The Mercy of God
“In the early 1950s teenage Lyle Dorsett and his family moved to Birmingham from Kansas City, Missouri. They were outsiders, often labeled Yankees by peers. But one summer evening in 1953, Dorsett was walking to his house after work and decided to take a shortcut through the campus of then-Howard College (now Samford University).
He was immediately intrigued by the sight he saw: a large tent on the football field featuring a magnetic preacher. As Dorsett drew near, he could hear evangelist Eddie Martin preaching on the parable of the prodigal son, calling other prodigals to come home. Dorsett said, ‘I knew I was the prodigal and … needed to come home.’
Martin asked those in attendance to return the next evening. Dorsett came early, and this time was seated near the front. When the call came, ‘the evangelist led me through a sinner’s prayer. I confessed my need for forgiveness. While being led in prayer, I strongly felt the presence of Jesus Christ. I sensed his love and forgiveness as well as his call to preach the gospel.’
Shortly thereafter, Dorsett and his parents joined a local Baptist church. However, 18 months later, Dorsett’s family moved back to Kansas City. On his return, gradually he drifted. During his time in college, he embraced a materialistic worldview. He received a Ph.D. in history but despite professional success, he began to drink heavily and became an alcoholic. His wife, Mary, who became a Christian after their marriage, began to pray.
One evening, he stormed out of the house after Mary asked him not to drink around the children. He found a bar and drank until closing. While driving up a winding mountain road, he stopped at an overlook and blacked out. The next morning, he woke up on a dirt road at the bottom of a mountain next to a cemetery not having any memory of the drive.
Dorsett cried out to God, ‘Lord, if you are there, please help me.’ At that moment, he recognized that the same presence he had met in Birmingham was with him in the car and loved him. The prodigal son had finally, truly come home. He said, ‘Although I made countless mistakes, the Lord never gave up on me.’
God then called Dorsett to full-time ministry, ordination in the Anglican Church, and eventually to the Billy Graham Chair of Evangelism at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, where he had first heard God’s call to preach.
Over the years God has proved to be a gentle Comforter—like when Mary underwent massive surgery for cancer, and when our 10-year-old daughter died unexpectedly. Certainly, the most humbling and reassuring lesson is his persistence in drawing me to himself. And it was he who pursued me and sustained the relationship when I strayed in ignorant sheeplike fashion, doubted his existence, and then like the Prodigal Son deliberately moved to the far country. And it is all grace—unearned, undeserved, unrepayable grace.
Source: Lyle Dorsett, “A Sobering Mercy,” CT magazine (September, 2014), pp. 87-88; Kristen Padilla, “A Fulfilling Ministry,” Beeson Divinity (4-12-18).
I have experienced the mercy of God throughout my life
I experienced the mercy of God when I lost both of my grandfathers a year apart (I was around 12 years old at the time)
I experienced the mercy of God when we moved to Birmingham, AL after my sophomore year of high school. I left behind a steady girlfriend, but the ending of that relationship, while it was difficult, was God’s mercy at work (now I have a beautiful wife of 32 years as of Thursday of this past week)
I experienced the mercy of God through several job transitions
I know that I can trust God to extend His mercy as I continue to live my life
Perhaps every one of us can remember a time when we experienced the mercy of God
For many of us we can recall God’s mercy in various stages of life
We will see today that the Egyptians experienced the mercy of God through Joseph’s administration of grain, and Jacob experienced the mercy of God through Joseph’s promise to him. The author of Genesis wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – The mercy of God is for all stages of life.
GOD (Genesis 47:13-31)
Procuring (vv. 13-26)
Contrast (v. 13)
As we saw last week, Pharaoh provided Jacob and his family with property and Joseph provided them with food (Genesis 47:11-12)
Now, in contrast to that, we see in verse 13 that there was no food available in Egypt or Canaan, because of the severity of the famine – Egypt and Canaan wasted away
Because of Joseph’s recommendation to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance, Egypt was not actually out of food
All of the food was owned by Pharaoh and had been stored in the various cities throughout the country (Gen. 41:33-36)
They had not used any of the reserves up to this point
Progression of procurement (vv. 14-22)
When it was time to begin distributing the grain, Joseph started with the money in Egypt and Canaan
He collected all of the money that was found in both countries
“The sense is that the people fervently rummage for money, ‘bringing every last penny.’” [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 857]
How many of us have experienced that feeling?
We have to rummage through our couch cushions or our car to find enough money to buy something
Judy and I experienced that when we moved back from California. We stopped at the Tropical Treat on our way back from Hanover to get ice cream with the boys and did not realize they did not take credit/debit cards until after we ordered. I started rummaging through our car and found a film canister that I had filled up with quarters. I canceled what I had order, but was able to pay for the rest with the money I had found in our car
When Judy and I were first married and still in college, she had a pair of jeans that would produce paper money at just the right time. It was amazing how we were able to go on a cheap date with the money her jeans produced. I do not think she has those jeans anymore. Of course, we realized it was God providing for us out of His incredible grace and mercy
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is merciful!
The mercy of God is for all stages of life.
