An Important Personal Event (Part Two)

Genesis 48:1-7

In our last article, we saw that Joseph had taken his two sons to visit his dying father, Jacob. Everyone needs to honor the older members of their family, even when the visits might prove to be difficult. In our text, the visit became a little testy, because Joseph did not perceive what his father was doing. But Jacob was privy to God’s plan for Israel’s future. God told Jacob to do something that would affect the course of the tribes hundreds of years later. Jacob’s action is an example of God’s sovereign choice, an instance of gracious action (48:3-7).

Jacob recounted God’s goodness to him. He gave an account of God’s historical appearance to him. In a day without the written word, this would be very important to the next generation (cf. 35:9-13). We ought to give thanks for our Bibles, through which we have eyewitness accounts to the story of God’s glory. We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19 NIV).

Jacob also reminded them of God’s covenant blessing and promise. This was Jacob’s greatest treasure, and he shared it with his dear grandchildren. Those saved by grace should always speak highly of God’s grace. “In all our prayers, both for ourselves and for our children, we ought to have a particular eye to, and remembrance of, God’s promises to us” (Henry, Commentary). Let there be no doubt, Jacob was a man of faith (Hebrews 11:21). If Ephraim and Manasseh were worldly-minded, what would they have seen? Only a dying old man, who had been living off their father’s generosity for seventeen years. What could such a man give to them? To the spiritually-minded, however, the sight is vastly different. One of God’s chosen people, an heir of God, was speaking with them. Faith sees what human wisdom cannot.

Jacob received his grandsons as his own children. Though born in Egypt and not his own, Jacob called them his own sons. This is a picture of our adoption as sons (Galatians 4:3-5). Jacob pointed the two young men to the place where blessing truly is to be found. It was better for them to embrace God’s people in their affliction than Egypt in its wealth. This is a lesson rarely learned in our day (1 Timothy 6:9-10; Hebrews 11:26).

In this way, Joseph came to receive the birthright, for he received a double blessing (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:1-2).

Jacob added a wise proviso in the event Joseph had other sons. Wisdom on the part of parents can prevent much grief in a family after their departure. What struggles, by those who call themselves Christians, have been carried out for a small earthly inheritance!

Jacob spoke of his long-departed wife, Rachel. It was very natural that Jacob would think of her that he deeply loved such a time. Ephraim and Manasseh were her grandchildren, too! “Strong affections in the enjoyment cause long afflictions in the loss” (Henry). In the end Rachel was vindicated, for she was the wife Jacob chose, and though barren for a while, her firstborn received the pre-eminence. In summary, this section shows a man of faith with his eye on the promised land to the end. We will do well to imitate his faith (Hebrews 11:13-16). Let us keep Christ and our eternal inheritance fully and firmly in view.

Grace and peace, David

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An Important Personal Event (Part One)

Genesis 48:1-7

For most of mankind’s history, people everywhere have had a clear view of what it means to grow old and die. Even the multitudes who have worshiped false gods have focused on death and the afterlife. Part of the foolishness of modern man is his eager desire to hide his destiny from himself. Consider some happenings that point out how willing people are to forget about aging and dying.

  • The elderly are quickly abandoned to nursing homes by their children, grandchildren and other relatives. I’m not speaking about people that truly want the best personal care for their loved one. I’m referring to those that simply are too preoccupied with pleasure to care for their family.
  • The increasing refusal to attend funerals and memorial services. Again, I’ve seen people make incredible efforts to be there for their family and friends. But many do not care to make the effort to be there to honor others. People like to pretend that death is not real. They deliberately avoid such events.
  • The general lack of respect for those who are aged. Contrast Prov 16:31: Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness (NIV). People tend to disrespect those over age fifty, pushing them out of their jobs. Our culture does not value those with long life experience, blissfully unaware that soon they will be older. People do not like to listen to the wisdom and stories of the aged.

The Bible is God’s word to us about all we need for life and godliness. Therefore, it includes chapters like the one before us to confront us with the fact of aging and dying. In the midst of these solemn truths, it also speaks of hope. Fantasies and delusions provide no hope, but the truth does!

