When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep. And I fall asleep counting my blessings. When my bankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all. And I fall asleep counting my blessings. So, if you’re worried and you can’t sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep. And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings. Or so said Bing Crosby who then dreamt of a white Christmas.
In Genesis 48, Jacob blessed his two grandsons. And he blessed them not because these were his only grandsons. And he blessed them not because these were his favorite grandsons. Jacob blessed these two grandsons because they were Joseph’s sons. And despite what Jacob had believed for so many years; despite what Jacob was led to believe for so many years, this his son Joseph was still alive. And Joseph was not only still alive, but after so many years, Jacob realized that God’s will, God’s plan, God’s purpose had not been thwarted. God had done abundantly. But these two grandsons were a picture that God had done abundantly more.
And Then Jacob Blessed His Twelve Sons
And then Jacob blessed his twelve sons. Listen to this concluding remark. It is Genesis 49:28, a remark made for us by Moses. He interjects here something we must know, a point we must not miss. “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel.” Pause…right…there. How many? Twelve. Let’s continue. “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them.” Again, pause…right…there. What is this that their father said to them? This is very important. This is Genesis 49:2-27. Again, let’s continue. “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them.” And again, pause…right…there. In speaking to his boys, what did their father do? He blessed them. And again, let’s continue. “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 them.” How many sons did Jacob bless? He blessed each son; that is twelve. According to this very verse, which Moses intentionally pauses to say something to us, a point we must not miss, there should be, if we were to count these blessings, twelve blessings.
There is a big problem. If we were to count these blessings, we might only see six blessings. In Genesis 49:22-26, the word bless or blessing occurs six times. And each of those six times is directed toward one son; the son who at one time owned a coat of many colors; the son who now stood before his father arrayed in the finest linen of Egypt – Joseph. The blessing of twelve sons, Genesis 49:2-27, does not look like twelve blessings, nor does it sound like twelve blessings. Just listen. “Simeon and Levi are brothers [allies]; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company” (49:5-6a). What does that sound like? Does it sound good? Blessings, I think, are meant to sound good. Listen some more. Still speaking to and about Simeon and Levi, their father says, “Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel!” Jacob in talking about these two sons used the word curse. That does not look like blessing, it looks like the opposite of blessing. And on top of that, Jacob puts an exclamation point at the end of it.
So, What is the Point?
So, what is the point? Listen to how this chapter begins; it is verses one and two. “Then Jacob called his sons” – this immediately follows, or is meant to give the sense that this immediately follows Genesis 48. And I think it sets us up as much as it sets up these twelve sons. Meaning, in Genesis 48 Jacob seemingly overwhelmed by what God has done, blesses his two grandsons and implores God to bless his two grandsons (48:15). So, when Jacob calls for his sons, the feeling is that with that same feeling, Jacob is about to bless his twelve sons. “Then Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather yourselves together.” I love this; I think it is a great picture. These twelve brothers have all entered their dad’s bedroom. And there he is, sitting up in his bed, a dulled white beard, face tired. He looks weak. His breathing is slowing. And each brother is so different. Joseph stands out in his royal garb. A brother or two stick to a corner of the room. There is one brother staying close to the doorway. And Jacob wants them, needs them to come closer and huddle together around his bed. Perhaps it is because his voice is already straining to be heard and perhaps he wants them close enough to hear and not mistake anything he has to say. So, each brother, maybe looking at another, comes up right to the bed. No space is left for a thirteenth person. They lean in and Jacob says, “that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.”
Already this does not sound like a blessing. Jacob does not even say, “that I may bless you.” This is already not sounding like the two grandsons (cf. 48:9). Jacob wants to talk about the future, the near and perhaps the far future. Why? These sons must be puzzled. Wouldn’t you be trying to figure what possibly could be said? There is always an inquisitive one, eager to hear. And there is always an anxious one who would rather not hear anything.
There are some then who begin to back away, so Jacob in raising his voice just a bit more says, “Assemble!” Now listen closely. “And listen, O sons of Jacob, listen to your Israel your father.” Listen is a command and he says it twice. I think he really means it. All that is required of these sons is to listen. And so it is for us in reading these verses, just listen. And keep in mind that closing remark made by Moses for us. Each of these twelve sons was blessed by their father. And count them, there should be twelve blessings. And I want to know, this is the big question because of the apparent big problem, how can Moses say that? I want to know, where are the twelve blessings?
And it all leads me to say this and it is about the point. This is a lesson in believing God, but not with the eyes and not with what is perceived. And it is wonderful. This chapter and this moment has been called the high point of Genesis.
Let Each One Hear
Each son is in this room. And Jacob will speak directly to each son about each son and for each son to hear about the other. Jacob does not call each son into his room privately. He wants all twelve to hear all of this at the very same time. And so he begins with Reuben. He was the firstborn and so was to enjoy the prominence and position of being the firstborn but he threw it all away for one night of passion. “He went up to my couch!” Jacob says, again, with an exclamation point (49:4). It was something perhaps Reuben did not know that his father knew. It was something perhaps none of the other brothers knew either.
We already know what he said to Simeon and Levi. Zebulun will apparently enjoy the prosperity of being near a trade route (49:13). Issachar will consider freedom too much of a burden and will trade it for servitude (49:14-15). Dan will be a supreme court judge of the nation. The judge Samson will arise from him. But watch out for Dan, he may just nip at your heels and cause you to stumble (49:16-17). Gad will be raided and will do some raiding of his own (49:19). Asher will be a place to get great food (49:20). Naphtali might be a poet (49:21). Benjamin will be a warrior’s warrior. He will be wanted to lead in battle (49:27). It does not sound all bad, does it?
But again, there is that lesson in believing God, but not with the eyes and not with what is perceived. Jacob has learned this lesson, it was not until old age, but he learned this lesson. Remember, and it concerned Joseph, despite what Jacob had believed; despite what Jacob was led to believe, he learned that God was doing abundantly. And so, when he speaks to Joseph it is for each son to hear. And what is really unique is that not only with Joseph does he use the word bless and then six times. Instead, it is what he says about God. Listen just to verse twenty-four. “…by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob.” He called God mighty. This is a peculiar word. And it means strong. And it is only used six times in the Old Testament and it is only ever used of God. And it is always the Mighty One of Jacob. Jacob is saying for all his boys to hear that God is mighty and God is my God. It gets so much better. He then describes this might. God is the shepherd. God is the stone, a rock, a refuge. And he is El Shaddai, the Almighty, the one who makes things happen by his might and his power. Now listen to this; Jacob is recounting for Joseph and for each son to hear how it was that Joseph endured what he endured. R. Kent Hughes called this “a waterfall of divine names.” And that “it was God in the full significance of these names who had delivered Joseph and sustained him.”
