But God Will…

So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father's house. Joseph lived 110 years. And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation. The children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were counted as Joseph’s own. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt. – Genesis 50:22-26 ESV

These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. – Exodus 1:1-7 ESV

The story of the life of Joseph is filled with ups and downs, joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, hope and disappointment. It is a story of contrasts and contradictions, including betrayal and forgiveness, curses and blessings, famine and fullness, a powerful Pharaoh and lowly shepherds. But one of the main themes of this fascinating story is that of God’s sovereign hand guiding the affairs of Joseph’s life, from beginning to end. It is the story of the eternal, all-powerful God guiding and directing the details surrounding one man’s life so that His divine plan for the world might be fulfilled. This story is about so much more than Joseph and his rise to power and prominence. There is far more going on than God’s temporal blessings on single individual. Joseph’s promotion to the second-highest position in the land of Egypt is not the point of the story and was never intended to be taken as an example of how God blesses those who are faithful to Him. What happened to Joseph had less to do with him than it did with God’s much greater plan for the people of Israel and, ultimately, for the nations of the world. The story of Joseph must be kept within the context of the overarching story of the Bible. Joseph’s story is a snapshot, a single frame from the film of God’s great redemptive epic. From the creation of Adam and Eve, their sin and fall from grace to the return of the Second Adam and His restoration of all creation and removal of all vestiges of sin from the world, God has been and is accomplishing His grand redemptive plan.

Even Joseph knew that God was not yet done. His life was ending, but God’s plan was far from over. He told his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to you and lead you up from this land to the land he swore on oath to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Genesis 50:24 NLT). Joseph was not dismayed, distraught or disappointed that his life was coming to an end. He had lived a long and eventful life. He knew that his 110-year odyssey on this planet was just a blip on the radar screen of God’s eternal plan. His life, while it mattered, was not ALL that mattered. His life’s accomplishments, while significant, were nothing compared to what God was going to do. His death was not mean to be an epilogue, but simply the closing words of a single chapter in God’s great story of redemption. Joseph was fully expecting God to do more of what He had already done. He lived with the constant expectation that “God will…” He was so confident in God’s promises that he made his brothers swear to take his bones back to the land of Canaan when God did what He had promised to do. They would return one day. He was sure of it. And when Joseph said, “God will…,” he was right, because God did. God did visit eventually visit them and the people of Israel did return to the land of Canaan. And as for Joseph’s desire to be buried in the land of Canaan:

As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money. It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph. – Joshua 24:32 ESV

If God has said it, He will do it. If He has promised it, He will accomplish it.

God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? – Numbers 23:19 NLT

The stories of the Bible provide us with glimpses into the character of God. He is faithful and true. He is persistent and unwavering when it comes to His plan and consistent in Hisefforts to carry out His promises. Reading the story of Joseph should not leave us amazed at the faith of this unique individual, but it should produce in us an awe at the faithfulness of our God. It should encourage us to trust the One who Joseph trusted and to rest in the promises of the same God who fulfilled all His promises to Joseph. Joseph could confidently say, “God will…” Can you?

Before He ascended back up into heaven, Jesus told His disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3 ESV). And years later, while the apostle John was exiled to the island of Patmos, Jesus appeared to him and said:

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” – Revelation 22:20 ESV

Jesus has said, “I will come again.” He has promised, “Surely I am coming soon.” And He will. That is the story of the Bible. That is the point of the story of Joseph.


God Meant It For Good.

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. – Genesis 50:15-21 ESV

Jacob dies and immediately his sons begin to worry. They fear that Joseph, who they sold into slavery and who now rules over them as the second-most powerful man in Egypt, will take revenge on them now that their father is gone. They assume he was only biding his time until Jacob was out of the picture. They wrongly believe that Joseph, out of love and respect for their father, had been unwilling to give his brothers what they deserved. But now that he was gone, all bets were off. Or so they thought. They even concoct a story saying that, on his deathbed, Jacob had given them a message to give to Joseph. It was Jacob’s dying wish that Joseph forgive his brothers for their sin against them. Nowhere else in the text does Moses record that this conversation ever happened between Jacob and his sons, so we can assume that it was a fabrication, a lie concocted by Joseph’s brothers in an attempt to save their own necks from the hatred they believed Joseph still harbored for them. But they were in for a pleasant surprise.

Joseph, displaying a profound grasp on the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, tells his brothers they have nothing to fear. First of all, Joseph assuages their concerns by letting them know that revenge is the prerogative and purview of God. Even if he was still angry with them, Joseph knew he had no right to enact judgment or to seek revenge on his brothers. In asking the rhetorical question, “am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19 ESV), Joseph reveals his understanding of and respect for God’s rule and reign over any and all. He portrays a humble and quiet confidence in God’s unwavering rule over the affairs of his life. During his forced exile from his family, Joseph had been able to see first-hand the remarkable proof of God’s providence in so many ways. Enough time had passed that any lingering anger against his bothers or desire to seek revenge had been replaced by a peace with his circumstances that came from a growing trust in God’s providence. God was in control. So much so that, in Joseph’s estimation, what his brothers had meant for evil, God had intended for good. This is one of the most powerful statements regarding God’s providence found anywhere in the Scriptures.

“Behind all the events and human plans recounted in the story of Joseph lies the unchanging plan of God. It is the same plan introduced from the very beginning of the book where God looks out at what he has just created for man and sees that ‘it is good’ (tob, 1:4-31). Through his dealings with the patriarchs and Joseph, God had continued to bring about his good plan. He had remained faithful to his purposes, and it is the point of this narrative to show that his people can continue to trust him and to believe that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28).” – John H. Sailhamer, "Genesis," in Genesis-Numbers, vol. 2 of The Expositor's Bible Commentary

With the simple words, “God meant it for good,” Joseph spoke volumes concerning the rule and reign of God over the affairs of men. He does not excuse his brothers’ actions, but instead clearly states that what they had done to him was intended by them for his harm, not his good. Their intentions had been evil. But God, as part of His divine plan, had hijacked their intentions, redeeming their sinful actions to accomplish holy and righteous will. The Hebrew word Moses used is chashab and it carries the idea of a carefully calculated plan or intention. Sick and tired of their Joseph’s favored position with their father and his dreams and visions of superiority, the brothers had “devised” a plan to rid themselves of Joseph once and for all. But God had bigger and better plans. It had been His plan all along that the descendants of Abraham would end up in Egypt. Years earlier He had told Abraham, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13 ESV). God had intended it all for good. Every bit of it. From Joseph’s undeserved betrayal by his brothers to his false arrest and imprisonment. The events of Joseph’s life were not the result of fate or chance. He had not been the lucky winner of the lottery of life. He had been under the sovereign control of an all-powerful, all-knowing God who had a plan in place long before Joseph or his brothers had been born.

Joseph had developed an expanded vision of the affairs of life. He had learned to look beyond the immediate circumstances and view things from a divine perspective. Which is what led him to say that God had intended, planned, and orchestrated Joseph’s life,  “to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20 ESV). Joseph knew it was about much more than him. His life had a God-ordained purpose that was far greater and bigger than his own success or failure. This wasn’t about his personal comfort or convenience. It had little to do with Joseph’s position or prominence, except for the fact that God was using Joseph’s rise to power to “preserve the lives of many people.”

As Christians, when we read Paul’s words in Romans, “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV), we tend to have a bit of skepticism about them. We silently doubt whether they are really true. We wonder if ALL things really do work together for good. We question whether we have ever seen Paul’s words proven true in our own lives. But the problem seems to be that we want to define what “good” means. We want to dictate to God what it is we want Him to accomplish in and through our lives. And we demand that any good He brings about must be to our advantage and within our lifetime. It must be according to our terms. But Joseph knew better. He had learned that God’s will was far greater than his own. He had ascertained that the ways of God sometimes entailed difficulty, betrayal, disappointment, awkward moments of seeming abandonment by God and prolonged periods of waiting. But God was always at work. His divine plan was always active and moving towards its ultimate conclusion. All things really do work together for good. But sometimes that good is not what we might expect. It might not always come about when or how we want it to. God’s definition of good was about far more than good things happening in Joseph’s life. Joseph’s rise to power was not about his own comfort and convenience. It had a much more expansive and far-reaching purpose behind it. Joseph understood and accepted his role in God’s sovereign, providential plan. He was content to be used by God, leaving the definition of “good” up to God. He was fully confident that his life was in God’s hands and that anything and everything that had or would happen to him was within the will of God. God had a greater good in mind. He had a bigger plan in place. His will was not limited to the days of Joseph’s life or the land of Egypt. It went well beyond the sons of Jacob and the tribes of Israel. God had a plan to bless all the nations of the earth and to bring salvation from something far more devastating than a famine. God had in mind the sins of mankind and the salvation of the world in mind. And all that He has done or will do is intended for good.

An End and a Beginning.

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him. Then he commanded them and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah—the field and the cave that is in it were bought from the Hittites.” When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.

Then Joseph fell on his father's face and wept over him and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. Forty days were required for it, for that is how many are required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.

And when the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, ‘My father made me swear, saying, “I am about to die: in my tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there shall you bury me.” Now therefore, let me please go up and bury my father. Then I will return.’” And Pharaoh answered, “Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear.” 7 So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father's household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen. It was a very great company. When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and grievous lamentation, and he made a mourning for his father seven days. When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning by the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim; it is beyond the Jordan. Thus his sons did for him as he had commanded them, for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father. – Genesis 49:28-50:14 ESV

Even though Jacob and his family find themselves living in the land of Egypt and Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, had been told by God that they would remain there for 400 years (Genesis 15:13-14), the land of Canaan looms large in this narrative. Canaan is the land that God had promised to give Abraham and his descendants. He had told Abraham, “After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction” (Genesis 15:16 NLT). Isaac, the son of Abraham, and Jacob, his grandson, had both received personal assurances from God that they would receive the land of Canaan as part of God’s covenant promise to Abraham. This inheritance from God, which had yet to be realized, had been passed down from generation to generation. The promise of the land was an ever-present reality in their lives. The promise made to Abraham was constantly on their minds.

“This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.” – Genesis 17:7-8 NLT

So when it came time for Jacob to die, he made his sons promise to bury him in the land of Canaan, alongside the remains of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah. In essence, this was the family burial plot. It had been purchased by Abraham from the Hittites many years earlier in order that he might bury Sarah, his wife. Moses records the transaction for us:

Then Abraham bowed low before the Hittites and said, “Since you are willing to help me in this way, be so kind as to ask Ephron son of Zohar to let me buy his cave at Machpelah, down at the end of his field. I will pay the full price in the presence of witnesses, so I will have a permanent burial place for my family.” – Genesis 23:7-9 NLT

Abraham would pay 400 pieces of silver for the cave and the surrounding land.