Joseph fulfilled his responsibility to show affection for his father (48:1-2). Four hundred years before the law was given, he honored his father (cf. Exodus 20:12). Joseph visited his father during his final affliction. Though heavily involved in the task of governing a country in crisis, he did not excuse himself from his filial duty. Two years ago, my mother died, and my brother and I and our wives stepped in to help my dad in his loss. Although I was in a difficult situation myself, it was time to be with dad.

Joseph took his two sons along with him. They, too, had a duty to visit their grandfather, who dearly loved them. There is also the hope that such visits will do the young good also. “It is good to acquaint young people that are coming into the world with the aged servants of God that are going out of it, whose dying testimony to the goodness of God, and the pleasantness of wisdom’s ways, may be a great encouragement to the rising generation” (Henry, Commentary on the Bible). In the name of sparing children from grief, many parents have also spared them from wisdom. It is useless to bemoan the sins of the next generation when we keep them from God’s teachers. Children need to visit their seriously ill relatives. They need to attend funerals and memorial services, so that they can see the reality of death, and hear the good news of the gospel of Christ in the face of death.

Jacob did what he could to make the visit profitable (48:3-7). Here is an example of his wisdom and humility. Instead of wasting the time with complaints about his afflictions, Jacob rallied his strength. The precious moments of life remaining to him could not be wasted! He reviewed God’s goodness to him to give hope to his son and grandsons. Here is also an example of self-control. In our fallen state, the soul has limited control over the body, but we are able to do a little when necessary. We should use our time of health wisely, when the soul is able to exercise greater control. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8). Jacob told them the promise that the Lord gave him and his family. Let our conversations speak of the confident expectation of the righteous. Don’t waste your words.

Grace and peace, David

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The Holy Spirit (Part Twenty-five)

Acts 10:37-38

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him (NIV).

This was Peter’s first sermon to a Gentile audience. Though he knew the Lord had sent him to Cornelius and his household, you can sense the emotions Peter felt by crossing this cultural boundary. He had left “the settlement and had become a pioneer.” He tentatively explored how to address people outside the people of Israel. We have to be ready to do this in our time, as people from many nations now live among us. Sharon and I see this every time we walk at Valley Forge Park. A number of times we feel like the ethnic minority! Peter started from what they knew. They knew that God had given his word to Israel. They knew John’s ministry of baptism. They knew the big events of Jesus’ life. So then, Peter explained God’s purpose of salvation from that starting point. What is written in this section is probably a synopsis of Peter’s remarks. He would have needed to explain anointing and the Holy Spirit. But Peter used those words to tell them the truth about Jesus. We also need to explain words and ideas as we speak for God.

The Lord God anointed Jesus with Holy Spirit for his ministry. Jesus is the “Anointed One”, usually translated as Messiah or Christ (cf. Ac 4:26-27). This anointing occurred at his baptism. The anointing so defined who he is that the term or title “the Christ” functions as his name to most people.

The anointing by the Holy Spirit was part of the preparation for his ministry (Luke 3:21-23). Jesus received this anointing with the Spirit as he was praying. Dr. Luke is making a theological point early in his writing, which he later develops (Luke 11:13; Acts 1:4; 2:1-4; 4:23-31). The Spirit came “in response to prayer and in connection with the advance of the kingdom” (Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, p. 45). How can your church, or any church, advance and make progress for God’s glory? We can only go forward with the help of the Holy Spirit! So then, we encourage you to gather for prayer with other believers to seek the Lord Jesus for the filling of the Spirit.

Jesus preached with the assistance of the Spirit (Matthew 12:18). Every preacher and teacher must teach and preach in demonstration of the Spirit and of power that your faith might rest in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Jesus did his mighty works by the power of the Spirit (Acts 10:38; Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20).

