Calling Card

On the 2002 album, “Woven and Spun”, Nichole Nordeman sings a song where she is grasping for things to call God. She is trying to see God as everything she needed Him to be throughout her life and everything that she needed him to be in her present and her future. In the song, as a young girl, she called God “Elbow Healer” and “Superhero.” As she got older, she called him, “Heartache Healer” and “Secret Keeper.” After she was married and had kids, she called him, “Shepherd”, “Savior” and “Pasture-Maker.” As she thinks about her life as an older woman getting up in years, she calls God, “Creator”, “Maker”, “Life Sustainer”, “Comforter”, “Healer”, “my Redeemer”, “Lord and King”, and the “Beginning and the End.” Some other names of God that might be familiar to us are El Shaddai which means “God Almighty” and Immanuel which means “God with us.” And some other names that we’ve seen in our study of Genesis are El Elyon which means “God most High” and El Roi which means “the God who sees.”

Throughout my life, there have been a few names of God that have meant a lot to me such as Shepherd, Creator, Savior, Healer, Provider and Abba which means “father.” When you think about the names of God that have meant a lot to you throughout your lives, what names come to mind? Go ahead and shout them out. As Nichole Nordeman is calling on God using these various names, God spoke to her and said that the “I AM” was all she needed. She realized that there is only one name that meets her every need – “I AM” and it encompassed all the other names for God. “I AM” is God’s calling card to us, so to speak, when we are in need. This morning, we continue the narrative of Moses and his encounter with God. Last week, we saw that God arrested Moses on the mountain of Horeb from within the burning bush. He told Moses that he was the God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He told Moses that he had seen the oppression and heard the cries of his people in Egypt, and he had come down to rescue them and lead them to a spacious land, flowing with milk and honey. He then tells Moses that he is the one he is sending to bring his people out of Egypt.

What we are going to see this morning is Moses’ reaction to God sending him to bring his people out of slavery. Moses is going to pose two questions to God and God is going to give him his calling card that will not only give him the confidence and power that he needs to fulfill his calling but to also convince the Israelites of who has sent Moses to rescue them. This calling card will be a witness to the people that Moses has had a personal interaction with the God of their fathers and that God has the power to do what he says he will do. It will not be Moses who will rescue the Israelites because he is inadequate and weak, it will be God because he is the great “I AM”, the almighty, all-knowing and all-seeing God who will rescue his people from slavery in Egypt and lead them into the Promised Land. I like this quote from Jon Bloom: “God does not need you to be strong. He wants to be your strength.” God did not need Moses to be strong. God wanted to be his strength. That brings us to the big idea this morning which is “In our weakness God is strong.”

Let’s pray: Lord God, pour out your Holy Spirit on us this morning. Open our hearts and minds to your Word. Let it be a lamp for our feet and a light on our paths as we live our daily lives on this earth. May it feed us, heal and cleanse us from sin and give us the strength to overcome the tests and trials and difficult circumstances in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

This morning we continue our study in Exodus chapter three looking at verses 11-22. The first point is called the Credentials of Moses found in verses 11-12. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

God has just told Moses that he is sending him to Pharaoh, so he can bring his people out of Egypt. The first word we see in our scripture is the word, “but.” If your parents told you to clean your room or your boss told you they needed this or that by the end of the day and your response started with the word “but,” what would that signify? It would signify reluctance on your part probably followed by an objection. “But I cleaned my room last week” or “but I am too busy to do that.” Moses responds to this call from God to rescue his people with reluctance and a series of objections. This morning we are going to talk about two of those objections. The first is “but, Who am I?” Some commentators say that this was humility on Moses’ part because he didn’t think he had the credentials to go to Pharaoh and bring God’s people out of Egypt. Others believe it was simply a lack of self-confidence or unwillingness to obey. No matter which is true, Moses felt he was inadequate to do the job that God was calling him to do. “But” I am just a shepherd. “But” I had to run away from Egypt. “But” I am the wrong person for the job. “But” they won’t believe me. “But” I am not capable. Have you ever been reluctant to do something that the Bible commands us as Christians to do? One area I think about is evangelism. Have you ever used the excuse “I can’t do that” or “I’ll let someone who has that gift do that” or “What if they make fun of me” or “I’m not the person for the job.” So did Moses.

God’s answer to Moses’ question of “Who am I?” was it didn’t matter who Moses was or if he was capable or not of doing the job. Notice that God didn’t deny that Moses was inadequate for the job. What mattered was that God had called him and would equip him with what he needed to get the job done. God did not need Moses to be strong. God would be his strength. (BIG IDEA). In the NASB it says that God would “assuredly” be with him. God promised his presence would be with him as he went to his people and to Pharaoh. “I am with you” is found throughout the Bible as the way God encouraged his people as he called them to his work in the world. We see this with Jacob in Genesis 31:3, with Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:23 at his commissioning, with Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:8 and Jesus with his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 when he gave the Great Commission. He promises his presence to us as well.

God then gave Moses a sign that he was the one sending him to bring his people out of Egypt and would confirm his divine calling. The sign would be that Moses, when he had brought the people out of Egypt, would worship God on this same mountain. There are some curious things about this sign: One, it was a sign that wouldn’t be fulfilled for quite a while and, two, it was meant to build up Moses’ faith. Moses was going to have to exercise faith in God that he was going to be with him and give him the power to do what he was calling him to do. When the people would arrive on this mountain to worship God then Moses and the people of Israel would truly know that it was God who had called him and that his presence and power had been with him as he had promised. Three, this mountain was not in a direct route from Egypt to the Promised Land. Since this mountain was out of the way, it would make God’s promise more miraculous when he led them back to it. Moses and the people would have to exercise their faith to believe in God’s sign and when they arrived back at this mountain, their faith would be strengthened. This exercising and strengthening of their faith in God would help them as they later traveled in the wilderness.

In 2 Corinthians 5:7, God’s people are called to live by faith and not by sight. Where in your life do you need to exercise faith this morning? If you will exercise faith in God, as he fulfills his promises in your life, your faith will also be strengthened. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to Exercise faith in the Lord as I wait on him to fulfill his promises in my life. By coming to the mountain and worshiping God, it would signify that the Israelites were no longer under the Pharoah’s control. They would now be under the care of the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He would be their covenant God and their deliverer and worship would become a major part of their future as God’s chosen people. Delivering his people out of slavery in Egypt was the beginning of bringing them into a living, personal relationship with himself.

Moses didn’t have the credentials to carry out this calling from God, but God did, which brings us to our second point this morning which is the Credentials of God found in verses 13-15. This is what God’s Word says, “Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.

Here we see the second objection from Moses. The first objection was, but “Who am I?” The second is essentially, but “Who are you?” Moses was concerned that when he went to the Israelites and said that God appeared to him, they would want to know who this God is that sent him. What is his name? This was actually a pretty good question on Moses’ part for a couple of reasons: One, the Israelites had been living in Egypt for a long time with their plethora of gods. Second, they had not had a new revelation from the God of their fathers in a long time. Joseph, Jacob and his other sons had been dead for generations by this time. It is possible that many Israelites had forgotten the God of their fathers and had started to worship the gods that influenced the culture around them. Third, in the ancient world, the names of gods were important. They provided information about the nature, reputation or character of the god they worshiped. To be able to truly worship and pray to the gods, you needed to call on his name and to do that you needed to know his name. Since there had been generations of divine silence the people would naturally wonder exactly who is this God that Moses says sent him? ​​ 

God graciously responds to Moses’ question giving him his calling card, which would be a witness to Moses’ personal interaction with him. God says four very important things in this section. First, he is speaking specifically to Moses when he said, “I AM WHO I AM” which could also be translated “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE” or “I WILL BE GOD.” What did God mean by this? It spoke to his character and reputation. He was saying that he is the self-existent creator and sustainer, the unchanging and eternal One. He is the sovereign Lord and without equal. He is the active, personal presence and covenant God of their fathers. Williams notes, “Contextually, the name “I AM WHO I AM” may well be taken as ‘I will be to you as I was to them.’ This would encourage Moses that God would be with him and for him just as he had been with and for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Second, he told Moses to tell the Israelites that “I AM” has sent him to them. “I AM WHAT I AM” told Moses about his character and reputation, “I AM” was his name which spoke to what he was going to do now and in the future. “I AM” has been translated “Yahweh”, which was the name of God that was known to their Israelite ancestors. Enns says, “This name would verify to Moses and the people that the God of their fathers is now going to rescue them as he promised long ago.” Third, he told Moses to also tell the Israelites that ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—has sent me to you.’ The LORD was the equivalent of Yahweh and “I AM” which connected the God who was sending Moses to free his people from slavery as the same God of their forefathers. By using this name God was calling the Israelites back to the faith of their fathers.

“I AM” was going to be for the Israelite people whatever they needed or lacked. This reminds us of the Nicole Nordeman song from the opening. She had all these names for God throughout her life but the only one she truly needed was “I AM.” When we need a deliverer, “I AM” is all we need. When we need grace, mercy and forgiveness, “I AM” is all we need. When we need guidance, “I AM” is all we need. When we are worried about what is happening in the world, “I AM” is all we need. When we are weak, “I AM” is strong. (BIG IDEA). What do you need God to be for you, today? You can call on the “Great I AM” for whatever you need. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is “Call on the “Great I Am” to __________________. How would you finish that sentence this morning? What do you need “I AM” to be or to do for you today?

Fourth, God told Moses that this name, LORD, was to be his name forever, and was the name that the Israelites were to call him from generation to generation. The covenant God, the LORD, Yahweh, I AM was the name they were to call God for eternity. Later, Jesus would identify himself as one and the same as God by calling himself “I AM” which clearly identified him as the God of the burning bush. In John 8:28, it says, “Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I Am [He], and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.” And in John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.” And in John 8:24, Jesus says, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I Am [He], you will die in your sins.” Jesus Christ is God. He is the God who saves, and if you do not believe in him today, you have no hope of salvation. A Christian is a person who believes that Jesus and God are one and the same, the “Great I AM.” Jesus wants us to put his faith in him, going where he sends us, trusting in his promise of everlasting presence and believing that he is the God who saves. John 14:6 says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” If you have never put your faith and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then the third next step is for you and today will be the day of your salvation. My next step is to “declare Jesus is Lord, believe that God raised him from the dead and accept his free gift of salvation.” If you take that next step, please mark your communication card so we can be in touch with you to talk with you about that decision.

So far, the questions and answers had been from Moses for Moses. Now that God had given Moses his “calling card” to prove that he had been sent by him, he gave him the content he was to relay to the Israelite people. Which brings us to our third point this morning which is Content found in verses 16-22. This is what God’s Word says, “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’ “The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go. “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”

Moses was to go the elders of Israel and talk with them first. Why? The elders were the older men of the Israelite community who through age and experience were looked up to. The word originally meant “bearded ones” and were leaders in the community, promoting the standards of right living and arbitrating disputes. Also, it would have been impossible for all the Israelites to gather around and hear what Moses had to say. So, God commanded Moses to go before the elders and be the divine spokesman of what God wanted his people to know. The elders would then disseminate that to all the people. Referring to God as the LORD, the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, meant that the message to follow came from the covenant God who had committed himself to and made promises to their forefathers. Moses was to tell them that God had been watching over them and had seen their oppression. Stuart says, “God had noticed, seen . . . paid attention to . . . his people and was not merely aware but was going to do something about it.” It would not happen by human means but through God’s power. “Watched over” is the same verb as “come to your aid” in Genesis 50:24 where Joseph told his brothers that “God will surely come to your aid.” God had always cared for his people and had always been aware of what was happening to them. He was now going to keep the promise he made to their fathers that he would bring them out of their misery in Egypt and into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.

Next, we see the all-knowing omniscience of God. He gives encouragement to Moses by telling him that the elders will listen to him, and that he is to take them along with him to confront Pharaoh. God also gave Moses the words to say to Pharaoh. He was to tell Pharaoh that the LORD, the God of the Hebrews met with them. We can notice a couple things here. One, they are to refer to the LORD as the God of the Hebrews because Pharaoh would not have known or cared about their fathers – but he would understand that they were talking about their God. Second, they told Pharaoh that the LORD “met with them.” “Met with us” would indicate that this request was a divine obligation. They were to request that Pharaoh allow them to take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD their God. Now we know that what God had in mind was not just a three-day journey but a full-blown, permanent leaving of Egypt. Was Moses trying to deceive Pharaoh? No, this was actually the way that bargaining took place in the Near East at that time. Stuart says, “Those in the Near East preferred to use suggestive, gentle, restrained, and limited ways of making requests as opposed to simply coming right out and asking for what they wanted.” This made me think of a few things we say today that don’t really say what we mean. Like “Would you please hand me the remote?” is actually a way of saying, “I’m going to control what we watch, if you don’t mind.” Or, “Dad, can I have the keys to the car?” usually means, “Dad, may I use the car for the next several hours, with no one else being able to use it?” Or, “Have you got a second?” is not literal at all but really is a way of saying, “I’d like to take an indefinite amount of your time,” and “He’ll be with you in a moment” is not literally true but can mean “Keep waiting; he’ll be free whenever he’s free.” Pharaoh knew and understood full well what Moses and the elders were asking. But what was more important was the purpose for their leaving. They wanted to go to offer sacrifices to their God in order to worship him. In Egyptian culture Pharaoh was considered “god” therefore this would have been a blasphemous request on the part of the Israelites. Pharaoh could have allowed them to worship in Egypt but letting them leave Egypt to worship would have challenged Pharoah’s claims to be god and ultimately who had control over the people of Israel.

God displayed his sovereignty by knowing the future and the future going exactly according to his plan. God knew that Pharaoh would not want to lose the slave labor force of the Israelites much less give in to their request for the freedom to worship their God. He knew that Pharaoh would not let the Israelites leave Egypt unless a “mighty hand” compelled him. The “mighty hand” refers to God and what he will do to bring his people out of slavery. Pharaoh was known as “one who destroys his enemies with his strong arm” so this deliberately pitted Yahweh against Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s arm would be no match for God’s mighty hand as God would show his superiority over Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt.

God goes on to tell Moses how he will compel Pharoah to let his people go. He will “stretch” out his hand and “strike” the Egyptians with “wonders” that he will perform among them. The word “strike” means “to beat” and is translated “destroy” in describing the impact of the flood in Genesis 8:21. God would strike the Egyptians with “wonders” which would be extraordinary acts done by God’s supernatural power. We know these as the ten plagues. After these “wonders” Pharoah will let God’s people go. In fact the Hebrew phrase “let them go” means that Pharoah will “expel” them from Egypt. He will kick the Israelites out because of the “wonders” God’s mighty hand will do. God will make the Egyptians “favorably disposed” toward the Israelites and they would not leave Egypt empty-handed. Just as God would compel Pharaoh to let his people go, he would also compel the Egyptian people to give their valuables to them on the way out the door. This would fulfill the promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:14 that his people would come out of captivity “with great possessions.” God goes on to explain how this would be done which would show God’s power. “Favorably disposed” means that it would be in the Egyptian women’s best interest to give their valuables to the Israelite women. Remember the “angel of the Lord” would pass over killing all the firstborn sons. The women would be willing to give anything they could to get them to leave.

The Israelite women were to “ask” the Egyptian women living in Goshen and the Egyptian women they worked for as domestic servants for silver, gold and clothing. The verb for “ask” actually means “to demand.” Most commentators say this was the equivalent of asking for wages they should have received for the slave labor they were forced to do. The gold and silver would be used in and for the tabernacle in the wilderness. The clothing was not ordinary clothing but valuable ones that were to be put on their sons and daughters. God knew that their generation would grow up in the wilderness, so this was to prepare them for the future. This is the first mention of the second generation of wilderness Israelites in the narrative. The emphasis is on women for two reasons. One, the Israelite women would have had direct contact with the Egyptian women in contrast to the Israelite men who would not have had contact with the Egyptian men because they were doing the slave labor. Two, the power of God would be displayed in it was women who plundered the Egyptians. The word plundered conveyed “conflict” and “war.” Imagine the stigma of the mighty warriors of Egypt being plundered and conquered by women. This would be a complete and decisive triumph of Israel over Egypt in the most peaceful way imaginable. All orchestrated and led by the “Great I AM.”

A house servant had two large pots. One hung on each end of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. The other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. For two years the servant delivered each day only one-and-a-half pots full of water to his master's house. The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, but the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable over accomplishing only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the servant one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you." "What are you ashamed of?" asked the bearer. "For these past two years I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you don't get full value from your work." The servant said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path." As they went up the hill, the cracked pot noticed the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path. When they reached the house, the servant said to the pot, "Did you notice the flowers grew only on your side of the path, not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walked back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table." Each one of us has flaws and I would add weaknesses. But if we allow it, the Lord will use our flaws and our weaknesses to grace his Father's table. God doesn’t need us to be perfect, only obedient to what he is calling us to do. So like Moses, let us embrace our flaws and weaknesses, acknowledging that in our weakness he is strong and become obedient to what he is calling each one of us to do. That brings us to our last next step, which is to Acknowledge that I am weak, but God is strong and be obedient to what God is calling me to do.

As the ushers prepare to collect the offering and comm. Cards and as the praises team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we know that in our weakness you are strong. Give us your power to be able to exercise our faith as we wait on your promises. Give us your strength to call on you, the “Great I AM” in our time of need. Fill us daily with your Holy Spirit, so we can be obedient to what your are calling us to do in this world. In Jesus’ name. Amen. ​​ 


Whispering Jesus

My opening illustration is from Three mean-looking guys on motorcycles pulled into a truck stop cafe where a truck driver, a little guy, was sitting at the counter, quietly eating his lunch. The three thugs saw him, grabbed his food, and laughed in his face. The truck driver didn’t say a word. He got up, paid for his food and walked out. One of the bikers, unhappy that they hadn’t succeeded in provoking the little man into a fight, bragged to the waitress, “He sure wasn’t much of a man, was he?” The waitress replied, “No, I guess not.” Then, glancing out the window she added, “I guess he’s not much of a truck driver, either. He just ran over three motorcycles.” The familiar saying, “Don’t get mad, just get even” sums up the world’s philosophy of how to deal with someone who wrongs us. But in contrast to the world’s way, God prescribes a radical approach when we are wronged: Ephesians 4:32 says, “We are to be kind and tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ has forgiven us.” It’s easy to say that, but it’s a lot harder to do. The difficulty increases in proportion to how badly we’ve been hurt. When we’ve been badly hurt, we don’t feel like forgiving that person, even if they repent, at least not until they’ve suffered a while. We want them to know what it feels like and to pay for what they have done to us. Maybe some of us are struggling with those feelings this morning. Maybe it’s something that happened to us recently, or maybe from a while back. If we’re bitter and unforgiving, we’re not obeying the two greatest commandments, to love God and to love others. Bitterness not only displeases God; it spreads to others, defiling many as we see in Hebrews 12:15. So if we want to please God, we must ask ourselves, “How can we root out bitterness and truly forgive those who have wronged us?”

We have been studying the life of Joseph and he had to find a way to avoid bitterness and learn to forgive. He had been repeatedly hurt: His own brothers had planned to kill him, but instead sold him into slavery at the last moment. As Potiphar’s slave, he was faithful and upright, but was falsely accused of attempted rape by Potiphar’s wife. He spent years in prison and was forgotten by a man he had helped, who could have pled his case to Pharaoh. Yet in spite of all this, Joseph never grew bitter toward God or toward those who had wronged him. In fact, he was able to forgive his brothers for what they had done to him; forgiving them even before they apologized to him. When he revealed himself to them, he embraced, kissed, and wept over them. He then brought his entire family to Egypt, setting them up in their own land, and providing for them in every way. Joseph’s actions toward his brothers proved that he had forgiven them.