Why is that important? In the middle of speaking to each son for each son to hear, Jacob says in verse eighteen, “I wait for your salvation, O Lord.” And he just wants his sons to listen. Why? This is the blessing, the twelve blessings. Could it be that he wants them to wait too, even in view of “the days to come” for each one of them? And how will they wait? how can they wait? By God, who in the full significance of who he is will both deliver them and sustain them as they wait. But there is more and it is so much better. For what is there to wait?
There Was Judah
There was Judah. I cannot wait to show you this. Judah had a moment in his life not unlike Reuben and not unlike Simeon and not unlike Levi. But a moment that Jacob does not mention. It was a moment of failure recorded in Genesis 38, but a moment that Judah called it for what it was, his failure. It was his sin. And he confessed it for what it was and simply declared, “She is more righteous than I!” (Genesis 38:26).
And Jacob talks to Judah and he wants Judah to listen and for each brother to listen. Judah is a lion’s cub. All of Jacob’s sons, meaning Jacob’s offspring will bow down to Judah. And again Judah is a lion. Now listen to verse ten. There is much to this verse. First, the scepter shall not depart from Judah. The scepter is a sign of royalty and of kingship and of authority. And the ruler’s staff shall not depart from between his feet, meaning Judah will have offspring, a particular offspring who will hold this scepter and this ruler’s staff. It is a lion who will hold this scepter and this ruler’s staff, a descendant of Judah. And a sign that this offspring has arrived is wine. And when he arrives there will be an abundance of wine, so much wine that no one will care if donkeys are eating grapes right from the vine. There will be more wine than water (48:11).
I never noticed this when having studied it, but you must turn to John 2:1-11. It is when Jesus was invited to a wedding and at that wedding the wine began to run out. And what did Jesus do? He turned water into wine, the most expensive, most best wine! This is really important. Listen to verse eleven. “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” This sign was about declaring that the Lion of Judah was here.
And now get ready for Revelation 5:5. This is about days to come. “And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’” But what about the scepter and the ruler’s staff? Listen to verse six. “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” Who is this Lion? He is the Lamb! He is the Lamb standing. He is the Lamb who was slain, but when he was slain he conquered as a lion. His name is Jesus! And when he died for my sins at the cross, he conquered as a lion!
And so what is the point? All of these brothers were indeed blessed…even in their good or not so good circumstances. Jacob wanted them to know that they were blessed and it is because of days to come, days when the lion would come, the salvation of the Lord. Their dad wanted them to wait! Look forward and wait!
And for us it is put best like this: “I am always aware that a hurting heart needs to understand and believe that God’s gracious plan is one of blessing and that despite circumstances [and I would add, even in the circumstances] his people are always blessed.”
 R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, page 561
Throughout the book of Genesis is the story of two. The first few chapters are about the first two people, Adam and Eve. And the chapter that follows is about the first two brothers, Cain and Abel. Then come the chapters about Noah and the ark and the animals who entered it two by two. There are the chapters about the two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. There are the chapters about the two sons of Isaac, Esau and Jacob. And then there is the one chapter about the two sons of Joseph.
And in this one chapter, the two sons of Joseph do not say much, in fact, they do not say anything. And in this one chapter, the two sons of Joseph do not do much, in fact, they do not do anything. And it is because this one chapter is not really all about them. This one chapter is really all about their grandfather. Their grandfather was Jacob.
By Faith Jacob Blessed His Two Sons
Jacob had twelve sons – Reuben and Simeon and Levi and Judah; Dan and Naphtali and Gad and Asher; Issachar and Zebulun; Joseph and Benjamin. And Joseph had two sons – Manasseh and Ephraim. In Genesis 49, Jacob will bless each of his twelve sons. But in Genesis 48, Jacob will bless only Joseph’s two sons. Now Jacob had other grandsons (cf. Genesis 46:8-25). But there is no chapter about Jacob blessing any of them. Why, out of all his grandsons does Jacob single out these two boys? At 147 years old, is Jacob still being Jacob? Meaning, he loved Joseph more therefore, he loved Joseph’s sons more?
Throughout Genesis 48 the word behold appears four times. It is used as an attention grabbing word. The first time it occurs is right there in Genesis 48:1. “Behold, your father is ill,” which by the way, is the first reference in the Bible of illness. And this attention grabbing word occurs again in Genesis 48:4 and lastly in Genesis 48:21. But it is Genesis 48:11 that I think is most helpful. “And Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also.’” I think the reason for blessing these two grandsons has to do with Joseph. When Jacob heard that Joseph was still alive and that God had accomplished his will and his plan and his purpose despite what Jacob did not believe or was led to believe, his soul revived and he exclaimed, “It is abundant!” (Genesis 45:28). But when he finally saw Joseph’s face and then learned that there were two more faces to behold, he knew that God had done abundantly more.
I called this sermon, By Faith Jacob Blessed His Two Sons, because of Genesis 48:5. “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.” Jacob was making them a part of the inheritance that is only for his sons. The word bless is the most frequent word in the chapter. And the title given to Genesis 48 is Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh. So I thought to call it, Jacob Blessed His Two Sons. But there is more. There is more to this chapter than simply blessing these two grandsons or treating them as sons.
There is Hebrews 11:21. “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.” Is this not incredible?! The writer of Hebrews is referring to Genesis 48! Jacob lived to be 147 years old, that is roughly 53,655 days. And out of all those days, the writer of Hebrews “selects this as Jacob’s outstanding act of faith.” One Bible teacher called Genesis 48, the singular triumph of Jacob’s life. All because of how Jacob blessed his two grandsons. And how did Jacob bless his two grandsons? Listen again to Hebrews 11:21. “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph.”
And so, I want to know two things. What does by faith mean? Jacob blessed these two grandsons by faith, meaning, we should be able to see this in Genesis 48. And what was the blessing?
