Saturday, February 13, 2021

2021.02.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 45:16–46:4

Read Genesis 45:16–46:4

Questions from the Scripture text: Who heard what in Genesis 45:16? How do they respond? What does Pharaoh tell Joseph to do (Genesis 45:17)? What are the brothers to bring (Genesis 45:18)? What will Pharaoh give them? What will they eat? What is Joseph to command the brothers take, for what purpose (Genesis 45:19)? About what does he say not to be concerned (Genesis 45:20)? Why? What is the response in Genesis 45:21? What provision for each man does Genesis 45:22 specifically mention? Who is singled out how? Whose provision does Genesis 45:23 single out? What is it? With what additional instruction does Joseph send them (Genesis 45:24)? When they arrive back (Genesis 45:25), and tell Jacob (Genesis 45:26), how does he respond and why? What does he hear, and what does he see, in Genesis 45:27? With what result? What is Jacob now called in Genesis 45:28? What is the first thing that he says? What is enough? What does he say that he will go do? What does he seem to think will immediately follow? What does he bring (Genesis 46:1)? Where does he arrive in verse 1? What does he do there? To Whom (what Name does verse 1 use)? Who speaks in Genesis 46:2? How (in what)? How does He address him—with what name, how many times? What does Jacob say? What two things does God say about Himself (Genesis 46:3)? What does God tell him not to do? Why—what does God promise that He will do? Who will go where with whom (Genesis 46:4)? What else will He do (cf. Genesis 50:24–25)? Who else will do what (Genesis 46:4)?

It’s very encouraging when God turns what we can see of the earthly tide in our favor. Imagine the encouragements to Jacob. He hears that Joseph is still alive (Genesis 45:27a). He sees the evidence of it (verse 27b). His son is now the governor over all the land of Egypt (Genesis 45:26). And the “all the words” of Genesis 45:27 include Pharaoh himself saying “Don’t even worry about bringing what you have (Genesis 45:20a), because this load of stuff from Egypt and chariots from Egypt (cf. Genesis 45:17Genesis 45:19) is just the down payment of the best of all the land of Egypt (twice, Genesis 45:18 and Genesis 45:20b).

But we all know that this can be an illusion. Earthly power or peace, like earthly prosperity, sprouts wings and flies away (cf. Proverbs 23:5). It vanishes like the morning mist. Even as the text subtly hints at the strengthening of Jacob’s faith by switching the personal reference to him from ‘Jacob’ in Genesis 45:27 to ‘Israel’ in Genesis 45:28, he is not buying into all the grandiose promises. His contentment is modest. It is enough comfort that Joseph his son is alive. It is enough to hope for that he might see him once before he dies.

But this is still a weakness of faith, because while Pharaoh’s promises are grandiose, Jacob does have better promises to cling to that are infinitely grand! And he knows of those promises. 

He comes to Beersheba, where there is the “well of swearing” that bears testimony to God’s faithfulness in the lives of Abraham and Isaac. It is a reminder that the Lord has strengthened His people among the Philistines in time past to be a blessing not just to them but to all the families of the earth. 

Importantly, it is the southernmost point of the promised land, and he is about to pass down now into “official” Egyptian territory. Here, he is reminded of God’s promises, and here he responds as his grandfather and father had done, with worship through sacrifices that point forward to the cross of their promised Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ.

But there is a phrase that the text uses in v1 that takes us back to Bethel. There, Yahweh had announced Himself as God of Abraham and Isaac (cf. Genesis 28:13), before proceeding to promise “I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go” (cf. Genesis 28:15). For his part, Jacob hasn’t seemed to operate much out of confidence in that promise. And the one who had said “then Yahweh shall be my God” (cf. Genesis 28:21) is still thinking of God as the God of his father Isaac (Genesis 46:1). 

But when Yahweh identifies Himself that way (Genesis 46:3), He is doing more than identifying Himself as the One upon Whom Jacob has called. “Jacob, Jacob!” He says. It is as if to imply that he ought to know himself as Israel but still knows himself far too much as Jacob. “I am God” would be identification enough. “I am the God of your father” would be identification enough. But when He pairs the two, He is emphasizing the covenant relationship—a covenant relationship that had been extended by promise and oath to Jacob. Jacob should not continue to be what he was, but Yahweh will always consistently be Who He is!

So, God gives Jacob something infinitely more solid and glorious to cling to than the promises of the most powerful man in the world. The best of all the land of Egypt are nothing compared to the dusty old promises to Abraham and Isaac. “I will make of you a great [all-families-of-earth blessing] nation there.” The best earthly prospects are nothing compared to the dusty old promises of Bethel, “I will go with you. I will bring you up again.”

Even in the most difficult and threatening earthly circumstances, we have something far more encouraging than the easiest and most promising circumstances: God Himself, and the promises that have their yes and amen in Christ! If Joseph had been dead, and the famine unsolvable, and the Pharaoh hostile, those things still should have held for Jacob. The most important part of God’s mercifully turning those things around for him was that it was a gentle earthly providence as a means of bringing about promises that must certainly have come true, regardless of however the Lord ultimately brought them about.

Whatever hardship or prosperity the Lord brings you into dear Christian, cling not to the circumstances but to the God of those circumstances who has made you unstoppable ultimate promises in the Lord Jesus Christ!

What can you know about God’s purposes for your current circumstances? What do you know about God Himself?

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH257 “Children of the Heavenly Father”

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