Joseph, because of the way he lived, his actions and his words, has been called a type of Christ. Typology is a form of symbolism that is prophetic. In the Old Testament, there are people and objects that pre-figure, foreshadow, or “whisper” of, something that is yet to happen or of someone (most often Jesus) who is yet to come. Joseph is clearly seen as a type of Christ throughout his life presenting a remarkable whispering of Jesus Christ. The typology between Joseph and Jesus highlights God's sovereignty and providence in ordaining events and individuals in redemptive history and serves to deepen the understanding of God's unfolding plan for us and the world. In Genesis 45, Joseph acknowledges God's sovereign hand in his suffering, betrayal, and eventual exaltation. This strikingly parallels the narrative of Jesus, who, as recorded in Acts 2 & 4, was betrayed and crucified according to God's predetermined plan. In both cases, God's providence ordained the evil intentions of men to bring about the deliverance of His people. Joseph, like Jesus, suffered unjustly at the hands of his brothers, yet ultimately saved many of those who initially sought to harm him. So far, in Genesis we have seen numerous typological connections with Jesus. First, betrayal and hatred: Joseph was betrayed and hated by his brothers, foreshadowing Jesus' betrayal by His own people. Second, temptation and sinlessness: Joseph resisted temptation and remained sinless with Potiphar’s wife, reflecting Jesus' sinless nature. Third, false accusation and condemnation: Joseph was falsely accused and condemned, mirroring Jesus' unjust trial and crucifixion. And lastly, exaltation and salvation: Joseph was raised to a position of authority beside Pharaoh, becoming the savior of many, prefiguring Jesus' resurrection and ascension as the ultimate Savior.

We will continue to see more typological connections this morning as we study Genesis 50:15-21. Just as Joseph was the whisper of Jesus by his life, as Christ-followers we are also to be whispering Jesus by our lives, our actions and our words. In order to be whispering Jesus in our everyday lives we must become more like Jesus. As that process of spiritual growth or sanctification happens, we will live as Joseph lived, as a whisper of Jesus. So our big idea this morning that God wants us to understand is that we must become more like Jesus. This is also our theme for the year as we strive to become more like Jesus in our devotion to prayer, to scripture, to serving others, to generosity, to fellowship, to evangelism and to worship. Those are all talked about in this year’s Spiritual Life Journal which can be found on the Information Station Wall in the foyer.

Before we start our study of how Joseph was the whisper of Jesus and how he is our example of becoming more like Jesus, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we open your Word this morning pour out your Holy Spirit on us. Give us wisdom and insight into what you what us to learn and obey. Open our hearts and minds to what you want us to share with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are two points this morning. The first is Appeal, found in Genesis 50:15-17. This is what God’s Word says, “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

A couple weeks ago, we studied the death of the patriarch, Jacob. He had his sons promise to take and bury his body in Canaan and the last we saw the brothers they had returned from Canaan carrying out that promise. We don’t know how long they were thinking about what was going to happen to them after their father died but we now know that they did not believe Joseph when he said, in Genesis 45:5, 7, “And now do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” They did not believe that Joseph could forgive them for what they had done to him, so they are now afraid, wondering if Joseph had been holding a grudge all these years. Was he going to get payback now that their father was dead and buried? The phrase “pay us back” shows they were dreading what Joseph might do to them but they also realized that they deserved whatever payback they might get.

It seems their father, Jacob, had told the brothers to let Joseph know that he wanted him to forgive his brothers for their “iniquity, transgression (crime) and sin” against him. They sent word to Joseph asking him to forgive them based on this message from their father. They used the phrase, “your father” as opposed to “our father” because they wanted Joseph to think about his obligation to forgive them based on what Jacob would want him to do. They were trying to play on his emotions to get his forgiveness. At face value, it sounds like the brothers are trying to pull a fast one on Joseph in order to convince him to not take revenge on them for what they had done. What they failed to understand was that Joseph had already forgiven them and had moved on long before they showed up in Egypt. When Joseph named his first son, Manasseh, he was praising God for allowing him to “forgive and forget” his suffering at the hands of his brothers. We don’t know for sure if they were lying to Joseph or not but here are a few things to think about. First, if you remember, Jacob on two occasions talked with Joseph about burying his body in Canaan and not in Egypt. He could have mentioned forgiving his brothers then, but we don’t read that in scripture. Two, Joseph and all the brothers were with Jacob when he died and again nothing is mentioned. Three, if their father had really said this to the brothers and they were to relay it to Joseph then why not go and meet him face to face. You know it’s always easier to lie behind one’s back than it is to their face. Now on the possibility that this was true: it would not be the first time in Genesis that something had been brought out later that was never mentioned earlier. So, I will leave it up to you to decide. Nevertheless, the brothers are afraid of what Joseph might do to them now. Interestingly, after they recount what their father said they actually confess that they sinned against him. They refer to themselves as “servants of the God of your father” hoping Joseph would act like their father’s God who is the one who “forgives iniquity, transgression (crime) and sin.” (Wenham). ​​ But again, we are reminded that Joseph had already forgiven his brothers and the proof is seen in his actions. He wept because he was saddened that they didn’t believe that he had forgiven them and didn’t trust that Joseph wouldn’t punish them now. He wept because reconciliation had not been fully realized which is what he had hoped for.

So how was Joseph able to root out bitterness and truly forgive his brothers who had wronged him?” He had to have the proper attitude towards his brothers in order to truly forgive them. He had an attitude of humility before them and he didn’t keep score of their wrongs. And he didn’t easily take offense when they had hurt him yet again. He didn’t get upset at them and yell and scream “Why can’t you believe me?” No, he wept because he realized that all these years, they had continued to live with the guilt of what they had done. The problem was that the brothers had never confessed their sin to him until now. So how can we model Joseph and move toward becoming more like Jesus? We must forgive the wrongs done to us by others even before they come and ask for forgiveness. This humility before others is important. If we dwell on the wrongs done to us for too long, we become bitter and filled with hate. It will eat us up inside and if we don’t take care of it, will cause us to plot revenge on those who have hurt us. We need to remember that Jesus forgave others even while he was on the cross. In Luke 23:34, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” ​​ Romans 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Jesus didn’t wait for us to confess what we had done before he forgave us. He forgave us, and showed us how much he loved us and then he pursued us into a relationship where we can come to repentance and salvation. So maybe this first next step on the back of your communication card is for you and will help you to become more like Jesus (Big Idea): My next step is to forgive those who wrong me before they ever ask for forgiveness from me.

That brings us to our second point this morning, which is Assurance found in Genesis 50:18-21. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

Once his brothers had sent the message from their father to Joseph, they then followed up with a face-to-face visit. They threw themselves down before Joseph and announced that they were his slaves. This would have been another fulfillment of Joseph’s boyhood dreams. But we notice that Joseph didn’t say “I told you so.” He told them that that was not necessary, and they were not to be afraid. He assured them he wasn’t holding a grudge against them and he wasn’t going to take revenge on them. To prove this he said to them, “Am I in the place of God?” This was the same question that Jacob had asked Rachel when she complained to him that she was barren. But there are differences between these two questions. Walton says, “When Jacob used the same rhetorical question in response to Rachel’s barren condition, he was confessing his inability to assume the role of deity. In contrast Joseph’s use of the question reflects his own commitment to restraint. He refuses to take on the role of deity. Hamilton says, The Septuagint renders his question “for am I God’s (surrogate)” meaning they had no fear of retribution for Joseph had God’s view of things and therefore is above retribution. Joseph denied that he was in God’s place. He refused to cross that line. Joseph will only be God’s instrument, never his substitute. That is important for us to remember, as well.

Joseph knew that to forgive others we must realize our proper place before God. We must allow God to be the judge and not ourselves. We must humble ourselves before the sovereignty of God and believe that God is good in all his ways, as we see in verse 20. Joseph didn’t sugarcoat what his brothers had done to him. They intended to harm him, and he told them so. This was not to make them feel bad, he was just telling them the truth. He wasn’t going to sweep it under the rug, but he wasn’t going to rub their noses in it, either. Joseph saw the sovereignty of God in what happened to him, and he embraced it. He also called it good because God had used it to accomplish the saving of many lives. Joseph not only forgave his brothers before they had even asked for forgiveness, he also humbled himself before Almighty God. As we follow this example of Joseph we will become more like Jesus (Big Idea). This brings us to our second next step on the back of your communication card which is to: Allow God to be the judge, humble myself before his sovereignty and believe that God is good in all his ways. ​​ 

He told them again to not be afraid and he promised to provide for them and their children. And he assured them that he had forgiven them, speaking kindly to them. He literally “spoke to their heart” reassuring them by his words and his deeds. “Speaking to their heart” is mostly used in the Bible in cases where there are feelings of guilt and there is a need for forgiveness and/or repentance. There was no malice in his tone at all and he was still going to provide and care for them as he had since they first came to Egypt looking for food. Joseph again in this section exhibits many attributes that we need to emulate in order to become more like Jesus. He didn’t remind his brothers about the fulfillment of his dreams even though it happened numerous times. He spoke the truth in love. He didn’t give them a free pass for what they had done to him but he knew it wasn’t his place to judge. He had provided for his family and would continue to do so. He was following God’s sovereign plan for his life. When we take our proper place before God it is easy to express the proper attitude towards others and we can forgive the way that Joseph forgave his brothers and the way that Jesus forgave us for our sins that nailed him to the cross.

My conclusion is adapted from a John Stott article called “Becoming More Like Christ.” What is God’s purpose for His people? God wants His people to become more like Jesus. We see the biblical basis for becoming more like Jesus in three scriptures. The first is Romans 8:29 which says that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son. Becoming like Jesus is the eternal predestinating purpose of God for his people. The second is 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” It is by the indwelling Spirit Himself that we are being changed into becoming more like Jesus. Third is 1 John 3:2. “Beloved, we are God’s children now and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears, we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” We don’t know for certain what it will be like in heaven, but we do know that we will be like Christ. We will be with Christ, like Christ, forever. These three biblical perspectives—past, present, and future – for becoming more like Jesus is the purpose of God for the people of God.

In what ways are we to be like Jesus? First, we are to be like Jesus in his incarnation. 1 John 2:6 says, “He who says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way as he walked.” In other words, if we claim to be a Christian, we must be Christlike. We are to be like Christ in his Incarnation meaning we are to be like Christ in the humility of Philippians 2:5-8: “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped for his own selfish enjoyment, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” We are all called to follow the example of His great humility in coming down from heaven to earth. Second, we are to be like Jesus in His service. In John 13 it says, “He took off his outer garments, he tied a towel round him, he poured water into a basin and washed his disciples’ feet. When he had finished, he resumed his place and said, ‘If then I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet, for I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.” To be like Jesus in his service means that just as Jesus performed what in His culture was the work of a slave, so we in our culture must regard no task too menial or degrading to undertake for each other.

Third, we are to be like Jesus in His love. Ephesians 5:2 says, “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” We are to walk in love, meaning that all our behavior should be characterized by love, but we are also to be like Jesus in his death, to love with the self-giving Calvary love. Fourth, we are to be like Jesus in His patient endurance which is talking about his suffering. In 1 Peter 2, Peter urges Christian slaves, if punished unjustly, to bear it and not to repay evil for evil. We have been called to this because Christ suffered, leaving us an example so that we may follow in His steps. This is a call to us to be more like Jesus in suffering unjustly as he did. Fifth, we are to be like Jesus in His mission. In John 20:21, Jesus prayed, “As you, Father, have sent me into the world, so I send them into the world.” He is talking about his disciples but also about us. The disciple’s mission in the world was to resemble Jesus’ mission. As Jesus was sent into the world by his father, we are sent into the world by Jesus. As we put these into practice, we will become more like Jesus and be whispering him into the world.

There are three practical consequences of becoming more like Jesus. First, there will be suffering. Suffering is part of God’s process of making us more like his Son. Whether we suffer from disappointment, frustration, or some other painful tragedy, we need to see this in the light of Romans 8:28-29. God is always working for the good of His people, and this good purpose is to make us more like Jesus. Second, is the challenge of evangelism. Why do Christian’s evangelistic efforts often end in failure? One main reason is that we don’t look like the Christ we are proclaiming. John Poulton’s book, “A Today Sort of Evangelism”, writes: The most effective preaching comes from those who embody the things they are saying. They are their message. Christians need to look like what they are talking about. Christians must be authentic. The Reverend Iskandar Jadeed, a former Arab Muslim, has said “If all Christians were Christians—that is, Christlike—there would be no more Islam today.” WOW. If Christians would just be authentically Christlike in every way imagine what this world would be like. Third is the indwelling of the Spirit. In our own strength, becoming more like Jesus is clearly not attainable, but God has given us his Holy Spirit to dwell within us, to change us from within. So, God’s purpose is to transform us to become more like Jesus and God’s way to make us like Jesus is to fill us with his Spirit. This enables us to become more like Jesus: in His Incarnation, in His service, in His love, in His suffering, and in His mission. That brings us to the final next step on the back of your communication card this morning: My next step is to become more like Jesus in His humility, in His service, in His love, in His suffering, and in His mission.

As the praise team comes forward to lead us in a final song and as the ushers come to collect the tithes and offerings and communication cards, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Word. As we go about this week, help us to remember and obey what we’ve heard. Help us to be able to forgive others who have wronged us even before they ask forgiveness from us. Help us to allow you to be the judge, help us to humble ourselves before your sovereignty and believe that you are good in all your ways. ​​ And help us to become more like your Son in His humility, His service, His love, His suffering, and in His mission. I pray all this is your son’s precious name, Amen.


Welcome Home

Play Video of “Taps.” “Taps” is a highly recognizable tune that dates back to the American Civil War. Before “Taps” there was a traditional bugle call the Army used to let troops know it was time to sleep, but some believed this didn’t fit the somber reality of war. General Daniel Butterfield thought this bugle call should be more melodious after a long, tiring day so he reworked an existing call and had his brigade bugler play it for the Army men. Soon, buglers from other units spread this 24-note tune. It was so popular it even caught on with the Confederate troops. The tune is probably called “Taps” because of the tradition that was commonplace before this new bugle call which was to play a series of three drumbeats or drum “taps.” Soon after “Taps” was created it was first played for the military funeral of a Union cannoneer who was killed in the war. His commanding officer decided the bugle call would be a safer way to honor the loss instead of the traditional firing of three rifle volleys over the grave of the soldier which could have been seen as an attack by any nearby enemy. “Taps” didn’t become a mandatory part of military funerals until 1891 though it was likely used unofficially long before that. Since then, it’s become a way to honor all those who fought for our country. The song was a way to send troops to sleep after a long day and has become a call for the ultimate rest. There’s something beautiful about having the same tones and notes lingering through the centuries.

I wanted to play “Taps” this morning because we are going to be talking about the death of a patriarch today. Jacob is going to say his final words and people are going to pay their final respects to the grandson of Abraham and Sarah and the son of Isaac and Rebekah. He has lived a long life full of ups and downs, triumphs and hardships and happiness and sadness. He held on to his brother’s heel as he was born, and he held on to God and wouldn’t let go as he wrestled with him. He fought for a birthright and for a blessing, and through it all, in the immortal words of Frank Sinatra, he “did it his way.” But he also was a man of faith, and he was steadfast to the end. He trusted that the blessing of God handed down from Abraham and Isaac to himself and his descendants was something so important that he would not let it go even in death. And in his dying moment he transferred that important faith in God’s blessing and instilled it in his twelve sons. Jacob knew that Egypt was not his home, and that Canaan was the Promised Land of God’s chosen people. But Jacob also believed that there was more to this life than this earth and he wanted his sons to believe it too. He knew that the earth was not his home and that ultimately his home was where God dwelled and where his fathers were residing now. So when he died, he believed at that moment his fathers would say, “welcome home.” The death of his physical body would not be the end of his existence and it would not be his final note. That brings us to our big idea this morning that Death does not have to be your final note.

Before we start our study of this passage this morning let’s offer our time together to the Lord. Dear Heavenly Father, please pour out your Holy Spirit on all that hear your Word. Let it satisfy our souls and refresh us for the week ahead. Use it to teach us, rebuke us, correct us and train us in righteousness for your name’s sake. In Jesus name, Amen.

There are two points this morning, the first is Final Words found in Genesis 49:29-33. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.” When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.”

These are the last words spoken by Jacob to his twelve sons before he died. They were very important words that he saved until the very end. These final words were his living will instructing them about the final disposition of his body. He tells them that he is about to be “gathered” to his people and then he gives them instructions about where to bury his body. Being “gathered” to his people and the burying of his body were two different things. The first was spiritual and the second was physical. When he said he was about to be “gathered to his people” it was his statement of faith and hope in a life after death. He believed that when he took his last breath he would be reunited with his grandparents, Abraham and Sarah, his parents, Isaac and Rebekah, and his wives Rachel and Leah and others who had “believed by faith” in God and his promises. We see this same expression being used all the way back to Abraham in Genesis 25:8, Ishmael in Genesis 25:17, Isaac in Genesis 35:29, Aaron in Numbers 20:24 and Moses in Deuteronomy 32:50.

Then Jacob gave instructions about the burial of his physical body. He instructed that his body was to be buried in Canaan not in Egypt. This was the third time he gave these instructions. The first two times were to Joseph in Genesis 47:29-31 and Genesis 48:21-22. This time it was to all his sons. He wanted to make sure that they all knew they had the responsibility of obeying his final wishes and keeping this promise after he was gone. But there was more to it than that. Jacob believed in the blessing and promise of the land given to his fathers. He believed that Canaan was the Promised Land that God would give to his descendants. Again, this was a statement of faith in the promises of God. John Calvin wrote that Jacob “did not wish to be carried into the land of Canaan, as if he would be nearer to heaven for being buried there; but that, being dead, he might claim possession of a land which he had held during his life…because it was profitable that the memory of the promise should be renewed, by this symbol, among his surviving sons, in order that they might aspire to it.” Jacob believed God and the promises that he made, and he wanted his sons to believe in them too. But he also knew that his descendants would spend the next 400 years in Egypt and in slavery. His burial in Canaan would be a visible sign to the sons of Israel that God would one day deliver them from slavery, lead them out of Egypt and into their Promised Land. He wanted to give his sons and their descendants hope that no matter how bad their lives would become, God’s promises would be fulfilled.

Jacob also gave them a very specific and precise location as to where to bury his body. Look at the number of times he repeats certain phrases. He mentions a cave, a field and Ephron the Hittite three times. He mentions that Abraham bought it from Ephron the Hittite twice. He mentions Machpelah, Mamre and Canaan one time each. He tells them that Abraham and his wife, Sarah, Isaac and his wife, Rebekah, and Leah are all buried there. This is the first time we are told where Rebekah and Leah had been buried. This description and explanation were for two reasons. First, it was to prove that the place he wanted to be buried was his family’s burial place that was bought by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite in front of witnesses. We saw this in Genesis 23. It was legally owned by Abraham and his descendants, of which Jacob was one, and he had the right to be buried there. Baldwin says, “Land tenure in the ancient near east was dependent on the ability to make proper reference back to the original forefather who held the title authenticating the registration, and from then on transmitting the deeds. By naming the ancestors Jacob reinforces the necessity of his burial in the same location as Abraham and Isaac.” Second, his sons would be able to take his body to the exact place he was to be buried. He had given very specific directions to the cave at Machpelah: In Canaan near Mamre, in the field that his grandfather Abraham had bought from Ephron the Hittite. Hamilton says, “As he lay dying, he still remembered the covenant and thought about his post-death rituals in terms of the promises that have been made to his family by God.”

Once Jacob was done giving instructions to his sons “he drew up his feet into the bed,” “breathed his last,” and was “gathered to his people.” He “drew his feet into the bed” meaning he calmly accepted his physical death and his strong faith allowed him to face it satisfied and unafraid. That he “breathed his last” meant that his physical body was now lifeless. But we never see the words “and he died” as we did with others, such as Abraham and Isaac. The emphasis here was not on dying but on “rejoining.” The author of Genesis wants us to realize the confidence and hope that Jacob had in a life after death with his family and with the Lord. Hebrews 11:39 tells us that Jacob and the other great men of faith died without realizing the promises of God, but Jacob’s faith gave him that confidence and hope in God’s promises which sustained him as he “breathed his last.” As I have already covered, he was then “gathered to his people.” Jacob believed what Paul would write some 1600 years later in 2 Corinthians 5:8: “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” As Jacob faced his death, he exercised his faith in God’s promises. He had never died before and gone beyond the grave. He didn’t know what was waiting for him there, but he had faith, he had hope and he trusted in his God and the God of his fathers. He believed that God was a God of the living and not the dead.