So Abraham bought the plot of land belonging to Ephron at Machpelah, near Mamre. This included the field itself, the cave that was in it, and all the surrounding trees.  It was transferred to Abraham as his permanent possession in the presence of the Hittite elders at the city gate. Then Abraham buried his wife, Sarah, there in Canaan, in the cave of Machpelah, near Mamre (also called Hebron). So the field and the cave were transferred from the Hittites to Abraham for use as a permanent burial place. – Genesis 15:17-20 NLT

Notice the number of times that the reference is made to a permanent burial place. The land, while still occupied by the Hittites, was part of the territory God had promised to give to Abraham and his descendants. While God had not yet fulfilled that part of His promise, Abraham went ahead and bought land because he believed that one day God’s promise would be fulfilled. He knew that it would be a long time before that happened, so in the meantime, he wanted a place where his family could bury their dead. And he wanted that place to be within the land of promise.

So upon Jacob’s request, Joseph and his brothers took the body of their father and headed to “the cave that is in the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan” (Genesis 49:30 ESV). And they were accompanied by a large number of Egyptian dignitaries.

So Joseph went up to bury his father; all Pharaoh’s officials went with him—the senior courtiers of his household, all the senior officials of the land of Egypt, all Joseph’s household, his brothers, and his father’s household. – Genesis 50:7-8 NLT

There were even Egyptian chariots and horses. It was quite a funeral procession. And there were so many Egyptians in the caravan, that the Hittites just assumed that it was the funeral for an high-ranking Egyptian official.

So Jacob was buried, with much pomp and circumstance. He was placed in the cave, alongside his father and grandfather. But his sons returned to the land of Egypt where they were destined to remain for more than 400 years. And yet Jacob’s death and burial are meant to act as a hopeful reminder of what is to come. His demise was not the end of the story. That trip to Canaan to bury Jacob was a dress rehearsal for another journey that would be taken by his descendants, four generations later – a huge collection of individuals numbering in the millions. When that day finally arrived, Moses tells us:

God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” – Exodus 13:18-19 ESV

Even Joseph would demand that his remains be returned to the land of Canaan, and centuries after his death, that is exactly what would happen. The promise of God would be fulfilled and the people of Israel would be freed from captivity and led by God Himself to the land of Canaan. Abraham’s death had not been the end. Isaac’s death had not derailed God’s intentions. The deaths of Jacob and Joseph had not brought God’s plans to a screeching halt. They were just the beginning. God was far from done. His promises were bigger than one man or a single generation. His blessings were intended span the generations and to impact the nations. What appeared to be the end was simply the beginning of greater things to come. As God would tell the Israelites while they suffered in captivity in Babylon, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV). God has plans based on His promises and there is nothing that will stop His plans from taking place and His promises from being fulfilled. And Jesus Himself has promised us, “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 ESV).


In the Days to Come.

Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.

“Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob,
    listen to Israel your father.

Reuben, you are my firstborn,
    my might, and the firstfruits of my strength,
    preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence,
    because you went up to your father's bed;
    then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!

Simeon and Levi are brothers;
    weapons of violence are their swords.
Let my soul come not into their council;
    O my glory, be not joined to their company.
For in their anger they killed men,
    and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.
Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
    and their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
    and scatter them in Israel.

Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
    your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
    your father's sons shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion's cub;
    from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
    and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
    and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Binding his foal to the vine
    and his donkey's colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
    and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
    and his teeth whiter than milk.

Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea;
    he shall become a haven for ships,
    and his border shall be at Sidon.

Issachar is a strong donkey,
    crouching between the sheepfolds.
He saw that a resting place was good,
    and that the land was pleasant,
so he bowed his shoulder to bear,
    and became a servant at forced labor.

Dan shall judge his people
    as one of the tribes of Israel.
Dan shall be a serpent in the way,
    a viper by the path,
that bites the horse's heels
    so that his rider falls backward.
I wait for your salvation, O Lord.

Raiders shall raid Gad,
    but he shall raid at their heels.

Asher's food shall be rich,
    and he shall yield royal delicacies.

Naphtali is a doe let loose
    that bears beautiful fawns.

Joseph is a fruitful bough,
    a fruitful bough by a spring;
    his branches run over the wall.
The archers bitterly attacked him,
    shot at him, and harassed him severely,
yet his bow remained unmoved;
    his arms were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
    (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
by the God of your father who will help you,
    by the Almighty who will bless you
    with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
    blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
The blessings of your father
    are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents,
    up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.
May they be on the head of Joseph,
    and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.

Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,
    in the morning devouring the prey
    and at evening dividing the spoil.” – Genesis 49:1-27 ESV

Jacob was nearing death and he wanted to pronounce a blessing on his 12 sons. This event probably brought back all kinds of memories for the aging patriarch as he recalled the blessing he had received from his own father, Isaac, many years before.

“From the dew of heaven
    and the richness of the earth,
may God always give you abundant harvests of grain
    and bountiful new wine.
May many nations become your servants,
    and may they bow down to you.
May you be the master over your brothers,
    and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
All who curse you will be cursed,
    and all who bless you will be blessed.” – Genesis 27:28-29 NLT

He could not have helped but think about Joseph and how all the nations surrounding Egypt had come to him, bowing down before him and depending upon him for grain in order to survive the famine. He had seen his own sons bow down before Joseph, honoring him as their superior. And even though he and his family had been forced to flee to Egypt to escape the famine, they had been awarded the best land of Egypt, and had no shortage of grain and new wine.

So as Jacob prepared to bless his own sons, he was fully aware that much of what he was going to say would have far-reaching, future-focused ramifications. There would be a prophetic nature to his blessing, impacting future generations of his descendants. His 12 sons would each become 12 tribes – the 12 tribes of Israel. Some, as the blessings will illustrate, will play a more significant role than others. Some will be relegated to relative obscurity, for a variety of reasons. The tribe of Judah, from which the Messiah would come, would be elevated to a place of prominence, past his older siblings, Reuben and Simeon. Jacob’s blessing of Judah sounds eerily similar to what Isaac had said of Jacob himself: “your father’s sons shall bow down before you” (Genesis 49:8 ESV).

Then Jacob went on to say, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; the nations will obey him” (Genesis 49:10 NLT). Both David and Solomon would be from the tribe of Judah and they represent the glory years of Israel’s political and military might. But Jacob’s words will be ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, when He rules and reign over all the earth in His millennial kingdom.

Jacob’s words to his sons are predictive and prophetic in nature. While somewhat based on each son’s unique personality and characteristics, the blessings uttered by Jacob are God-ordained, providing a glimpse into the future of not only his sons, but their descendants. When Jacob said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come,” he was letting his sons know that his words would need to be viewed from a long-term perspective. Much of what Jacob says did not take place within his sons’ lifetimes. In fact, many of his words have yet to take place. His sons and their descendants would live in the land of Egypt for more than 400 years. Four generations would call Egypt home before they would find themselves redeemed from captivity by God and returned to the land of Canaan. Forty years of wandering in the wilderness would precede their entrance into the land of promise - all because of their own failure to believe God. Their eventual entrance into the land would be marked by disobedience and failure to follow through on God’s commands. And while they would eventually occupy the land and grow into a mighty nation under the leadership of David, they would eventually see their mighty nation split in two because of the moral and spiritual indiscretions of David’s son, Solomon. God would divide the kingdom into two nations: Israel and Judah. And in time, both nations would be conquered and destroyed by pagan nations, with their citizens taken into captivity – all because of their refusal to honor and obey God.

You can see in Jacob’s descriptions of his sons that they represent a range of personalities and character traits. His 12 sons represent the good, the bad and the ugly of Israel’s future. And yet, God will accomplish His divine will through them and in spite of them. His will will be done. Israel would become a great nation. That nationwould eventually be divided. Those two kingdoms would end up in captivity. But God would eventually restore them. He would send His Son to be born as one of them. They would reject Him as their Messiah. He would die at their hands, labeled as a blasphemer and treated like a common criminal. But God would raise Jesus from the dead and restore Him to His rightful place at side. And one day, God will send His Son back to finish what He began.

The book of Revelation records John’s vision of the end times, when Jesus, the Lion of Judah, will finalize God’s plan and usher in His own kingdom.

“Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” – Revelation 5:5 NLT

Of the Lion of Judah, it will be sung:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.” – Genesis 5:9-10 NLT

In the days to come. We are prone to live with a present-focused perspective. Even our concept of the future is restricted to our own lifetimes. We have a hard time seeing past the present and our own presence. And yet, God is future-focused. His plan is based on what is to come. What is and what has been both find their meaning in the what will be that God has prepared for His people. The best is yet to come.

Not This Way!

When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, “Who are these?” Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” And he said, “Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.” Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. So Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them. And Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also.” Then Joseph removed them from his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him. And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn). And he blessed Joseph and said,

“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
    the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,
the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys;
    and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
    and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” So he blessed them that day, saying,

“By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.’”

Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.” – Genesis 48:8-22 ESV

God’s ways are not our ways. He does not operate according to and is not restricted by our human notions of fair play, social etiquette, customs or traditions. God does not have to do things the way we think they should be done. He is not afraid to offend our sense of decorum or proper procedures. His will is greater than our wishes. His divine plan is far more important than our need for maintaining the status quo.

Jacob had just told Joseph that he was going to adopt his two sons and make them his heirs. “And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are” (Genesis 48:5 ESV). So when Joseph brought his two sons to their grandfather to receive their official adoption and blessing, he had certain expectations about how things were going to go down. The placement of the two boys on the knees of Jacob was part of the Ancient Near Eastern adoption ceremony. Joseph was transferring his two sons to the care of Jacob and officially making them his father’s heirs. Then things got interesting and a bit off-script for Joseph. When he brought his two sons to stand before Jacob to receive their blessings, he had them positioned so that Jacob’s right hand would be on Manasseh, the first-born, and his left hand on Ephraim, the second-born. But when Jacob reached out his hands, he crossed his arms and placed his right hand on the head of Ephraim and his left hand on the head of Manasseh. Joseph was appalled. This was not according to protocol. It was not how things were supposed to happen. Jacob had screwed up. And Joseph was not happy.

When Joseph saw that his father placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him. So he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this is the firstborn. Put your right hand on his head.” – Genesis 48:17-18 NLT

Joseph most likely blamed his father’s gaff on old age and diminished eyesight. Verse ten tells us that Jacob’s eyes were “dim with age.” So Joseph attempted to switch his father’s hand and correct what was an obvious oversight. But Jacob refused, saying, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a nation and he too will become great. In spite of this, his younger brother will be even greater and his descendants will become a multitude of nations” (Genesis 48:19 NLT). Jacob’s crossed hands had not been the result of poor eyesight or age-induced dementia. It had been the will of God. This was yet another example of God choosing the younger over the elder.