The anointing proclaimed him as the Son of God (Luke 3:22). Later, the resurrection would proclaim him as the Son of God with power (Romans 1:4). God declared that Jesus received his love (John 17:24; Matthew 12:18; cf. Isaiah 42:1). What must it be like for One with infinitely great capacity to receive love to be loved by One with infinitely great capacity to give love? And this goes on and on eternally! That is except for one space of time as the Beloved cried out to the Lover, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” If you would know the depth of Calvary love, think on that!

God declared that Jesus received his approval (Matthew 17:5). Listen to John Piper’s concise summary of Jonathan Edwards. “In Jesus Christ, he says, meet infinite highness and infinite condescension; infinite justice and infinite grace; infinite glory and lowest humility; infinite majesty and transcendent meekness; deepest reverence toward God and equality with God; worthiness of good and the greatest patience under the suffering of evil; a great spirit of obedience and supreme dominion over heaven and earth; absolute sovereignty and perfect resignation; self-sufficiency and an entire trust and reliance on God” (Piper, The Pleasures of God, p.27). As we see Christ is such glory, we can grasp the reason that God was well pleased with him!

Grace and peace, David

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The Holy Spirit (Part Twenty-four)

Acts 10:37-38

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him (NIV).

One of the difficulties of presenting biblical teaching in a survey form, like this series about the Holy Spirit, is the presentation of teaching without an adequate understanding of the context. The message of the Bible is the story of God’s glory in Christ through salvation by judgment. Please invest some time in reading Acts 10:17- 48 to grasp the immediate context of this greater story. In his message to his Gentile audience, Peter had to familiarize his audience with the narrative of the Bible to show how God acted in Christ to bring salvation to all nations. Peter explained as an eyewitness how he saw Jesus as he fulfilled God’s plan for his glory. We must never forget this underlying purpose. It is God’s story that we need to listen to and then accept by faith in Christ. We do not read verses merely to collect information. We listen to the Spirit of God speak through chosen men to tell God’s message. As this happens, we learn truth about God and ourselves that can transform us. Peter was not giving an informational talk but one that was transformational. Again, I urge you to read the passage.

What are the Four Gospels? They are God’s written testimony to what God did in his Son to save his people to glorify his name. In the Gospels, we read of God the Son in true humanity coming to set up a new humanity from the wreck of the old creation. It is not by accident that John and Mark start their Gospels with words referring to this “new beginning”. John, more profound and theological, starts from the time of the first creation and briefly sketches history up to the entrance of the Son. Mark, more powerful and direct, drives the point home immediately. Matthew and Luke, after setting the arrival of the Son in history, refer to the purpose of God in the coming of the Son as announced in the Old Testament Scriptures (Matthew 4:12-17; Luke 4:16-21). Part of the purpose of the Old Testament Scriptures is to show the wreck that human sin has made of everything and our absolute need for a better Redeemer, a better Mediator, and a better Priest than occurred in the wreck of the ages past.

My point in mentioning this is to open up the practical importance of this article. Diamonds are very beautiful, but to enjoy their beauty people set them in place—in a ring, on a necklace, or some other kind of jewelry. The Lord Jesus Christ is the surpassing diamond. And the Father has provided the jewelry of the Gospels to enjoy his beauty until we see him face to face. You and I need to know that the Son of God, in fulfillment of the Father’s purpose, came to set up a radically new age in history. The Bible, like the facets of a diamond, speaks of this great change in various ways: the new creation, the new age, the kingdom of God, and the new covenant. We need to know that God has made us part of this by his grace to us in Christ. And we need to know that to live in this new age involves living by faith in the crucified, risen and ascended Christ in the Holy Spirit poured out on us. Here Peter presents the power of the Spirit of God during the earthly ministry of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are part of something glorious! Since we are, we should listen well. And we should live accordingly.

Grace and peace, David

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The Sufferings of Christ on the Cross (Part Two)

We are pondering what our Lord and Savior suffered on the cross when he died to save his people, those given to him by the Father, from their sins to eternal glory. This rescue required an almighty deliverer. In the previous article, we thought about the physical pain and death he went through on the cross and the horror of the Holy One bearing all the sins of wicked people like you and me. Now, let us focus on two other aspects of what he endured to save us.