What Does By Faith Mean?
Jacob is ill. Joseph is told that his father is ill and so he goes to see him, but brings Manasseh and Ephraim with him. Jacob is told that Joseph has arrived and, in that moment, for this moment he musters every bit of possible strength (Genesis 48:1-2). I think that this is rather important. He does not muster every bit of strength to simply sit up in bed. No; he mustered every bit of strength and sat up in bed to do just one thing. It was to speak. Listen to verse three and notice the first two words out of his mouth. “God Almighty” or in Hebrew, El Shaddai. On his lips because it is on his mind is the God who makes things happen by his power and might.
Just quickly note this. The name God Almighty is rather unique to the life of Jacob. God uses it when speaking to Abraham one time (Genesis 17:1), but all the other occurrences are in the life of Jacob (cf. 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3). And the first it is used in the life of Jacob is when Jacob’s dad blessed him (28:3). And it is the name that Jacob called upon as Jacob prayed for the safety of his sons. But this is so good, when Jacob uses it here, he is actually quoting the Bible. Jacob is quoting Genesis 35:9-15. This is all that I want us to see; Jacob is on his deathbed and he musters all his strength to quote God’s Word. So, what does by faith mean? It has something to do with knowing who God is and it has something to do with knowing God’s Word.
Who Are These?
And as the chapter keeps moving, Jacob is also thinking about the day when his wife Rachel died, which is also recorded in Genesis 35. So, Genesis 35 is near and dear to Jacob in this moment. But I want us to see Genesis 48:8-10. When Jacob finally sees that two other people are with Joseph he asks, “Who are these?” And Joseph tells him, “These are my sons.” Jacob then shares his desire to bless these two sons. It is then we are told that Jacob cannot see. He is about to bless two boys and he cannot see. Part of this is to bring back to our minds Genesis 27 when Isaac was old and he could not see. In that chapter he sought to bless two sons one of whom was Jacob. There and by deception, Jacob sought the blessing of the firstborn and got it.
This is all purposeful. Jacob hugs and kisses his grandsons. Joseph then takes Ephraim in his right hand and positions him in front of Jacob’s left hand. He takes Manasseh in his left hand and positions him in front of Jacob’s right hand. It is all to ensure that each boy gets the proper blessing. From the right hand of Jacob will come the blessing for the firstborn and from the left hand of Jacob will come the other blessing for the younger. But at just the right moment Jacob crisscrossed his hands, placed them on the top of each boy’s head and listen to verse fifteen, “blessed Joseph and said…” Is that not intriguing? The heart of this chapter is Genesis 48:15-16; Jacob blessing Joseph. And it will lead to our second question, what was the blessing?
But look at Genesis 48:17. Joseph discovers what is happening and is actually angry. His blind father is giving the blessings to the wrong boys. Ephraim is getting the blessing of the firstborn! And so, he seeks to reverse the hands, bu Jacob stops him. “Not this way, Dad!” And I love Jacob’s response. “I know, my son, I know” (48:19). Jacob was blind, but knew exactly what he was doing. How? The blessing for each boy was to be great and to be a great people, but that Ephraim would be a greater people. Regardless, whenever the people of Israel would give out blessings it would be said, “Oh, that God would make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!” (cf. Genesis 48:17-20).
What Was the Blessing?
But what was the blessing? This is actually seen in Genesis 48:15-16, the heart of this chapter. And note that it is peculiar how this is worded, for again, this chapter is about a grandfather blessing his two grandsons. But notice, again, verse fifteen. “And he blessed Joseph and said.” Even though the blessing was for these two grandsons, as long as Jacob has those hands on those two heads he is blessing these boys, Jacob was also blessing Joseph. How? This is the most wonder-filled thing I have to say. Jacob blessed Joseph by praying for his two sons. Genesis 48:15-16 is actually a prayer! It is a grandfather’s prayer for his grandsons! And this blesses a father!
In his prayer, he calls upon the God with whom his fathers walked. Walking with God or walking before God is only used of four people in Genesis. Here it includes Abraham and Isaac, but is also used of Enoch and Noah (5:22; 6:9). In his prayer, he calls upon the God who has been “my shepherd.” What does this sound like? It sounds like Psalm 23. And Jesus in the New Testament is called the good shepherd (John 10). And he calls God the shepherd who has shepherd him all life long to this very moment. And what is this moment? It is the finish. Jacob is dying. This is the valley of the shadow of death. In his prayer, he calls upon the angel who redeemed him from all evil. Note the word redeemed or rescued.
Contextually, Jacob is equating this angel with God. I think he has in mind Genesis 32 when he wrestled with God. His Uncle Laban had just hunted him down to kill him and was stopped by God. Then when Jacob kept moving he was stopped by the angels of God. Then he heard his brother was coming to meet him with 400 men, the perfect size for an army. And that evening God wrestled with him. But note that word redeemed. It means to purchase. It is the same word used in the book of Ruth. But there is a beautiful picture had in this word. This redeemer or rescuer was usually the nearest male relative whose responsibility was to bail someone out of if he fell into debt or slavery. It is the same word in Job 19:25-27. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!”
And what is Jacob praying for his grandsons? He asks, “bless the boys.” Bless them with knowing the God you can walk with; the God who will shepherd you all the way; the God who redeems lives! He is praying this for his grandsons! This was the blessing for Joseph and Manasseh and Ephraim.
How Are You Finishing?
And it comes back to a question we asked in Genesis 46 and again in Genesis 47 and again, now, here. How are you finishing? This was Jacob’s one singular moment of triumph. How did he finish?
1) The Word of God was holding his view on God.
2) And his view affected his praying.
This is what I have been gaining in turning thirty-eight years old. Finishing and how to finish! The Word of God is to be holding my view on God and this view is to be deepening my praying.
 Derek Kidner, Genesis, page 224.
 R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, page 547.
In the middle of Michigan is a small town called Edmore. And in the small town of Edmore is a farm. And on that farm is a door. And holding that door open, every day for the last thirty some years, was a twenty-two pound rock. Just recently a geology professor at Central Michigan University was asked to examine this rock. She has received numerous requests like this one before and like before she accepted the request and her conclusion had always been the same: it was a rock. This time, though, it was different. This was no ordinary rock. It was 88.5% iron and 11.5% nickel. Calling this a rock would have been meteor wrong. This was meteorite! Her careful examination not only uncovered that this was a meteorite, but also its value – one hundred thousand dollars. We can assume, and in large part due to its value, that it is no longer being treated as a rock or a doorstop.
