turned toward faithfulness, his lost son had returned from the dead, and now he was headed to a pagan land with all he had for a reunion and a blessing beyond imagination.
If ever there was a time to wonder, “God, is this your doing? Are you really in this? Is this really your will? Would you please help me to feel your presence?” this is it! And in another expression of unimaginable grace, God answered every one of those questions and more.
46 1 So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba… 2 And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” 3 Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. 4 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.”
How many times have you longed for something so confirming and comforting from God? How many times in a season of uncertainty would you have loved to experience such clear and sweet fellowship with God? No one but God could have orchestrated such a series of events and no one but God could have brought such blessed assurance in the trial.
Grace, no matter what you’re going through, no matter how confusing or desperate it seems, remember: there is no pit of loneliness or pain or sickness or sorrow or loss so deep that God cannot reach and redeem it. Truly, wonderfully, mercifully, there is there is no corner of creation so remote or heart so hard that God’s grace can’t reach it. Such is the power of the cross and empty grave.
THE BEGINNINGS OF COVENANT FULFILLMENT (46:8-27)
Finally, then, the passage ends with a description of all who traveled from Canaan to Egypt with Jacob. If you’re like me, you’re tempted to tune out whenever you get to a genealogy like this. While we don’t need to memorize every name or family connection, and while some of the numbers are curious, we do need to get our heads around what this represents. Many years earlier God had made a promise to Jacob’s grandfather. The 70 names of this otherwise boring genealogy represent the germination of the seed of the promise. The flower still isn’t in bloom—indeed, there is still barely a plant at all—but something is changing and sprouting and growing. God is always faithful, but these 70 people, heading to the place they were heading, in the way they were heading there, was part of the down payment on the fulfillment of the promise.
Even as there is no promise God will not keep in His perfect timing, for the greatest good of his people. And so, Grace Church, for the fourth and final time this morning, remember: there is no corner of creation so remote or heart so hard that God’s grace can’t reach it.
All of the promises of God are “Yes!” for us by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Would you look to Him this morning? Whether for the first time, for the first time in a while, or for the fiftieth time today, would you look to Jesus in faithful surrender, that you might truly know the One who made you, what you were made for, and the salvation that can only come from the crucified and risen Lord? To Him be all glory, throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.