Third, the dearly loved One of the Father knew abandonment

  • Christ faced the suffering of the cross alone, abandoned by humans. His disciples fell asleep when he asked them to pray with him (Mark 14:35-42). When arrested, everyone deserted him and fled (Mark 14:50). Compare this with his great love for them (John 13:1). His enemies mocked him and insulted him (Mark 15:25-32).
  • Far worse was that Jesus the Son of God was forsaken by the Father (Mark 15:33-34). He had enjoyed fellowship with the Father from all eternity, sharing in his glory (John 1:1; 17:5, 24). But on the cross, the Father left the Son to suffer alone.

Christ Jesus bore the wrath of God.

  • Another time, we will take about propitiation, where we will see that in his atonement Christ satisfied the wrath of God. In short, by being our substitute he satisfied and took away God’s righteous anger against our sins.
  • We should observe that in other places the Scriptures say that Christ was stricken and afflicted by God (Isaiah 53:4-5; Mark 14:27); yes, God crushed his Servant Christ and caused him to suffer (Isaiah 53:10-11). Who can tell what it meant for the Omnipotent Father to crush his dearly loved Son for us? Only an equally Omnipotent Son could have borne up under the stroke of holy justice. Without explanation, the Spirit tells us of the suffering of the Servant’s soul (Isaiah 53:11), because who could understand how terrible that suffering was? Here, we would do well to weep and praise the Savior!

Here are some reflections on Christ’s sufferings on the cross.

  • He made a complete payment for what we owed. If we suffered for our own sins, we could never pay the penalty, and we could never attain a perfect righteousness with God. But Jesus, the Son of God was able to pay the penalty in full (John 19:30), so that the Lord declares that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). When Christ died for us on the cross, he paid for us in full once for all (Hebrews 9:25-28).
  • What is the importance of the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19)? It is clear evidence that he died a violent sacrificial death (cf. the classic work by Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross). The shedding of blood is clear evidence that his life was given as a judicial execution. The shedding of his blood clearly connects his death as the fulfillment of all the types and shadows of the sacrificial system of the law or old covenant.
  • The atonement that Christ accomplished should be considered a “penal substitution”. He paid the penalty we owed as our substitute.

Let us bow and give thanks to our wonderful, merciful Savior!

Grace and peace, David

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The Sufferings of Christ on the Cross (Part One)

As we start a busy week at work, let us think of how Jesus the Messiah accomplished our redemption that we might be right with God. There are four kinds of suffering he endured for our sake. We will look at the first two of these today.

First, Jesus suffered physical pain and death.

  • Crucifixion (Mark 15:24) was a horrible and cruel death, but the Bible never claims that the death of Christ on the cross was the most physically terrible death ever suffered. The focus of the Bible is simply not on his physical suffering in any of the accounts in the Four Gospels (Matthew 27:32-56; Mark 15:21-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:16-37). Any reader in the ancient world would understand the horrors of crucifixion, but the Bible neither goes into elaborate details about it nor encourages meditation on the stages of our Lord’s physical pain and suffering.
  • However, the Bible does stress the reality of Christ’s physical sufferings and death (1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Galatians 3:13; Philippians 2:8; Colossians 1:22; Hebrews 2:14-15; 10:10). Our salvation was secured in space-time history by the real death of Jesus on the cross. It is not merely a moving story; it is a true, historical event where a real man suffered and bled and died.

Second, Jesus the Son of God experienced the pain of bearing sin.