How We Treasure the Lord’s Supper
This is the first Sunday of the month and the first Sunday of the month is that Sunday that we set apart as the Sunday to observe the Lord’s Supper together. There is only one time in the Bible that this is called the Lord’s Supper. Jesus never called it the Lord’s Supper. However, it was a Thursday evening. And it was supper time. Jesus was in a room with his closest friends. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark we are told that “as they were eating,” Jesus did something (cf. Matthew 26:25-29; Mark 14:22-25). In the Gospel of Luke, on the same Thursday evening, at supper time and in the same room, it is recorded that “when the hour came,” Jesus did something (Luke 22:14-20). And this tells us two things: what Jesus was about to do was particular and intentional. And there are two things that I treasure from those three records. First, Jesus shared with these close friends, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). In a few hours, Jesus would be nailing my sins to the cross, canceling my debt there forever. And at this supper, Jesus shared that it was with great desire that he desired to eat with these disciples. And second, Jesus promised to do this again, one day, with all of his disciples in his Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25). He is talking about the Lord’s Supper!
It is only in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 that this is called the Lord’s Supper. And the big idea here regarding the Lord’s Supper is how we treasure the Lord’s Supper. And the reason is that this particular local church was getting it wrong and not just wrong, but meteor wrong.
When You Come Together as a Church
Listen to verse seventeen. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you.” Pause there and highlight the word commend. Many translations have instead the word praise. Think of standing up and applauding someone. And make note of that word because Paul uses it again in verse twenty-two (actually twice). “Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not [commend you].” And what is his reasoning? Listen further to verse seventeen. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together…” Pause there and highlight the words when you come together. Five times in these verses Paul refers to when you come together (11:17; 18; 20; 33; 34). Five times in these verses Paul is talking about when you come together as a church. He is referring to not only Sunday morning, but Sunday evening. And he is referring to not only Sunday evening, but Wednesday evening And he is referring not only to Wednesday evening, but Friday evenings and Bible studies and work days and…you get it. In these verses, Paul is talking about any time the church gets together.
Keep listening to verse seventeen. “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together, it is not for the better but for the worse.” In other words, this is bad. But the word to pay attention to is instructions. These verses are about instructions for whenever we come together as a church. But the occasion that Paul focuses upon is when the church comes together to eat the Lord’s Supper. Just notice how Paul narrows in on the Lord’s Supper in verses seventeen and eighteen and twenty. “…when you come together…when you come together as a church…when you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” They were eating the Lord’s Supper, but there was no way it could be called the Lord’s Supper. Why? This particular church was getting it wrong, meteor wrong.
How to Get the Lord’s Supper Wrong
How were they getting the Lord’s Supper wrong? Better yet, how might we get the Lord’s Supper wrong? In verse eighteen, Paul pointed out that there were “divisions among you.” The word divisions is the picture of a tear in a piece of garment. And it is just interesting that the occasion out of all the occasions to point out this division was the Lord’s Supper. How was this particular church divided?
Paul said that some of them were making this meal their meal, treating it like it was dinner. Imagine, making a meal out of this unleavened bread. Somebody or somebodies were rushing ahead to this table and just devouring the bread leaving others breadless. Then there was somebody or were somebodies taking the cup and guzzling all the juice, enough juice to get drunk. So, we might say that this particular church was getting the Lord’s supper wrong in how they were treating one another. There is the division! But that would miss the point. It is not so much how they treated one another, although that it is true, but their mistreatment of one another was because they did not value one another. Listen then to verse twenty-two. “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” The church of God is people. The church of God is saved people. The church of God is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb people; these are blood bought people. The church of God is sins forgiven, debt canceled at the cross people. But on the occasion of the Lord’s Supper, Paul asks a question. Do you despise the church of God? What does that have to do with communion Sunday? The word despise is a strong word, isn’t it?
The word despise means to devalue. It is like he is asking, do you not value the church of God? Do you not value your church? Do you not value the church members? Why is he asking this on communion Sunday?! The Lord’s Supper is something that the gathered church is to do together. How can it be done together if there are present divisions among us? And what really are those divisions? How we treasure the Lord’s Supper has something to do with how we treasure one another. And the reasoning is that the church of God is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb people; these are blood bought people. The church of God is sins forgiven, debt canceled at the cross people. These are people that Jesus the Christ gave himself up for; people Jesus the Christ is sanctifying and perfecting to one day present to himself blameless and without blemish or spot or wrinkle. And this is all tied into 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 where twice Paul reminds of the command to “do this in remembrance of Me” and that when we do this in remembrance of Jesus, we are “proclaiming his death until he comes!”
So, again, how we treasure the Lord’s Supper has something to do with how treasure one another.
Let A Person Examine Himself or Herself
1 Corinthians 11:28 contains what may be the lone command in this passage. “Let a person examine himself [and herself].” This is sort of like the twenty-two pound rock being used as a doorstop. It was not until upon examination that the rock was discovered to be a meteorite and its true value uncovered! How might we examine ourselves? In the previous verse, Paul warns to not eat the bread and drink the cup in an unworthy manner. Unworthy here means to lack value or to lack a corresponding value. He then gives us the application in verse thirty-three. “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”
So, it is something that when Paul gives instructions regarding this meal he does so focusing upon our relationship to one another and valuing one another. How might I be treasuring you in treasuring the Lord’s Supper? Is it any wonder then that in the very next chapter Paul talks about being members one of another (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)? And then in 1 Corinthians 13 he only wants to talk about the value of love?
Growing up, a family vacation meant a trip to either wild and wonderful West Virginia or Michigan. And in West Virginia we would spend time with grandparents and then walk up the hill to spend time with an aunt and uncle and cousins. Then we would walk down the hill to spend time with an aunt and uncle and cousins. And then an aunt and uncle and cousins would come across the hill to spend time with us. And on each occasion and at each location, no matter who it was, everyone called my Dad, Jim and me, Jimmy. In Michigan there are no hills. But there were grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. And on each occasion and at each location, no matter who it was, everyone called my Dad big Jim and me, you guessed it, little Jim.