Abraham had two sons. His firstborn was Ishmael, born to him by his wife’s handmaiden. But when Abraham asked God to fulfill His promise through Ishmael, God said:

“No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant. As for Ishmael, I will bless him also, just as you have asked. I will make him extremely fruitful and multiply his descendants. He will become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will be confirmed with Isaac, who will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year.” – Genesis 17:19-21 NLT

When Isaac’s wife, Rachel, was pregnant with twin sons, God told her:

“The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.” – Genesis 25:23 NLT

Esau, the eldest of the two, would serve Jacob, the younger.Even in Jacob’s own family, he had elevated Joseph ahead of all his brothers, showing him special favor. It was this favoritism that ended up causing Joseph’s brothers to hate him and sell him into slavery. Then Jacob simply replaced Joseph with Benjamin, the son born to him in his old age.

God doesn’t explain Himself. He doesn’t provide us with an explanation of His actions. While cultural protocol called for the blessing to fall on the firstborn, God was choosing to do things differently. He had a different agenda and was using out-of-the-ordinary means to accomplish His divine will. God would have us remember: “

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT

Look, God is greater than we can understand. – Job 36:26 NLT

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! – Romans 11:33 NLT

The ways of God may be incomprehensible at times, but they are always reliable. His methodology may leave us perplexed, but never disappointed. He may appear to be suffering from poor eyesight or early onset dementia, but in time, we will discover that His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. His hands were crossed for a reason. His blessing only appeared to be off target. God knows what He is doing – all the time and in every circumstance.

We may not understand God’s ways right now, but we will in time. We may not appreciate His methods for the moment, but He will be proven right and righteous. Our sense of fair play may get offended, but He will be proven just and good. Saying, “Not this way!” to God is not only presumptuous, it’s dangerous.

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you're doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’” – Isaiah 45:9 NLT

May we learn to say as Jesus did, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 ESV).


Canaan Land Is Just In Sight.

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. And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years.

And when the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.” He answered, “I will do as you have said.” And he said, “Swear to me”; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed.

After this, Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is ill.” So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And it was told to Jacob, “Your son Joseph has come to you.” Then Israel summoned his strength and sat up in bed. And Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’ And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. And the children that you fathered after them shall be yours. They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance. As for me, when I came from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).” – Genesis 47:27-48:7 ESV

There is an old spiritual that contains the words:


As Jacob and his family settled in the land of Egypt, he had to keep his mind set on the promise of God. Egypt was a temporary detour, and not the final destination of the people of Israel. They were there as a result of God’s providence and they would find His provision and protection there, but they were never meant to make themselves at home there. Jacob and his sons experienced the blessings of God while in Egypt – “they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly” (Genesis 47:27 ESV). But Jacob knew that God had something far greater in store for them. He made Joseph swear that, should he die in the land of Egypt, that Joseph would take his body back to Canaan and bury it there. On his deathbed, he recounted to Joseph the promise that God had made to him years earlier.

“God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’” – Genesis 48:3-4 ESV

It was the land of Canaan that God intended to be their everlasting possession, not Egypt. In Jacob’s simple way of thinking, that would require that God would one day restore them back in the land of Canaan. In the meantime, God was blessing and multiplying them while they lived in Egypt. He was preparing them for something better and greater. But even while they remained in Egypt, Canaan was the objective. It had been ever since God had called Abraham out of Ur.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:1-3 NLT

God directed Abraham to the land of Canaan, and when he had arrived, God told him, “I will give this land to your descendants” (Genesis 12:7 NLT). But Abraham would ask God, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?” (Genesis 47:8 NLT). He wanted proof. He needed a guarantee. So God instructed Abraham to kill a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. Then he was told to divide them in half and lay the pieces side by side with a path between them. After all this work, Abraham fell asleep and God spoke to him in a vision, saying,

“You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. (As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.) After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.” – Genesis 15:13-16 NLT

Then, in his vision, Abraham watched as God sealed His promise by making a unilateral covenant with him. God, in the form of a smoking firepot and flaming torch, passed between the halves of the sacrificed animals, committing Himself to fulfill all that He had promised to Abraham. That land was his, and Abraham had the guarantee of God to back it up.

Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses. So the Lord made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River—the land now occupied by the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.” – Genesis 15:17-21 NLT

Two significant things are going to happen while Abraham’s descendants are living in the land of Egypt for 400 years. First of all, as we have already seen, they are going to multiply in number. God is going to bless them and make them fruitful, so that by the time they leave Egypt under the direction of Moses, they will number in the millions. They entered Egypt numbering only 70 and will leave looking more like a massive army. And this is important because of the second point. God had told Abraham, “After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.” The 400 years was also going to provide plenty of time for those nations that occupied the land of Canaan to sin to their heart’s content. Much like in the days of Noah, the wickedness would increase exponentially and demand God’s intervention and justice. “The justice of God is apparent. He will wait until the Amorites are fully deserving of judgment before he annihilates them and gives the land to Israel” (The NET Bible study notes). The 400-year long detour and delay in Egypt was going to give Israel time to increase in number and the occupants of the land of Canaan to increase in wickedness. Then God would fulfill His promise.

As we live on this earth, we must always keep “Canaan land” in sight. It is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to us as believers that keeps us going. This earth, like Egypt, is simply a detour and a delay along the way to our final destination. God can and does bless us while we are here. He is increasing our numbers. He is providing for us and protecting us as we live in this land. But as the old hymn reminds us, this earth is not our home.

This world is not my home I'm just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Food For Thought.

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. 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. 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.” And Joseph answered, “Give your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.” 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. 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. 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.”

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. As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. 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.

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. 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.” And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.” 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. – Genesis 47:13-26 ESV

God had originally told Abraham, “through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 22:18 NLT). While that promise was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ through His message of salvation for all people, we see it partially fulfilled in the life of Joseph, Abraham’s great-grandson. As the seven-year famine took its toll on the surrounding lands, the people found themselves forced to come to Egypt for grain. During the preceding seven years, when the land was still fruitful, Joseph had set in place a program to store up as much grain as possible, in preparation for the coming famine.

During the seven years of abundance the land produced large, bountiful harvests. Joseph collected all the excess food in the land of Egypt during the seven years and stored it in the cities. In every city he put the food gathered from the fields around it. Joseph stored up a vast amount of grain, like the sand of the sea, until he stopped measuring it because it was impossible to measure. – Genesis 41:47-49 NLT

In time, the people found that they had exhausted all their money buying grain from Pharaoh’s storehouses, but the famine was far from over. So they resorted to exchanging their land and their freedom for food. Eventually, Joseph would provide seed to the people, but enforce a 20 percent tax on all food produced in the land. And when all was said and done, the people would actually thank Joseph for what he had done. “You have saved our lives! You are showing us favor, and we will be Pharaoh’s slaves” (Genesis 47:25 NLT).

There is no mention of Jacob and his family in these verses. They were living in the land of Goshen – “the best of all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 45:20 ESV). And it is important to remember that, because they were shepherds, Pharaoh had put them in charge of his own flocks and herds. He had told Joseph, “Let them settle in the land of Goshen, and if you know any able men among them, put them in charge of my livestock” (Genesis 47:6 ESV). So as the famine increased, the people were forced to trade in their livestock in exchange for grain. “So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for their horses, the livestock of their flocks and herds, and their donkeys. He got them through that year by giving them food in exchange for livestock.” (Genesis 47:17 NLT). The sons of Jacob found themselves extremely busy. They were the official shepherds of Pharaoh and he would have been paying them well to care for his growing menagerie of animals. So while it seems that Pharaoh is the one receiving all the benefits of Joseph’s famine-relief plan, his own family was being sustained and blessed at the same time. The opening lines of the book of Exodus tells us, “In time, Joseph and all of his brothers died, ending that entire generation. But their descendants, the Israelites, had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land” (Exodus 1:6-7 NLT). The very famine that had forced them to flee from Canaan had resulted in the extraordinary expansion of their numbers. As the people of Egypt were exhausting all their money and possessions buying grain from Pharaoh, the Israelites “were fruitful and multiplied greatly” (Genesis 47:27 ESV). They were being blessed by God.

All of this should make us stop and consider the ways of God. If we would have been alive during that day and part of the family of Jacob, it is likely that we would have doubted God’s goodness by questioning His allowance of the famine. We might have complained about having to be upended and relocated to a foreign land. We most likely would have found reason to gripe about how much work we were having to do because of all the livestock being put under our care. And we might have even felt a tinge of jealousy as we watched Pharaoh AND Joseph get inordinately wealthy as the people of the land suffered. But in doing so, we would have have missed the point. We would have failed to see the mysterious ways of God in the seeming difficulties of life.

The family of Jacob was being blessed by God – in the midst of a famine. They were expanding in numbers as the Egyptians were selling off all they had and offering themselves as slaves to Pharaoh. This was the sovereign hand of God at work. It was the will of God being worked out in real life as He fulfilled His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And through all the difficulties surrounding the famine, God was setting up the perfect scenario to bring about His plan to make of Abraham a great nation and to give him the land of Canaan as his possession. God’s ways are not our ways and they never will be, and that should always be food for thought.

Gloom, Despair and Agony On Me.

Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” 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.” And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the presence of Pharaoh. 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. And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their dependents. – Genesis 47:7-12 ESV

I have a difficult time reading this passage without thinking of the old song by Buck Owens and Roy Clark that gained fame on the TV show, Hee Haw. The song was entitled, “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me.” The opening stanza reads:

Gloom, despair and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me

That seems to be the very sentiment of Jacob as he and the Pharaoh meet for the first time. When asked how old he is, Jacob states, “All the years of my travels are 130. All the years of my life have been few and painful; the years of my travels are not as long as those of my ancestors” (Genesis 47:9 NLT). The English Standard Version translates the Hebrew word, ra` as “evil”, but it can actually refer to pain, difficulty, and sorrow, which makes more sense given the context. The New Living Translation provides what would appear to be a much better rendering of Jacob’s thoughts. First of all, it’s interesting to note that Jacob viewed 130 years of life as a short time. But he was comparing it to his grandfather, Abraham, who had lived to be 175-years old. His own father, Isaac had lived to be 180. So Jacob considered himself to be a young man. But he described the years of his life as anything but enjoyable. They had been full of gloom, despair and agony. Jacob seemed to see his life as having been full of deep, dark depression and excessive misery. Which is sadto realize when you look at how God had been a part of his life all along the way. There is no doubt that Jacob had experienced difficult times in his life. He had seen his fair share of sorrow and gone experienced more than a few setbacks and disappointments, but in general, he had lived a blessed life. He had a large family made up of many wives and sons. He had large flocks and more than enough wealth to live comfortably. Yes, he had been cheated by his uncle and forced to work for him in order to gain the hand of his daughter, Rachel. But God had blessed Jacob and he was able to leave his uncle’s employment a wealthy man. He was also able to return home to Canaan and be welcomed with open arms by the brother he had cheated many years before. Their relationship was healed and Jacob’s place in the family was restored. And while Jacob had endured the loss of his youngest son, Joseph, he had just recently experienced the joy of finding him alive and well in Egypt. Not only that, his son was the second-most powerful person in Egypt and had arranged the relocation of Jacob’s entire family to the fertile land of Goshen.