  • Far more awful than any physical suffering was the anguish and suffering of Jesus Christ the Righteous One bearing the guilt of our sin. Since he is also Son of God, he fully shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit total hatred of sin. Rebellion and transgression and trespass and missing the mark and twistedness and everything else that makes sin “sin” contradicted everything in his holy person. “Taking on himself all the evil against which his soul rebelled created deep revulsion in the center of his being. All that he hated most deeply was poured out fully on him” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 573).
  • Consider the Biblical testimony that our sins with their guilt and liability to punishment were put on Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:6; John 1:29; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 2:24).
  • How could our sins be put on Christ? They could be put on Christ in the same way that Adam’s sin was put on us—by imputation, by considering or crediting them as actually belonging to him. The Bible’s teaching of the imputation of sin and righteousness is at the core of the gospel. Apart from this truth, we have no possibility of salvation.
  • How could God do this? As the Lawmaker and Judge, he has the authority to set up principles of justice in the universe he created. One of these principles is representation and substitution; another is the imputation of sin or righteousness. Since God is holy, righteous and wise, he only does what is in conformity with his character. In addition, the Persons of the Trinity agreed in this plan of salvation. Christ, God the Son, was a willing sacrifice for sinners given by the willing Father.

Grace and peace, David

 

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The Holy Spirit (Part Twenty-three)

John 14:22-26; 16:12-15

We have seen that the Holy Spirit had a crucial role in the production of the New Testament Scriptures and his “credentials” for that work. He is “the Friend at court” and the Spirit of truth. Next, let’s examine the success of the Spirit in this ministry of revealing God and his words.

We should begin by clearing up three misunderstandings about what Christ said.

  • He is not promising perfect knowledge in 14:26. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (NIV, my emphasis). “The Holy Spirit is not particularly concerned to impart to the disciples of Jesus an exhaustive knowledge of nuclear physics, astronomy, cell biology, the literature of Tanganyika, or the mating habits of the porcupine. Moreover, even if he had the inclination to attempt this transfer of knowledge, we would not be able to receive it; for our finiteness precludes the attribute of omniscience” (Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus, p. 71).
  • Nor is Jesus saying that we lack any need for human teachers in 14:26 (just “rely on the Spirit”), which would make Christ completely contradict himself in giving pastors and teachers to his church (Ephesians 4:11-16).
  • Nor is Jesus promising personal guidance in 16:13. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come (NIV, my emphasis). That is to rip part of a phrase completely out of its context. There is not even a hint in these words that the Spirit will somehow mysteriously lead Christ’s followers into perfect choices in their lives.

So then, what is the true success of the Spirit’s ministry? First, the Spirit made sure that the disciples learned all things (14:26) that they needed to know about Jesus (his full significance), brought to their memory everything he said (so we have a trustworthy account of his teaching), and he also would tell them (16:13) about things to come; that is, the meaning and significance of what was about to happen to Jesus—his crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost. “This is the test that will show how much of the Spirit there is in each of the various types of supposedly Christian theology that jostle for our attention in these days” (Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, p. 65).

Second, in all this, the Spirit glorifies Christ by taking what is Christ’s and making it known to Christ’s people in the New Testament Scriptures. So then, we see in a dominant Christ-focus in the New Testament writings.

These words “indicate that it is by means of the apostolic witness (now inscripturated in the New Testament), not by direct revelation of the Spirit to individual believers or by corporate revelation of the Spirit to teaching officers (the claim which was to be developed in the Roman Catholic magisterium), that Christ’s person, his teaching and his future purposes are made known.” [Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, p. 71]

In the words of the old song, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus!” The story of the Bible is the true story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. In it, the Spirit guided the apostles and New Testament prophets to record the gospel narrative and to explain its meaning and significance to the church, that we might live for the glory of God. Thank God for the success of the Holy Spirit as you profit spiritually from reading the New Testament Scriptures.

Grace and peace, David

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The Holy Spirit (Part Twenty-two)

John 14:22-26; 16:12-15

In our last article about the Spirit of God, we saw that the Holy Spirit had a crucial role in the production of the New Testament Scriptures, just as he did in the Old Testament Scriptures. By the way, this is why it is simply silly to pit the Spirit against the Scriptures. The written word is the voice of the Spirit. He caused people to write what the Father through the Son decided to reveal about himself, his work, and his redemptive activity in the whole Bible. He acted to guarantee that what was written was the word of God.

