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Nobody Left Behind

“And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him:” (Genesis 46:6)

We can only imagine the overwhelming excitement that filled Jacob’s soul as the news that Joseph was alive began to sink in. It had been more than twenty years since Jacob had beheld his son’s face and, by this time, any remaining inkling of hope that Joseph had been able to limp away from the supposed encounter with wild beasts had long since faded away. Jacob’s incredulity at the report of Joseph’s survival is recorded in Genesis 45:26, and it is only when he personally looks upon the finest wagons of Egypt, laden with the best of that nation’s precious commodities and parked in front of his own house, that the details of his other sons’ account begin to ring true (v. 27).

With the prospect of seeing into Joseph’s eyes once more before his own life leaves him, Jacob is filled with a motivation which energizes him beyond anything else. Joseph, his beloved Joseph, first son of the only woman he has ever truly loved, is alive! No journey is too great nor any distance too far if Joseph, alive and well, is waiting at its end. Yet one thing causes a delay in the trip; something is brought to Jacob’s mind that is of even greater import than his anticipated reunion with his son. As the caravan of Jacob and his family enters the land of Beer-sheba, he takes the time to offer sacrifices to God. “The God of his father Isaac“, Genesis 46:1 states. Perhaps it was the sight of the well which his father’s servants had dug so long ago, or maybe it was the altar itself which Isaac had erected near the spot (Gen. 26:25) that brought a great sense of God’s presence to Jacob.

Beer-sheba, the place where Jacob’s grandfather Abraham had planted a grove in honor of God Almighty after his covenant with Abimelech (Gen. 21:33); Beer-sheba, the place where God appeared to his father, Isaac, saying: “Fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake” (Gen. 26:24). The gravity of these words must have hit home as Jacob pondered them, for he had in his company the entirety of that seed (except Joseph who was already in Egypt). And now, Jacob was marching this entire family straight into the land of Egypt. Was this the will of God or had Jacob acted impetuously? What about another time when the Lord had appeared to Isaac and told him directly to not go into Egypt during another time of famine (Gen. 26:2)? What about all of the trouble that had come upon his grandfather Abraham as a result of doing exactly what he himself was doing right now (Gen. 12:10-20)? Most importantly, what would be the fate of the seed of Jacob, this precious family of descendants for whom and through whom God had promised so much to Abraham and Isaac?

“And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:” (Genesis 46:3)

God appeared to Jacob in a dream and reassured him of the propriety of this journey into Egypt. God Himself is never-changing, but His timing is a factor wherein we must be obedient. What was not in the will of God for those a generation or two ago might be exactly what God has in store for us (and vice-versa!). Sin is sin in all ages and is never acceptable, but as to the specific direction which God wants us to go and the exact place where He wants us to be differs from age to age and from person to person. The Apostle Paul, for instance, was forbidden by the Spirit of God to travel into certain regions during his missionary journeys which would later be opened up to future missionaries (Acts 16:6-7). It was wrong for Paul to go there, but right for others. It was not God’s will for Abraham and Isaac to journey into Egypt, but it was God’s will for Jacob and his sons.

Genesis 46:6 tells us that all of Jacob’s seed accompanied him into Egypt. Lest we suspect that this expression is merely hyperbole, verses 8 through 25 go on to gives us an exact register of the names of each and every individual who went. We may not have a manifest giving the details of all of the material possessions the family brought with them, but we do have a complete list of travelers. To us, this may amount to little more than a roll of strange-sounding, sometimes difficult to pronounce foreign names. But the fact that the Spirit of God inspired the writer of Genesis to take the time and space to list each and every name is a wonderful reminder of God’s great love for and interest in each one of us. Nobody was left behind to fend for themselves back in Canaan, they all came along on the trip to Egypt. Every last one of them. We are insured of this by the detailed list given. If such attention was given and care taken to make sure that not one of the 67 individuals of the family of Jacob was left behind in Canaan, we know that God will not leave a single one of us belonging to His family behind. For every 100 sheep belonging to the Great Shepherd, 100 will finish the journey with Him (Luke 15:4-7).

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 15, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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Who Sent Joseph Into Egypt?