Do we as Christians today have the same unwavering faith, hope and trust in God’s promise of life after death? We have the further knowledge that Jesus resurrected from the grave and is alive in Heaven as we meet here this morning. Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for our hope in our future resurrection, but do we live our lives like we believe it? Do we tell our family, friends and others that we believe it? Do we share this faith, hope and trust with others who do not know Jesus and are in desperate need of a Savior? If we don’t, we should and we must. We are commanded to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world. Our mission as Christ-followers is to Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to share my faith, hope and trust in an eternal life with God and Jesus in Heaven. We need to be sharing this with our family, friends and especially those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

This brings us to our second point today called Final Respects found in Genesis 50:1-14. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him. Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel. So the physicians embalmed him, taking a full forty days, for that was the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days. When the days of mourning had passed, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s court, “If I have found favor in your eyes, speak to Pharaoh for me. Tell him, ‘My father made me swear an oath and said, “I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’” Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.” So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him—the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt—besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large company. When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.” That is why that place near the Jordan is called Abel Mizraim. So Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them: They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, together with his brothers and all the others who had gone with him to bury his father.”

When Jacob breathed his last, we see a perfectly human and real emotional response from Joseph. He was so overcome with emotion that he threw himself on his father and he didn’t just cry, he “wept”, and he “kissed” him. The NASB literally translates it as he “fell on his father’s face” reminding us of God’s promise to Jacob in Genesis 46:4 that “Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.” This was the fulfillment of God’s promise that Jacob would be reunited with Joseph and he would be present at his death. We can rejoice in the fact that God is a good God and he keeps his promises. He kept his promises to Jacob and Joseph and the Israelite people and keeps his promises to us today.

This is the only time in the Bible that it is mentioned that someone kissed the dead. Such an emotional response reminds us of the strong familial bond between this father and son. We aren’t told that Jacob’s other sons wept at his death, but we can believe that they did. Joseph’s response is the only one recorded since he is the main focus of the narrative. This is the sixth time we have seen Joseph cry and it is interesting that we only ever seen him cry for others and never for himself. The five times he has cried before this was in happiness. This is the first time he has cried in sorrow. Joseph was grieved over his father’s death, but he was not crippled with sorrow. He had promised his father that he would bury him in Canaan, and he immediately sets out to carry out his father’s last wishes. In this way he paid his final respects to his father and showed his faith in God.

Joseph, of all the brothers, with his official position in Pharaoh’s court, would have had the ability to make his father’s wishes happen. So he personally took charge of his father’s funeral arrangements directing the “physicians” to embalm his father’s body according to Egyptian practices. It would have taken forty days to complete the procedure. Jacob is only one of two Israelites that were embalmed in the Bible, the other being Joseph himself. Jacob’s body would have had to be embalmed in order to transport it to Canaan. Joseph employed “physicians” or “healers” to do the procedure instead of the professional embalmers of the day. This procedure involved considerable surgery so the physicians would have been familiar and capable of performing it, but it was usually done by “mortuary priests.” Embalming usually included numerous pagan religious rituals conducted by a trained group of mortuary priests which reflected a particular view of the afterlife. Joseph would have wanted to avoid these pagan rituals while still embalming his father’s body for transport to Canaan. This would have been in accordance with Jacob’s and Joseph’s faith in the one true and living God. Pharaoh commanded the Egyptians to observe an official mourning period of seventy days for Jacob. This mourning period would have included the forty days it took to embalm him. This period was exceptional in the fact that the time of mourning for a Pharaoh was seventy-two days. Jacob was so highly thought of and honored that he was mourned almost as long as a Pharaoh would have been. This was Pharaoh and the Egyptian people’s way of paying their final respects to Jacob. In contrast, the mourning period for the Hebrew people usually lasted seven days but there were exceptions such as Moses and Aaron who were mourned for thirty days each.

After the mourning period had ended, Joseph respectfully petitioned Pharaoh's court to speak on his behalf to Pharoah. “If I have favor in your eyes” emphasizes the importance of the request to him personally. The reason Joseph couldn’t go directly to Pharaoh was probably because he was considered unclean from coming in contact with his father’s dead body and wouldn’t be allowed in Pharaoh’s presence. He wanted Pharaoh’s court to speak to Pharaoh about being able to take his father’s body back to Canaan to be buried. He had made an oath to his father that he would fulfill his final wishes, but Joseph needed Pharaoh’s permission to leave Egypt. Joseph leaves out two things from the oath he made to his father. One, he doesn’t mention putting his hand under his father’s thigh to make the oath because it wouldn’t have made any sense to Pharaoh. It was a Hebrew custom not an Egyptian one. Two, he didn’t mention that Jacob under no circumstances wanted to be buried in Egypt. Joseph was diplomatic and didn’t want it to seem that Jacob was ungrateful for all that Pharaoh had done for his family. Joseph stresses that Jacob wanted to be buried in the tomb that he had “dug” himself in the land of Canaan. Now, we know that Jacob didn’t dig out the cave at Machpelah but Joseph used this nuance to appeal to Pharaoh who would understand wanting to spend eternity in a tomb of his own preparing. According to Hamilton it is possible that the word translated “dug” or “hewn” could also mean “bought” which is what Abraham did. Joseph waited till the end of his plea to ask permission to go, adding that he promised to return to Egypt. Jacob’s insistence on being buried in Canaan with his fathers was a statement of faith to where his children and their families really belonged.

Pharoah agreed to allow Joseph to go and bury his father’s body in Canaan just as Jacob made Joseph swear to do. Pharaoh was impressed by Joseph’s devotion to his father. He repeated Joseph’s words to “go and bury your father as you promised” but he didn’t repeat Joseph’s promise to return. This was an indication that Pharaoh implicitly trusted Joseph to keep that promise. Joseph then “went up” to bury his father along with a very large entourage. This entourage was made up of three different groups. The first were high ranking officials in Pharaoh’s court and in Egypt. This would have included elders of Pharaoh’s household and elders of the land. This showed great respect for both Jacob and Joseph. The second were members of Joseph’s household, his brothers and those in his father’s household. The third was the equivalent of a military escort consisting of chariots and horsemen which was also a sign of respect and honor. They would have also offered protection from bandits, thieves, and foreign countries along the way. The word “all” is mentioned three times reinforcing the largeness of the entourage. All who were able and necessary accompanied Joseph. The only people that did not go were Joseph’s and his brother’s families’ children. They also did not take their livestock. These would have been a sign to Pharaoh that Joseph and his family would return to Egypt according to his promise. We continue to see the fulfillment of the promise of God to make Abraham’s name great. All of Egypt stopped and mourned the passing of Abraham’s grandson and Pharaoh sent this huge funeral procession to Canaan to bury him. Walton says, “The attention paid to one’s death is often considered an indication of the greatness or significance of one’s life. Contrast the death of Jehoram, king of Judah found in 2 Chronicles 21:20: “He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” Jacob believed in the promises of God and God fulfilled his promises in and through Jacob in his life and in his death.

Joseph led his father’s funeral procession to Canaan until they came to the threshing floor of Atad near the Jordan. The location of this threshing floor is unknown except that it is near the Jordan River either right inside or just outside the land of Canaan. This would have been an appropriate spot to stop and observe a more private seven-day mourning period for his father. A threshing floor was chosen because they were usually outside the city, elevated and offered a large clear space for many people to gather at one time. This mourning period was specifically Hebrew and was marked by loud and bitter lamenting. After all this family had been through, they were broken by the death of Jacob and came together to honor him properly. Mathews says, The Hebrew is literally “they mourned there a mourning great and very grievous (or bitterly).” This mourning must have included actions as well as words because it was something the Canaanites in the area “saw” rather than “heard.” Along with the weeping and lamenting there was probably the tearing of clothes and the wearing of sackcloth. Some may have shaved their heads and others may have been walking around barefoot. All of which were visible signs of mourning. The intensity and conspicuousness of their grief is seen in the mention of the word “mourning” three times, as well as the Canaanites of the area taking notice. When the Canaanites saw this, they named the place, “Abel Mizraim,” which means, “the mourning of the Egyptians.” They falsely thought they were Egyptians holding a solemn mourning ceremony which would have been understandable because the coffin and the clothing they were dressed in would have been distinctly Egyptian.

Because of where the entourage stopped scholars believe they did not take the direct route to Canaan. There may have been some upheaval in the countries surrounding Egypt that made they go out of their way. But there are too many similarities to another journey that will be taken by God’s chosen people four hundred years later. Their route was much the same as the one the Israelites will take during the Exodus as Moses leads them out of Egypt and a lot of the same phrases in this narrative occur then as well. Goldingay says, “Joseph’s request “to go up” to Canaan anticipates Moses’ plea for the Israelites to take a trip out of Egypt.” Walton says “His burial procession is seen as a pledge or acted prophecy of the nation’s future move.” That the Canaanites acknowledge the event foreshadows their submission during the conquest. In effect this was a rehearsal for the future homecoming of the nation in fulfillment of the promises of God to Israel.

We are told that Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them. This is the first mention of the other brothers since Jacob died and it is the first and only time we see all of Jacob’s sons doing anything together. Their obedience is emphasized as they participated in their father’s burial just as the sons of Abraham and Isaac participated in theirs. No matter how much brothers are at odds with each other during their lives they are expected to come together to bury their fathers when they pass away. From this spot, Jacob’s sons acted as pallbearers carrying his body to the land of Canaan indicating they were the only ones who entered Canaan to lay his body in its final resting place. This would have been a highly personal journey carried out by the sons of Jacob as they paid their final respects to their father. The text confirms that they buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field as the burial place from Ephron the Hittite. We are again given these very specific details to prove that this burial ground was owned by Jacob’s family, and he had the right to be buried there. It also renewed to the people of Canaan that Abraham’s family had ownership of this land and that they would one day return to possess it.

After they finished burying their father everyone returned to Egypt. Joseph had kept his promise to his father and to Pharaoh. Although the text states that everyone returned the emphasis is singular not plural. Joseph proved trustworthy and faithful to his promise to return. The twice mention of the word “burial” in our final verse points out the magnitude that the author felt about Jacob’s death and burial in the Promised Land. It was supremely important for the future of the Israelite people and the plans and purposes of God that Jacob be buried with his fathers in Canaan.

Play “Reveille.” Winston Churchill planned his own funeral and it included many of the great hymns of the church and used the eloquent Anglican liturgy. At his direction, a bugler, positioned high in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, played “Taps,” the universal signal that day is done. But then came the most dramatic turn. As Churchill had instructed, as soon as “Taps” was finished, another bugler, placed on the other side of the great dome, played “Reveille”: If you don’t know the words to “Reveille” they are “It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up in the morning.” The author of this story didn’t know if Churchill was a true believer in Jesus Christ, but by following “Taps” with “Reveille,” he seemed to be testifying that death is not the final note in history. There will be that “great gittin’ up morning,” when the dead in Christ shall rise. When a loved one dies, there is the sorrow and grief of loss, but for the believer, there is also the hope of eternal life that overcomes the grief.

If you are a Christian this morning, this passage teaches us how to finish our journey of faith. Death is not the final note because as Christ-followers we have hope in God’s promises. We are reminded that there is a place that God is preparing for us, and he will surely come back for us and welcome us home. So how do we live out this journey of faith? How can our lives and our deaths point our family and friends to the Lord? How can we be faithful to our word as God has always been faithful to his? We can forgive others because through the shed blood of Jesus Christ we have been forgiven. We can live in hope because the promises of God are true and sufficient for us. We can die in faith because God offers us eternal life in Christ. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card this morning which is to finish my journey of faith forgiving others, living in hope and dying in faith.

But if you are not a Christian, this passage teaches us that death does not have to be the final note in your life. One day, we will all die and every one of us will be gathered to our people. We will either be gathered to our people in heaven or gathered to our people in hell. There will be no exceptions. Believers and unbelievers alike will be gathered to their people. How, then, can we be sure that we will be gathered with God’s people? The key to being gathered to God’s people is to be gathered to Jesus Christ here and now. It is only as you are saved by the person and work of Jesus Christ that you can be sure of being gathered one day to His people. Those who will be gathered to His people at death are those who are identified with His people in life. So the question is who will you be gathered to when you die? You can only know for sure if you are gathered by Christ to His people in the here and now. Those who know for sure where they are going when they die are those who admit that they are sinners and believe that Jesus Christ died on a cross for their sins and rose again and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior this morning, I urge you to Admit, Believe and Confess and not let death be your final note. That brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to Admit I am a sinner, believe that Jesus died for me and rose again, and confess him as Lord so that when I die I am gathered to God and his people.

As the Praise Team comes to lead us in a final song and the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offering and communication cards, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, I do thank you for your Word and I thank you for your son, Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost. Help us to be bold to share our faith, hope and trust in an eternal life in Heaven with you and your son Jesus. And Lord, as Christians, give us the strength to finish our journeys of faith having hope in your promises for ourselves on this earth and for heaven. And Lord, I pray that those who do not know you as their Lord and Savior will Admit they are sinners, believe that Jesus died for them and rose again, and confess him as Lord so that when they die they will be gathered to you and your people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.











The Blessings of God

I want to open with two stories this morning. You will hear the first part of both stories now and the rest of the two stories at the conclusion. The first story comes from Mark Batterson’s book “A Double Blessing.” During his celebrated career as a composer, George Frederic Handel wrote forty-two operas, twenty-nine oratorios, and 120 cantatas. Of Handel, Beethoven said, “To him I bow the knee.” Handel certainly ranks as one of history’s greatest composers, but he hit a point of diminishing return later in life. At age fifty-six, Handel was past his composing prime. He was depressed, in debt and a stroke hindered the use of his right hand. Handel was struggling to stay musically relevant, which is rather ironic given the fact that he was about to score one of history’s most iconic pieces of music. On August 22, 1741, George Frederic Handel started composing. He would not leave his home for three weeks. In fact, he rarely left his composing chair. Twenty-one days later, Handel emerged from his writing room with a 259-page masterpiece called Messiah. The opening act prophetically points to the coming Messiah. The middle act is Handel’s commentary on the passion of Christ. The final act celebrates the risen Savior, who “shall reign forever and ever.” Finally Handel inked three letters on the last page, SDG—soli Deo gloria—“To God alone be the glory!”

The second story comes from the website “” Second Kings 7 tells a fascinating story of four lepers who sat at the gate of Samaria at a time when the city was under siege. Things had gotten so bad inside the city that women were eating their own children to survive. But Elisha the prophet had predicted something that seemed utterly impossible, that the next day food would be plentiful and affordable in Samaria. Meanwhile, the four lepers evaluated their dismal situation. If they stayed at the gate of Samaria, they would starve. If they went over to the enemy camp, they may be killed, which would be no worse than starving. But there was the outside chance that the enemy would take pity on them and give them some scraps of food. So they took their chances and went over to the enemy camp. When they got there, they were shocked to find the camp deserted. The Lord had caused the enemy to hear the sound of a great army of chariots and horses so that they fled in a panic, leaving all of their supplies behind. The four beggars ate all that they could eat. They hauled away and hid several loads of silver and gold and clothes. Those are the backstories and we’ll hear the rest at the end of the sermon.

What do those stories have in common? Both are stories of God’s blessings poured out on his creation. Handel was depressed, in debt and had had a stroke that hindered the use of his right hand. But God blessed him to still be able to write the Messiah, one of the greatest pieces in the history of music. God blessed the four lepers by miraculously supplying food and causing the enemy to flee in a panic in the face of a perceived army. Last week, Jacob, who was also called Israel, offered sacrifices at Beersheba and God spoke to him in a vision there. Jacob was given the ok from God to go down to Egypt and he promised to go there with him and to bring him back to the Promised Land one day. He also again promised to make him into a great nation. Then Jacob, his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters – all his offspring set out for Egypt. This morning we will continue to see God’s blessings poured out on Jacob and his family, but these blessings were not given to them to be hoarded. These blessings were given to fulfill Genesis 12:2-3 which says, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God’s blessings to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the nation of Israel were to be used to bless all peoples on earth. God’s blessings to us are also to be used to bless those on the earth around us which brings us to our big idea this morning that God blesses his people so that they will be a blessing to the world. Later on, we will talk about ways that we can be a blessing to those around us, especially those who are far from Jesus and are in need of a Savior.

As we think on that big idea and before we study our scripture this morning, let’s pray: Good and Generous Heavenly Father, we thank you for the many blessings that you pour out on us every day. Just waking up and taking our first breath of the day should cause us to worship you and give you praise. Fill us with your Holy Spirit this morning and give us insight as we open your Word. May your Word transform us and may we obey your commands found in it. I pray that we would not hoard your blessings for ourselves or for our church but that we would take your blessings given to us and pour them out on others especially those who do not know you which in turn would cause them to look to you as their Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

There are two points this morning. The first is Preparation found in Genesis 46:28-34. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph, to guide him to Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared to him, Joseph threw himself on his neck and wept on his neck a long time. Then Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.” But Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me; and the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.’ When Pharaoh calls for you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock since our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ so that you may live in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.””

Jacob and his family have made the journey to Egypt and are ready to enter Goshen. At some point in the journey, Jacob sends Judah ahead to let Joseph know when they would be arriving. We continue to see Judah assuming the leadership and taking responsibility amongst his brothers. Back in chapter 43, it was Judah who talked Jacob into letting Benjamin go to Egypt with his own life as surety. At the end of chapter 44, it was Judah who begged Joseph to allow himself to take Benjamin’s place as his slave so that the favored son of Jacob could return home. We can now assume that Jacob and Judah are on good terms. The incident between Judah and Tamar is forgotten and Judah’s role in enslaving Joseph seemingly confessed and forgiven. Judah has proven faithful and is given the responsibility by his father to prepare the way for Jacob to meet Joseph in Goshen. This morning, I want to highlight God’s many blessings as they come up in our scripture and here is the first blessing we see. Blessing #1 is that Judah is given the leadership role and responsibility by Jacob. This leadership role would continue and culminate in Jesus Christ the Messiah coming from his tribe.

The sending of Judah to Joseph was probably some predetermined arrangement that was set up. Judah would come to Joseph and let him know that Jacob and the family had arrived in Goshen. Then Joseph would come to them and make arrangements for their settlement in the region. We notice the urgency of Joseph to see his father. He literally “harnessed” or prepared his chariot himself. Joseph was in a hurry to be reunited with his father and couldn’t wait for the servants to get his chariot ready so he did it himself. He then made the trek to Goshen to meet his father, Israel. Jacob is called Israel here because he is bringing the entirety of his family down to Egypt. The family that would, in Egypt, become the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people.

Next, we see the reunion between Jacob and Joseph. As soon as Joseph appeared to Jacob he embraced his father and wept a long time. This showed the strong attachment he had for his father. The word “appeared” subtly conveys the presence of God in this reunion which was twenty-two years in the making. Blessing #2 is Joseph being reunited with his father. There was really no expectation that they would ever see each other again, and when they do Joseph weeps for the fifth time in the narrative. Now we aren’t told that Jacob cried but we can imagine that he was probably as emotional as Joseph was; how could he not be. But we are given some insight into what was going through Israel’s mind at the time. He was now ready to die because he had seen Joseph’s face and knew that he was alive. Mathews says, “This recalls the vision of the Lord at Peniel and alludes to when he meets Esau saying “to see your face is like seeing the face of God.” This reunion with Joseph bears for Jacob the same divine significance as his reunion with Esau.” Earlier in the book of Genesis, Jacob said that he would go down to his grave in sorrow meaning that even in death he would not have peace. Jacob has been talking about death and dying for a while now but before it was all negative, now his death would be a positive thing. Jacob was resolved to see Joseph again and now that God had blessed him with this reunion he could now die in peace. Blessing #3 is that Jacob could now die in peace.

Have you ever had a desire for a resolution of something in your life, especially before you die? Maybe it’s a place you would like to visit or an activity you would want to do while you are still living. Or maybe it’s a person you would like to see one last time before you die. Maybe you have a close friend or family member who is not “born again.” They have never committed their life to Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And before you die you would like to see that resolved in their life before they die. We can all probably think of that someone right now. The question is what are we waiting for? In Matthew West’s song “While I can” he talks about the things he would do if it was his last day. The chorus goes like this: “What am I waiting for? It ain't like I'm gonna live forever I don't wanna miss it anymore So from now on it's now or never I'm gonna hold on to what matters And let the rest slip through my hands What I would do Is what I will do While I can.” This is true for that place you would like to visit or that person you would like to see one last time. Or for your friends or family members who don’t know Jesus yet. Do you really know what matters in life? What are you waiting for so that you can be at peace? That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to go to that place, do that activity, see that person, go and tell my friends and family members about Jesus so that I can be at peace. It may be now or never so don’t wait to do the things and see the people that matter to you in this life.