Genesis 47 is not a family vacation, but there is a family. And on each occasion and at each location in the chapter, there seems to be this theme of contrast. Genesis 47 and this theme can be seen in four parts. First, there is Joseph preparing his brothers to meet Pharaoh and Joseph presenting his brothers to Pharaoh (Genesis 46:31-34; Genesis 47:1-6). Next, there are the brothers before Pharaoh and then their father before Pharaoh (Genesis 47:1-6; Genesis 47:7-10). Then, there is Joseph providing for his father, his brothers, his sisters-in-law; his nieces, his nephews; and Joseph providing for the people of Egypt and for Pharaoh, too (Genesis 47:12; Genesis 47:13-26).
But finally, there is Jacob at 130 years old and then there is Jacob at 147 years old (Genesis 47:9; Genesis 47:28). Jacob at 130 years old is with his son Joseph. And Jacob at 147 years old is with his son Joseph.
An End Without An Ending
Genesis 46 ends without an ending. It is about Jacob finishing his journey and taking all the he had to finish his journey which included more than seventy family members – sons and grandsons; daughters-in-law and granddaughters – taking all that they had to finish his journey. Their goal was to get to Egypt and a place in Egypt called Goshen. Now, in Genesis 47 we hear Goshen get called another name, which at the time of writing was its modern name – Rameses. Goshen was considered the best of the land (47:6). And the word Rameses reflects how good this land was for it means luxuriant, fresh and green. And consider that this is during a very severe famine.
And as this family nears Goshen, I love this, Jacob has his son Judah lead the way, almost carving out the way to Goshen. It is because here is where Jacob will meet his son Joseph. And to carve out the way, Judah just leaves behind him a trail of dust! And then Joseph, as soon as he gets word that his dad has arrived, prepares his chariot to move faster than ever to meet his dad. Think of the anticipation. How long has Joseph been waiting for this day? Since he was seventeen years old. And how long has Jacob been waiting for this day? Since Joseph was seventeen years old. And when this father and this son meet for the first time in nearly three decades, Joseph falls, it is like he throws himself upon his father. He embraced his dad. He wept over his dad. And this is my favorite part; this was for “a good while” (46:30).
And after a good while, Joseph turns to speak to his brothers. Think of it; these brothers had been watching this embrace for a good while, in fact, more than seventy people had been watching this embrace for a good while. There could not have been a dry eye! And through his watery eyes to their watery eyes, Joseph begins to prepare his brothers to meet Pharaoh. Joseph tells them what he will say; what Pharaoh will say; and what the brothers will need to say (Genesis 46:31-34). And the chapter ends. It ends without an ending; this family is left holding their luggage just waiting for someone to tell them where they can put it!
What Is Your Occupation?
And so, Genesis 47 begins. It begins with Joseph meeting with Pharaoh, telling him that his family is standing in Goshen, holding their luggage, waiting for someone to tell them where to put it. And so it happened; Joseph said what he would say to Pharaoh.
Now listen to verse two. “And from among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh.” Joseph only presented five of his brothers to Pharaoh. Why? I think he presented Dan, Naphtali; Gad; Asher and either Issachar or Zebulun; only because these five have not had much to do nor have been given much mention thus far in this family’s history. It is just interesting that he only presented five and we do not know which five. So, Pharaoh asks these five, “What is your occupation?” And it is exactly as Joseph prepared them. Notice what happened next; the brothers answered how Joseph told them to answer. “We are shepherds.” And finally, someone told this family where they could put all of their stuff. Pharaoh replied, “Settle your father and brothers in the best of the land.” But then, Pharaoh did something unexpected. He offered every able man in this family a job. And it was not just any job. It was an offer to be an officer of the crown, which came with every royal and legal protection. Pharaoh wanted these men to take charge of his livestock. Now think of it; shepherding was considered an abomination to the Egyptians (46:34). These men are shepherds and Pharaoh has livestock. Mark that down. This would be more than anyone could have imagined.
And Jacob Blessed Pharaoh
I love this next scene (Genesis 47:7-10). After Joseph presented his brothers before Pharaoh, he then presents his father before Pharaoh. There was no preparation for this; Joseph did not tell his dad what he would say or what Pharaoh would say or what Jacob needed to say. Jacob appears to be unmoved and unimpressed. He stood before the most powerful man in the world and spoke. Jacob spoke first. Jacob spoke last. And when he spoke, he did so boldly and bluntly. Listen to the end of verse seven. “And Jacob blessed Pharaoh.” First and last, Jacob blessed Pharaoh (see 47:10). This Hebrew word will be easy to remember. It is the word barak. How did Jacob bless Pharaoh? It can be simply and easily seen as this; Jacob prayed for Pharaoh. Pharaoh heard it and Jacob did this twice! Twice, Jacob prayed for this man. What could he have prayed? In the New Testament, Christians are commanded to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions.” Listen to the reasoning. “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Keep listening. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” Now watch this; what could Jacob have prayed for Pharaoh? Keep listening. “God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:2-4).
This old man prayed for Pharaoh, in the hearing of Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world. And it just said to me, how might I and how might we be a blessing to those who are in high positions over us? Pray for them! And pray what? Think; this is seen as a blessing! How did Pharaoh respond? “How many are the days of the years of your life?” I know, because I counted them. Jacob at this point, not including leap years, was 47,450 days old and counting, meaning he was not buying green bananas. But really, Pharaoh’s response was, “how old are you?” And listen closely to Jacob. Keep in mind that this is in the hearing of Pharaoh and Joseph, too. Jacob says that all the days of the years of his life have been “few and evil,” few and filled with pain. What pain? I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his mom and dad. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with Esau. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his two wives. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his father-in-law. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his daughter Dinah. I think Jacob is thinking about his relationship with his sons. And I think Jacob is thinking about the relationship lost with Joseph. And perhaps, Jacob is thinking about his own responsibility in all of it. I just wondered, is he saying, “I wasted it. It was 47,450 days, too few and so filled with trouble of my own doing.” And he prayed for Pharaoh a second time.