God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:7-8)

The implications of this statement made by Joseph to his bewildered brothers must have been as perplexing and astounding to them as it has been to generations of Bible readers since it was first spoken. As believers, we tend to just sort of skip right through such profound statements with the unspoken understanding that, naturally, all things are under God’s control and He is in control of all things. Skeptics enjoy reading such statements as opportunities to impugn the character of God; assigning to Him full responsibility for the entirety of man’s errors. But what exactly do such statements really mean? More directly: was everything which we have read about occurring in the life of Joseph a part of God’s perfect plan?

Before we are too quick to answer this, we should consider what it would mean if all of these things were, in fact, the plan of God. First of all, it would imply that it was God’s plan for the brothers to commit sin by selling their brother into slavery. James tells us in his epistle that God never entices man to do evil (James 1:13) and consequently could never plan or intend for anyone to commit sin. Sin is, therefore, never a part of God’s perfect plan. Yet we are told that God sent Joseph into Egypt, i.e., that He planned for Joseph to go there. How is this possible if God did not intend for the brothers to sell him into slavery?

This is an area of disputation that has historically resulted in all sorts of theological dilemmas, calling into question where the line is drawn between God’s will and the free will of man. Does God or does He not ever step across that line in order to accomplish His perfect will? My simple answer to this is that He does not. What God does do is to take the opportunity to use even the sin, errors, and shortcomings of man (believers and unbelievers alike) to bring His will to pass. It was not God’s intention for the brothers to sell Joseph into slavery, but He chose to use that as the impetus that would put Joseph into the land of Egypt. God did not plan for Potiphar’s wife to make lewd advances toward Joseph nor to falsely accuse him of misconduct; yet He used those very things to facilitate Joseph’s delivery into prison — a place where he would come into close contact with the chief butler and baker of Pharaoh.

How God would have brought His will to pass apart from the sins of these people is anyone’s guess, but we can be assured that God did not need the sins of man to help His plans along. He never does. It speaks volumes about the sovereignty of our Lord in that He is able to accomplish His will in spite of man’s sin. What a profound reminder that God is in complete control!

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 11, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission

I Am Joseph, Your Brother

“Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.” (Genesis 45:4)

“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10)

The foreshadowing in Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers of Christ’s reconciliation with His brothers is astounding. We have been looking at Joseph’s interactions with the other sons of Jacob from the perspective of the Christian interacting with Christ. But we are also reminded herein of the Lord Jesus’ own relation to the nation of Israel. After all, at this particular time Joseph (who is foreshadowing Christ) is interacting with the whole of the nation of Israel, for the entirety of all the tribes is represented in this room. The ancestors of each and every tribe is present with each brother being the namesake of the tribe that will descend from him.

It is telling that none of the brothers recognized Joseph. The nation of Israel failed to recognize their promised Messiah during His first coming, as well. It is only when Joseph chooses to reveal himself to the brothers that they can know who he is. The Lord Jesus stated plainly to the nation of Israel Who He was, but they did not believe Him (Matt. 23:37). At the first meeting of Joseph and the brothers, they do not realize who he is. It is during their second journey into Egypt that Joseph reveals himself to them.  So it shall be during our Lord’s second coming that He will reveal Himself to a repentant and believing remnant from among Israel. Joseph said unto his brothers, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.” Jesus will say, “I am Jesus, your Brother, Whom ye crucified.”

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 10, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

Joseph Reveals Himself To His Brothers

“Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.” (Genesis 45:1)

The moment of reconciliation. It is to this end that all of the actions of the preceding four chapters have been leading. It staggers the mind to think of the lengths that God has gone to in order for this very moment to come to pass; this point of reconciliation between the sons of Jacob wherein Joseph once again takes his place among them. We are reminded as we look back over the space of more than 20 years at Joseph’s dream, a dream where his eleven brothers bowed down before him (Gen. 37:5-7), that God truly does see the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Yet would we even begin to imagine all of the things which God brought to pass in order to make this happen? Would someone entirely unfamiliar with this account of the life of Joseph even begin to guess what would transpire in fulfillment of the prophetic dream?