Next, let’s consider the qualification of the Spirit for this important ministry. What are his credentials? Listen to what Jesus says. The Spirit is qualified because he is the “parakletos”. There has been much misunderstanding about this word, which is used only five times in its noun form in the New Testament Scriptures (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7; 1 John 2:1). All refer to the Holy Spirit, except the reference in 1 John where it refers to Jesus. Part of the problem is that there is no exact English equivalent for this noun. The verb form is used over 100 times with various meanings, like invite, call upon for help, urge, exhort, encourage, request, comfort, cheer up, and beg. But the noun is used differently. “Comforter” is definitely an inadequate translation.

We should not try to determine a word meaning by breaking it up into its “root” parts. Nonsense can result! (Think of our English words butterfly and pineapple. The parts of each word bear little connection with the word meaning.) So, let’s avoid such methodology in our understanding of Biblical words. Since the word as used in the Greek of that time had legal overtones of a friend helping another friend in court, but falling short of what we would call a lawyer, perhaps the best translation in all five passages would be, as Ferguson suggests, “the Friend at court”. The Spirit does whatever is necessary to produce what is in our best interests. Since Biblical revelation is instruction that is binding upon us, the “Friend at court” acted in our best interests by making sure that we have a clear record of that revelation.

The Holy Spirit is qualified because he is “the Spirit of truth” (16:13). This phrase is used three times in John’s Gospel in reference to the Holy Spirit (14:17; 15:26; 16:13). Since Jesus is “the truth”, we can again see how the Spirit is “another Friend in court” like Jesus (14:16). Yet as used here, the emphasis is on the Spirit communicating truth. “If the Holy Spirit is the one who completes the revelation of Jesus Christ by explaining things the disciples could not then bear to hear (16:12-15), then it is reassuring to learn that truth characterizes him; for we may be sure his testimony will be true. Just as Jesus authenticates the veracity of the biblical revelation before him (e.g., Matt. 5:17-20; John 10:35), so also he authenticates the veracity of the biblical revelation still to come” (Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus, p. 53).

Let us thank the Lord, who came to reveal the Father, that he left the New Testament revelation in such competent hands! It all points to the glory of our Redeemer and his love and mercy for us. Thank him for the provision of the Spirit and the Scriptures today.

Grace and peace, David

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Resettlement

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Genesis 47:1-10

Change happens. Change can be unavoidable, as it was for Jacob and his family. God can bring circumstances to us that require us to change, like finding a new job or school, like dealing with the suddenly impaired health of a family member or grief in our separation from them. We must be prepared to act wisely and in faith in new situations. We should act diligently when change comes to us. For example, if you have a flood in your house, (I speak from experience here), you call the insurance and start to clean up. You don’t let the situation drag on and on. Pick up the trash, put it in the dumpster, and have the dumpster taken away as quickly as possible. We must act as swiftly as is prudent and possible in other change situations. God told Jacob to relocate to Egypt, and Joseph, due to his position, took charge in resettling his family. Let’s look at Joseph’s wise policy.

The usual way that men act, who are in positions of authority, is to do everything to advance the prominence and wealth of their family. However, Joseph acted prudently and discreetly to preserve his family’s identity as a separate people. This is in line with God’s plan to make them into a great nation. God had told Abraham generations previously that Israel’s future lay in oppression by Egypt, not in becoming part of it. So, Joseph did not seek influential positions for them at court.

It is obvious that Pharaoh is very pleased with Joseph. He probably would have rewarded his brothers with any titles and positions that Joseph requested for them. But Joseph resisted. All opportunities are not God’s opportunities. Jonah found a boat going away from God’s will. As has been said, some open doors lead to empty elevator shafts. There are many temptations involved in politics, like power-mongering, greed, and sexual immorality. Joseph did not thrust his brothers into positions that they probably, given their history, were unprepared to handle properly. Like other vocations, politics involves a call from God.