And Then Joseph Provided Food
And then Joseph provided food (47:12). He provided food for his father and his brothers and his sisters-in-law and his nieces and his nephews. But then read verse thirteen. “Now there was no food in the land.” But Joseph still provided food! This is to say that all those who were living in the land had run out of food and not only had they run out of food, but money too. Those living in the land had spent all their money on food. So they come to Joseph with the plea, “Why should we die before your eyes?” (47:15). So, in Joseph’s cool wisdom, notice he does not panic, he proposes that those wanting food, exchange their livestock for food (47:16). Where have we seen the word livestock before?
So, the people are thankful and exchange their livestock for food. Then a year goes by, and there is no food in the land, meaning all those who were living in the land had run out of food and not only had they run out of food, but livestock too. Guess who owns the livestock now? Pharaoh, and who is in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock? Joseph’s family. Just amazing. So, now the people come back to Joseph and say, “Why should we die before your eyes?” This time the people propose, “Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh” (47:19). And in this moment, Joseph provided for the people of Egypt and for Pharaoh, not just for the next year, but for years upon years. From this day forth, Pharaoh will be responsible for the people and the land, and in return the people will give Pharaoh food, a fifth of the harvest, themselves keeping four-fifths. Their response: “You have saved our lives!” (Genesis 47:25). Note that subtle theme here of living and dying (cf. 42:2; 43:8).
And Jacob Lived in the Land of Egypt
It is this next part that has grabbed my attention. Listen to verse twenty-eight. “And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt.” How long did he live in Egypt? Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years. The time will draw near for him to die and when that time draws to a close, Jacob will be 147 years old. He will call upon Joseph for one final and important favor. He desires to not be buried in the land of Egypt. But rather, he wants to be buried back in the land of promise. This is rather interesting. Jacob was carried by his sons to Egypt (46:5). But he asks Joseph to be the one who carries him out of Egypt to the land of promise (47:30). This part got to me.
But do notice that Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years. These were seventeen seemingly silent years. But who did he spend those years with? It was Joseph. And this is too good, how many years did Jacob spend with Joseph, before Joseph was sent off to Egypt? It was seventeen years.
And I think it is all just a continuation of Genesis 46 and the life of Jacob. How are you finishing? Jacob looked at 88.4% of his life and saw how short and how pain filled it was, and I think he recognized his own hand in it. But these final seventeen years, seemingly silent, seemingly good and really short, Jacob is beholding God’s promise. Jacob is beholding that nothing will thwart God’s will, God’s plan and God’s purpose.
Moses wrote this chapter. He wrote all the previous chapters too. And as he stared at his own finish, he gave these final words. And no matter the age, this is to be kept in view. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
These are the generations of Jacob. There is Reuben. He had four sons. There is Simeon. He had six sons. There is Levi. He had three sons. There is Judah. He had five sons. There is Issachar. He had four sons. There is Zebulun. He had three sons. There is Gad. He had seven sons. There is Asher. He had four sons. There is Dan. He had one son. There is Naphtali. He had four sons. There is Joseph. He had two sons. Then there is Benjamin. He had ten sons. And two of those sons must have been twins: Muppim and Huppim.
Genesis 46 has three parts. There is Genesis 46:1-4. Then there is Genesis 46:5-27. And then there is Genesis 46:28-34. These three parts seem to be about this family, Jacob and his descendants moving to Egypt. It was at least seventy people and all of their stuff making this move, together, to Egypt. So, this was no small feat. And it kind of ends with all these people waiting to be told where they can put down all of their stuff.
And this family had to be excited. They were moving to Egypt by the personal invitation of Pharaoh himself. And with the promise that the best of Egypt awaits them – the best shopping; the best restaurants; the best homes, the best technology, all the best for them. All but one person was excited. And for this one person the whole journey stopped. His name was Jacob.
So Israel Took His Journey
Listen to Genesis 46:1. “So Israel took his journey.” Genesis 46 is not really about this family, all seventy plus of them, moving to Egypt. Genesis 46 is really and simply just about Jacob. Notice that in verse one that this is called his journey. And notice that word journey. This particular word for journey is used twelve times in Genesis. And most of the time, actually about seven times, it is used about Jacob’s journey. And so, we can say that Genesis 46 is not just about Jacob, but is really about Jacob’s journey. In his journey, Jacob came to Beersheba (Genesis 46:1-4). In his journey, Jacob left Beersheba (Genesis 46:5-27). And in his journey, Jacob came to Egypt (Genesis 46:28-34).
As soon as his journey begins, it stopped. Why does his journey stop? It is important to remember that the day before the journey, Jacob was pretty excited to get going. He just heard that Joseph his beloved son was alive! For twenty some years, he had lived thinking his son was dead. And then in learning that his son was alive, his soul had been revived. His soul had been revived not simply because his son was alive, but his soul had been revived because Jacob realized that God’s will, God’s plan, God’s purpose had not been thwarted. And it took being reminded of who God is.
And the next day, the wagons packed, the home locked and the keys handed over to the new owner, the family headed out. I am sure as soon as they pulled out of the driveway someone forgot something. And as soon as they got out of the neighborhood, someone had to go to the restroom. And as soon as they pulled onto the highway, someone asked, “Are we there yet?” And as soon as they got started again, Jacob said stop. His boys were puzzled. He asked for help to get out of the wagon and was eased onto the ground. Jacob got his bearings, moved a little further, and stopped.
Israel Took His Journey to Beersheba
Keep listening to Genesis 46:1. “So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba.” Stop there. Jacob took his journey first to Beersheba. And of course we are wondering, why has he stopped in Beersheba? Jacob’s grandfather had once stopped in Beersheba. Listen to Genesis 21:33. “Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.” Besides planting a tree, notice what Abraham did at Beersheba. He worshiped and prayed.
Jacob’s father had also once stopped in Beersheba. “From there he went up to Beersheba. And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, ‘I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.’ So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 26:23-25). Isaac did not plant a tree like his dad, but like his dad he, too, called upon the name of the Lord at Beersheba. He worshiped and prayed at Beersheba. And notice that God spoke to Isaac at Beersheba and said, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
So, why had Jacob stopped at Beersheba? I think, in part, it has to do with his grandfather and his father, for at Beersheba he stopped and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. This is like saying that my dad’s God is my God, we share in fellowship with the same God! So, at Beersheba, Jacob, too, prayed and worshiped. May we keep in mind that this was an old man?
