GENESIS-SERIES NR 45
Genesis 47 : Divine Providence & human trust
Did we not behold a miracle of the Lord God during the past few weeks’ studies of Genesis? That which is described in the couple of chapters of Genesis – that we studied over the last few weeks – is nothing but delightful. It showed us how the Lord’s Providence is at work behind the scenes, and how completely He reconciled a family – for whom there was no hope, humanly spoken. A family who was torn apart and inwardly wounded, is restored and healed and reunited. That is Jacob’s family.
And the Lord did so through JOSEPH whom he had raised as His anointed. And the purpose with everything was that He could build a nation out of this family – a nation who would initially be in isolation in Egypt so that they could learn what it means to be set aside for the Lord. And afterward to return to the Promised Land – with the ONE great future-focus, and that is that the Saviour, the Messiah, the Christ, would in the end be given to the world through them.
In chapter 47 Jacob and his sons are settled in Egypt – in the Goshen region.
I wish to draw your attention to FIVE prominent SCENES in this chapter. And you will see that there are two important THEMES that run like a golden thread through the five scenes.
First theme: The goodness of God’s Providence. The wisdom, the goodness, the aims that the Lord reveals to Jacob’s family – whether through the Pharaoh or Joseph or whoever. God’s Providence is from beginning to end at work for the benefit of His people.
Second theme: Jacob’s faith-trust. It is almost as if Jacob is only now getting to know the Lord for the very first time! We see something beautiful in him. He could so easily have gone to live in perfect contentment and complacency, with the favour of the Pharaoh and the material abundance of Egypt lavished upon him. What a joy to have all that when you are already more that 100 years old!
And yet, we see the godly discontent of true faith in the heart of Jacob. He is not satisfied with earthly and temporary means and plenty – his heart desires that God’s promises to Abraham must be fulfilled for him and his descendants. That is exactly what he is reminding Joseph about. Jacob’s heart is dissatisfied in the midst of abundance. His heart longs for the Gospel – to put it like that.
With these two themes in mind, let us briefly look at the five scenes:
SCENE NO 1: PHARAOH’S KIND DISPOSITION >> VERSES 1-6 >> When Jacob’s sons are in conversation with Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s kindness and hospitality come to the fore. Something one could not associate with a Pharaoh – particularly not towards foreigners.
What we should see, however, is that IN Pharaoh’s kind attitude towards and acceptance of Jacob’s family, the goodness of God’s Providence is at work.
Of course, Joseph prepared the way for that. Because he knew Pharaoh. He knew the Egyptians. He knew very well that they did not like stock-farmers and shepherds. Therefore, he prepared his brothers in what they should and shouldn’t say. And he informed Pharaoh beforehand what his brothers’ occupation is – that they are stock-farmers and so forth. If Pharaoh should ask the brothers what their occupation is, they should just answer forthright and honestly.
And Pharaoh was duly impressed with their honesty. In verses 5-6 he welcomes them and gives them the best part of the land. They could even take care of his own livestock.
It is very clear that the Lord was busy giving Jacob immediate visible answers based on Jacob’s act of faith-trust displayed in pulling up his roots in the promised land and moving to Egypt – knowing that he would never see his country again. It was in reaction to the promises that the Lord had given him – described in chapter 46. It was a faith-reaction. And the Lord “rewarded” it, so to speak. Humanly spoken Jacob could hardly expect a warm reception in Egypt. But it is not a MAN who was in control there. It was the Lord God. And He showed Jacob that Jacob had made the right decision to move to Egypt – He showed it to Jacob by providing for him on a temporary, earthly level. And in such a way the Lord buttressed Jacob’s trust. Jacob did the right thing – in line with the will of God – resulting in things falling into place.
That is something that does not always happen though. It seldom happens that the Lord would affirm His children’s acts of faith by providing Providential deliverance – especially in regards to temporary, earthy matters. Sometimes it works just the opposite way.
When a believer by faith moves within the will of the Lord, it often elicits aggression from satan, from the unsaved, from the world. Or things take a turn for the worse. Think of Israel’s lamentation in Jeremiah 44:17-18: “We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by the sword and famine. “
And yet – sometimes – the Lord will reward our faith-trust (that is rooted in the Scriptures) with immediate visible deliverance. That is the lesson that we can take from the first scene.
SCENE NO 2: JACOB THE COVENANT-HEAD >> VERSES 7-10 >> Jacob himself is now addressing Pharaoh. How different Jacob is now! It is not the Jacob of the past. Here we see a man who behaves as the covenant-head of God’s people. He is blessing Pharaoh. Pharaoh is the great ruler, but he is actually less than Jacob, because it is always the lesser one who is blessed by the greater one (Heb 11:7). The Lord’s hand is upon Jacob. According to MAN and according to man’s perception, Pharaoh is above Jacob. But not so from God’s perspective. That is why believers do not have to fear worldly people – even though they may occupy higher positions and prestige and status, and even though the believer seems to be so drab and plain.
