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 “Bible.org.” 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 Bible.org 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.