And God Spoke To Israel On His Journey
And while at Beersheba and on his journey, God spoke to Jacob. Listen to verse two. “And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night.” Notice that word visions. It is plural and in Hebrew a plural can have one of two meanings. It can mean more than one, quantity, or it can mean to convey the greatness or intensity of something, hence quality. It seems likely that this here is not more than one vision, but instead it is about the quality of the vision. This is an intense and great and wonderful and beautiful vision! Vision means to see. So, Jacob was to see something great and wonderful and beautiful. It is important to know that in the Bible, a vision is a revelation of God, it is God speaking to man, and we have this vision now in the written word. And it is as great and wonderful and beautiful as when Jacob first heard it!
And God says to Jacob, “Jacob, Jacob.” The wonder of this vision begins with the reminder that God knows Jacob’s name, that it is to say, God knows – he repeats his name – God really knows who Jacob is. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1). Keep watching. It keeps getting better and better. Jacob says, “Here I am.” Now verse three. “I am God.” God calls out his own name! It is all to say, the calling out of both names, that there is a personal relationship here, between God and Jacob. I know his name and he knows mine.
Now, why did Jacob stop? Why did Jacob stop and worship and pray? Listen to what comes next in verse three. “Do not be afraid.” It is the same thing that God said to Isaac at Beersheba all those years ago. Jacob stopped because he was afraid.
Why Was Jacob Afraid?
In Genesis 46, Jacob was old. And being old, he was closer to death on this day than he was yesterday. Remember, he just said in Genesis 45:28, that he wanted to go and see Joseph “before I die.” So, was Jacob afraid that he was not going to make it to Egypt? Probably not, although that sounds really reasonable. But how does he go from revived to afraid?
I think Genesis 15 is helpful. This was not at Beersheba, but it came on a night that Abraham was afraid. God spoke to Abraham when he was afraid, too. Listen to Genesis 15:1. “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’” Then as the sun was going down, “a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him” (15:12). By the way the word afraid both in Genesis 15 and Genesis 46, is the kind of fear that makes you pull your covers over your head. You want to hide. Now listen to Genesis 15:13. “Then the Lord said to Abram, ‘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.’”
First, who are Abraham’s offspring? It is these seventy plus people who just left their home! And what does God say about these descendants? They will sojourn in a land not theirs, be slaves there and be afflicted there. Jacob was leading his descendants to…Egypt, a land not theirs, to be strangers there. Could it be that Jacob is seeing for certain, knowing for certain Genesis 15:13 on his journey? And so, he was afraid. He was leaving his home. He was leaving his home and will die in Egypt. And then he was leaving his family to live in Egypt. God has promised that they will not leave Egypt for four hundred years. And he just experienced with Joseph that God’s will and plan and purpose will not be thwarted. What was Jacob to think? So, God specifically says that Jacob should not be afraid to go down to Egypt. Why? It is because there, even in the midst of affliction, he will make Jacob into a great nation.
This reminds me of 1 Peter, written to sojourners, those living in a land not their own. And Peter writes to them to not be afraid for, “by God’s power [you] are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:5-7). This is the point of going to Egypt!
And Joseph’s Hand Shall Close Your Eyes
Listen to how this part ends. It is about Jacob finishing his journey. Realize, when he started his journey as a young man, he did so on foot, but with these words, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (28:15). That was at the start of the journey. This is the finishing of the journey. “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 46:4).
Partly here is God’s care for a father who is afraid as his journey is being finished. The last sight Jacob will behold is God’s fulfilled promise. Joseph will be the one to close his eyes. But what God promised at the beginning, God continues to fulfill at the finish. I will be with you and I will bring you up again (See 1 Corinthians 15).
And it leaves us with a big question. How are you finishing? We are not to think of the finish when we are old and getting close to the finish. It is because for each of us the finish will come. And each of us do not know when that finish will come. Each of our journeys are not all the same distance. And so, what is holding your view on the finish?
Listen again to Genesis 46:3. “I am God.” Listen again to Genesis 46:4. “I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again.” The Hebrew name for God here is really easy to remember. It is the name El and literally means mighty. So, the view to hold on the finish is that God is mighty. And he says to Jacob, I am with you. In Isaiah 7:14, there is the promise of one to come whose name is Immanuel, which we often translate as “God with us.” But deeply means, “God who is mighty is with us.” The Gospel of Matthew begins with a promised birth. Listen to Matthew 1:21-23. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” And when this child is born they call him…Jesus. Who is Jesus? He is “God who is mighty is with us.” He is the one who spoke to Jacob.
Oh, and the Gospel of Matthew ends with the words of Jesus. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (28:20). So, again, how are you finishing? By the way, after these words, Jacob got up and finished.
Horatio Spafford knew loss and he knew adversity. Then he knew both loss and adversity at the very same time! He knew pain and suffering and heartache. But he knew something else, too. In but just a few minutes, written on a Chicago hotel stationary, at the lowest and loneliest point in his life were these words: When peace like a river attendeth my way; when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, it is well, it is well with my soul.
At this moment of preaching Genesis 45, I am thinking about a young pastor who took his own life just a few weeks ago in a battle with depression and anxiety. I am also thinking about that old pastor preaching this morning tired, not because of age or labor, but discouragement. I am thinking about those who are feeling overwhelmed; those who are grieving and hurting; those who are in a loveless marriage; those who cannot stand the thought of facing today, let alone tomorrow. And I am thinking, how? How does a Christian overcome these all too common and real things?
It is unexpected. But the answer lies in Genesis 45. The answer lies in watching Joseph…forgive his brothers. How was he able to forgive his brothers?
Then Joseph Could Not Control Himself
Listen to verse one. “Then Joseph could not control himself.” This is a man; a man’s man. A powerful man who is about to demand that everyone leave the room except eleven shepherds from the countryside. And as soon as the massive doors of his living room are shut, he will weep aloud (v. 2). How loud? Listen to verse two. “And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.” Those who have left the room will hear this cry and those in the house next door will hear this cry. But most importantly, those eleven shepherds, Joseph’s brothers, will not only hear it, but see it. Now pay close attention to verse three. “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.” Verse three is more important than we think. First, the brothers are speechless. Mark that down.