Joseph did seek a place where his family could maintain their own identity. In Goshen, they were away from the affairs of state, yet it was a fertile area where they could thrive as shepherds. Don’t despise your Goshen. The Lord has you in a place where you can thrive spiritually. You may not gain much earthly wealth here, but it may be the best place for you to lay up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).

Joseph emphasized their earthly calling. Shepherds were detestable to the Egyptians. If they were known to be shepherds, then the Egyptians would gladly leave them separate from the mainstream of society. In this way, they became outcasts from the world. Joseph “would rather have them to be an abomination than a delight to the Egyptians. Egypt’s frown is better for them than Egypt’s flattery and fellowship” (Candlish). The same holds true for us. “The world’s hatred is safer for the friends of Jesus than the world’s smiles” (Candlish, cf. Lk 6:22.).

To cement their position in the land of Egypt, Jacob met Pharaoh (47:7-10). He went to Pharaoh with a blessing. This may seem strange to the worldly-minded person. What could Jacob give to Pharaoh, ruler of the world’s greatest empire? The eye of faith can see what the worldly eye cannot. Who is Jacob? A detestable old shepherd before a great king? No, he is a child of the King of kings, one who will someday reign with the Lord Christ, and Jacob approached a needy beggar who happened to wear royal robes. What else could Jacob do but give a blessing? God’s people should always try to be a blessing to a needy world. Therefore, let us be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.

However, all Jacob’s words were not words of blessing. Yes, Jacob could acknowledge his misery in this world. Surely, he must speak the truth. But where was his faith? Why not add, “But God has helped me all the way?” Let not God’s people give a wrong view of service to the King of kings. We may wear the scars of many battles for our King, but let us speak of the eternal reward he has promised. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:16-18).

Grace and peace, David

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Reunion

Genesis 46:28-30

Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, 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 and wept for a long time. Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive” (NIV).

We have seen God’s power at work many times in the life of Joseph. God spoke to Joseph through dreams, enabled him to interpret dreams, protected him from death a couple times, and helped him to endure terrible suffering and the near loss of hope. God also raised him from slavery and imprisonment to become the second in command in the kingdom of Egypt. In this section, we see God at work in a different way.

This incident is one of those times in the Scriptures when faith became sight, when hope received its fulfillment. Events of this type are recorded in the Bible for our encouragement, in order that we may have hope. For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope (Romans 15:4 NIV). Another example would be when the disciples saw Jesus risen from the dead. Let us remember that all Scripture is useful for training in righteousness. Instead of running to the Psalms automatically in your troubles, it might be to your profit to meditate on the historical parts of the Scriptures when you are depressed or discouraged. Think on what God has done for his people in the past and what he is able to do for you.

Jacob and the son he thought was dead had a happy reunion. Here is the mutual love of a godly father and his son for each other. The Holy Spirit shows the reality of these people. They were not wind-up, super-spiritual dolls. They had strong affections just as we do. God approves of such displays of love. Think of the reception of the lost son (cf. Luke 15:20). It is very manly and good to express love for one’s family like they did. There is a strange idea that has been circulating for many years: “Big boys don’t cry.” Perhaps boys don’t, for big boys often have mistaken notions of maturity. But godly men cry when it is appropriate (John 11:35; Philippians 3:18; Psalm 126:5-6).

Jacob acquiesced to what God had done: “Now I am ready to die….” He had seen the fulfillment of a dream. His dearly loved son is alive! God’s word has been proved true! Consider Simeon’s joy at seeing the infant Messiah (Luke 2:28-32).

Yet again, Jacob was mistaken in a way. He was ready to die, but it was not yet his time. In fact, Jacob still had 17 years to live (cf. 47:28). Over the years of being a pastor, I have seen many people live much longer than what the medical professionals thought possible. It is good to be ready to face the Lord, but we cannot determine that any particular event (except salvation) makes us ready. So then, don’t quit too soon! You don’t know what job the Lord might yet have for you to do for him. Old age brings a decline in strength, but it adds the benefit of vast life experience. Use what God gives you for his glory.

Grace and peace, David

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