We should not think that the blessing with which Jacob greets Pharaoh was merely a gesture of courtesy as a sign of gratitude for Pharaoh’s kind attitude. Indeed not! In Gen 12 the Lord already promised Abraham that he would be a blessing to the nations. Jacob was acting as God’s covenant-head. And the nations are at the feet of the Lord’s covenant-nation. Jacob was a stock-farmer. But what he was from the LORD’S perspective, is what really matters! And the faithfulness of the Lord to the promise that He had given Abraham – THAT is what would be ultimately fulfilled. It does not matter what the world may say or do. God the Father shall ultimately have all the elect out of all nations at the feet of the Messiah. A small picture of that we see here in the great Pharaoh (symbolizing the nations) at the feet of the unimportant insignificant Jacob (symbolizing the covenant-nation and the Messiah).
SCENE NO 3: THE GOODNESS OF GOD’S PROVIDENCE IN FAVOUR OF JOSEPH >> VERSES 11-12 >> Joseph is now providing the needs of his family – in correlation with Pharaoh’s gifts. Pharaoh decided that the region of Goshen had to be given to Jacob and his family, and Joseph obeys those directions. There is no indication that Joseph’s goodness towards his brothers was not meant in absolute sincerity. And behind the scenes we find the Lord’s heartbeat. It is God’s Providence that is manifesting through Joseph. And keep in mind: The Lord is still the same today.
SCENE NO 4: THE PRESERVATION OF JACOB’S FAMILY DURING THE FAMINE >> VERSES 13-26 >> In this paragraph Joseph is putting his famine relief plan – his economic policy – into action. Of course it is the Pharaoh’s power and abundance and riches and authority that come to the fore in Joseph’s policy. The same as it is God the Father’s power and abundance and riches and authority that come to the fore and are visible through the Lord Jesus’s work of redemption.
There is though, something to be taken note of here: Yes, verse 12 says that Joseph provided abundantly for the needs of his family. Yet the very next verse says that there was no food in the whole of Egypt. Can you see the contrast? It is to indicate HOW merciful the Lord was towards Jacob. It is to show HOW critically serious and dangerous the situation truly was. The rest of Egypt is reduced to servitude by the famine, but Jacob’s family is free and cared for. Pharaoh bought up all the land of the Egyptians. Consequently, they lost ownership of their land (verse 20). They became Pharaoh’s slaves. In contrast to that, Jacob and his family could PURCHASE land and become prosperous. It is as if Pharaoh was making slaves of his own people, literally robbing them – but gave freedom and abundance to Jacob’s family. And in that it was of course the Lord who was holding His hand over His people. There was a special solicitude that the Lord revealed towards His people. The Egyptians did not receive the same treatment than the Lord’s people. Although the Egyptians all benefited from Joseph’s provision. Everyone would have died from starvation, but everyone survived. But Jacob’s family were the recipients of God’s particular love.
SCENE NO 4: IN THE FACE OF DEATH >> VERSES 27- >> What a beautiful description of the mutual agreement between Jacob and Joseph. But particularly: Jacob’s confidence in God’s promises – right to the end. In the face of death, Jacob held onto the covenant-promises of God. That is what the Bible calls “faith”. Faith is not some or other magical ability or inner strength that one should fire up to get it “stronger” so that it can receive something from God. No, faith can actually not exist if there is no promise to trust upon. Because faith means to trust (the word of) someone else who is being regarded as trustworthy. What is strong, is not faith, but the promises of God that faith clings to. That was exactly the case with Jacob.
Jacob placed his hand under his thigh – under his upper leg. This is the second time that it happens in Genesis. The first was in Genesis 24 where Abraham sent his servant out to find a wife for Isaac.
The placing of the hand under the thigh, was a way of reminding another person of the truth and binding power of God’s covenant-promises.
Therefore, Jacob was telling Joseph: “Do not bury me here in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt. Because the Lord gave to our descendants the Promised land. He promised to make us prosper there and to make us into a great nation. My remains do not belong here. Because God promised…”
It is not that Jacob was afraid that – should he be buried in Egypt – he would not be with the Lord. He knew that he would be with his fathers after his death – whether buried in Egypt or not. He was certain of that.
The reason he desired to be buried in the Promised land, was for the sake of his descendants – the covenant people – to give them the assurance that their hope was not in Egypt or anywhere. They had to be anchored to the promise of God that their hope was in the land God would give them. Jacob was not concerned about himself or his own death. He was concerned about the covenant-nation. His descendants. Out of whom the Messiah was to be born. He wanted their eyes to remain fixed on the promise God had given to Abraham. And therefore, on the promise of the coming Messiah. And therefore actually Christ Himself.
In this passage we find a wonderful encouragement for ourselves here at the end of 2019.
Our task is to place our hope upon God’s promise concerning HIS future for His people. The great and certain future of God when the Lord Jesus will return to make everything new. Our eyes must be fixed on the City that has foundations (Heb 11). That is when ALL God’s promises will finally be fulfilled. Our hope should be THERE and not HERE. It is humanly impossible to make such a move, but it is not impossible for the Holy Spirit who dwells and lives in every true Christian. It all depends on the working and ministry of the Spirit.
When one starts to develop this perspective, one suddenly sees how insignificant the things of the here and now is – those things that sometimes keep us awake at night and make us take handfuls of pills and make us old before our time. A person who does not have a real hope for the future, has had his chips. And that hope is grounded in God’s rock steady promises. He has already fulfilled 90% of those to the letter in Jesus’s first coming. Why would He not fulfil the rest in Jesus’s second coming?
Translated by Marthie Wilson
Main source: Bob Deffinbaugh