But all Jacob could see was the negative. His life had been short on years and long on misery. He was an unhappy camper. Even when Jacob had received news that Joseph was still alive, all he could muster in response was, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive! I will go and see him before I die” (Genesis 45:9 NLT). And when the two of them were reunited, Jacob greeted Joseph with the cheerful words, “Now let me die since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive” (Genesis 46:30 NLT).

To say that Jacob was a negative person would be an understatement. Here he was seeing his long-lost son for the first time in decades and all he could muster by way of response was, “Now let me die!” He had been given safe passage to Egypt and escape from the famine in the land of Canaan. He had been awarded prime pasture land in Egypt to care for his flocks and family. He had been welcomed with open arms by Pharaoh himself and had a son who was powerful and influential. Nowhere in any of this does Jacob express gratitude for God’s goodness. He does not offer God any thanks for His providential hand in his life and the gracious return of the son he had long thought dead.

The text records:

So Joseph settled his father and his brothers. He gave them territory in the land of Egypt, in the best region of the land, the land of Rameses, just as Pharaoh had commanded. Joseph also provided food for his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household, according to the number of their little children. – Genesis 47:11-12 NLT

This was all the result of the sovereign, merciful, gracious work of God Almighty. Jacob and his family were smack-dab in the center of the will of God. They were right where they were supposed to be. But rather than focus on the goodness of God, Jacob seemed to be fixated on what he believed to be the difficulties of his own life. Life on this planet will always be marked by peaks and valleys, ups and downs, joys and sorrows. The great king, David, had to endure years of pain and suffering as he ran from the anger of Saul. He had been anointed king of Israel, but would have to wait years before the throne was actually his. David wrote Psalm 59 during the time of his life when Saul had sent soldiers to watch his house in order that they might kill him. And while this was a difficult time for David, he was able to write:

But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love. – Psalm 59:16-17 NLT

How easy it is to view our lives through a lens clouded by doubt, despair and a fixation on difficult. How many times have we expressed words similar to those of Buck Owens and Roy Clark?

Gloom, despair and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me

But the goodness and greatness of God should overshadow our gloom, despair and agony. The unfailing love of God should outweigh our excessive misery. And the providential care of God should be more than enough to replace our need for any kind of luck, good or bad.

Pharaoh, Flocks and Famine.

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. 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. Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive.” 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. 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.’ When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ 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.”

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.” And from among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were.” 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.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. 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.” – Genesis 46:28-47:6 ESV

Sometimes the stories of the Bible become so familiar to us that they lose their significance and we lose our sense of awe at the display of God’s power found in them. The story of Joseph is a case in point. We have already seen so many examples of God’s sovereign, providential hand at work, predestining Joseph for his role as the savior of God’s people. Time and time again, God has displayed His power and undeniable control over the affairs of men and even the realm of nature. The seven year famine was part of God’s plan, just as much as Joseph’s rise to the second most-powerful position in the land of Egypt. Each and every event connected with this story reveals yet another example of God’s sovereign control over everything and everyone. 

As Jacob, his sons and their families arrive in Egypt, and are reunited with Joseph, we are provided with yet another example of God’s providence. Jacob was a shepherd by trade. So were his sons. When Jacob had gone through his self-imposed exile in Paddam-aram, he had been a shepherd, tending the flocks of his uncle, Laban. And he had been good at his job, at one point telling his uncle, “You know how hard I’ve worked for you, and how your flocks and herds have grown under my care. You had little indeed before I came, but your wealth has increased enormously. The Lord has blessed you through everything I’ve done” (Genesis 30:29-30 NLT). Jacob eventually left Laban’s employment, but not before he had a few choice words for his uncle and former boss:

“For twenty years I have been with you, caring for your flocks. In all that time your sheep and goats never miscarried. In all those years I never used a single ram of yours for food. If any were attacked and killed by wild animals, I never showed you the carcass and asked you to reduce the count of your flock. No, I took the loss myself! You made me pay for every stolen animal, whether it was taken in broad daylight or in the dark of night.

“I worked for you through the scorching heat of the day and through cold and sleepless nights. Yes, for twenty years I slaved in your house! I worked for fourteen years earning your two daughters, and then six more years for your flock. And you changed my wages ten times! In fact, if the God of my father had not been on my side—the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac—you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. – Genesis 31:38-42 NLT

It had been God who protected Jacob and who increased his wealth – in spite of the efforts of Laban. And it was Jacob who passed on his knowledge of shepherding to his sons. And they too became the owners of great flocks and herds. But then the famine came. Famine and flocks do not go well together. So Jacob and his sons were forced to look for another source of food to provide for their flocks and families. That is what had led them to Egypt in the first place. And now they were returning to Egypt to live, bringing all their flocks and families with them, because there were five more years of famine yet to come. Once again, this had all been a part of God’s divine plan for His people. It had been God who had blessed Jacob with flocks. It had been God who had brought about the famine that had threatened the well-being of Jacob’s flocks. And it was God who had moved the heart of Pharaoh to willingly and graciously accept Jacob and his family and flocks into Egypt, providing for them the best of his land as their possession.

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and go to the land of Canaan! Get your father and your households and come to me! Then I will give you the best land in Egypt and you will eat the best of the land.’ You are also commanded to say, ‘Do this: Take for yourselves wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives. Bring your father and come. Don’t worry about your belongings, for the best of all the land of Egypt will be yours.’” – Genesis 45:17-20 NLT

And when they arrived, that is exactly what happened. They came before Pharaoh, explained their plight and pleaded for his help. Verse four of chapter 47 sums it all up.

Then they said to Pharaoh, “We have come to live as temporary residents in the land. There is no pasture for your servants’ flocks because the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. So now, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen.” – Genesis 47:4 NLT

What is truly amazing about this is that Pharaoh, as an Egyptian, hated shepherds. Joseph had even told his brothers to say to Pharaoh, “Your servants have taken care of cattle from our youth until now, both we and our fathers,” and warned them that, “everyone who takes care of sheep is disgusting to the Egyptians” (Genesis 46:34 NLT). And yet here were Hebrew shepherds coming before one of the most powerful men in the world, asking him to provide them with land to care for their flocks. And what did Pharaoh do? He gave them the land of Goshen, the best land in Egypt. Not only that, he employed some of the brothers to care for his own flocks and herds. These events should create in us a sense of awe and wonder at the providential care of God. This had all been His doing. The book of Proverbs reminds us, “The king's heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases” (Proverbs 21:12 NLT). Pharaoh’s generous offer had been part of God’s plan, just as much as the famine had been. The unlikely and implausible blend of Pharaoh, flocks and famine was God’s doing. As William Cowper stated so well, “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.” An Egyptian Pharaoh, a seven-year famine, and the famished flocks of the people of Israel. What a strange combination. And what a wonderful example of God’s mysterious providence. Which is why Cowper goes on to remind us:

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

Divine Detours and Delays.

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. 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, his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters. All his offspring he brought with him into Egypt.

Now these are the names of the descendants of Israel, who came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons. Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and the sons of Reuben: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman. The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 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. The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puvah, Yob, and Shimron. The sons of Zebulun: Sered, Elon, and Jahleel. 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.

The sons of Gad: Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi, and Areli. The sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, Beriah, with Serah their sister. And the sons of Beriah: Heber and Malchiel. These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah his daughter; and these she bore to Jacob—sixteen persons.

The sons of Rachel, Jacob’s wife: Joseph and Benjamin. 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. And the sons of Benjamin: Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard. These are the sons of Rachel, who were born to Jacob—fourteen persons in all.

The son of Dan: Hushim. The sons of Naphtali: Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem. These are the sons of Bilhah, whom Laban gave to Rachel his daughter, and these she bore to Jacob—seven persons in all.

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. 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. – Genesis 46:5-27

Beersheba was a place of significance for Jacob and his family. Years earlier, his grandfather, Abraham had planted a tree there and worship Yahweh.

Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he worshiped the Lord, the Eternal God. – Genesis 21:23 NLT

Jacob’s father, Issac, would also meet with God at Beersheba. It was there he dug a well and built an altar to Yahweh.

From there Isaac moved to Beersheba, where the Lord appeared to him on the night of his arrival. “I am the God of your father, Abraham,” he said. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. I will multiply your descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of my promise to Abraham, my servant.” Then Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the Lord. He set up his camp at that place, and his servants dug another well. – Genesis 26:23-25 NLT

So when Jacob begins his journey to Egypt, he does so by going first to Beersheba, which was in the southern part of the land of Canaan. “So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac” (Genesis 46:1 ESV). And while he was there, Jacob was visited by God.

God spoke to Israel in a vision during the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob!” He replied, “Here I am!” He said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt and I myself will certainly bring you back from there. Joseph will close your eyes.” – Genesis 46:2-4 NLT

It is likely that part of Jacob’s reticence about going to Egypt stemmed from his awareness of a part of God’s promise to Abraham that we rarely talk about. Yes, God had promised to give Abraham the land of Canaan and to make of him a great nation, but there was a second part to the promise that rarely gets discussed. But Jacob would have been aware of it and couldn’t help but fear that his move to Egypt was the beginning of this part of the promise being fulfilled.

Then the Lord said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. (As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.) After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.” – Genesis 15:13-16 NLT

That is why God told Jacob, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt.” God was going to go with them. He was still going to make of them a great nation. And four generations later, He would bring them back to the land of Canaan. At just the right time. This was all part of God’s plan. It had always been a part of God’s plan. And it is why Abraham’s attempt to escape famine and flee to Egypt had been premature and not ordained by God. It is why God commanded Isaac not to go to Egypt when he faced yet another famine. God had a perfect timing to His plan. The land of Egypt was going to play a significant role in the salvation and establishment of the nation of Israel. It would be in this foreign land that God would bless Israel and multiply them. The book of Exodus opens with the following words:

These are the names of the sons of Israel (that is, Jacob) who moved to Egypt with their father, each with his family: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. In all, Jacob had seventy descendants in Egypt, including Joseph, who was already there. In time, Joseph and all of his brothers died, ending that entire generation. But their descendants, the Israelites, had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land. – Exodus 1:1-7 NLT

The estimates are, that by the end of their 400-year stay in Egypt, the Israelites numbered in the millions. They had multiplied significantly. God had blessed them dramatically. But it had all begun with one young man’s betrayal and sale into slavery. It had taken the highly unlikely rise of this young man to the second-most powerful position in the land of Egypt. It had involved a seven-year long famine and the relocation of an entire family from Canaan to Egypt. But God had accomplished it all, exactly as He had planned.