Joseph informs his family that he is going to go and tell Pharaoh that they have arrived in Egypt from Canaan. He will tell Pharaoh that they are shepherds, they tend livestock, and they have brought all their flocks and herds and everything they own with them. Joseph prepares his brothers how to answer Pharaoh when he asks them what their occupation is. He tells them to say they have tended livestock just as their fathers have done before them. Joseph had an ulterior motive for having his brothers answer Pharaoh in this way. It was so Pharaoh would allow them to settle in Goshen. There were practical reasons for this, but Joseph was also thinking long term because God had given him divine insight. Practically, Goshen was the lushest part of Egypt and the perfect pastureland for their flocks and herds. Long term, it would keep the Israelites isolated and insulated from the culture and religion of the Egyptians. It was also closer to the Red Sea, so that later when the Exodus came, they would be able to make preparations to leave without prying eyes and would be closer to their “escape” route. God in his sovereignty and providence had worked out every detail. And the reason why Pharaoh would be in agreement with letting them settle in Goshen was because shepherds were detestable to Egyptians. The civilized Egyptians were mainly farmers, very good at agriculture and so looked down on nomadic shepherds. They may have considered shepherds ceremonially unclean just as the Israelites did in Jesus’ day. Pharaoh would have ample reasons to let Jacob and his family settle in Goshen.

That brings us to our second point this morning which is Presentation found in Genesis 47:1-12. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said, “My father and my brothers and their flocks and their herds and all that they have, have come out of the land of Canaan; and behold, they are in the land of Goshen.” And he took five men from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” So they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers.” They also said to Pharaoh, “We have come to reside in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is at your disposal; settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land, let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know any capable men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock.” Then Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him to Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many years have you lived?” So Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my living abroad are 130; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their living abroad.” So Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence. Now Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them property in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered. Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their little ones.”

Joseph informs Pharaoh that his family has arrived in Goshen with their flocks and herds and everything they own. Pharaoh would have the last word on whether or not Joseph’s family were allowed to settle in Egypt. Joseph chose five of his eleven brothers and presented them before Pharaoh. We don’t know what five he chose and why he chose them but there are theories. He may have picked five instead of eleven so Pharaoh wouldn’t have any fears of a growing tribe. Five would remind the first hearers of five times the portions given to Benjamin and or that there were five years left of famine. Hamilton quotes Speiser saying, “He may have wanted to make a good impression on Pharaoh so chose the most outstanding brothers.” Hamilton goes on to say that “Rabbinic tradition says the opposite. That he took more inferior and less formidable brothers so that Pharaoh would not possibly conscript them into his army. According to that tradition, Joseph took Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Benjamin and Issachar.

Just as Joseph prepped the brothers, Pharaoh asked them what their occupation was. The brothers say they are shepherds as their fathers were before them. They added that they have come to Egypt to live for a while because the famine was severe in the land of Canaan and there was no pastureland for their flocks and herds. They humbly asked Pharaoh to allow them to settle in Goshen. The brothers would not be a burden on the state as they brought their own flocks and herds. They just wanted to be able to live in Goshen during the famine where they would have enough food for their families and their animals. Once they were finished addressing Pharaoh, notice that Pharaoh did not answer the brothers but addressed Joseph. Joseph was his second-in-command and would be the one to implement whatever decision Pharaoh made. He told Joseph that the entire land of Egypt was open before him and he could settle his father and brothers in the best part of the land which was Goshen. Blessing #4 is Pharaoh allows Joseph to settle his family in Goshen. But God’s blessings to the brothers didn’t stop there. If any of his brothers were capable men who had special ability, they were to be put in charge of Pharoah’s own livestock. This was Blessing #5. It was important that Pharaoh was the one who made this decision to settle Joseph’s family in Goshen. Ross says, “The detailed presentation of his family to Pharaoh was to show the settlement of Jacob’s family and the provision made during the famine was done expressly on Pharaoh’s guarantee. Pharaoh provided land and food for Jacob’s family attributable to Joseph’s wisdom.”

Joseph then presented his father Jacob to Pharaoh and we see Blessing #6 as Jacob immediately blesses him. Blessing was usually given by the greater to the lesser as in father to a son or king to a subject. God allowed Jacob to bless Pharaoh who would have been considered superior. Jacob expressed his faith in God’s promises and acted on the promise that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him and his offspring as seen in Genesis 12:2-3 and 28:14. Jacob would have been extremely grateful to Pharaoh for what he had done for Joseph and his family and it was only appropriate for Jacob to bless him. Gangel & Bramer quoting Oswalt says, “To bless someone is “to endue with power for success, prosperity, fertility, longevity, etc.” After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh, out of respect for Jacob’s long life, asked him how old he was. People did not live that long in the ancient Near East and Pharaoh had probably never seen anyone as old as Jacob. Pharoah would have been fascinated and impressed with his old age. Jacob replies that the years of his living abroad have been 130 years. God had blessed Jacob with long life just as he did for his father before him and his father before him. In the NIV, Jacob calls his life a pilgrimage meaning he didn’t have a place on this earth to call home. He had moved from place to place all his life. But he was looking forward to the Promised Land that God had given to his descendants. The patriarchs were pilgrims and strangers on the earth just as we are. This world was not their home just as this world is not our home. Heaven was their eternal home and one day will be ours, as well.

Jacob described his pilgrimage as few and difficult. Few because his father and grandfather lived longer than he was old at the time. Jacob unbeknownst to himself would live for another 17 years for a total of 147 years, but Isaac lived to be 180 and Abraham lived to be 175 years old. Jacob also described his pilgrimage as unpleasant or difficult which literally means “evil.” As Jacob looked back upon his life, he remembered the difficulties that he lived through. Some were of his own making, some were of other’s making and some were just part of living in a sinful world. Jacob then blesses Pharaoh again and leaves his presence. Joseph fulfilled Pharaoh’s directive for his family and settled them in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses. Most commentaries say that this reference to Rameses was an editorial note by the author distinguishing Rameses as the name for Goshen in Moses’ time. Joseph not only settled them in the best part of the land; he also granted them property there which is Blessing #7. It was like having a deed to the land; a permanent inheritance, which was above and beyond what Pharaoh had directed. Lastly, Joseph also provided his family with food as well as land. This is Blessing #8. Joseph did this according to the number of children in each household, meaning he was looking ahead to future generations. The people of Israel would spend the next four hundred years in Egypt before Moses would bring them out of slavery into the Promised Land.

As I conclude I want to tell the rest of the stories from the beginning of the sermon. The rest of the story from Mark Batterson about Handel’s Messiah is this: Messiah debuted as an Easter offering at the Great Music Hall in Dublin, Ireland, on April 13, 1742. The music mesmerized its listeners, but it accomplished so much more than that. It wasn’t just a concert; it was a benefit concert. That inaugural performance raised £400—$86,000 in today’s dollars! And that £400 was used to free 142 men from debtors’ prison. That is what qualifies Messiah as a double blessing. The first blessing was beautiful music that inspired the soul. The second blessing was setting 142 captives free!

The rest of the story from and 2 Kings 7 is this: But then their consciences began to gnaw at them. They said, “We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent” (2 Kings 7:9). So they went and told the starving city where they could find abundant supplies to satisfy their needs. That story illustrates the main message of Zechariah 8, summed up by the Lord’s words in verse 13: “I will save you that you may become a blessing.” God’s people are blessed to bless others. God pours out His grace on us so that we will slop it over on others who are starving and dying without hope.

An African proverb states, “There is only one crime worse than murder on the desert, and that is to know where the water is and not tell.” God has led us to Christ, the living water. He has blessed us with His salvation and He promises to bless us even more abundantly in the future. But He didn’t save us so that we can sit in the lifeboat feeling warm and cozy, oblivious to the lost of the world. He saved us so that we may become a blessing to others. If you’re saved, but you don’t have your focus on blessing others, you’ve only got half the picture. He blessed you so that you may become a blessing.

What are some ways that we who are blessed by God can be a blessing to others? Here’s ten: The first way you can bless someone else is with words of encouragement. Our words can bring someone down or lift someone up. The second way is by helping someone who is going through a tough time. They may be going through the loss of a family member, loss of a job, a difficult pregnancy or birth, surgery or treatment for a disease. You could make and take them a meal, pick up and or pay for their groceries, offer to clean their house or babysit for them. The third way is like the second which is to also make an effort to listen well and be compassionate to those who are going through a tough time. The fourth way is to give your companionship or company. There may be someone you know who is lonely and needs someone to just visit with them. It may be an older family member, or someone in the hospital or someone who is shut-in and can’t get outside for whatever reason. The fifth way is to share your bounty with others. You may have had a big harvest in your garden or have received an unexpected bonus at work. You could share your bounty with others.

The sixth way is to teach someone something they want to learn. It may be teaching someone how to can or sew. It may be teaching someone how to use the internet or how to use a smartphone. It may be teaching someone how to play an instrument like the piano, guitar or drums. The seventh way is to pray with or for someone. Praying with and for someone can be comforting and encouraging to them. The eighth way is to give your undivided attention to someone. We can put down whatever is distracting us from paying attention to the person who is in front of us. The ninth way is to provide support for the journey someone is on. They may be trying to lose weight or find a new job. They may be going back to school or recovering from a long illness or an addiction. You can give words of affirmation and help to keep them accountable on their journey. The final way is to forgive and give grace. We are all human and fail and fall into sin. God forgave us and showed us grace and mercy. We can extend forgiveness, grace and mercy to someone who has let us down or sinned against us as well. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card this morning which is to choose one of the ten ways to bless someone and bless them this week.

As the Ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings and as the Praise Team prepares to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Lord, as we leave this place may we hide your Word in our hearts and may we allow it to transform us according to your will. Help us to resolve to go to that place, do that activity, see that person and especially go and tell our friends and family members who don’t have a relationship with your son about your son Jesus so that we can be at peace. Also, help us to not hoard the blessings that you give us but to choose to bless others the way that you have blessed us for your honor and your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



The following is from a November 29, 2022 article on A Texas woman who was kidnapped as a baby more than 50 years ago has been reunited with her family members thanks to a home DNA testing kit. Melissa Highsmith was just 22 months old when a babysitter allegedly kidnapped her from her parents’ Fort Worth apartment in August 1971, according to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth. Highsmith's mother, Alta Apantenco, who was working as a waitress at the time, placed an ad in a local newspaper to find childcare for her daughter. After a woman answered the ad, Mrs. Apantenco hired her without meeting her first. The woman allegedly took her daughter and never returned. Alta, and her husband, Jeffrie Highsmith, and her family members spent the next five decades searching for the missing child, even turning to social media in the digital age by creating a Facebook page called “Finding Melissa.” After a recommendation from a genealogist, the family decided to use the home DNA testing kits Ancestry and 23andMe in an effort to track down Melissa. The idea worked: A promising DNA match turned up on 23andMe. Melissa Highsmith's sister Victoria told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth that the DNA matched samples from Melissa Highsmith’s children. Her parents then provided their own DNA samples. Within three weeks, the Highsmiths were reunited with their long-lost daughter, now age 53. “It was like, ‘Boom, boom, boom,’ we found her,” Victoria Highsmith said. “I couldn’t stop crying. I was overjoyed and I’m still walking around in a fog trying to comprehend that my sister is right in front of me and that we found her,” she added. “It’s a Christmas miracle! It’s amazing meeting her. It was like looking into myself; she looks like me, like us. She’s overjoyed to be in our lives.” According to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth, Melissa Highsmith, who grew up believing her name was Melanie, lived most of her life in Fort Worth and had no idea she had been kidnapped. A spokesperson for 23andMe told NBC News that the company had never heard of an account like this one. “There are really no words to describe how incredible this story is. We are so grateful Melissa and her family were able to reunite after such a long period of time, and we wish them all the best in getting to know one another.”

This morning we are going to see another family reunion with a similar theme. It’s been twenty-two years since Joseph’s brothers kidnapped him and sold him into slavery. Their father was shown his bloody robe and thinking he had been killed by a ferocious animal, had no hope of ever seeing him again. Over the past several weeks we have followed the story as Joseph’s brothers arrived in Egypt looking to buy grain during the worldwide famine. They unknowingly encountered their brother, who was now the second-in-command of Egypt. The brothers were put through a series of tests, by God through Joseph, to remind them and convict them of their sin and bring them to repentance. These tests have reminded them of their guilt believing that God was punishing them for what they had done to their brother. Last week, Judah made an impassioned plea to take Benjamin’s place as Joseph’s slave. Judah showed how much he cared for his father, wanting to keep him from having to deal with the loss of another favored son. Judah, as the spokesperson for himself and his brothers, proved that they had changed and were sorry for what they had done to Joseph all those years ago. This morning we will see a family reunited with embracing, kissing and tears made possible because Joseph had forgiven his brothers for what they had done to him and because his brothers had repented of their sin against him. They were able to be reconciled and have true fellowship with each other once again, which brings us to the big idea this morning that Forgiveness and repentance bring reconciliation and fellowship. When we are willing to forgive and repent, we can be reconciled and have true fellowship with other human beings. And when we repent of our sins God forgives us and we can be reconciled and have true fellowship with our heavenly father.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we open your Word today, give us wisdom and insight from your Holy Spirit. Help us to grow in love for you and your Word and in wisdom and knowledge. Give us a heart for all your creation as we navigate our everyday lives on this earth you have placed us on. Help us to fall deeper in love with you as we surrender our lives to you and follow your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are three points this morning. The first is Pardoning Grace found in Genesis 45:1-4 and 14-15. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.

As I already mentioned, Judah makes an impassioned plea on behalf of his father. He refers to him fourteen times in a loving and caring manner at the end of chapter 44. “Simply, Judah so feels for his father that he begs to sacrifice himself for a brother more loved than himself.” (Sternberg). Joseph realizes that what he has hoped for has come true. His brothers have changed. Judah is willing to become a slave to Joseph in Benjamin’s place and they care for their father, not wanting to see him hurt anymore. They have also seemingly treated Benjamin differently than they treated Joseph and there is repentance for what they had done to him. Speiser says, “Joseph’s brothers have passed a critical test which is all the more revealing since they did not know they were being tested.” That’s important, isn’t it? This showed that a true transformation had taken place in his brother’s lives. Once Joseph was convinced of their transformation, he could no longer control his emotions. In order to keep this a private family matter, he commands his Egyptian attendants to leave, and he reveals himself to them. Joseph is so overcome with emotion that he weeps tears of joy and love because he could now be reunited with his family. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians in his household, outside the room, could hear him and the news of his weeping even reached Pharoah’s household.

Joseph tells his brothers that he is their long-lost brother. He then asked them if his father was still living. This question showed his compassion toward his brothers. He didn’t want them to feel more guilty about what they had done to him, so he directed their thoughts to their father, not focusing them on himself or what they had done to him. Now this question about his father may seem strange because right before the feast in chapter 43 he had asked if his father was still living, and they answered that he was alive and well. And Joseph knows they never made it back home before being stopped and questioned about the silver cup. But this time he asks about “my father” as opposed to “your father.” He didn’t want to know literally if his father was alive or not because they had already told them he was. He wanted to know all the intimate details about his father that he had missed in the last twenty-two years.

His brothers are stunned by this revelation and are left speechless. They are terrified of him because if this is really their brother that they sold into slavery and if he is really the second-in-command of Egypt, they are terrified that he will have his revenge against them. Their guilt is brought to the surface again. Joseph, seeing the panic in their faces, tells them three things to encourage them. First, he tells them to “come close to him” so they would feel more at ease. This was in the plural meaning all his brothers. They may have been reluctant at first because Egyptians and Hebrews didn’t have close intimate contact, but he needed them to see that he was sincere and that he was one of them. Second, as they came closer to him, he again tells them that he is Joseph, and adds that he is their brother. Third, he qualifies his previous statement that he is “the one you sold into Egypt.” He didn’t do this to make them feel more guilty but to further identify who he was. This would prove who he was because no one else would have that particular information.

Moving down to verses 14 and 15, we see the pardoning grace that Joseph extended to them. He started with his full brother Benjamin. He embraced him and wept over him. And Benjamin reciprocated by embracing him and weeping over Joseph as well. He then kissed all his brothers and wept over them. His weeping showed them this was not a trap and that he held no resentment, bitterness, or grudge toward them. He had already forgiven them, and they didn’t need to feel guilty or be afraid anymore. Lastly, they were able to fellowship together and even speak to one another, which was important. Genesis 37:4 says that his brothers hated him so much that they couldn’t speak a kind word to him. Now that Joseph had forgiven them and they had repented, they could be a family again, being reconciled and enjoying fellowship together. (BIG IDEA).

Our second point this morning is Preserving Grace found in verses 5-8. This is what God’s Word says, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”

Joseph didn’t want his brothers to be distressed, meaning grieved, and he didn’t want them to be angry with themselves for selling him into slavery. There was no reason for them to keep feeling guilty for what they had done to him because God was in control, and it was part of his plan all along. He mentions four times that God was behind the events of his life. In God’s preserving grace he sent Joseph to Egypt ahead of his family to save lives. This was why Joseph was sold into slavery and rose to second-in-command of Egypt. This was why God gave him the knowledge of the seven-year famine and the plan to save Egypt, Canaan and the world from starvation. The famine has been in effect for two years and there will still be five more years of no significant harvesting taking place. Yes, the brothers hated Joseph and sold him into slavery, but God used their hatred to further his plan to preserve a remnant on the earth and save their lives by a great deliverance.

This great deliverance speaks to this present saving and the future saving of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It also speaks of the future coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Joseph’s family, who would become God’s chosen people, were the remnant from the earth, that would deliver the world from death and sin through their descendant, Jesus Christ. Jesus would save lives by a great deliverance by dying on a cross for the sins of the entire world and resurrecting on the third day. This was why God made Joseph father to Pharaoh, meaning he was Pharaoh’s advisor, and made him lord over his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. It was to fulfill his plan and purpose to save the world. It was the sovereignty and providence of God that sent Joseph to Egypt not his brothers. We don’t know exactly when in Joseph’s journey he realized the hand of God in his life but when he did, he was able to extend forgiveness to his brothers for what they had done to him.

Sometimes I believe that we don’t give God enough credit for what he is doing in our lives and in the world. We feel like we are in total control of our lives, and he is not influencing us at all. Now do not get me wrong. We are not puppets to God the puppet-master. We still have free will and can make our own decisions. And we still have a human responsibility for our actions. But I can fully testify that God’s hand has been all over my life from the day of my birth and he has directed my paths even as I have sinned against him. I believe that he still does every single day and wouldn’t want it any other way. I also I think we are fearful and anxious about what is going on in our lives and the world because we feel God doesn’t really care about us. We don’t fully believe that he loves us and wants to be in fellowship and in relationship with us. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Matthew 10:29-31 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

When we realize that God loves us, wants a genuine relationship with us and wants to move in our lives we can truly have fellowship with him and an abundant life on this earth following his will. When we totally surrender our whole lives to him, we will see the events of our lives in a different way and will be able to go through life with hope and peace instead of fear and anxiety. Maybe you struggle for some reason with these concepts this morning that God loves you, cares for you, and wants to be in fellowship and relationship with you. Maybe you struggle with the idea of God’s sovereignty and providence in your life or in the world. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to totally surrender to God, embracing his love and care for me and his sovereignty and providence in my life.

Our third point is Promised Grace found in verses 9-13. This is what God’s Word says, “Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’ “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”

Joseph tells his brothers to hurry to Canaan and bring their father and their families back to Egypt. But he realizes that Jacob may have a few problems with this message from his sons. First, Jacob will probably not want to leave the Promised Land. He did that once before at the urging of his mother after Esau threatened to kill him and he ended up being gone for twenty years. Now that he is again living in the Promised Land that God gave his grandfather Abraham as his inheritance, why would he leave? Canaan is where he is supposed to be. Joseph’s brothers will need to make a compelling argument for Jacob to realize his need to leave Canaan and that God’s hand is in it. They are to tell their father about the honor that God has given Joseph. He is lord of all Egypt and because of that he has a place for them to live. “Part of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:3), especially the promise of a great name, was being fulfilled in Jacob’s son, Joseph, because God had made him lord of all Egypt.” (Gangel & Bramer).