Nevertheless, we know that God did these things for one end: to bring the sons of Jacob back together in the safety of the land of Egypt. All that has been leading up to this moment — the testing, the accusations of espionage and theft, the threat of placing Benjamin into slavery — were done to bring the brothers to this point in time. Do we not greatly underestimate what God will do in order to bring people to the place where He wants them?
The reconciliation between the brothers and Joseph is a portrait of the sinner’s reconciliation to Christ. All of the moments of fear, trepidation, anxiety, guilt, confusion, and frustration which the sons of Jacob experienced during their dealings with this enigmatic “governor of Egypt” are hallmarks of many of our own experiences when Christ was drawing us to Himself. Some roads longer than others, all of us were brought through moments of emotional pain, struggle and inner turmoil until we reached the point when our hearts were ready and the Lord Jesus revealed Himself to us.
It is worth noting that before the actual moment of reconciliation begins, Joseph sends every other person out of the room. “Cause every man to go out from me“, he cries. It seems to be our practice as Evangelicals to want those making an initial decision to come to Christ to go to the front of the church and announce their decision in front of everybody. But isn’t this most crucial moment in a person’s life really between them and the Lord? Sometimes we act as though their conversion is only validated by a showy presentation in front of the entire congregation. “They must confess Christ with their mouth and not be ashamed of Him”, we explain (as though there will not be time enough for public proclamation later). There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with giving an altar call, but we do well to respect what is going on at the moment between them and God. Seldom do we really know everything that has been going on in the person’s life which has brought them to this point. We do not know all that the Spirit of God has been doing in their heart in order to prepare them for the Lord Jesus Christ to reveal Himself to them and reconcile them to Himself.
Joseph’s steward and many of his other servants played a part leading up to this moment, yet when the time came, Joseph sent them all out of the room. It was just the brothers and Joseph. Why? Because the moment of reconciliation was just between them. Many of us will play a role in bringing others to Christ, but perhaps we are mistaken in insisting that we be there at the actual moment when the person is reconciled to God. Maybe our Lord is politely sending us from the room for a moment so that He might rejoice in private with that person, just as Joseph did when his brothers were reconciled to him.To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 9, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Judah’s Plea

“And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.” (Genesis 44:16)

The musical “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”(*) contains a song performed after the silver cup is discovered in Benjamin’s sack called the “Benjamin Calypso.” Some of the lyrics to this Caribbean style number include the phrases:

Oh no – not he
How you can accuse him is a mystery
Save him – take me
Benjamin is straighter than the tall palm tree 

 Oh, yes – its true
Benjamin is straighter than the big bamboo
No ifs – No buts
Benjamin is honest as coconuts

The picture is often painted that the brothers, Judah in particular, were astounded by the accusations made against Benjamin and thus offered to give themselves in the place of this innocent man. Yet in Judah’s very moving and emotional plea with Joseph to take him instead of his younger brother, we see no such appeal to Benjamin’s innocence nor any denial of the crime of which he has been accused. Obviously, we know from the text that Benjamin was innocent of stealing the silver cup; but was Judah convinced of this? Judah and the other brothers, I am certain, were keenly aware that the strength of Benjamin’s character far exceeded their own, but did Judah believe that such an act was entirely out of the realm of possibility for Benjamin to have committed? A young man, away from his simple, rural home for the very first time; entertained in the palatial estate of the viceroy of Egypt, surrounded by gold and silver and jewels that must have staggered the imagination of this shepherd boy. Perhaps, Judah may have pondered, this young man got caught up in the splendor of the moment at the meal where they had been guests and, supposing that such a small treasure among so many others would have scarcely been missed, slipped the cup away in his sack as a souvenir from a place to where he would very likely never return.

Whether Judah pondered such ideas in his own mind or not, we do not really know. But I think we miss something very significant when we conclude that it was Judah’s conviction of Benjamin’s innocence that compelled him to make such a noble gesture as giving himself for his younger brother. This scene is infinitely more touching and of much greater significance when we consider that Judah was offering himself, not based on the merits of Benjamin, but out of his love both for his brother and his father. We are reminded here of the Apostle Paul’s summation of the magnitude of what Christ has done for us in that “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us “(Rom. 5:8). It was not our own merits that compelled the Lord Jesus Christ to offer Himself up on the Cross, but His love toward us and toward His Father. It was not Jesus’ deference to our own righteousness (indeed, we are without any righteousness of our own!) nor His belief in our own innocence; In fact, He gave Himself because we are not innocent!

Judah explained that it was for the sake of his father Jacob’s great love toward Benjamin that he would willingly give himself in order that the young man would live (Gen. 44:30-31). Jesus gave Himself because of the Father’s love toward us.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 4,  2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

(*) Lyrics by Tim Rice, Music composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics used here are under copyright by their respective owner.

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