Too often, we mistakenly focus on the outcome of God’s promises, while neglecting to understand that God is free to fulfill His promises in any way He sees fit. Jacob was not excited about the prospect of moving his entire family to Egypt. He was not looking forward to the prospect of 400 years of slavery for his descendants. But to receive the blessings of God sometimes requires that we endure the trials and sufferings that come along the way. Joseph had to be sold into slavery. He had to suffer a false accusation of rape and endure unjustified imprisonment. He had to go through two years in prison while waiting for God’s timing to free him. But when all was said and done, Joseph found himself in the unique and privileged position of being the God-ordained means for saving the people of Israel.

The fulfillment of God’s promises sometimes require what appear to be unnecessary detours and delays. God has promised us eternal life and a permanent place in His Kingdom. But in the meantime, we find ourselves going through our own journeys into Egypt, long periods of seeming enslavement and difficulty, and the painful experience of trials that appear to have no point to them. But God is faithful. His promises are true. His methods are always right. And His presence is guaranteed, whether we are in Canaan or Egypt. “I will go down with you to Egypt and I myself will certainly bring you back from there” (Genesis 46:4 NLT).

The Strange Ways of God.

The sons of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. 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. 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. Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.”

So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. 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. 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. And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” 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. 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.” – Genesis 45:21-46:4 ESV

Upon their return to Canaan, the brothers found their father a bit hard to convince. He didn’t exactly find the news of Joseph being alive believable. After all the years that had passed, it was far from being too good to be true, it was impossible. But he finally came around when he heard the whole story and saw the wagons and goods that Joseph had sent. He became convinced that his son was alive and that he should go and see him while he still had time.

But as amazing as the news of Joseph’s “resurrection” was to Jacob, the most fascinating part of this story is the way in which God chose to fulfill His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Decades earlier, God had called Abraham out of Ur and sent him to Canaan, promising to give him the land as his possession and to make of him a great nation.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:1-3 ESV

But Abraham never owned any land in Canaan, and he only had two sons when he died. Yet years later, God would reconfirm the promise to Isaac, Abraham’s son. This is where it gets interesting.

Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” – Genesis 26:1-5 ESV

Two things jump out. The mention of a famine and the reference to the land of Egypt. On this occasion, God commands Isaac to NOT go down to Egypt to escape the famine. Instead, he was to remain in the land. What makes this so fascinating is that his father, Abraham, had faced a similar situation years earlier, not long after God he had arrived in the land of Canaan.

At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner. – Genesis 12:10 ESV

Abraham traveled to the land of Canaan, just as God had told him to do, and found it suffering from a severe famine. His decision was to go to Egypt. It was there that Abraham came up with the ridiculous idea for Sarah, his wife, to lie and say that she was his sister. This was because she was beautiful and Abraham feared that someone would have him murdered just to get their hands on her. Abraham’s worst fear came true when Pharaoh himself found Sarah attractive and took her into his harem. It took a divine intervention from God to save her and return her to Abraham. God even blessed Abraham, allowing him to walk out of Egypt with great wealth.

But in all three cases, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God chose to utilize a famine and a foreign country to accomplish His divine plan. Egypt looms large in each of the stories. For Abraham, it was a place of escape. He had been called to Canaan, but found it not as he had expected. The famine in the land caused him to run to the Nile valley where he knew he could find food for he and his wife. There is no indication that God sent him there. For Isaac, the presence of yet another famine had caused him to consider going to Egypt, just as his father had done. But God commanded him not to go. He was to stay in the land that God would show him. And yet, in the case of Jacob, God would visit him in a dream and tell him, “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. 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” (Genesis 46:3-4 ESV).

This time, God was clearly sending His people to Egypt and confirming that, in Egypt, He would make them into a great nation. Three men, three famines and three occasions to turn to Egypt for help. But only in the last case did God command that Egypt was to be the place of refuge for His people and the means by which He would fulfill His promise. It is fascinating to consider why God chose to send Joseph to Egypt and then have Jacob and his entire family end up living there. Why did He not simply leave them in the land He had promised to them? What was His reasoning for sending them to Egypt where they would remain for 400 years, many of those years as slaves? God doesn’t give us answers. But we are simply asked to trust in His plan and the timing of that plan. God dealt differently with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. His promise to them was the same, but the particular plan He had for each of them was distinctly different. Abraham went to Egypt but hadn’t been told to. Isaac considered going to Egypt, but was commanded not to. Jacob was reticent to go to Egypt, but God assured him to do so. The time was right. What had been wrong for Abraham and Isaac was now right for Jacob. God was going to make of Jacob a great nation, but He was going to do so while Jacob and his family lived in Egypt. The opening lines of the book of Exodus provide us with a snapshot of what God did to fulfill His promise to Jacob.

These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. – Exodus 1:1-7 ESV

Why did God choose to do it this way? We don’t know. But we can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was the way He chose and all His ways “are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!” (Deuteronomy 32:4 NLT).


God Has…

Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.

When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan,  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.’ 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. Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’” – Genesis 45:9-20 ESV

The brothers are shocked to discover that the governor of Egypt is actually their own brother, Joseph, whom they had sold into slavery years earlier. And while this revelation initially left them dumbfounded and fearful, they were surprised yet again when Joseph reacted to them with love and mercy, not anger and revenge. But the most mind-blowing, unexpected and difficult-to-digest news they heard that day was the fact that their sin against Joseph had been used by God to accomplish His will and their salvation. Joseph informed them that the famine, which had already lasted two years, had five more to go. And his arrival in Egypt and rise to prominence in Pharaoh’s court had been the sovereign, providential work of God. What they had intended for evil, God had intended for good. So Joseph tells his brothers to return home, gather their father and families and bring them back to Egypt so that they might enjoy the salvation that God has prepared for them.

Joseph instructs his brothers to give their father the following news: “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt” (Genesis 45:9 ESV). Once again, Joseph reveals his strong conviction that all of this has been the work of God. Rather than dwell on the evil that had been done to him, Joseph has chosen to focus on the good God has done for him and intends to do through him. Joseph has not spent his days having a pity party. He has been watching the hand of God orchestrate the events of his life and influence everything from the weather to the whims of men to accomplish His divine will. God had sent Joseph to Egypt. God had placed him in Potiphar’s house. God had used the immoral advances of Potiphar’s wife to have Joseph thrown in prison, where he would meet the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker. God was the one who caused those two men to have dreams and gave Joseph the ability to interpret them. It was God who divinely ordained the two-year delay, that left Joseph in prison, until the time at which the Pharaoh himself had a dream for which he needed an interpreter. God caused the cupbearer to remember Joseph and recommend him to Pharaoh. And the rest, as they say, is history. Joseph was rewarded by Pharaoh with a place in his court and given the responsibility of preparing the nation for the upcoming famine that Pharaoh’s dream had foretold. It had all been the will and work of God Almighty. 

So Joseph sent his brothers home with good news. He was alive and they had a new home in Egypt, where they would be saved from the famine and provided with all the land they needed to care for their flocks and all the food they would need to feed their families. But once again, God stepped in and revealed His sovereign control over the affairs of the day. God gave Pharaoh a soft heart toward the brothers of Joseph, causing him to offer them the use of wagons to carry their families and goods, and the best land in Egypt as their home when they returned. This was all God’s doing. Joseph knew it and his brothers were discovering it. And the most amazing thing was that God was providing for them in spite of them. He was blessing them, even though they did not deserve it. He was pouring out His undeserved favor on them and revealing His unwavering faithfulness and unconditional love.

Earlier in his conversation with his brothers, Joseph had told them, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors” (Genesis 45:7 ESV). That term, “remnant” is significant. It will be a word used throughout the Old Testament to refer to those of the house of Israel whom God preserves and protects in order to fulfill His covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.– Isaiah 10:21-22 ESV

For a remnant of my people will spread out from Jerusalem, a group of survivors from Mount Zion. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! – 2 Kings 19:31 NLT

But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, declares the Lord of hosts. For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. – Zechariah 8:11-12 ESV

Then at last the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will himself be Israel’s glorious crown. He will be the pride and joy of the remnant of his people. – Isaiah 28:5 NLT

Years later, the apostle Paul would use this same word to speak of those who make up the church, those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God's reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. – Romans 11:1-6 ESV

God was preserving and protecting the family of Jacob so that he might fulfill His promise to Abraham and create a mighty nation. It would be through that nation, the Jewish people, that God would bring His Son, the Messiah, to bring salvation to the world, preserving a remnant of those who believe in His name and receive the gift of eternal life. Joseph’s brothers and their families would receive life, physical capacity to live and survive while others died as a result of the famine. They would thrive and increase in number, all as a result of the grace and goodness of God. But all of this was a foreshadowing of a greater grace to come. The good news regarding Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation and eternal, never-ending life.

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirstyAnd this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” – John 6:35, 39-40 ESV



But God.

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” – Genesis 45:1-8 ESV

After Judah’s long, impassioned speech and his expressed willingness to offer himself as a substitute for Benjamin and serve as slave in his place, Joseph could contain himself no longer. He lost it. And he finally broke down and revealed to his brothers his true identity. What a scene that must have been. Joseph had all the Egyptians leave the room and then he said those shocking words that left his brothers dumbfounded and speechless: “I am Joseph!” Of all the unexpected things that had happened to them recently, this was the most surprising of all. There had been no suspicion on their part. They were caught completely off guard and “were dismayed at his presence.” The Hebrew word translated “dismayed” is bahal and it means “alarm, terror, to be disturbed, be anxious, be afraid” (H926 - bahal - Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (KJV). They were already afraid when they had entered Joseph’s house, because they were being accused of theft. But now their fear reached epic proportions. They were standing in front of their long-lost brother, the one they had betrayed and sold into slavery. They could only assume the worst. He was probably angry and out for revenge. On top of that, he was powerful and capable of doing to them whatever he wanted to do. 

During this entire ordeal in Egypt, the brothers had been repeatedly reminded of their sin against Joseph years ago. The first time, when they had been accused of being spies and were commanded to bring back their youngest brother, Benjamin, as proof of their story, they had assumed they were being punished by God for their sin.

Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” – Genesis 41:21-22 ESV

Now, their feelings of guilt were confirmed and Joseph could see the fear in their eyes. They were petrified and probably remained as they had been when they first came into his presence: on their knees before him. So Joseph simply says, “Come near to me, please!” (Genesis 45:4 ESV). He invites them to get up and come close. He extends a warm welcome when they were expecting well-deserved revenge. And then Joseph says something that had to have left them reeling. In the midst of all their regret, remorse, fear and guilt, Joseph tells them:

“I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” – Genesis 45:4-5 ESV

Yes, they had heard right. He was their brother. And yes, they were guilty of having sold him into slavery. But the rest of their assumptions were wrong. While they were responsible for their actions, God was ultimately responsible for the outcome. He had used their sinful actions to accomplish His divine will. Joseph reveals to them the mysterious and difficult doctrine of the providence of God. “God sent me before you to preserve life.” They had sold Joseph, but God had sent him. They had betrayed Joseph, but God had commissioned him as his means of salvation for the people of Israel. Joseph clearly understood that his entire ordeal in Egypt had been God-ordained.

“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” – Genesis 45:7-8 ESV

Joseph had had plenty of time to think about his life and circumstances. He had been able to revisit all the events of his life and see the clear hand of God orchestrating and determining his destiny. They say hindsight is 20/20. In Joseph’s case, nothing could be truer. He could look back and see what God had been doing, even in those dark moments of the soul, when he was lying in the pit, serving as a slave and sitting in a prison for two years. God had been there. God had been at work. Those moments were just as much a part of God’s divine plan as Joseph’s elevation to the second-most powerful position in the land of Egypt. And it had all begun with his initial betrayal by his brothers. It had been God who sent Joseph to Egypt, not his brothers. This does not absolve them of guilt or responsibility for their actions. It simply states that God’s will is greater than man’s capacity for sin. Later on in the book of Genesis, Moses records yet another conversation between Joseph and his brothers. Joseph will once again inform them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20 NLT).  

Their original intentions had been purely evil, motivated by jealousy and hatred. They had despised Joseph so much that they had been willing to kill him, but had settled for selling him as a slave. Their actions had been selfish and self-centered. But God had used their evil intent for their own good. He had taken their sinful actions and brought about something they had never intended and did not deserve: Their own salvation.

The apostle Peter reached a similar conclusion when he preached to the Jews after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost:

People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him.” – Acts 2:23-24 NLT

They were guilty of Jesus’ death, but God was the one who had preordained it. What they intended for evil, God had ordained for their own good. Such is the mystery of God’s providence. And Joseph’s brothers were going to learn the unfathomable, unbelievable joy of God’s sovereignty over even their own sin. They had willingly sacrificed their own brother’s life for their own sinful, selfish gain. But God had trumped their sin with his plan of salvation for their lives. “And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Genesis 45:7 NLT).  “But God.” Two of the most powerful, encouraging, and hope-filled words in the entire Bible.

"I Shall Bear the Blame."

When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there. They fell before him to the ground. Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that a man like me can indeed practice divination?” 16 And Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; behold, we are my lord's servants, both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found.” But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the man in whose hand the cup was found shall be my servant. But as for you, go up in peace to your father.”

Then Judah went up to him and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’

“When we went back to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother goes with us, then we will go down. For we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. One left me, and I said, “Surely he has been torn to pieces,” and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in evil to Sheol.’

“Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy's life, as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.” – Genesis 44:14-34 ESV

The brothers of Joseph have been accused of stealing – again – and the evidence is not in their favor. They were caught with the money intended to pay for their grain still in their sacks. Not only that, the diviner’s cup that belonged to the governor was discovered in Benjamin’s sack. Of course, they had been set up by Joseph, but they were not yet aware of that fact. All they knew was that they were in deep trouble. They were non-resident aliens accused of stealing from the second-most powerful man in Egypt. And when they were brought before this man, it was Judah who did the talking. He felt a special responsibility because he had been the one to convince Jacob to allow them to return to Egypt with Benjamin, just as the governor had commanded.

“Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.” – Genesis 43:8-9 ESV

Now everything had gone south. The worst that could happen had happened. They were standing before the governor accused of being thieves and the case against them was strong. Once again, the brothers found themselves bowing down before Joseph, just as his dreams had foreshadowed. When confronted by Joseph about their crime, Judah speaks up, but does not waste time trying to deny the facts of the case. He admits that they are guilty and all worthy of judgment. They deserve to be enslaved. Even though it was Benjamin in whose sack the governor’s goblet was found, Judah includes all the brothers in the guilt. They all agree to accept the blame and the punishment. But the governor has other plans.

“Far be it from me to do this! The man in whose hand the cup was found will become my slave, but the rest of you may go back to your father in peace.” – Genesis 44:17 NLT

As part of his test for his brothers, Joseph informs them that it is only Benjamin, their youngest brother who will remain behind as a slave. They are free to go and return to their father, Jacob. Again, this is a Joseph’s way of assessing the integrity of his brothers. Would they take advantage of the opportunity and hightail it out of town, leaving their brother a slave in Egypt? Or would they do the right thing and do whatever it took to protect their father’s favorite son? Judah provides the answer. He steps forward and takes the responsibility to appeal to the governor, keeping the commitment he had made to his father. He is going to do whatever he had to do to make sure Benjamin was returned to his father, even if it meant that he would take Benjamin’s place, remaining in Egypt as a slave. This selfless, sacrificial act should have a familiar ring to it. Judah was offering himself as a sin-substitute, willingly expressing his desire to suffer for the sins of another, so that they might set free from guilt and condemnation. Judah pleads with the governor:

“Indeed, your servant pledged security for the boy with my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I will bear the blame before my father all my life.’

“So now, please let your servant remain as my lord’s slave instead of the boy. As for the boy, let him go back with his brothers.” – Genesis 44:32-33 NLT

Judah was willing to become a slave for another. He was giving his life as a ransom, a payment for someone else. Sound familiar? It should. It would be Jesus, a descendant of Judah, who would say: “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45 NLT). Unknowingly, Judah was exhibiting the character of Christ, by leading through serving and loving through sacrifice. It would be a long time before the apostle John penned the following words, but they are exemplified in the life and actions of Judah:

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. – 1 John 4:10-11 NLT

Judah was loving his father and his brother the best way he knew how, by offering his life as a sacrifice. This action did not go unnoticed by Jacob or by God. Years later, on his deathbed, Jacob would bless Judah, making the following prediction: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10 ESV).  It would be through the tribe of Judah that the Messiah would come. King David would come from the line of Judah, as would Solomon. Israel’s greatest days would be under the reigns of these two kings. And it will be under the Messiah’s kingship that the people of Israel will rule and reign once again. Centuries later, the angel, Gabriel, would tell Mary:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” – Luke 1 30-33 ESV

Judah’s willingness to give his life as a ransom for his brother was a sign of something far greater to come. The Son of God coming to earth to give His life as a ransom for many – the sinless for the sinful. Unlike Jesus, Judah was a sinner and deserving of judgment. But his willingness to love his brother unconditionally and give his life sacrificially, is a picture of the love of Christ for mankind. As Jesus Himself would one day say, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 ESV).



Déjà Vu All Over Again.

Then he commanded the steward of his house, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, and put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain.” And he did as Joseph told him.

As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their donkeys. They had gone only a short distance from the city. Now Joseph said to his steward, “Up, follow after the men, and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he practices divination? You have done evil in doing this.’”

When he overtook them, he spoke to them these words. They said to him, “Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing! Behold, the money that we found in the mouths of our sacks we brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? Whichever of your servants is found with it shall die, and we also will be my lord's servants.” He said, “Let it be as you say: he who is found with it shall be my servant, and the rest of you shall be innocent.” Then each man quickly lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. And he searched, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. Then they tore their clothes, and every man loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city. – Genesis 44:1-13 ESV

Just when things seemed to be going so well, everything went south for the brothers. After their wonderful meal with the governor, they were sent away with their sacks filled with grain, their brother, Simeon, freed from prison, and Benjamin safely in tow. Their destination was Canaan. But they didn’t get far. Once again, Joseph had instructed that the money they bought to pay for the grain be secretly returned to their sacks. Not only that, he had an expensive goblet placed in the sack of the youngest brother, Benjamin. Then he sent his steward, most likely with an armed party, to catch up to his brothers’ caravan and expose their “treachery.”

This story has an eerie sense of déjà vu about it. Many years earlier, when Jacob was attempting to secretly get away from his uncle, Laban, and return to Canaan, his caravan was overtaken by Laban and his kinsmen. Not only had Jacob snuck away without telling Laban or giving him a chance to say goodbye to his daughters and grandchildren, someone in his party had stolen Laban’s household gods. Jacob explained that he had failed to tell Laban because he feared he would take his daughters back by force. As far as the stolen idols went, he claimed to know nothing about them, telling Laban:

“Anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live. In the presence of our kinsmen point out what I have that is yours, and take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them. – Genesis 31:32 ESV

Laban searched and searched, but did not find the idols because Rachel, his daughter had hidden them in her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Eventually, Laban allowed Jacob and his entourage to leave, having been warned by God in a dream not to do any harm to Jacob. Jacob had been fortunate. He had made a rash vow to kill anyone who had stolen the idols. Little had he known that his own wife was the guilty culprit.

Like father, like sons. When Joseph’s steward caught up with them, they too quickly denied the allegations, saying, “Far be it from your servants to do such a thing!” (Genesis 44:7 ESV). Sounding eerily similar to their father, Jacob, one of the sons rashly blurted out, “Whichever of your servants is found with it shall die, and we also will be my lord's servants” (Genesis 44:9 ESV). They were offended by the accusation. They knew they were innocent, but they have also known better. This was not the first time they had been wrongly accused of being thieves. But their short-term memory loss seems to have prevented them from remembering how that had all turned out. The money had been in their sacks, just as had been claimed. And now, the claims of stealing proved true again. Not only was the money in their sacks, so was the governor’s prized goblet. The steward gives the goblet special value by saying it is the one the governor uses to practice the art of divination. This does not necessarily mean that Joseph, a worshiper of Yahweh, was guilty of doing divination, it was likely meant to prove to the brothers that the cup had special value and that the governor had secret powers.

Once again, Joseph was giving his brothers a test to determine their loyalty and honesty. When the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack, the steward gave Joseph’s pronouncement: “he who is found with it shall be my servant, and the rest of you shall be innocent” (Genesis 44:10 ESV). Would they take advantage of the situation, saving their own lives by abandoning their younger brother to a life of slavery. As Joseph knew all too well, it would not have been the first time for them to do such a thing. Would they be willing to leave Benjamin behind, cutting their losses, and returning with their grain and their money in tow?

The brothers were devastated. “Then they tore their clothes, and every man loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city” (Genesis 44:13 ESV). They couldn’t believe this was happening to them again. Was this all the punishment of God for their former treatment of Joseph? Was it some form of divine payback? Were they suffering under God’s curse and doomed to spend the rest of their lives making restitution for their former sins?