In Goshen, Jacob, his children, his grandchildren, their flocks and herds and all they have can be comfortable and safe. Goshen was the best of the land and was unpopulated because it was reserved for royalty. They would also be able to be near Joseph and would not lack for anything. He promised to provide for them for the remaining five years of famine and he could make this promise because God put him right where he needed to be, right when he needed to be there. They were also to tell their father that if he didn’t come down to Egypt his household and all who belong to him would become destitute. During times of famine families would have to mortgage their lands and even sell themselves and their family into slavery causing them to become destitute. Joseph didn’t want this for his family.

Second, Jacob may not believe them that Joseph was alive. He would probably be a little skeptical. Joseph’s brothers were going to have to do a hard thing. They were going to have to tell their father that Joseph didn’t die but that they had sold him into Egypt. Then they would be able to testify that they had seen him with their own eyes, and had heard him with their own ears. Joseph had sent everyone out in verse one including the interpreter, so he has been speaking Hebrew to his brothers during this whole time. This was evidence that he was truly their brother. Joseph singles out Benjamin because their father would more readily take his word for it, being Joseph’s full brother by the same mother. All of this would be compelling evidence for Jacob to believe that Joseph was still alive. Lastly, Joseph tells them again to tell their father about all the honor, status and power, he has in Egypt and that they have seen this with their own eyes. He finishes with “bring my father down quickly.” This reunion with his brothers has been sweet, especially with Benjamin but now what he really wants is to be reunited with his father. He thought he would never see his father again and Jacob thought he was dead all these years but now a full family reunion can be had, and fellowship can be rekindled because there has been forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation. (BIG IDEA).

Before I close this morning, I want to pass on four principles of forgiveness we can glean from these last couple of chapters. One, forgiveness should be done privately. Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” Second, forgiveness should be given freely and unconditionally. We may ask how can this be done when someone has hurt us or wronged us badly? Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” We must forgive others because we have been forgiven by God. Three, forgiveness seeks correction and restoration of the offender. Too many times restoration never happens because either the offended or the offender doesn’t want it or doesn’t think it’s important. Reconciliation and restoration are what can bring us back into fellowship and relationship. Four, forgiveness must be permanent and not brought up again. It may not be humanly possible to forget the sin perpetrated against us but in order to have true forgiveness and reconciliation, once the offense if repented of and forgiven, you must live and act like you have forgotten it in order to have fellowship with that person.

A father and his teenage son had a stormy relationship. So the son ran away from home. His father began a journey in search of his rebellious son. Finally in Madrid, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in the newspaper. The ad read, “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you, Your father.” The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office eight hundred “Pacos” showed up. They were all seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers. Joseph didn’t require that his brothers make the first move in seeking forgiveness. Even before their repentance Joseph had treated them generously and graciously when he had every right to treat them with bitterness and vengeance. He wanted to be reconciled. Once he knew their hearts were ready, he revealed the truth to them. He held nothing against them but desired to hold them close and to see his father again.

Our families and churches are full of many broken relationships that beg to be mended. But reconciliation requires the conviction that something is wrong, the confession of that wrong, and forgiveness offered and accepted. So what are you prepared to do to repair the broken relationships in your life? Are you willing to take the first step? What is your desire – to be vindicated or to be reconciled? May we be like Joseph, seeking reconciliation. That brings us to our final next step this morning, which is to forgive and seek reconciliation in the broken relationships in my life.

As the praise team comes to lead us in a final song and the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, thank you this opportunity to be in your house with your people learning from your Word. Help us to be willing to surrender our lives to you. Help us to embrace your love and care for us and your sovereignty and providence in our lives. And I pray that we would be willing to forgive other first seeking reconciliation in the broken relationships in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


The following is from A.J. Swoboda’s Subversive Sabbath. In 1991, a yet-to-be-identified flea market enthusiast discovered a simple picture frame to his liking. Securing the purchase, the shopper returned home only to discover an ancient document hiding inconspicuously behind the frame. Thinking little of the discovery, he continued about his life. Two years later, a friend stumbled on the document and investigated its origin. The rest is history. The four-dollar frame had hidden a first – edition copy of the Declaration of Independence reportedly worth north of one million dollars. This accidental discovery is not isolated. There was the contractor who found $182,000 in a bathroom wall he was remodeling. A three-dollar Chinese bowl later sold at Sotheby’s for $2.2 million — it was a treasure from the Northern Song Dynasty. Then there was that California family who stumbled on a can of ancient gold coins in their backyard valued at $10 million. This was all hidden treasure just waiting for someone to find it. Have you ever found money in your pants pocket that you forgot you had? Maybe it went through the wash and the next time you put them on there it was. Or maybe you get your winter coat out and find money that has been there the whole summer. Maybe you found some change in your car or in your sofa cushions that allowed you to get that morning coffee. These are hidden treasures that you may have forgotten about but were just waiting to be found.

Grace and mercy are a lot like hidden treasure. God’s grace and mercy is all over our lives but sometimes we struggle to see it or feel it. We get so caught up in our lives and the world we live in that it’s hard to recognize the grace and mercy He gives us. Sometimes it’s hard for us to accept it because we think we don’t deserve it. And really, we don’t. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve, and mercy is not getting what we do deserve. ​​ God in his infinite love sent his son to die on a cross for us extending grace and mercy to us all. And it can fully be ours, but we must embrace it, we must accept it, and the great thing is that it is free. One reason why we don’t fully embrace grace and mercy is because of sin in our lives. Unconfessed sin causes us to react negatively to situations blinding us to God’s grace and mercy. These negative reactions can cause us to sin but when we confess our sins we can be forgiven. Once we are forgiven, we are better prepared to react positively and rightly to situations in our lives. When we ask forgiveness from God, he gives us grace and mercy and when we ask for forgiveness from others it allows us to fully embrace grace and mercy from them without feeling any guilt or shame. Which brings us to our big idea this morning that Forgiveness brings grace and mercy.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we open your Word this morning, we ask for your Holy Spirit to illumine our hearts and minds to what you want us to learn and what you want us to share with those we encounter this week. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

This morning there are three points, and in each point, we will see how grace and mercy is extended even in the midst of negative reactions and sin. Our first point this morning is Jacob Prays for Mercy found in Genesis 43:1-15. This is what God’s Word says, “Now the famine was still severe in the land. So, when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little more food.” But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’” Israel asked, “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?” They replied, “The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family. ‘Is your father still living?’ he asked us. ‘Do you have another brother?’ We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?” Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.” Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” So the men took the gifts and doubled the amount of silver, and Benjamin also. They hurried down to Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph.”

The famine that sent Jacob’s sons on their first trip to Egypt is still going strong and is still severe in the land of Canaan. We should not be surprised since Pharaoh's dream foretold that the famine would last for seven years. The family has eaten all the grain that was brought back from Egypt on the first trip. And now Jacob asked his sons to go back to buy a little more food. This was a very different Jacob than we saw last week when he rebuked them for not taking the initiative to go to Egypt and buy food so the family would live and not die. Now he is asking them politely. It’s as if he is asking them to just run down to the corner market and grab a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. We see Judah speak up as he seems to have taken on the role of spokesperson for the brothers. He immediately reminds his father that the man (talking about Joseph) “solemnly warned” them that the only way to “see his face” again would be to bring their youngest brother to Egypt. In the last chapter they downplayed Joseph’s threats but this time he tells his father that the man “solemnly warned” them meaning that it was no empty threat. The word “solemnly” would have made it even more ominous. In order to get an audience with “the man” Benjamin would have to be with them. Notice that Judah mentions this warning twice. He wanted to let his father know that taking Benjamin back to Egypt was non-negotiable.

Judah also gives his father an ultimatum. He tells him if he sends Benjamin, they will go to Egypt but if he won’t send him, they will not go. Judah will not overstep his father’s authority and go against his wishes. It will be Jacob’s decision to make. Hamilton asks, “Will he consign his family to starve to death, losing Benjamin in the process or is he willing to release him and take his chances?” Once this ultimatum has been delivered, Jacob reacts negatively. He continues to wallow in self-pity and accuses his sons of bringing this trouble on him. He is still acting selfishly, not seeming to care for the rest of his family and what will happen to them. This “trouble” is having to make a decision about sending Benjamin to Egypt or not. He blames his sons for telling “the man” that they even had another brother. He seems to imply that they should have lied about it. The old deceiver seems to be making another appearance. Jacob is not taking responsibility for his family and in fact he is shirking his responsibility as patriarch of the clan. In his heart, he knows that he is going to have to allow Benjamin to go, but he’s not going to be happy about it and he sins against his sons in the process.

Then we see that all the brothers reply to their father. They tell him that the man questioned them closely about their family, asking if their father was alive or not and if they had another brother. They say they just simply answered his questions. “What else were we to do? How were we to know?” How do we reconcile this with what we learned in chapter 42? We saw in Chapter 42 Joseph accusing his brothers of spying but never asking them personal questions. The brothers seem to volunteer the information about their family. It is possible that chapter 43 gives us a fuller picture of the dialogue than chapter 42. But I still believe in the premise that I put forth last week. That they volunteered this family information in order to prove that they were not spies. Each time Joseph accused them they became more desperate to convince him he was wrong. They kept volunteering more and more information about their family. Also, when we look back at what they told their father when they first returned from Egypt, we see that they didn’t mention that the man questioned them closely. It’s almost like they got their story straight once they were home and had a chance to talk about it. They didn’t want to upset their father, so they use the excuse that it was the “man” who questioned them so closely and they had no choice but to be honest.

Judah again takes the lead asking his father to send the boy with him and they will leave at once. This leaving at once will get Benjamin back quicker and would save three generations of the family from dying. Judah is reminding Jacob of his duty to protect the younger, more vulnerable generation. Notice Judah calls Benjamin “the boy” showing a change in affection and a softening of his attitude toward his youngest half-brother. Judah guarantees Benjamin’s safety, saying he can be held personally responsible and will bear the blame forever before Jacob. In the least he would live in shame for the rest of his life and at the most he placed his own life at risk if he didn’t not return with Benjamin. This pledge by Judah would not have been entered into lightly. Last week we saw that Reuben offered his two sons as surety for Benjamin’s life. The differences were, one, Judah offered his life for the life of Benjamin whereas Reuben offered the lives of his two sons. Judah was willing to put his own life on the line not anyone else’s. Two, Reuben was speaking from a place of guilt and shame for his part in what happened to Joseph. Judah was speaking from a place of leadership and responsibility. Judah then accuses his father of procrastinating just as his father had accused the sons before. If they had not delayed, they could have gone and returned twice already. Judah is reminding Jacob that they wanted to leave right away for Egypt after returning home, but he would not let Benjamin out of his sight.

Once again, Jacob resigns himself to what had to be done (if it must be). He is lacking in faith and not trusting in the sovereignty of God for a joyous outcome. But then he takes charge in getting a gift ready for his sons to present to the man. This is reminiscent of Jacob sending wave after wave of animals to Esau as a gift to him so his brother would find favor in his sight in Gen. 32. This gift was not as extravagant but it was for the same purpose which was to placate the man so he would show mercy to his family and allow Simeon and Benjamin to come home. It seems the famine had affected just their grain and not the other things that Canaan produced. They took the choicest products of the land of Canaan and put them in their bags. The list of items: balm, honey, spices, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds would have reminded the first hearers of what the Ishmaelites were taking to Egypt in their caravan when the brothers sold Joseph to them.

Jacob also told his sons to take double the amount of silver so they could repay what was found in the mouths of their sacks. Jacob is still a little wary of his sons as he hopes finding the silver in their sacks was a mistake. In his mind, the alternative may have been that they sold Simeon for the silver or stole it. He doesn’t see the providence of God in this and is allowing the emotion of his losses to dictate his theology (Gangel & Bramer). Lastly, he says “take your brother and go.” Notice he doesn’t mention Benjamin by name, believing that if he doesn’t say his name he’s not really going. In the midst of his self-pity, pointing fingers and procrastination, Jacob prays for mercy. He prays to God Almighty, El Shaddai, to give them mercy before the man so he will allow the other brother and Benjamin to come back to him. Notice he doesn’t use Simeon’s name, still only concerned with Benjamin. Jacob is able for a few moments to turn to God and ask for his mercy hoping that it all turns out well. The moment doesn’t last very long though as he immediately refocuses on himself with “As for me.” That is not a statement of faith. He has resigned himself to being bereaved. In the midst of negative reactions and sinning against his sons, Jacob prays for mercy, but he doesn’t really expect to receive it. His unconfessed sin is blinding him to what God wants to do in his life. All he needed to do was confess his sin to the Lord and he would find the hidden treasure of grace and mercy. BIG IDEA. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to Confess my sins to the Lord uncovering the hidden treasure of grace and mercy in my life. Jacob’s prayer will still be answered by God even in his sinful condition. That is the grace and mercy of God on full display. The brothers then leave Canaan to go to Egypt taking the gifts, double the silver and Benjamin. And they hurried down to Egypt to present themselves before Joseph.

This brings us to our second point this morning, God Gives Mercy, found in Genesis 43:16-25. This is what God’s Word says, “When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare a meal; they are to eat with me at noon.” The man did as Joseph told him and took the men to Joseph’s house. Now the men were frightened when they were taken to his house. They thought, “We were brought here because of the silver that was put back into our sacks the first time. He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys.” So they went up to Joseph’s steward and spoke to him at the entrance to the house. “We beg your pardon, our lord,” they said, “we came down here the first time to buy food. But at the place where we stopped for the night we opened our sacks and each of us found his silver—the exact weight—in the mouth of his sack. So we have brought it back with us. We have also brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in our sacks.” “It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. The steward took the men into Joseph’s house, gave them water to wash their feet and provided fodder for their donkeys. They prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon, because they had heard that they were to eat there.”

When the brothers present themselves before Joseph, he immediately recognizes that Benjamin is with them. He has the steward take his brothers to his house, slaughter an animal, and prepare dinner for them because they were going to eat with him at noon. When they arrive at Joseph’s house, they become frightened, convinced that they were being detained or worse for the silver that was found in their sacks. They believed that the man was going to attack them, overpower them and make them his slaves. Which, ironically, is what they did to Joseph. Their guilt was making them paranoid. If Joseph wanted to arrest them and take their donkeys, he could have done it at the border. Even though they knew they hadn’t stolen the silver they still believed God was punishing them for what they had done to their brother. Joseph wanted to give his brothers this meal as a show of grace and mercy to them. He had forgiven them for what they had done, but their guilt hid the treasure of grace and mercy from them. If they had just confessed what they had done to Joseph, they would not have been frightened and could have embraced the grace and mercy he wanted to give them. BIG IDEA

They had brought double the silver with them to return it, so they went to the steward to state their case. They spoke to him at the entrance to the house because they thought if they went inside, they wouldn’t be allowed to leave. They explained to the steward that on the way home from the first trip they found silver in the mouth of their sacks, and it was the same weight they had brought to buy food with. They wanted to return that silver back and had brought extra silver to purchase more food. They tell the steward that they have no idea who put the silver in their sacks. The brothers were expecting judgment for stealing the silver not mercy so were surprised when the steward said “it was alright.” He told them to not be afraid because their God, the God of their father, has given them treasure in your sacks. They would have been astonished that this Egyptian knew anything about their God. The steward also said he had received their silver from before.

This treasure given to them by God was not just the returned silver but his grace and mercy. The treasure was hidden to them because all they could see was their guilt, shame and judgment. God gave them grace and mercy even in the midst of their guilt and shame for what they had done to Joseph. But they needed to confess their sin against Joseph and ask for his forgiveness in order to fully accept and embrace God’s treasure. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is to Ask forgiveness from those I have sinned against uncovering the hidden treasure of grace and mercy they want to give me. Then the steward brought Simeon out to them, answering part of Jacob’s prayer to God Almighty for mercy. The steward then extended the finest hospitality to them. He gave them water to wash their feet and provided fodder for their donkeys. After offering to return the silver they felt more comfortable with the arrangements and prepared the gifts they had brought for Joseph.

The third point this morning is Joseph Extends Mercy found in Genesis 43:26-34. This is what God’s Word says, “When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground. He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?” They replied, “Your servant, our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him. As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there. After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, “Serve the food.” They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians. The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.”

When Joseph arrived at his home the brothers humbly presented their gifts to him, bowing down paying homage to him. This fully fulfilled Joseph’s first dream in chapter 37 where the eleven sheaves bowed down to his. Again, this would have given Joseph confidence and trust in God’s plan. Joseph continued to show hospitality to his brothers by inquiring into their welfare. He cared for them and was genuinely concerned with how they were doing. He also asked how their aged father was and if he was still alive. With the famine ravaging the land he couldn’t be sure if his father was still living. Notice he asked about their father who “you told me about” not “who I asked you about.” Maybe that is just semantics, but I think it is telling. They referred to their father as a servant of Joseph’s, meaning they were dependent on him and informed him he was alive and well. Joseph then “looked about” and saw Benjamin. To “look about” indicates that what is about to be seen is most important. Benjamin is identified as his “own mother’s son” emphasizing the bond between them as two born from the same womb. He rhetorically asked them if this was the younger brother that again “they had told him about.” He didn’t need an answer because he knew who he was. Joseph blessed Benjamin asking God to be gracious to him. This display would have astonished the brothers like the steward’s news did. Joseph is so overwhelmed with emotion that he must hurry out looking for a place to weep. He ends up going to his private room to weep there. We assume that God has not finished his testing of the brothers or Joseph would have told them who he was.

After Joseph washed his face and had composed himself, he told the servants to serve the food. Egyptian customs would not allow them to eat at the same table as Hebrews because it was detestable to them and would have made them unclean. So, Joseph was served by himself, the brothers by themselves and the Egyptians who were eating with them by themselves. But Joseph’s table was close enough to the brother’s table that they could interact with each other. Joseph extended mercy by giving them a lavish meal that very few foreigners had probably ever seen. As the brothers were seated, they were again astonished because they were all seated in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest. All these astonishments would have alarmed the brothers thinking that God’s judgment was not yet finished. The seating would have highlighted Benjamin as the youngest in order to set them up for what would happen next. That the portions were served directly from Joseph’s table signified that he would be the source of the family’s survival (Mathews). When the portions came out Benjamin received five times the food that the brothers did. He was being favored and singled out receiving an extravagant amount of food. This would have equated to Joseph’s coat of many colors given to him by his father. Joseph was testing the brothers to see if there was any jealousy in them for Benjamin. Ross says, “Envy and hatred among God’s people would be disastrous to the unity of the nation and so could not be left unchecked.” Joseph will continue to put pressure on the brothers to see if they have really changed, but for now they passed several tests. The brought Benjamin to Egypt, they brought the silver back and they did not show envy or jealousy toward Benjamin. Lastly, they were well fed and satisfied having communion and conversation with Joseph. Joseph was able to extend this mercy to them because he had already forgiven them for what they had done to him, not holding it against them. BIG IDEA

The closing this morning is from Preaching Today: The famous and luxurious Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, was originally owned and managed by George and Edith Vanderbilt, an elegant couple known for their exceptional treatment of their rich and famous guests. But they were also known for the way they treated their staff. For example, there’s the story of how George Vanderbilt treated a young employee named Bessie Smith. Smith was a teenager when she began working at the Biltmore, and she was intimidated by its opulence. On her first day as a server, she walked into the house's grand banquet hall and, startled by the vastness of the room, dropped the tray of monogrammed china she was carrying. George [Vanderbilt], a professorial figure with dark hair and a slightly curved mustache, rose from his chair as his guests looked on, wondering what this great man was going to say. But he didn't say anything. Instead, he got down on his hands and knees and helped her pick up the shards. Then he told her, “Come see me in the morning.” Bessie Smith assumed she was going to be fired. Instead, [George Vanderbilt] promoted Bessie to housekeeper, so she wouldn't have to carry such heavy dishes. That’s the kind of man he was, and that’s the kind of God we serve. When we mess up, He doesn’t condemn us, no! Because of Christ, He promotes us! He uses us for His glory! That’s what grace and forgiveness are all about; and if you have never experienced that kind of grace, please trust Christ today, who died for you and rose again. Trust in the One who loved you even while you were still a sinner. That brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to Accept Jesus as my Savior, uncovering the hidden treasure of His grace and mercy. I hope that if you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus today that you will make that decision and embrace the grace, mercy and forgiveness that only God can give to you.