Back in Genesis 37 where this family history begins, Joseph is just seventeen years old. And out of thirteen children, Joseph is the object of their father’s affection (37:3). And to show this affection, Jacob gave Joseph the fanciest of all coats. The brothers have never received a coat like this one. In fact, Reuben the oldest, is the only brother to have ever received a new coat. The rest of the brothers only ever received hand-me-downs. But notice what happened when Joseph was given this coat. “But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him” (37:4). The brothers were speechless. Fast forward some thirty years and again, the brothers are speechless.
And, secondly, what is foremost on Joseph’s mind? Is dad still alive? Now, he has asked this of them more than once and each time was given the same answer: yes (cf. 43:7; 43:27). It seems that Joseph is more concerned to know if dad is healthy and of a sound mind. I wonder, why? A third and quick observation to make is that the brothers are dismayed. These brothers are paralyzed by fear and are in disbelief.
And so, through his own tears – and do you know what it is like to see through tears? It is hard! Through his own tears, he calls his brothers to come near. And they came near. This drawing near is rather precious (45:4). And again, Joseph mentions that he is their brother Joseph. To help jog their memories and to prove his identity he adds, “whom you sold into Egypt.” But now witness Joseph’s quick compassion. “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here.” Notice that I read the word distressed, but most translations have the word grieved. This is just trying to capture the emotions that must be on their faces as they drew near to the second most powerful man in the world, who is most assuredly their brother! Their heart rates are zooming and they are worried. And Joseph wants to calm them and not because of how things turned out for him!
Keep looking at verse five. Why could Joseph no longer control himself? Part of the reason is what he just heard from Judah and saw in Judah and the rest of his brothers in the previous twenty verses. He saw changed men, willing to give themselves to a life of slavery in place of their little brother Benjamin. He saw changed men, unwilling to break their father’s heart yet again. He saw changed men, who loved their littlest brother simply because he was their brother. But the other part of the reason is an answer to how Joseph is able to forgive his brothers.
You Sold Me, But God Sent Me
Genesis 45:5 is the key verse and is the reason that the brothers should not be worried, should not grieve and should not be angry with themselves for selling Joseph into slavery. But keep in mind, they did an evil thing. They did sell Joseph into slavery. And here it is: “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” You sold me, but God sent me. Joseph will explain this again at the end of their story in Genesis 50:20. “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.” In other words, God works out his will, his plan and his purposes even in the face of evil and man’s evil actions. When evil and loss and adversity are an obstacle, God’s will and God’s plan and God’s purpose will not be thwarted. We see this in Genesis 3. We see this in the history of Job. We see this at the cross (see Acts 2). And it is here in this history, the generations of Jacob. And this is how Joseph was able to forgive. This encouraged and enabled Joseph to forgive.
In these few verses, Genesis 45:5-13, Joseph mentions God by name, his hand and his activity through it all, five times. This is what held his view through it all. It is like Joseph is saying that when peace like a river came his way or when sorrows like sea billows rolled, whatever his lot – the pit, the prison or the palace, God taught him to know that it was well, it was well with his soul. And what makes a soul well no matter the lot? Not merely that God works out his will, his plan, his purpose even in the face of evil, but what makes a soul well is knowing who God is. This is what has been happening in Genesis. We see it in Genesis 1. He is the Creator God, the God of creation. He is the God who sees and looks after me (Genesis 16:13). He is the God who listens (Genesis 18:20). And He is merciful and gracious (Genesis 18:22-26). He is the God who is with me (Genesis 21:22). He is the God who keeps me (Genesis 28:20). And he is God Almighty who is able and who is willing to do abundantly more than I could ever ask or imagine (Genesis 43:14).
This is the God Joseph knew and how he was both encouraged and enabled to forgive his brothers and to be forgiving. And the question is, how might I know this God? And by the way, he desires to be your God (Exodus 6:7). I want us together to listen closely to four verses. “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7). God has taken the initiative and has made himself known. Now listen to John 1:14. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The words grace and truth are the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament words steadfast love and faithfulness. The knowledge of who God is, is fully realized in the person of Jesus Christ. And now listen to Jesus’ own prayer as he faced the glory in the suffering at the cross. “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). And the question is, do you know Him? This is the how to our big question. And in the how, you are more than able to face tomorrow because “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”” And we can then say, “Surely he has taught us to know!”
After That His Brothers Talked With Him
And watch this! It is Genesis 45:15. “And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.” The is the effect of it all! The is the effect of a person whose view is being held by who God is and how God works in the face of loss and adversity and pain and suffering and heartache. His brothers, twice speechless, now could not stop talking with him. And what did they speak of? I am going to take a wild guess and say it started something like this: How great is our God! Or maybe even, amazing grace, how sweet the sound!
But I want us to notice Genesis 45:9. Before the brothers are unable to stop talking with Joseph, Joseph has this one request. “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.’” The first sentence that Joseph needs and wants his dad to hear from his brothers, is what God has done. God is the subject of this first sentence!
But Dad Did Not Believe
Pharaoh catches wind that these eleven men are Joseph’s brothers. Now, he does not know the whole back story, but with much joy he commands Joseph to have his brothers load their wagons and go home and bring back themselves and their dad to Egypt. And he sent loads of gifts – good gifts and donkeys and food. And when they return, Pharaoh has promised to give them the best of the land of Egypt (45:16-23). And here is something interesting. Joseph gives his brothers a change of clothes, perhaps really fancy clothes, but he gives Benjamin five times as many fancy clothes. I wonder what this is reminiscent of? And he tells his brothers to not quarrel on the way home (45:24).
And here is what I want to get to. The brothers get home with all these wagons full of stuff. The first thing out of their mouths, to dad, is that Joseph is still alive and ruler over all of Egypt. Watch verse twenty-six. Dad does not believe them. Why? Is it because he knows his sons’ true character? No; it is because he had not yet heard the words of Joseph. What are those words? It is Genesis 45:9. And it is not merely that Joseph is alive, but it is what God has done. And it is who God is. And it pricks Jacob’s knowledge of who God is. And he realizes in this moment that God has been faithful to his word, his promises, those two dreams! And watch what happens. “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” (45:27). The word of the Lord revives the soul! Or, God too has taught Jacob to know!
And we must end with Jacob’s response. “It is enough!” This word enough, could also be translated as abundance. It is like Jacob is saying, “God has done abundantly!”
And so the Christian presses on. The darkness may last longer than hoped. Things may grow even more overwhelming. But we take heart. God is God and he will abundantly do his will, his plan and his purpose.