How easy it is to see the inexplicable and unpleasant experiences of life as a form of God’s punishment or displeasure. How quickly we assume that difficulties are signs of God’s anger for something we have done or, possibly, should have done. Perhaps God is simply testing us, revealing the true state of our heart and the condition of our faith. Rather than automatically assuming the worst, are we willing to let God reveal to us what He is trying to show us, about ourselves or about Him? Could He be trying to show us our pride and self-sufficiency? Might He be trying to prove to us our weakness and His strength?

Joseph’s brothers didn’t understand their God. They didn’t fully trust Him. Unlike King David, they didn’t realize just how much God loved them and cared for them. He had great plans for them.

O Lord, you have examined my heartand know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! – Psalm 139:1-6 NLT

It was David’s intimate understanding of God’s love that allowed him to say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT). He knew God loved him and was willing to let God expose anything about him that needed to be changed. What if Joseph’s brothers had looked at their lives with that perspective? What if they had been willing to say, “Lord, what are you trying to tell us? What are you trying to reveal about us?”

Like David, we all need to see the trials of life as opportunities to let God reveal the hidden sins and unseen weaknesses in our life. Trials tend to expose faults. They can bring out the worst and the best in us. Which is why David said: “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin” (Psalm 19:12-13 NLT).

Joseph’s Dreams Come True.

When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement. Portions were taken to them from Joseph's table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him. – Genesis 43:26-34 ESV

It had been many years since Joseph had experienced his two dreams while living in the land of Canaan with his father and brothers. He would have been 39-years old at this point in the story, but he would not have forgotten those two dreams and the reaction of his father and brothers when he shared them. He may not have fully known what they meant, but he knew jealousy and resentment when he saw it. Those two dreams were the impetus for his brothers’ betrayal of him.

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. – Genesis 37:5-8 ESV

It was his dreams, at least in part, that had resulted in his sale to the Midianite traders. And that one act had set in motion a chain of events that led to Joseph’s rise to power. And now, years later, at least one of his dreams would be fulfilled right before his eyes.

And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. – Genesis 43:28b ESV

But this was not the thing that caught Joseph’s attention. He was not seeking for revenge or retribution. He did not gloat over the fact that his brothers were being forced to bow before him. At this point, they did not even know who he was. No, Joseph was overcome with emotion by seeing his younger brother, Benjamin. Jacob had 12 sons. Four of them were born to his wife, Leah. They were Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. Dan and Naphtali were born to Bilhah. Gad and Asher were born to Zilpah. Issachar and Zebulun were born to Leah. But Joseph and Benjamin were born to Rachel. They shared the same mother. And there was a 16-year difference in their ages. So when Joseph saw Benjamin, he was overcome with emotion. So much so, that he had to excuse himself and go to another room to weep. When he had regained his composure, he rejoined his brothers for a meal.

It was at this meal that Joseph gave his brothers yet another test. While they all shared the privilege of eating in the Egyptian governor’s home as his guests, Benjamin was given five times the portions his brothers received. Joseph was showing his youngest brother favor much as his father had done to him years earlier. Would his brothers become jealous? Would they reveal a hatred for Benjamin as they had for Joseph? Joseph got his answer. “And they drank and were merry with him” (Genesis 43:34 ESV). The Hebrew word translated “merry”, actually indicates that they got drunk. This time his brothers were too busy being amazed at their incredible good fortune and too relieved that things had turned out the way they had to get jealous. But they were in for quite a surprise. Their merriment was going to turn into amazement when they discovered who their host really was. Their joy was going to turn into fear when they learned his true identity and realized their dangerous predicament. But before Joseph would reveal himself to his brothers, he had yet another test to give them.

Why all the subterfuge? Why didn’t Joseph just reveal himself to his brothers immediately? Was it really necessary for him to play this charade and keep his identity a secret? What was he trying to accomplish? The best we can gather from the events recorded in the book of Genesis is that Joseph was trying to ascertain if his brothers had changed. Did they have any remorse over what they had done to him years earlier? In the years since they had sold him into slavery, had they matured and had enough time to rethink their actions? Did they regret their earlier decision? Joseph longed to be restored to his family, but he had to know just what kind of family they were. He was in a position to bless them and provide for them, but Joseph wanted to know the condition of their hearts. We know from the record of Genesis, that Joseph was a man of integrity and honor. He had proven himself to be honest, a hard worker and loyal to his employers. In every situation he found himself, he applied himself to his work and made himself an invaluable asset to all those around him. He had the favor of God and men. But what about his brothers? Could they be trusted? Were they men of integrity and honesty? When they discovered who Joseph was, would their bowing be replaced with renewed hatred and jealousy. Joseph had been favored by God Himself. God had raised Joseph to a prominent position in the court of Pharaoh. God had clothed Joseph with beautiful garments and given him riches beyond his brothers’ wildest dreams. Would their old jealousies surface again?

Behind all of this is the hand of God preparing his people for His blessings and the fulfillment of His promises. As we have already seen, this is not really a story about Joseph, but about God and His faithfulness to His chosen people, Israel. Joseph is simply a conduit through whom God sent dreams and by whom God was going to fulfill the promises He had made to Abraham. Joseph’s dream had come true. His brothers had bowed down before him. But the real point of the story is that God’s promise was coming true. He was in the process of fulfilling all that He had said He would do. And each of these events is part of His divine plan for bringing about His to make of Abraham a great nation and, through him, to bless all the families of the earth.

An Unexpected Outcome.

When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph’s house. And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the door of the house, and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. And when the man had brought the men into Joseph’s house and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they should eat bread there. – Genesis 43:16-25 ESV

Jacob had sent his sons back to Egypt, but he had not been in an overly enthusiastic mood. “And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (Genesis 43:14 ESV). He did not have high hopes that all of this was going to turn out well. After all, his son, Simeon, was being held as ransom in an Egyptian prison by the governor. This powerful man had accused Jacob’s sons of being spies and demanded they prove their innocence by returning with their youngest brother as proof of their story. On top of that, when they left with their bags full of grain, they discovered that the money they had given as payment had been returned to them. Now they could be accused of stealing. So Jacob was understandably pessimistic when it came to the eventual outcome of these events.

But when the brothers returned to Egypt, things did not go quite like they had feared. It is likely that, on their long journey, they had found plenty of time to conjure up all kinds of unpleasant scenarios concerning what was going to happen to them when they arrived in Egypt. Their minds most likely reeled and raced as they thought about their fates and the possible reactions they would get from the governor. Would he accept their younger brother, Benjamin, as proof of their innocence? Would he believe them when they said they knew nothing about the money in their sacks? Would their brother, Simeon, still be alive? And if he was, would they all soon be joining him in prison?  The unknown can cause a great deal of anxiety and lead to fear. Not knowing what is going to happen in a given circumstance can leave us drawing wrong conclusions and developing our own means of escape or rescue. The brothers had come expecting the worst and prepared to attempt to buy their way out of trouble. Jacob had sent them with gifts for the governor, telling them, “Take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and take a gift down to the man—a little balm and a little honey, spices and myrrh, pistachios and almonds. Take double the money with you; you must take back the money that was returned in the mouths of your sacks—perhaps it was an oversight.” (Genesis 43:11-12 NLT). 

When they arrived in Egypt, they went straight to see the governor, but he instructed that they be taken to his home. The brothers did not see this as a good sign. They concluded, “We are being brought in because of the money that was returned in our sacks last time. He wants to capture us, make us slaves, and take our donkeys!” (Genesis 43:18 NLT). They feared for their lives and they begged the governor’s steward for mercy, explaining to him the truth about all that had happened. They had brought back their younger brother just as the governor had commanded. They had returned with the money. They were innocent. But the steward gave them some shocking, but also comforting news. “‘Everything is fine,’ the man in charge of Joseph’s household told them. ‘Don’t be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks. I had your money’” (Genesis 43:23 NLT). In other words, the money they had originally brought to pay for grain was not the money they had found in their sacks. That money had another explanation: God. The brothers had automatically assumed the worst. But unbeknownst to them, Joseph had placed the money in their bags as a gift to them, their father and families. And ultimately, that gift was from God. because He was the one who prompted Joseph to give it.

This entire series of events would prove to be a gift from God. Even the sale of their brother into slavery would reveal itself to have been a providential gift from the hand of God Almighty. This is not to say that God caused the brothers to sin by forcing them to sell Joseph to the Midianites. James reminds us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13 ESV). The brothers made the decision to sell Joseph on their own. But God redeemed their sinful choice by using it to accomplish His divine will. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NIV). We can choose to ignore or disobey the revealed will of God, but we cannot thwart the preordained plans of God. Think of the high priest and the religious leaders who planned, schemed and orchestrated the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. They rejected Him as their Messiah and, instead, did everything in their power to assure that He was eliminated as a threat to their power and influence. And yet, in his sermon after Pentecost, Peter would tell these very same men:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it… Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” – Acts 2:22-24, 36 ESV

Joseph’s sale into slavery, his elevation to the governor’s post, the seven years of famine, the brothers’ original trip to Egypt, the accusation of spying, the imprisonment of Simeon, the demand to return with their brother, the money in the sacks – it had all been a gift from God. The problem is that we can’t always recognize God’s gifts for what they are. We misinterpret and misunderstand them. We judge them based on our limited perspective. Famine is devastating, and no possible good can come from it. False accusations are damaging, so how can anything worthwhile result from them? The thought of imprisonment is deplorable. How could anything redeeming result from something so demeaning? And yet, the gifts of God often come in confusing forms. His blessings are sometimes cloaked and obscured by what appear to be curses. David spent years running from King Saul. But it was those years in the wilderness, learning to trust God, that made him the king God had chosen him to be. Paul spent years in prison, but it was from those confines that he penned the majority of his letters which make up the New Testament. Jesus was falsely accused and tried as a common criminal. He was hung on a Roman cross and executed. And yet it is because of His death that we have been given access to eternal life.

Learning to Trust God.

Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight. Take also your brother, and arise, go again to the man. May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”

So the men took this present, and they took double the money with them, and Benjamin. They arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph. – Genesis 43:11-15 ESV

There is something eerily familiar about this passage. It is strikingly similar to an event that occurred years earlier in Jacob’s life and reveals that, in many way, his trust in God had not grown. As Jacob prepares to send his sons back to Egypt as commanded by the Pharaoh’s governor, he comes up with the plan to soften the governor’s heart with gifts. He instructs his sons: “Pack your bags with the best products of this land. Take them down to the man as gifts—balm, honey, gum, aromatic resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Also take double the money that was put back in your sacks” (Genesis 43:11-12 NLT). Essentially, Jacob is trying to influence the outcome of his circumstances through the use of whatever means necessary. Is this necessarily wrong? Only when we look at his possible motivation. You see, Jacob was doubtful that God was going to come through. He told his sons, “May God Almighty give you mercy as you go before the man, so that he will release Simeon and let Benjamin return. But if I must lose my children, so be it” (Genesis 43:14 NLT). Those are not the words of a man who has complete confidence in God. He seems resigned to the fact that he will never seen his sons again. So he determines to do what he can to stack the odds in his favor. He determines to help God out.