As the praise team comes forward and the ushers prepare to pick up the tithes and offerings, let’s pray: Lord God, help us to realize that we need to confess our sins to you. Humble us so we can ask forgiveness from those we have wronged. And open our hearts to accept you as our Lord and Savior if we haven’t already. Help us to uncover the hidden treasure of grace and mercy and embrace it in our lives. To your honor and your glory, in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Basic Training

If you were thinking about joining the Marines and you went to their website, this is what you would read about their boot camp or basic training: There are few reputations more storied and none more deserving than that of Marine Corps Recruit Training. The difficulties this process presents to every recruit are as deliberate as they are legendary, as physical, mental and moral toughness are prerequisites to fight among our ranks. During these 13 weeks of intense battles, it is not enough to simply endure, you must prevail. Pushing through surrender’s pull. Pulling together to prevent all from falling apart. Tapping into the purpose that brought you there. There is no room in our ranks for those who fall behind. Because of this, we constantly and continually take recruits to the brink of exhaustion in ways that test their toughness physically, mentally, and even ethically. What doesn't stop them only makes them more purposeful. And the hardships they overcome together only makes them more resilient. It is a demanding process, but also an exacting one.

This story is from There was a Marine Sergeant who was recuperating from wounds he received when an explosion damaged multiple vertebrae, his left hip, and parts of his legs. His entire left side absorbed a large portion of the blast, and his fellow Marines, who were also injured, pulled him out of the vehicle to safety. He had difficulty standing or sitting for long periods of time, and usually had to alternate between those positions as the pain increased. He was told he would suffer from chronic pain for the rest of his life. While he was in the hospital, they had their annual POW-MIA 5-K Run. This sergeant completed the run, shuffling through the three miles with his cane in about 52 minutes. To this sergeant, and many others, being a Marine means completing the mission despite any obstacles, pushing yourself past where others would quit, always keeping the goal in mind and pressing ever forward, one small step at a time until you reach victory.

When I think about the training required to be a marine and the mentality of that sergeant, I think about Joseph. Joseph must have been physically and mentally tough and we know from last week’s message that he was morally tough. He was thrown into a pit, by his own brothers, for who knows how long and was then sold into slavery by them. He was morally tough in refusing the sexual advances of Potiphar’s wife, was wrongfully accused by her and thrown in jail. He must have been faithful and obedient to the Lord because the Lord was with him and to Potiphar because he was put in charge of his entire household. He continued to trust in God despite all the obstacles that came his way and was patient waiting on God to deliver him, never quitting or giving up. He knew that God had something great in store for his life and kept pressing forward, one small step at a time until his mission and purpose came to fulfillment.

Every experience, every hardship and every adversity he went through, was basic training or boot camp, if you will, in the Lord’s Army. For those who have faith in God and in his purposes for their lives, they will experience his testing which is designed to develop a physical, mental, and moral maturity that puts steel into faith so that it becomes steadfast and mature. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Today, we will learn that Joseph continues to be incarcerated and two officials of Pharaoh's court are put in jail with him. He is assigned to attend them and when they both have dreams on the same night, he is able to interpret them with God’s help. Both dream’s interpretations come true, and Joseph hopes to gain his release from jail, but he is forgotten and the testing of his obedience, patience and faithfulness continues. Which brings us to our big idea that God tests his people through adversity to mature them in obedience, patience and faithfulness.

Before we dive into Genesis 40 this morning let’s ask the Holy Spirit to illumine our hearts and minds to what he wants us to learn and what he wants us to apply to our lives today. Dear Awesome God, as we open your Word this morning, we ask for your Holy Spirit to open our hearts and our minds to this passage. As we learn about going through basic training in your army, Lord God, I pray that we would allow you to mature us in obedience, patience and faithfulness even when it means going through adversity and trials of many kinds. Help us to persevere, becoming mature and complete, not lacking anything, for your honor and your glory, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are three points this morning. The first is Incarceration and is found in Genesis 40:1-8. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Sometime later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them. After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison—had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so sad today?” “We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

We begin with the timestamp, “sometime later” which means that Joseph was in prison for a considerable amount of time before the cupbearer and the baker offended their master. Their master was the “king of Egypt” who was the Pharaoh. That title was used when referencing his servants. The cupbearer and the baker were probably foreigners who had been previously enslaved and were now trusted officials in Pharaoh's court. This reminds us of Nehemiah, the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes while in exile in Persia, who was a man of influence and ability. These were important positions of power, temptation and danger. If someone wanted to assassinate Pharoah, one way would be to poison his food or drink. These officials would have been the first to come under suspicion. They are also called the chief cupbearer and chief baker, meaning they would also have the responsibility of ensuring that their respective staffs were wholly trustworthy as well.

Both of these officials “offended” Pharaoh. The word used translates to “sinned against.” We aren’t told what their specific offenses were meaning that God in his sovereignty was probably orchestrating these events. The phrase “sinned against” is probably to connect and contrast the last chapter where Joseph was thrown into prison for refusing to “sin against” God and this chapter where the officials were thrown into prison for “sinning against” Pharoah. Pharoah was angry, or “enraged.” Wenham says that Pharoah “lost his temper” but it would not have been an overreaction or over something trivial. He put them under “house arrest” in the house of the captain of the guard, pending an investigation into the charges against them.

By God’s sovereignty, they were confined in the same prison that Joseph was confined in and he was assigned by the captain of the guard to attend to them. Potiphar is not named here but it makes sense that Joseph, who was once in charge of his household, and who was now in charge of and responsible for all that was done in the prison, would be assigned to attend these officials. This reinforces the overarching theme of the Joseph story – the providence and sovereignty of God. God is in control of what is happening to Joseph. If Joseph is not put in charge of Potiphar’s house he doesn’t have the opportunity to be wrongfully accused by Potiphar’s wife and he doesn’t get sent to prison. If he is not in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, and if God isn’t with Joseph and grant him favor in the eyes of the prison warden, then Joseph is never assigned to attend to the prisoners, and he never hears and interprets their dreams. We can praise the Lord this morning because He is sovereign and his sovereignty is amazing. Only God can work all things out perfectly, even though it brings trials and adversity to his people, for his purposes. Only God in his infinite wisdom can use these trials and adversity to bring his people to maturity in obedience, patience and faith, and all for his glory and honor. (Big Idea)

Again, we see a timestamp, “after they had been in custody for some time.” We don’t know how long before they had their dreams. It seems that God was giving Joseph time to work on being patient. We are told that the cupbearer and baker both have dreams on the same night and each dream has a meaning of its own. The following morning when Joseph comes to attend them, he notices that they are dejected or sad. The word translated “dejected” is used for a “raging sea” giving us the sense that they were distraught. Seeing themselves as participants in a dream where no one is speaking would have been unnerving and would have added to their feeling of dread. Joseph, instead of ignoring them, inquires why their faces are so sad. We should also be aware of the “faces” of those we come in contact with. God may be wanting us to reach out to them to comfort and care for them as Joseph did here. This brings us to our first principle this morning which is “God is pleased when we notice the hurt in others and try to comfort them.” We see this in the following verses: Philippians 2:3b-4: “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:4: “(God) comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Joseph was not so preoccupied with his own struggles that he didn’t notice that they were struggling as well. Instead of ignoring their faces, which would have been easy to do, he went the extra mile and inquired as to what was happening with them. I believe God wants us to go the extra mile when we notice someone is having a bad day or struggling with something. All it takes is asking “why” or “what” and being ready and willing to listen and help in any way we can. Which brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card. My next step is to notice those who are hurting, not ignoring them, but listening to and comforting them.

They both answer they are sad because they have had dreams and there is no one to interpret them. There was no one to interpret because they were in prison. It would have already been a bad omen they both had dreams on the same night but to not have access to someone who could interpret them would make it worse. They would have thought their dreams were about their futures and not having an interpreter would have upset them more than being in prison in the first place. Hamilton says, “A dream without an accompanying interpretation is like a diagnosis without a prognosis.” And I would add “a diagnosis without a treatment.” Egypt was well-known for having magicians who could interpret dreams. They believed that dreams came from the gods, but interpretation came from human beings. They had “dream books” that would have contained sample dreams along with the keys to interpreting them. These books would contain thousands of dreams, the symbolism used in them, and the interpretation of those symbols to tell what the dreams meant. These magicians would use the symbols, an understanding of the person who dreamed the dream, and current events to interpret the dream.

Next, we see the faithfulness of Joseph. How do we know he was faithful? Because he is in prison for being wrongfully accused and still he puts his faith and trust in God having full confidence that he will give him the interpretation. Why? Because God has done it before. Joseph’s relationship with God has not waned or wavered. He knows God will give him the interpretations of their dreams because he had already proven faithful by giving him the interpretation of his dreams. Joseph also believed that God was all-powerful and had authority over all things. Joseph was humble as he told the officials that it was only God who could interpret dreams and not himself. He then asked them to tell him their dreams, putting himself in a position to be used by God. Which brings us to our second principle this morning which is “God is pleased when we allow him to use us to fulfill his plans and purposes.” This is a principle we have seen all throughout our study of the book of Genesis. Joseph, even though he is in prison, is obedient, patient and faithful as he allows God to use him to fulfill his plans and purposes. (Big Idea)

That brings us to our second point which is Interpretation found in verses 9-19. This is what God’s Word says, “So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, “In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.” “This is what it means,” Joseph said to him. “The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, “I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.” “This is what it means,” Joseph said. “The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat away your flesh.”

The first dream Joseph hears and interprets is the cupbearer’s dream. In his dream, we notice that the cupbearer is fulfilling his occupation. He was responsible not only for opening and tasting the wine but also for the quality of what he put in Pharoah’s cup. This would include the production of the wine seen in the budding, blossoming, and ripening of the grapes. Next, we notice some sets of threes. There is a vine with three branches on it. There are three actions of the branches - budded, blossomed and ripened. We see that the cupbearer is holding Pharoah’s cup, squeezing the grapes into Pharoah’s cup and putting the cup in Pharaoh's hand. “Pharoah'' is referred to three times and “cup” is mentioned three times. Joseph immediately after hearing the cupbearer’s dream starts to interpret it. The immediacy proves that Joseph is truly interpreting the dream – he is not faking it. The rapidity with which the actions happen show that the dream’s fulfillment was imminent. The three branches stood for three days meaning the interpretation would be realized in that time. The ripening of the grapes, the cupbearer’s interaction with Pharaoh and the three-fold mention of Pharaoh, shows their close relationship. The interpretation of “lift up your head”, in the case of the cupbearer, meant that he would be “restored” to his position in Pharaoh's court. He would be putting Pharaoh’s cup in his hand just like he used to.

Joseph then takes the opportunity, after giving a favorable interpretation, to ask a favor of the cupbearer. This showed his confidence in God’s interpretation and was smart on Joseph’s part. One of the best times to ask a favor of someone would be after giving them good news. He asked the cupbearer that once he got released, to “remember him and show him kindness” by putting in a good word for him with Pharoah, so he could get out of this prison. He must have realized at some level that he is there because God wants him there but that doesn’t mean God wants him to stay there. His own dreams prove that he would not wallow in prison forever. We may debate whether Joseph was patient and waiting on God or putting his future in the hands of a man. The phrase “remember me and show me kindness” is more common to divine than human action so maybe Joseph felt that through this true and favorable interpretation given to him by God he would gain his release. Ultimately, he was right but he would have to be patient a little while longer and wait on God’s perfect timing for his release. Joseph gives two reasons why he wanted to be released. First, he was forcibly carried away from his homeland – the land of the Hebrews. Second, he has done nothing wrong to be in this dungeon – he is innocent. The word “dungeon” is the same word for “pit” or “cistern” reminding us of the pit his brothers threw him into. Notice he doesn’t mention his brothers or Potiphar’s wife or blame them for his present state.

When the baker hears Joseph’s favorable interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream he proceeds to tell Joseph his dream. Again, we notice that the baker is fulfilling his occupation having three baskets of bread on his head. In the top basket is “all kinds of baked goods” for Pharaoh but there is no mention of him giving the bread to Pharaoh. In fact, it’s not Pharoah who eats the bread but the birds. This would have been a picture of impending doom for the baker. Again, immediately after hearing the dream, Joseph interprets it. As in the cupbearer’s dream the three baskets stood for three days. And like the cupbearer, Pharoah will “lift up his head” but this time instead of “restoring” him, he will “lift up” the baker’s head meaning the baker would be beheaded and his body would be impaled on a stake. The meaning of the birds eating Pharoah’s bread was that the birds would feast on the baker’s impaled body. This picture may have reminded the first hearers of Abraham fighting off the predator birds in his dream in Genesis chapter 15. The birds of prey signified oppression which Abraham was able to fight off, but the baker will not. This would have been a harsh punishment relegated to the worst kind of criminal. The Egyptians believed that the soul in the afterlife was dependent on the body and this kind of damage to one’s body would have major repercussions. Goldingay says, “While impaling shames a person and dissuades others from imitating the offense the birds suggest that the punishment continues after death. There will not be enough to bury and he will not be able to rest with his ancestors.” This vivid picture shows that Joseph was certain his interpretation would come true.

That brings us to the third point this morning which is “Implementation” found in verses 20-23. Here we see the fulfillment of the interpretations of the dreams. This is what God’s Word says, “Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand—but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation. The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.

We start this section with another timestamp. The fulfillment of Joseph’s interpretations on the third day would coincide with Pharaoh's birthday. This could have been his physical birthday or the anniversary of the day that he ascended to being Pharoah. It was not uncommon that the celebration of Pharaoh's ascension be accompanied by granting amnesties. The celebration included a feast given by Pharaoh for all his officials. We see the fulfillment of Joseph’s interpretations as Pharaoh “lifted up the heads” of the chief cupbearer and chief baker in the presence of his officials. He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so he could continue to put the cup into Pharaoh's hand, and he beheaded and impaled the chief baker just as Joseph interpreted. The exact implementation of the dream’s interpretations showed that they came from God. The punishment of the baker indicates that his sin or offense against Pharaoh was grave. The text does not recount their reactions or why one is set free while the other is condemned to death. This silence I believe continues to show the sovereignty of God. He has the right to rule and he rules rightly and was in control of all that happened to the cupbearer and baker. Then we are given this final caveat. The chief cupbearer, knowingly or unknowingly, did not remember Joseph and in fact he forgot him. The cupbearer’s neglect is doubly emphasized by the verbs “did not remember” or “ignored” and “forgot.” We know that God was with Joseph because he spoke through him to interpret these dreams. He has been forgotten by man but not by God. Joseph will continue in prison for another two years until Pharoah has his dreams and the cupbearer finally remembers him.

Earlier, one of our principles were “God is pleased when his people are faithful in adversity.” The following comes from Gangel & Bramer’s commentary. What will be your response to unfairness, mistreatment, and misfortune? In the eyes of the skeptical world, the manner in which a believer meets difficulties by means of the grace of God is a powerful apologetic for faith in God. F.B. Meyer said, “The child of God is often called to suffer because there is nothing that will convince onlookers of the reality and power of true religion as suffering will do, when it is borne with Christian fortitude.” William Sangster, a well-known British pastor of the last century, was told by a doctor that he had progressive muscular atrophy; his muscles would gradually waste away, his voice would finally fail, and he would lose the ability even to swallow. He made the following resolutions and stuck by them for the rest of his life: I will never complain, I will keep the home bright, I will count my blessings, I will try and turn it to good. Sangster devoted himself to the work of British home missions, figuring he could still write and he would have even more time for prayer. He wrote articles and books and helped organize prayer cells throughout England. He turned misfortune into triumph because he believed in the God of the Bible. Someday we may also be called upon to face unfairness, mistreatment or misfortune. Will we respond with faith and faithfulness or with complaint and compromise?

As Christians, some time or another, we will have adversity in this life. So the question before us today is how will each of us face those adversities. How will we face our own unfairnesses, mistreatments or misfortunes? Hopefully, we will face them like Joseph did. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card. My next step is to face adversity with obedience, patience and faithfulness. When we do this God will bring us to Christian maturity and we will be better equipped to notice the hurting and bring them comfort and to allow God to fulfill his plans and purposes in us and through us.

As the praise team comes to lead us in a final song and as the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings, let’s close our time in prayer: Lord God, by the power of your Holy Spirit help us not to leave this place the way we came but to be transformed by your Word. Give us your eyes to see the hurting in our world and to not ignore them but to comfort them. ​​ Mature us in obedience, patience and faithfulness for your honor and your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



The Crown

When you see the phrase, “The Crown”, what do you think of? I think about royalty; kings and queens, etc., especially British royalty. There is a TV show in its last season called “The Crown” which follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II who just passed away in 2022. Queen Elizabeth II’s great-great-grandmother was Queen Victoria, who has been called the “Grandmother of Europe.” (picture) Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, who were first cousins, looked to consolidate royal power through marriage. They had nine children, each of whom married important European royal families. Queen Victoria’s grandchildren served as (or married) the kings or emperors of most of Europe. There was King George V of the United Kingdom, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, King Haakon VII of Norway, Ferdinand I of Romania, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, King Constantine I of Greece, Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, and King Alfonso XIII of Spain. When World War I broke out Wilhelm II of Germany was at war with his cousin George V of the United Kingdom and cousins-in-law Nicholas II of Russia and Ferdinand I of Romania. Several of Victoria’s issue remain on European thrones today. King Harald V of Norway, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and King Felipe VI of Spain all descend from Victoria and Albert.

In our scripture today we are going to investigate another royal family, the royal family of Esau. For the past several weeks we have camped out on the idea that God cares and provides for all people even non-covenant peoples. We have also seen comparisons between the descendants of Esau and Jacob. Esau has had children and grandchildren who have become chief of clans and tribes. He and his descendants married into the family of Seir the Horite who lived in the hill country of Seir. Eventually Esau and his family migrated there and the nation of Edom was established. Today, we will see that Esau’s descendants have now become kings of Edom. They are ruling as chiefs and kings in their own land long before the nation of Israel ever comes into being. Esau and his descendants had it relatively easy, increasing in number and absorbing the land and people of Seir. In comparison, Jacob and his family will find themselves in Egypt due to famine and then live there in slavery for 400 years. Finally, as God commands Moses to lead them out of Egypt into the Promised Land they will wander in the wilderness for another 80 years before finally conquering their own land. It will take them a long time to become the monarchy that Edom has already established. ​​ 

As we think about the hardships that the Israelites, God’s chosen people, went through compared to their cousins and as we think about the hardships that we, as Christians, seem to go through compared to those in the world, we see that success, power and prestige seems to come easy to those living by the world’s standards. But the Israelites, God’s chosen people lived by a higher standard, God’s standard. God tested and tried the Israelites but the Edomites, the non-covenant side of the family of Abraham, don’t seem to be. And we might ask ourselves why? I think the answer lies in what God’s plan and purpose was for the Israelite people. They were to be a holy, set apart people, in the world, in order to be ambassadors of God to their neighbors. They were blessed by God to be a blessing to others. They were to usher in the coming Messiah to the world and spread his gospel. For them to fulfill this plan and purpose they needed to be tested and refined in the fire of slavery, wandering the wilderness, and exile. Esau and the Edomites did not have such a plan and purpose and did not need to be tested.

As Christians, all the above is appropriate for us as well. We are called to be a holy and set apart people. We are blessed by God to be a blessing in the world. God has a plan and purpose for us to pursue, grow and multiply disciples. And the Bible says that we will be tested and tried in God’s refining fire as well. All the Israelites testing, trials and tribulations, and ours as well, are so we will bear much fruit and when that fruit is realized and seen by the world it will be for the glory of God. Which brings us to the big idea this morning that God tests his people, for the bearing of much fruit, to the glory of God. As we prepare to open God’s Word this morning, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we ask your Holy Spirit to come down in this place and in your people. We pray for open hearts and open minds as we study your Word. Use your holy scripture to teach us, reprove us, correct us and train us in righteousness so that we may be complete and equipped for every good work. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

This morning we are wrapping up Genesis chapter 36, the genealogy of Esau. We will be looking at verses 31-43. There will be three points this morning. The first point is the Introduction found in verse 31. Follow along as I read. This is what God’s Word says: “These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned:”

Before we see the lists of kings, they are introduced to us with this caveat: “These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned.” Again, Esau/Edom is compared to Jacob/Israel. Before Saul became King of Israel there were already eight generations of kings in Edom. In Numbers 20:14, we see these words, “Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom.” This refers to when the Israelites, being led by Moses in the wilderness, were getting ready to pass through the Transjordan and enter the Promised Land. Moses sent messengers to ask the king of Edom to let them pass by unharmed. He promised they would stay on the King’s Highway and pay for any water used by them or their livestock. The king of Edom refused and even threatened to attack them with the sword. Later, King David would conquer the Edomites and rule over them for a time. These events fulfilled Isaac’s blessing on Esau found in Genesis 27:40, “You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother.” Numbers 20:14 confirms that Edomite kings were already ruling before the Israelites entered the Promised Land.

Something we will notice in the king list that follows is that it is evidence of an elective kingship instead of a dynastic one. This means that the succession of kings was not based on heredity, like we see in the United Kingdom. The eight kings will succeed each other in an orderly fashion but no king is a son of the previous one. Also, the place of origin or the capital city is different for each king. This may be the only evidence of a non-dynastic monarchy in the ancient Near East, except for the election of King Saul. When Saul was made king of Israel, there was no provision made for Saul’s sons to take over the throne after him like there was for King David.

Last week, Pastor Stuart made the point that God provides for all people even people outside the Abrahamic covenant. Esau descendants may have been outside the covenant, but they weren’t outside the story of God’s work in the world. This point will be reaffirmed by the list of Edomite kings as they represent the first stage of the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham in Genesis 17:16. God speaking to Abraham about Sarah says, “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” The Edomite kings were a direct fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. Lastly, in 1 Samuel 8:5, when the Israelites wanted a king “like other nations”, it is possible that the Edomites were one of the nations they had in mind.

Our second point is Succession found in verses 32-39. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Bela son of Beor became king of Edom. His city was named Dinhabah. When Bela died, Yobab son of Zerah from Bozrah succeeded him as king. When Yobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites succeeded him as king. When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, succeeded him as king. His city was named Avith. When Hadad died, Samlah from Masrekah succeeded him as king. When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth on the river succeeded him as king. When Shaul died, Baal-Hanan son of Akbor succeeded him as king. When Baal-Hanan son of Akbor died, Hadad succeeded him as king. His city was named Pau, and his wife’s name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me-Zahab.

We see a recurring formula here: X died and Y succeeds him as king and his city was named Z. As I said earlier, no son ever succeeded their father as king. We also see that the capital city changes with each king. They ruled out of the city where they lived, as King Saul did. The first king was Bela, son of “Beor.” Bela means “eloquent.” In Numbers 22:5, we also see that Balaam, a wicked prophet, is the “son of Beor.” Bela’s capital city is “Dinhabah” which is an unknown. When Bela died, Yobab, son of Zerah from Bozrah became king. The name Yobab is also seen in Genesis 10:29 as he is identified as the third great grandson of Shem. The resemblance of names goes to show the fact that the Israelites and the Edomites were related. We have seen the name Zerah earlier as the grandson of Esau and Bosemath. Bozrah is one of the Edomite towns most often referred to in the Bible. We see it named in Isaiah 34:6 and Amos 1:12 where those prophets prophesied about God’s judgment on the nations who against Israel.

The third king was Husham which means “broadnosed” in Arabic. He was from the land of the Temanites. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that one of the friends of Job was Eliphaz the Temanite. The fourth king was Hadad, son of Bedad. His name is associated with the Syrian storm god meaning “thunderer.” With him we have our first antidote; an explanation that Hadad defeated Midian in the area of Moab. This was probably to distinguish this Hadad from the one mentioned in verse 39 as the eighth king. Bedad means “separate/alone” and this one’s capital city was Avith. The fifth king was Samlah, which means “protection” in Arabic. His capital city was Masreqah which is related to the noun “vine” and was probably located in a vine-growing area. The sixth king was Shaul which means “requested” and his capital city was Rehoboth on the River. Rehoboth means “open spaces” and the river could refer to either the Euphrates or the Jordan.

The seventh king was Baal-hanan, son of Akbor. Baal-hanan means “Baal is gracious” and Akbor means “mouse.” Baal-hanan is the only king not ascribed a capital city. The eighth and last king on the list is Hadad and his capital city is Pau. And again we get some explanation: he was the husband of Mehetabel, who was the daughter of Matred, who was the daughter of Me-Zahab. Mehetabel means “El (God) does good”; Matred means “to run continually”; and Me-Zahab means “waters of gold.” It was unusual to name two women in an ancestral line. It may be that the women’s names conveyed a great splendor that meant “continuous running waters of gold.”

Our third point is Settlements found in verses 40-43. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions: Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied. This is the family line of Esau, the father of the Edomites.”

This final list is a list of chiefs descended from Esau according to their clans and regions. “According to their clans” is the same formula used in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10. Four of the eleven names we have seen before: Timna, the concubine of Eliphaz and sister of Lotan, son of Seir. Oholibamah, daughter of Anah, a wife of Esau. And Kenaz and Teman, sons of Eliphaz and chiefs of Edom. The other seven names are new to us: Alva which means “ascend”, Yetheth, Elah which means “terebinth”, Pinon which was a known copper mining and smelting site in Edom, Mibzar which means “fortress”, Magdiel which means “fruit (gift) of El” and Iram.

One of the problems with identifying this list is how to reconcile it with the chiefs of Esau listed in verses 15-19. ​​ First, these may be later chiefs of Edom than those mentioned earlier or second the list in verses 15-19 may be genealogically arranged and this list is geographically arranged. This list is referred to as regions and settlements in the land they are occupying. Hamilton says, “The names that follow might refer to the names of the dwellings rather than of the chieftains.” And Wenham says, “It has been suggested that this is a list of the administrative districts of Edom since some of the names are place names.” The word “occupy” here is the same as “held.” It is the same word that we saw when Esau first appeared in Genesis. If you remember, at the twin’s birth, Jacob took “hold” of Esau’s heel. This may be a deliberate play on words to mark the last appearance of Esau in the book of Genesis. The fact that Edom “held” these lands again fulfills the promise to Abraham in Genesis 17:8. They have gained secure possession of the land of Edom just as Israel will have secure possession of theirs. This language indicates that both the Edomites and the Israelites received their land by divine commission from God.

Lastly, the ancestral heritage of the Edomites is reaffirmed reminding us that Esau was their father. Esau’s descendants have become clans, chiefs, kings and districts. They have an established political structure and royalty. There is no doubt that they are flourishing. Esau has now become a dynasty with eight kings in succession and chiefs in eleven districts. Their power and the extent of their monarchy is incredible. Their impact would be felt for centuries after Esau’s death and these cousins of the Israelites would relentlessly and persistently oppose them for a long time to come. Interestingly, when Jesus stood before King Herod at his trial, Jesus was standing in the line of Jacob and Herod was standing in the line of Esau. Herod was an Idumaean, which is the Greek equivalent of an Edomite. This descendant of Esau ridiculed and mocked Jesus, a descendant of Jacob, who was the Son of God.

There is a warning to us in this chapter. We need to be careful in our dealings with others so that we don’t allow a bitter root to grow up and cause trouble in the future as we see in the story of Esau. Hebrews 12:14-17 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.” We must make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy because if we don’t, we could be perpetuating conflict not only in our lifetime but in the lifetimes of our descendants far beyond anything we could ever imagine. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card: My next step is to live in peace with everyone and to be holy.

As I conclude today, I want to revisit our big idea: God tests his people, for the bearing of much fruit, to the glory of God. Again, in Hebrews 12:5b-11, we see these words, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Archaeological digs have been done in Bozrah (King Yobab’s capital city) where they have found effigies in stone and pottery from after the Patriarchal period showing that there were generations of idolatry in that area. This didn’t happen overnight but may have been birthed by Esau as the material outweighed the spiritual in his life. Interestingly, Baldwin says, “Despite the struggle of the prophets in Israel over the same issue excavations have nowhere near unearthed a plethora of idols in the territory of Israel and Judah. Esau’s defection set a precedent, which was later to lead to identification with the idolatrous religion of the local population.” Baldwin goes on to say, “If it had not been for the many forms of divine discipline which culminated in the Exile the story would have been of the same sorry decline among Jacob’s descendants. It was the mercy of God that refused to “give them up” and instead worked to produce a people who were capable of receiving his salvation which is the theme of the rest of the OT.

The story of Jacob was different than the story of Esau in that God tested and disciplined his chosen people, for the bearing of much fruit, to his glory. It is the same for us today, as Christians. We need to endure hardship as discipline and accept God’s perfect discipline in our lives knowing that he does it for our good, in order that we share in his holiness. It will not be pleasant and it will be painful but it will produce a harvest of righteousness and peace if we are willing to be trained by it. And through it all, God will receive the glory. That brings us to the second next step this morning, which is to “Accept God’s testing and discipline in my life, in order to bear much fruit, so that God will receive the glory.” As the ushers come to gather the tithes and offerings and the praise team comes to lead us in our final song, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, thank you for this time to dive deep into your Word. Help us to strive to live in peace with everyone and to be holy so we aren’t leaving conflict in our wake. Help us to accept your testing and discipline, in order to bear the fruit in our lives that is honoring and glorifying to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Walking Your Past

Show video. The kids had trouble defining the term genealogy, didn’t they? But they understood what family history meant. To a lot of people genealogy is just a bunch of names of dead people that don’t matter anymore but if we think of genealogy in terms of family history that might make it more interesting and intriguing. Maybe you here today could care less about your genealogy, a list of dead people, but I bet if I asked you to tell me stories of your parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents that you knew growing up, that would be a different tale.

I was introduced to genealogy at the age of 6 or 7, when I was doing an assignment for a church group I was a part of. At that time, I was told that I was related to a couple of famous people. One was Lucy Webb Ware, who was married to President Rutherford B. Hayes. Historians have christened her "Lemonade Lucy" due to her staunch support of the temperance movement. In fact her husband, the President, banned alcohol from the White House. The other famous person that I was told I was related to was Sam Houston, an American general who played an important role in the Texas Revolution and who was the first governor of Texas. I have disproved that I am directly related to them, but who I have proven that I am related to is my great grandfather who was known under three different names, with three different wives, in three different states. And very possibly turned state’s evidence after getting caught up in a conspiracy to commit arson case with his daughter. Now that’s a family history story. Genealogy is not just the names of people in your family who are dead. Genealogy is the people and the stories that made up their lives.

I read somewhere this past week that studying Genesis 36 is like walking through the gravestones of Esau’s family. You can find out a lot about your family by what is put on their tombstones. You may find that they served in the military and actually served in wartime like my grandfather (here) and my great grandfather (here). You may find that they had some kind of spirituality during their lives like my second great grandparents (here), whose tombstone says, “to die is gain” or my great grandparents (here) who gravestone depicts the Holy Bible on it and says “together forever” which spoke to their hope of being together beyond the grave. You may also find that your ancestors were truly loved like my grandmother (here) whose tombstone says, “in memory of a loving mother and friend.” I wish I could go back in time and listen to the stories of their lives, the good and the bad.

So why is this chapter of names important and what can we find out about Esau and his family as we walk through his tombstones in chapter 36, and specifically verses 9-19? First, this chapter is important because Moses was writing to people who were going to be living in close proximity to the Edomites, Esau’s descendants. The Lord was going to be giving the Israelites specific instructions about these close relatives so they needed to know who they were. Second, this chapter is important because the people of Israel and us today need to realize that worldly blessing, even if it is given by God, does not translate into spiritual blessing. Whether we believe in God and his son, Jesus, or not, our blessings all come from God alone. It is what we do and how we live with those blessings that count. If we are living without the spiritual blessing of the salvation of Jesus Christ and outside the family of God, it doesn’t matter what worldly blessings we have, because once our tombstone has been erected, all that is dust. Which brings us to our big idea this morning which is “if we succeed by worldly standards but fail by God’s standards, we fail where it really matters.” We will see that Esau had worldly wealth in lots of children and grandchildren and that his descendants became powerful chiefs of clans and tribes. They also ruled in a land of their own. But Esau and his descendants failed by Godly standards and in doing so failed where it really mattered.

Let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we stand in awe of you and we praise you for your Word and the opportunities we have to open it and study it together. I pray that your Holy Spirit would speak to each heart and mind that hears your Word this morning and that a transformation would take place in their lives. And we give you all the glory and honor. Amen.

Our first point this morning is Lineage found in Genesis 36:9-14. Follow along as I read. This is what God’s Word says, “This is the account of the family line of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir. These are the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz, the son of Esau’s wife Adah, and Reuel, the son of Esau’s wife Bosemath. The sons of Eliphaz: Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz. Esau’s son Eliphaz also had a concubine named Timna, who bore him Amalek. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Adah. The sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Bosemath. The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon, whom she bore to Esau: Yeush, Yalam and Korach.”

This morning we will walk through Esau’s family cemetery and see his family stories and the important truths that we can learn from them. The first thing we notice is that this section starting with verse 9, starts the same way as the last section did in verse 1. The author repeats “this is the account of Esau” but adds that he is now the father of the Edomites. This repetition is very unusual in the biblical tolodots. It is possible that once the family moved to Seir and either settled or conquered the land, a new record was kept with a new starting point, even though it continued the family history of Esau. The fact that he is now the father of a group of people called the Edomites, compares with Jacob who is also known as Israel and was going to be the father of a group of people called the Israelites. If you remember, in Genesis 25, we saw that Rebekah was pregnant with the twins, Esau and Jacob, and they were warring inside of her, she inquired of the Lord and he told her that there were two nations in her womb. This chapter shows that the expectation of an Edomite nation has been met. ​​ 

The Edomites are now fully entrenched in the hill country of Seir. Last week we saw Esau start his family and then move out of the Promised Land, where his father and mother were living, into the hill country of Seir. That Esau dwelt securely in Seir implied that the Lord would establish his descendants in the land. This move outside the Promised Land is important as we walk Esau’s past through the gravestones of his family. The second thing you might notice is that we saw a lot of the same names last week. We have already been introduced to Esau’s three wives – Adah, Bosemath, and Oholibamah. We also saw what their names meant: Adah means “the adorned one” or “ornament”, Bosemath means “the perfumed one” or “spice” and Oholibamah means “tent of the high place” which gives the connotation of “tall” and “stately.” From their names we can learn that Esau had a very beautiful family by worldly standards. Remember back then names weren’t just given because they sounded nice; they were given because they meant something (think Jacob which means, “heel-grabber” and “deceiver”). We can notice that each of their names focuses on some outward feature of beauty or sensuality because that is what they found valuable to them.

We have also already been introduced to Esau’s sons born to him by these three wives. Adah bore one son, called Eliphaz and Bosemath bore one son, Reuel. And Oholibamah bore Esau three sons, Yeush, Yalam, and Korach. Eliphaz means “pure gold”, Reuel means “friend of God”, Yeush means “the Lord helps”, Yalam means “to conceal” and Korach means “bald.” As we look at this list there is one name that you may or may not recognize. That is Eliphaz and it is believed that he is the same Eliphaz who was one of the friends of Job. Later when we talk about his sons, one of them is called Teman and he becomes a duke or chief. In the book of Job, Eliphaz is identified as a Temanite. Also, if you didn’t know, scholars believe that Job was written during the times of the Patriarchs and they believe it is actually the first book of the Bible written chronologically. So it is possible that Job is living in or near the land of Seir with the Edomites and that is where his book takes place. As we go back to the names of Esau’s sons we again see that they aren’t focused on the spiritual but the worldly. Now there are 2 names out of the 81 names in this chapter that possibly show a belief in the one true God, Reuel “friend of God” and Yeush “the Lord helps.” But it is also possible that they were connected to idolatry and worship of false gods.

What we can learn by walking through Esau’s family cemetery and from the names of his sons is that there is no mention of barrenness. If you remember, the wives of the Patriarchs, Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel, all struggled with being barren. They had to rely on God to open their wombs so they could have children. And God opened their wombs in his timing and according to his plan and purpose. The patriarchs were all promised that they would have offspring like the “stars in the sky” and the “sand on the seashore” but it wasn’t going to happen in the normal human way; it was going to happen in a miraculous spiritual way. Esau and his wives did not have the same problem. Esau was wealthy in sons and for all intents and purposes he was able to have children all on his own without any help from God.

Next we continue to see Esau’s worldly wealth increase but no spiritual wealth mentioned as God blesses Esau with grandchildren. The sons of Eliphaz were Teman which means “south” who I’ve already talked about in relation to Job, Omar which means “eloquent”, Zepho which means “clean/pure”, Gatam which means “thin” and the meaning of Kenaz is unknown. Then we come to the second specific name I want to mention. In verse 12 we see that Eliphaz had a concubine named Timna and she bore him a son called Amalek. Now, Amalek would have been a name that would have made the first hearers perk up as he was the ancestor of the Amalekites who were bitter enemies of the Israelites. In Deuteronomy 25:17-19, we see these words, “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!” God commanded the Israelites to “blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven” because they had “no fear of the Lord.” It is important to have a righteous, reverent fear or awe of the Lord so he doesn’t “blot us out.” We only need to look at ourselves and look around us to see what he has done and is doing in the world, in our church and in our lives. This prompts me to ask a question: Do you have a righteous, reverent fear or awe of the Lord in your life? If not, this first next step is for you: My next step is to cultivate a righteous, reverent fear of the Lord in my life. Next, we see the sons of Reuel. Nahath which means “clear/pure”, Zerah which means "dawning, shining”, Shammah which means "to hear” and Mizzah which is unknown. Lastly, we notice that the sons of Esau and Oholibamah are mentioned, which we already talked about, but there are no grandsons mentioned. It is possible they didn’t have any offspring but they are still be important as we move to the next point.

The second point this morning is Legacy found in Genesis 36:15-19. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “These were the chiefs among Esau’s descendants: The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau: Chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, Korach, Gatam and Amalek. These were the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in Edom; they were grandsons of Adah. The sons of Esau’s son Reuel: Chiefs Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the chiefs descended from Reuel in Edom; they were grandsons of Esau’s wife Bosemath. The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah: Chiefs Yeush, Yalam and Korach. These were the chiefs descended from Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah. These were the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these were their chiefs.”

As we continue walking through Esau’s family cemetery the family stories again come alive. As I read these verses you may have seen redundancy and it is true but don’t let that give you the idea that there is nothing to learn from this section. First, let me point out the progression of the lists we see in each section. In section one, verses 1-8, we saw Esau who is Edom and his wives and children. In section two, verses 9-14, we saw Esau, the ancestor of the Edomites with his wives, children and grandchildren. The significance is that Esau’s rich family history is growing. This third section, verses 15-19, again shows a progression from a family to the beginnings of a nation and Esau’s descendants as the rulers of that fledgling nation. This is important because it continues to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham to make him the “father of many nations” which we saw in Genesis 17:4. By including Esau’s descendants and their ascendancy as rulers implies that Edom’s rise was the consequence of God’s blessing and that his blessing reached outside the line of Jacob. And the proliferation of Edomite tribes fulfills God’s intention to “bless all the peoples of the earth” as we saw in Genesis 12:3 which would happen by bringing salvation to the nations.

We notice that the children and grandchildren of Esau are now “chiefs” or some translations say “dukes.” The word for duke comes from a Latin word meaning captain or leader. The Hebrew word has the same significance and is the term for a thousand. The dukes or chiefs were probably leaders or captains over a company of one thousand men. It is important that we see these names as chiefs and clans and not just sons and grandsons. Again, we see the same names are mentioned but there are a few differences in the list from verses 9-14 and the list here in verses 15-19. First, the order in which grandsons, Gatam and Kenaz are mentioned changes. This reason for this change is seemingly unknown or didn’t matter. In verse 16 we see an addition of a name, Korach, which is represented as a son of Eliphaz. Korach is also the name of one of the sons of Oholibamah. Again, what is important here is that Korach is the name of a clan and not just a son and or grandson. The commentators say that it could mean that there was a portion of the clan of Korach that split; one portion stayed affiliated with Oholibamah and the other portion affiliated themselves with the clans connected to Eliphaz. These were first and foremost political alliances. These weren’t spiritually minded peoples; these were secular and political entities looking for prestige, power and position. (Big Idea)

The next thing that we can glean as important from this list of clans and political alliances is that there are twelve tribes. They are represented by the nine grandsons and three sons of Esau born to him by Oholibamah. This number is reached by counting the split clan of Korach as one and omitting Amalek who is disqualified because he is the son of a concubine. This means that Ishmael, Esau and Jacob all became the father of twelve tribes. Twelve being the number of completeness again shows us that God’s promises to the patriarchs are being completely fulfilled. God doesn’t forget his promises ever even when it includes non-covenant peoples.