This is extremely similar to the approach Jacob took when he was returning to the land of Canaan after his forced exile in the land of Paddan-aram.He had originally fled there to escape the anger of his brother, Esau, whom he had cheated out of his inheritance. Then years later, he ended up running away from Paddan-aram and the anger of his uncle because Jacob had become wealthy at his expense. God told Jacob, “Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3 NLT). On his way home with all his wives, children and livestock, he received the news that his brother was coming to meet him. “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!” (Genesis 32:6 NLT). Jacob assumed the worst. This did not sound like a housewarming party. So he did two things. First he prayed:

“O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac—O Lord, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’ I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps! O Lord, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children. But you promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore—too many to count.’” – Genesis 32:9-12 NLT

Jacob reminded God of all His promises and begged Him for rescue. Then he hedged his bets. He came up with his own plan. Doubting that God could come through for him, he came up with a strategy to buy his brother’s favor with gifts.

Jacob stayed where he was for the night. Then he selected these gifts from his possessions to present to his brother, Esau: 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys. He divided these animals into herds and assigned each to different servants. Then he told his servants, “Go ahead of me with the animals, but keep some distance between the herds.”

He gave these instructions to the men leading the first group: “When my brother, Esau, meets you, he will ask, ‘Whose servants are you? Where are you going? Who owns these animals?’ You must reply, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob, but they are a gift for his master Esau. Look, he is coming right behind us.’” – Genesis 32:13-18 NLT

Now, years later, here was Jacob doing the very same thing. He was hoping on the mercy of God, but was really depending upon his own ability to buy the Egyptian governor’s favor with gifts. He did not really believe that God could go before his sons and show them favor with this foreign dignitary. So he prayed, but he seems to have had more faith in his own plans than he did in the providence and provision of God. Jacob’s final statement to his sons before they departed was one of resignation, not confident reliance upon God. He was preparing himself for the worst possible outcome – “as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (Genesis 43:15 ESV).

Jacob was in a difficult place. He had lost his son, Joseph. His son, Simeon, was imprisoned in Egypt. His family and flocks were suffering through a famine that had devastated the land of Canaan. His only hope lie in sending all of his sons, along with his youngest, back to Egypt. His options were limited. The odds seemed stacked against him. But Jacob had his God. He had seen Him work miracles before. His God had blessed him time and time again, making him wealthy even while living in exile in Paddan-arram. His God had softened the heart of his brother, Esau, and caused him to greet with tears of joy, not anger. His God had given him 12 healthy sons. And now his God was going to rescue his family from the famine and take them to a land where they would grow into a mighty nation just as He had promised. But Jacob was having a hard time seeing God’s blessings and resting on God’s promises. He was too busy looking at his problems.

And the journey back to Egypt must have been a somber one. The brothers returned, gifts in hand, Benjamin in tow, with doubts and fears running through their minds. And Jacob sat at home, praying for God’s mercy, but preparing himself for disappointment. How easy it is to doubt our God and deny His goodness just because things do not seem to be turning out the way we expected. How quick we can be to pray for God’s mercy, but then plan for it not to come. Jacob had not yet learned to trust his God. Have you?

Israel: God Fights.

Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little food.” But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’” Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” They replied, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.” – Genesis 43:1-10 ESV

Two names become more prominent in this section of the story. First of all, Jacob is mentioned by name in verse three, but then just three verses later he is referred to as “Israel.” This is the name God gave Jacob after their wresting match at the Jabbok River.

“Your name will no longer be Jacob. From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” – Genesis 32:28 NLT

The name, Israel, means “God fights” and was an apt name for the man who wrestled with God until he received a blessing from God. Jacob walked away or, better yet, limped away, from that encounter with God with a damaged hip – a painful reminder of his confrontation with the Almighty.

Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” – Genesis 32:30 NLT

Jacob would become the father of the Israelites. And this story is all about God’s sovereign plan for the nation of Israel, not just the immediate family of Jacob. There is far more going on in this narrative than the story of one son of a single man and their restoration as a family. It is about the word of God to Abraham and His promise to give him more descendants than there are grains of sand on the seashore or stars in the heavens. But not only that, God would raise up a descendant who would be a blessing to all the nations. Paul refers to this very promise in his letter to the Galatian believers, providing them with a Spirit-inspired interpretation of God’s meaning.

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. – Galatians 3:16 ESV

That is where the second name in this portion of the narrative comes in. Up until this point in the story, the two oldest brothers, Reuben and Simeon, have played the most significant roles. It was Reuben who had tried to prevent his brothers from killing Joseph and suggested they throw him in a pit and let him die. But in reality, he was planning to come back later and rescue Joseph. It would be Simeon, the second-oldest who would be chosen by Joseph to remain as his hostage while the brothers returned home to fetch Benjamin. But now, the name of Judah comes to the forefront. This is significant because it will be through the tribe of Judah that the Messiah will come. In the genealogy of Jesus, recorded in Matthew 1, the name of Judah take a prominent place because of the part he played in God’s plan for Jesus’ birth and incarnation.

Abraham was the father of Isaac.
Isaac was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers. – Matthew 1:2 NLT

It would be Judah who finally convinced their father to allow them to take Benjamin back with them to Egypt.

Judah said to his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will be on our way. Otherwise we will all die of starvation — and not only we, but you and our little ones. I personally guarantee his safety. You may hold me responsible if I don’t bring him back to you. Then let me bear the blame forever.” – Genesis 43:8-9 NLT

Why is all this so important? It is a turning point in the story. Whether he realizes it or not, Jacob (Israel) is wrestling with God again. Just as he had at the Jabbok River, Jacob is fearing the future. He is doubting God’s sovereignty and questioning His word. The famine and the threat of losing yet another son have clouded his thinking and caused him to fear. So in the middle of this portion of the narrative, Moses, the author, suddenly refers to Jacob as Israel – God fights. God was not going to let Jacob get away with remaining in Canaan. The unrelenting famine was taking its toll. The return to Egypt was inevitable and unavoidable. God had promised years ago to be with Jacob wherever he went.

“Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” – Genesis 28:14-15 NLT

God had promised to give Jacob descendants, not take them away. From Jacob’s limited perspective, all he could see was the loss of Joseph and Simeon and the threat of losing Benjamin. Leaving Canaan and moving to Egypt made no sense in his mind. It would be heading in the wrong direction – away from the very land God had promised to give him. But all of this was part of God’s plan. The loss of Joseph, the famine, the arrest of Simeon, the threat of losing Benjamin, the rising prominence of Judah, the availability of grain in Egypt – all of this was divinely ordained. While Jacob was willing to settle for buying a little food from Egypt to extend their lives a bit longer, God was wanting to bless them beyond their wildest dreams. Jacob was willing to eke out an existence in the land of Canaan, God was bringing about His divine plan for the salvation of mankind. As men, we are notoriously short-sighted and temporally-focused. God is eternal in nature and always focused on the final fulfillment of His promises. Paul would have us constantly remember to keep our eyes on the future, trusting God for what He has promised.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV

All This Has Come Against Me!

When they came to Jacob their father in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, “The man, the lord of the land, spoke roughly to us and took us to be spies of the land. But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we have never been spies. We are twelve brothers, sons of our father. One is no more, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan.’ Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, and take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way. Bring your youngest brother to me. Then I shall know that you are not spies but honest men, and I will deliver your brother to you, and you shall trade in the land.’”

As they emptied their sacks, behold, every man's bundle of money was in his sack. And when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid. And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.” Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.” – Genesis 42:29-38 ESV

Perspective is powerful. It can dramatically alter the way we look at things. It can result in hope or leave us in despair. It can produce fear or create a sense of strength and security. And as human beings we are always tempted to see things from our limited, earthly perspective. We are bound by time and space. We can’t see into the future. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. So we tend to limit our view by what we can see. We draw conclusions based on our immediate circumstances and extrapolate them into what we believe to be obvious outcomes for the future. And yet, as those who claim to believe in God, we have been given a means by which we can view life from a higher, more accurate perspective. We can look at life through the eyes of God. He is not limited by time and space. The future is as clear to Him as the past. There is nothing He does not know, including all that has yet to happen. There is nothing that takes place in our lives that He is not fully aware of and that He cannot use for our good and His own glory.

Perspective is what allows us to understand the “whys” of life. It is more than mere knowledge of God and what He does, it is an understanding of why He does what He does. Spiritual perspective is a mark of spiritual maturity. The more our faith in god grows, the more we learn to trust Him. We begin to truly believe the words of Paul: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT).

The problem with Jacob is that he lacked perspective. His faith in God was limited by his earth-bound point of view. In spite of all that God had done for him over the years, he still looked at life through lenses that were covered in doubt and fear. He had long forgotten the promise that God had made to him years earlier when he fled the wrath of his brother Esau:

The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 1What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” – Genesis 28:13-15 ESV

That one little line, “I will protect you wherever you go” held no weight with Jacob. The fact that God had said, “I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you” did not hold any weight with Jacob. He took the latest news from his sons and concluded that all was lost. “All this has come against me!”, he sadly claimed. He was unable to see any good in his circumstances. He could not see the hand of God or find peace in the promises of God. All he could see was doom and gloom. He had already lost Joseph. Now he wrongly assumed he had lost Simeon as well. And now his sons were asking him to hand over his youngest son, Benjamin. So he chose to cut his losses and refused to allow them to take Benjamin back with them to Egypt. 

Years earlier, at Bethel, God had reiterated His promise to Jacob, saying:

“I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants! And I will give you the land I once gave to Abraham and Isaac. Yes, I will give it to you and your descendants after you.” – Genesis 35:11-12 NLT

God had promised to make of Jacob a great nation. He had promised to give him the land of Canaan. He had told him that kings would be among his descendants. But none of that had taken place yet. There were aspects of God’s promise that remained unfulfilled. The problem was whether Jacob would continue to believe or settle for less. Would he be content with what he already had or continue to trust God for what was yet to come? Circumstances can limit our view of God. But godly perspective can enlighten our view of our circumstances.

Is anything too hard for the LORD? – Genesis 18:14 NLT

“O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!” – Jeremiah 32:17 NLT

"I am the LORD, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?” – Jeremiah 32:27 NLT

“The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” – Luke 18:27 AMP

Jacob was going to learn to see the circumstances of life from God’s point of view. Nothing was too difficult for Him. No situation was too desperate, not circumstance too demanding for God to handle. What appeared to be a blight would turn out to be a blessing. What looked like nothing but darkness would turn out to be light and result in life. At this point, all Jacob could say was, “all this has come against me!” But he would soon learn to believethat “all this God has done for me!”