The last thing we can learn from this section of walking through Esau’s family cemetery is that in contrast to the expanding, powerful Esau, Jacob was dwelling in the land of the sojournings of his father. At this time, he had no clans, no full tribes and no lands to govern. Esau was an ever-growing family with chiefs and a land that his clans are ruling. Jacob like his father and grandfather before him was a sojourner, an alien in an alien land. It would be another 400+ years until the tribes and nation of Israel would come into their Promised Land and finally see the promises of God fulfilled in their family. Delitzsch notes poignantly that “secular greatness in general grows up far more rapidly than spiritual greatness.” The promised spiritual blessings demands patience in faith, and emphasizes that waiting while others prosper is a test of faithfulness and perseverance. God will give the promised blessings to Jacob’s seed but only after a long refining and proving of the faith. That prompts me to ask and for us to think about a couple of questions. Do you find yourself at this moment waiting for God’s blessings as others around you have seemingly received theirs already? Do you feel like you are going through God’s refining fire at this very moment? As you ponder these questions, maybe these next steps are for you: My next step is to ask God to give me patience and faithfulness as I wait on his timing and perfect plan to receive his blessings. My next step is to ask God for perseverance as he refines me in his fire, proving my faith.

My conclusion comes from a series on Genesis on written by Steven J. Cole: On the Shetland Islands off the northern coast of Scotland, a man spent five years and a lifetime of savings building a 62‑foot steel yacht that weighed 126 tons. On the day of its launching, he invited a local band to play and the whole town turned out to help him celebrate. He planned a voyage around the world as soon as the boat was launched. The band played, the bottle of champagne was smashed across the bow, and the ship was lowered into the water. But it sank to the bottom of the harbor! What good is a beautiful boat that doesn’t float? That man wasted five years and a lot of money building a useless thing‑‑a boat that didn’t float. What good is a successful life that ends, whether in 25 or 85 years, if the person is not ready for eternity? “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” Today’s tour through Esau’s cemetery is over and I hope it’s made you think about your life and what you are living for. While we still live, we all have a choice: To join Jacob and his descendants in waiting patiently for God to fulfill His covenant promises to us, as we labor for His coming kingdom. Or, to look over at Esau, prospering in the world, and join him in the pursuit of secular success. If we succeed by worldly standards, but fail with God, we have failed where it really matters. Whether we fail or succeed by worldly standards, if we succeed with God, we will have true and lasting success.

As the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offering and as Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final song, let’s close our study of God’s Word in prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, as we contemplate you and the mighty deeds you have done in your Word and are still doing today, I pray that we would stand in awe of you and that we would cultivate a righteous, reverent fear of you. You are the Lord God Almighty!!! Help us to be patient and faithful as we wait on your blessings in our lives according to your perfect plan for each one of us. And daily give us perseverance as you continue to refine us in your fire, proving our faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.













The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

One of my favorite movies is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It is a 1966 spaghetti Western directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood as "the Good", Lee Van Cleef as "the Bad", and Eli Wallach as "the Ugly". The plot revolves around three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in buried Confederate gold amid the violent chaos of the American Civil War. Clint Eastwood, plays Blondie, who is a good, but nowhere near perfect, humane bounty hunter. Lee Van Cleef, plays “Angel Eyes”, who is a ruthless, borderline-sadistic mercenary, who takes pleasure in killing and always finishes a job for which he is paid. Eli Wallach plays Tuco or the “Rat”, who is a fast-talking, cunning, cagey, resilient, and resourceful Mexican bandit, who is wanted by the authorities for a long list of crimes. Throughout the movie, Blondie and Tuco, run a scam on the sheriffs in the country. Blondie turns Tuco in, collects the bounty, and then saves him right before he is about to be hanged. After a number of these rescues, Tuco complains about being the one sticking his neck out and Blondie leaves him for dead in the desert. Tuco survives and captures Blondie and force-marches him across the desert until he is near death with dehydration.

A chance encounter with a civil war soldier who has buried the confederate gold leaves Tuco with the name of the cemetery and Blondie with the name of the grave where the gold is buried. Tuco needing Blondie’s help, nurses him back to life. They then find themselves in a Union prison camp where Angel Eyes is also trying to discover the location of the cemetery the gold is buried in. All three embark on the quest to find the gold, and in the final scene, there is a three way duel to decide who gets the gold. In the end, Blondie wins the duel with Angel Eyes and gets the gold and splits it with Tuco, but not before making him dig up the gold and sparing his life once again. Blondie’s character is considered the “good” one but he has many flaws and doesn’t always do the right thing. He also goes through many ups and downs throughout the movie but in the end he gets the reward.

This story of a “good” but flawed and nowhere near perfect person, going through many ups and downs, but getting the reward in the end, reminds me of the story of Jacob. He is the “good” one in that he will be the next covenant carrier of God’s chosen people. He has been a liar and deceiver and has been deceived himself. His life has been full of good, bad and ugly, some of which is his own doing, but he has been rewarded with a new name and later his descendants will possess the Promised Land and he will have children like the dust of the earth. In our passage this morning Jacob’s good, bad and ugly will continue. Jacob gets a new son, but loses a favored wife. He also has a new sorrow because of the actions of his firstborn and another death in the family. But in the end Jacob is given a new standing as he takes over the patriarchal role from his father. God’s blessing continues to be poured out and God’s plan continues to move forward no matter what happens, be it birth or death or heinous crime. Which brings us to our big idea this morning that the good, the bad and the ugly of life can’t stop God’s promises, blessing, and plan for his people. According to God’s will, His promises, blessing, and plan can’t be stopped in the world, in the church or in our lives because of what we do or because of what happens to us. ​​ 

Let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we come before you this morning humbly asking for your Holy Spirit to speak to us as we open your Word. May we be attentive to your Spirit as we open our hearts and minds to what you want us to know and learn today. Thank you for this opportunity to be gathered together in your house with your people for this purpose. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

There are three points this morning. The first is A New Son and is found in Genesis 35:16-20. This is what God’s Word says, “Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.”

After God meets Jacob at Bethel and reaffirms the promises to him, Jacob and his family leave Bethel, going in the direction of Ephrath. While they were still some distance away, Rachel goes into labor. We are told that she is having great difficulty in giving birth. Rachel must have been really pregnant when they left Bethel and we may wonder why they didn’t just stay there if she was ready to give birth. It doesn’t say God commanded them to leave Bethel like he did to leave Shechem. In fact, back in verse 1, God told Jacob to settle in Bethel. We are not told why they moved on from Bethel but it may have had something to do with returning home to reunite with his father, Isaac. This would have been in keeping with his vow in Genesis 28:21 that if God would protect Jacob so he would “return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God.”

In the middle of her difficult childbirth, her midwife tells her not to despair because she is having a son. This seems to be a weird thing to say to Rachel knowing that she is dying. But in that day and age it would have been a most comforting thought for a woman who knew she was going to die giving birth. We know that the birthing of a boy was very important as it meant that the lineage and family name would be carried on. So the midwife, knowing Rachel was going to die, comforted her with the fact that she was having a baby boy. Rachel knowing she was dying named her son, Ben-Oni which means, “son of my trouble or sorrow.” It seems that Rachel refused the comfort that her midwife tried to give her. Interestingly, this is the only child born to Jacob that the author of Genesis does not give the meaning of their name.

Then we see something happen that is rare in the Bible. Jacob changes his newborn son’s name to Benjamin, which means, “son of my right hand.” The right hand was the side of honor, power and favor and brought to mind skill and wisdom. Psalm 110:1 says, “The Lord says to my lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” And Ecclesiastes 10:2 says, “The heart of the wise inclines to the right but the heart of the fool to the left.” Saul, the first king of Israel and Paul the Apostle both came from the tribe of Benjamin. Why did Jacob change his name? A lot of times children whose mothers died in childbirth were blamed and Jacob didn’t want his son to be saddled with guilt every time his name was used. He probably also wanted the memory of his beloved wife to be a pleasant one whenever he called his son’s name. Because he was the son of the favored wife, Jacob gave Benjamin a special place, at his right hand.

This episode would have reminded the first hearers of a couple of things. First, Rachel named her firstborn son, Joseph which means “may God add.” Rachel’s prayer to the Lord, when she had Joseph, was that he would give her another son. This birth was the fulfillment of that prayer. Second, it would have also reminded them of Rachel’s words to Jacob in Genesis 30:1, “give me children or I will die.” Ironically, having this child would cause Rachel’s death. Third, they would have been reminded of Jacob’s judgment of death on the one who stole Laban’s household gods. It may be significant that her death comes after Jacob orders his family to get rid of their false gods. But we shouldn’t believe that Rachel’s death was a judgment from God. Weirsbe says, “Life is full of good and bad, joys and sorrows and the same baby that brought joy also brought tears.” This reminds us of our big idea: the good, the bad and the ugly of life can’t stop God’s promises, blessing, and plan for his people.

Finally, we are told that Rachel dies and she’s buried on the way to Ephrath probably on or near the site that Benjamin was born. Jacob honored his beloved wife’s memory by putting a pillar over her burial tomb and the author tells us the pillar was still there when Genesis was written. This is the third time he has erected a pillar to commemorate some event or person. In Genesis 28:18 he commemorates God meeting him at Bethel the first time. In Genesis 35:14 he commemorates God meeting him at Bethel a second time and here he commemorates Rachel’s death. Mathews says, “The location of Benjamin’s birth and Rachel’s tomb are important to the narrative providing a reference point for future generations, indicating that the last son was born in the Promised Land. Even Rachel’s burial demonstrated God’s word was truthful. Although she lived outside Canaan her final resting place was permanently in the land of promise as the matriarch of Israel’s tribes, Ephraim & Manasseh (Joseph’s sons) and Benjamin.”

Our second point is A New Sorrow found in chapter 35 verses 21-22a. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.”

Jacob or Israel and his family move again. And again, we may believe he is wanting to return to his father’s house but we see him “pitching his tent” beyond Migdal Eder. Jacob just doesn’t pass through on his way to his father, he “pitches his tent” there meaning he settles down there. We don’t know why he does this but knowing his history we can surmise nothing good will come from it. In Genesis 33:18-19, we see Jacob arriving and camping within the sight of Shechem. Jacob buys a plot of land from the father of Shechem and “pitches his tent” there. We know what happens next in chapter 34 to Dinah and to all the males living in Shechem. So we don’t know why he settled there but it sets the stage for Jacob’s next sorrow. We are told that Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, sleeps with his father’s concubine, Bilhah. Notice that Bilhah who has always been mentioned in relation to Rachel is now identified in relation to Jacob making this a crime against his father.

We may wonder what is going on here but if we think about who Bilhah is it may shed some light on it. She was the maidservant given by Laban to Rachel upon marrying Jacob. She had two sons to Jacob, Dan and Naphtali. Now that Rachel was dead it is possible that Bilhah would take over the favored place that Rachel held with Jacob and in his household. Also, we remember that Reuben was Leah’s firstborn son so this may have been a way to disgrace Bilhah so his mother could take over the favored place. Also, Reuben as the firstborn would have received his father’s concubines, servants, etc. upon Jacob’s death, but he was not yet dead. This is the equivalent to the Prodigal Son wanting his inheritance before his father had actually died. This just wasn’t how it was done in that culture.

All the commentators pretty much agree that Reuben wanted to steal Jacob’s authority within the family. For a son to sleep with his father’s wife was a declaration that he was now the head of the family. Did Reuben think he could run the family better than his father? Is Jacob losing control of his family? In the last chapter his daughter, Dinah, is defiled and he hears about it but what does he do? He waits till her brothers get home instead of taking care of it himself as the father and head of the household. What does he do here when Reuben sleeps with Bilhah? It says he heard about it but our scripture doesn’t say he does anything about it. His authority seems to be eroding more and more with each episode. Wenham says, “Posing these questions before the Joseph story begins gives us a sense of tension between Jacob and his sons descended from Leah and between the sons of Bilhah and Rachel on the one hand and the sons of Leah on the other.” This short isolated episode gives us the indication that the good, the bad and the ugly in the next generation will again concern birthright, inheritance and favoritism.

What Reuben did would have been considered a heinous crime and the penalty would have been death and God’s curse. The name “Israel” is mentioned three times in verses 21-22 which emphasizes the tribal implications of Reuben’s crime against his father. This coming on the heels of God’s blessing of Jacob and reminding him of his new name, Israel, shows that this crime was committed against not only Jacob but God. By trying to take Jacob’s place within the family he is also trying to take Jacob’s place as the next covenant carrier that God had bestowed on him. We will have to wait another fourteen chapters to see how Jacob finally handles this situation but for now this episode is gone as quickly as it came which speaks to the author’s horror at what transpired. In Genesis so far we have seen that scripture doesn’t gloss over sin and wickedness but it doesn’t sensationalize it either.

Our third point this morning is A New Standing found in chapter 35 verses 22a-29. This is what God’s Word says, “Jacob had twelve sons: The sons of Leah: Reuben the firstborn of Jacob, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah: Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram. Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.”

What we see first is this list of the twelve sons of Jacob. With the birth of Benjamin, the family of Jacob is complete and these sons will be the ancestors of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. The list starts with Leah and her children with Reuben specifically mentioned as the firstborn. Next, comes Rachel and her two sons. These are followed by the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah. This listing of the sons by their mothers focuses us on the rivalry between the brothers that we will see in the Joseph story. This list also emphasizes the faithfulness of God in keeping his promise that Jacob would have offspring like the dust of the earth. And the fact that they reside in Canaan fulfills the promise of land to Jacob.

The list of names is followed by the caveat that these sons of Jacob were born to him in Paddan Aram. But, we know that Benjamin was born in Canaan, in the Promised Land, so what is the author trying to tell us? There are times when the Bible is more interested in making a point than being factual. The point is that just like the first hearers, eleven of Jacob’s sons, who would be the ancestors of the twelve tribes, were also born outside the Land of Promise. They had to make a pilgrimage to the Promised Land just like the first hearers are going to have to do later on. The first hearers are better able to relate to the twelve sons of Jacob who would become their ancestors. The fact that Benjamin was born in the Promised Land would impact the nation of Israel as well later on. Being born in the land meant that he had clear title to it. And later on the place where he was born and where Rachel was buried will be part of the land that the tribe of Benjamin occupied when they came out of slavery and entered into Promised Land. This list of Jacob’s sons is a witness to God’s blessing that these sons were only the beginning of the chosen nation to come. This list is also evidence that God’s promises, blessing and plan will continue in spite of sin and death. Big Idea

Lastly, we see the reuniting of Isaac and Jacob and the obituary of Isaac as his toledot comes to a close. We notice the lack of emotion in their meeting unlike the emotion that we saw when Jacob and Esau reunited. It is significant that Isaac is now living in Mamre or Hebron. The last we saw he was living in Beersheba. It may be that Isaac moved to Mamre when Rebekah died so she could be buried in the Cave of Macpelah. We know from Genesis 49:31 that she was buried in the family tomb that Abraham had purchased from Ephron in Genesis 23:17. This move also makes sense in that Isaac would be buried in the same tomb when he passed away. The identification of Hebron associates Jacob with his ancestors, Abraham and Isaac.

Next, we see Isaac’s obituary. He lived one hundred and eighty years which was eighty years after he thought he was dying when Jacob stole Esau’s blessing. Chronologically, this means that he lived to see the day that Joseph was sold into slavery. It says Isaac breathed his last and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. “Gathered to his people” meant he was part of an ongoing family beyond the grave. He was also “old and full of years” meaning he lived to a ripe old age and was satisfied with the good long life he had. He was ready to be reunited with his family who had gone before. This parallels the obituary of Abraham which connects Isaac and subsequently Jacob to the chosen patriarchs. Isaac was admittedly the least talked about of the patriarchs but he lived longer than his father and his son. ​​ He was a most important bridge between Abraham and Jacob even though less is recorded about his life than about his father, sons and grandson, Joseph. Isaac was essential to the survival of the chosen family and the perpetuation of the promises of God. Genesis 21:12b says, “Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”

Finally, we see that his sons Esau and Jacob buried him. The death of Isaac brought his sons together just as the death of Abraham brought together Ishmael and Isaac. The mention of Esau sets us up for his genealogy seen in the next chapter. Wenham says, “Isaac is buried in the only real estate acquired by Abraham in Canaan, at Mamre, a place where the promises had been fully revealed. So the death and burial of Isaac in ripe old age in Mamre is a pledge of Israel’s ultimate possession of the land.” Isaac’s death changed Jacob’s standing. He was now the head of the covenant family and heir to the family blessings and promises. He not only acquired Isaac’s great wealth but also inherited all that was involved in the Abrahamic covenant. His God would now be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

As I conclude today, I want to talk about two things we can notice in chapter 35. The first is spiritual renewal. Last week, Pastor Stuart talked about Jacob needing to be spiritually renewed. Why? First, because human memory is faulty. Jacob needed to be reminded of the things he promised the Lord. Second, because human commitment is fickle. Think about why he had to order his family to get rid of their foreign gods? It’s because they had foreign gods. He knew all along that his family had these gods but chose not to do anything about it until confronted by God. Third, because human fortunes change. Jacob made these promises before he had a family and was responsible for anything other than himself. Fourth, because human life is fleeting. Deborah, Rachel and Isaac all die in this chapter. Our lives become so full of work, family, play, etc. that our spiritual life gets left behind and when death happens our sense of being gets turned upside down. We need to be spiritually renewed to meet life’s tragedies in proper, godly way.

So, how is spiritual renewal experienced? First, Jacob needed to get back to basics. The Lord called him back to Bethel where he reminded him of his new name and the earlier promises to him. And Jacob responded by setting up a pillar and pouring a drink offering on it. Second, Jacob needed to get rid of barriers. He needed to rid himself of the foreign gods he had accumulated. He needed to get rid of those things that were producing conflict in his spiritual walk with the Lord. Without doing this there would be no lasting spiritual renewal. Which leads us to our first next step. What are the things in our lives that are producing conflict in our spiritual walk with the Lord? Think about that for a second. Maybe this first next step is for you: to search my life and get rid of the foreign gods that are producing conflict in my spiritual walk with the Lord.

The next step in our spiritual renewal after getting rid of the foreign gods in our lives is daily devotion to our God. This means daily being in God’s Word and hiding God’s Word in our hearts. This means regular participation in public worship and consistent fellowship with God’s people where sharing and caring for one another happens frequently. One of the things we have at Idaville Church to help with our spiritual renewal is the Spiritual Life Journal. The 2023 SLJ with our theme for the year, “More Like Jesus”, just came out and is on the slat wall in the foyer. Inside, are questions that you can ask yourself about your relationship with God. The memory verses that we are learning as a congregation are in there. The Daily Bible Reading Plan is in there. The Spiritual Life Journal can be a guide to help you be spiritually renewed in 2023. That brings us to our second next step which is to use the Spiritual Life Journal as a guide for my spiritual renewal this year.

Now the second thing we can notice in chapter 35 is that despite his spiritual renewal Jacob’s troubles were not over. Spiritual renewal doesn’t exempt the people of God from the ups and downs of life. There are still consequences of our own actions and the actions of those around us. But spiritual renewal does equip God’s people to be strong enough to handle anything that comes their way in a world where sin, death and heinous crime abounds. Wiersbe says, “It means walking with God by faith, knowing that he is with us and trusting him to help us for our good and his glory no matter what difficulties he permits to come our way.

As the ushers prepare to take up the tithes and offerings and the praise team comes forward to lead us, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we leave this place this morning, speak to our hearts and minds about our own personal spiritual renewal. Help us to search ourselves and get rid of the foreign gods in our lives that keep us away from a productive personal relationship with you. Guide us through times of ups and downs and never let us forget that they can’t stop your promises, blessing and plan from being fulfilled. In Jesus’s name. Amen.