Notice that Joseph did not keep any of the money for himself – he brought it all to Pharaoh’s palace
Notice the switch here from Egypt and Canaan to only Egypt
Only the Egyptians would forfeit their livestock, land, and lives
The Canaanites would not
I believe this is significant, especially as it pertains to The Promised Land
The Promised Land was reserved for God’s chosen people, therefore, it would not be owned by Pharaoh and Egypt
The Egyptians came to Joseph when their money was used up and asked him for food
Joseph barters with the Egyptians
He will sell them food in exchange for their livestock
Their livestock included
Joseph brought them through that year with food in exchange for their livestock
The various translations say it differently
Brought them through (NIV)
Fed them (KJV, NKJV, NASB20, NASB95, LSB, ASV, DBY, HNV)
Supplied them (ESV, RSV)
Provided them (CSB, NLT)
Got them through (NET)
Led them as a shepherd (literal translation NASB95, NASB20, LSB)
“He is said to have ‘brought them through’ (piel, from nāhal), a term that can indicate a gentle leading of the weak to a place of respite (e.g., 33:14; Ps 23:2; Isa 40:11; 51:18).” [Mathews, 857]
Psalm 23:1-3a, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.
Joseph mercifully leads the Egyptians through a difficult time in their lives
God does the same for us
The mercy of God is for all stages of life.
PRINCIPLE #2 – God, in His mercy, will lead us through any difficulty.
Deuteronomy 31:8, The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
Isaiah 41:10, So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Philippians 4:19, And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
What difficulty are you facing today?
Like the Egyptians, lack of food?
Difficult relationship? (family, friend)
Health issues? (feel normal again, do the things I used to do)
Emotional struggles? (anxiety, depression, fear)
Spiritual battle? (temptation, addiction)
Financial shortage? (debt, medical bills, foreclosure)
Just as Joseph mercifully led the Egyptians through their lack of food, God will mercifully lead us through our difficulties to a place of peace and rest
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Trust in the mercy of God to lead me through the difficulty I am currently facing.
Joseph bartered with the Egyptians for their livestock, but they were going to have to surrender more in order to survive the severe famine
Land and lives
The livestock lasted for just a year and now the Egyptians do not have anything else to use to buy or barter for food
They openly admit this to Joseph – they cannot hide the fact from him
I am certain that Joseph already knew where they were
The Egyptians actually make the offer of their land and lives to Joseph and he accepts
Seed is the third word used for what they are receiving from Joseph
In verse 14 they receive rations (šeḇer) [sheh’ber/shay’-ver] (this was threshed grain, corn, or cereal) in exchange for money
In verse 17 they receive food (leḥem) [lekh’-em/lekh’-hem] in exchange for livestock
In verses 19 and 23 they receive seed (zeraʿ) [zeh’-rah] in exchange for their land and lives
The reason they are bartering their land and lives was two-fold
They did not want to die
They did not want the land to become desolate or ruined
No one exempt except the priests
Every Egyptian sold his field to Pharaoh
They were now land tenants
They no longer owned the land, but farmed it for Pharaoh
The NIV says that Joseph reduced them to servitude
Other translations and the footnote in the NIV reference the Masoretic Text that says, Joseph moved the people into the cities
“To make food distribution easier, many of the farm workers were moved into the cities until such time as seed would be available for planting.” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 163]
This was also a way of reinforcing the fact that Pharaoh now owned their land [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 671]
Joseph did not buy the land of the priests
The priests did not need to sell their land, because Pharaoh gave them a regular allotment of food
They were not starving and about to die, like the regular Egyptians were
Just a reminder that Jacob and his family were also taken care of by Pharaoh and Joseph – they were not in need
The procuring is done – Pharaoh has all of the Egyptians money, livestock, land, and lives
Joseph takes it one step further
Futures (vv. 23-26)
Joseph established a law that was still in existence when the author of Genesis was writing (around 400 plus years later)
This was probably to ensure the success of all future Pharaohs who had priests and other groups to provide for
Joseph gave the Egyptians seed so they could plant the ground
When it came time to harvest the crop, they had to give one fifth (20%) of it to Pharaoh
They were allowed to use the other four-fifths (80%) as seed and food for themselves
This was a generous offer from Pharaoh
This was actually below average for the Middle East in ancient times
“First Maccabees 10:30 refers to a one-third tax on grain and one-half on fruit.” [Goldingay, 672]
Joseph was entrusting the seed that he had gathered during the seven years of abundance to the Egyptians, so that lives would be preserved and that God’s purposes would be fulfilled [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 245]
God does the same thing with us
PRINCIPLE #3 – God entrusts us with the good things of this earth for His purposes.
Psalm 24:1-2, The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
1 Timothy 6:17, Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain., but to put their hope in God, who richly provides for us with everything for our enjoyment.
1 Timothy 5:8, If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Proverbs 3:5-10, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
God has been generous with us
From the Old Testament we see the principle of tithing, giving 10% to the Lord of all that He has given to us
We also see the principle of offerings, which is anything extra that we give above our regular tithe
Giving is an act of worship, acknowledging God’s provision and care for us
It is also a way for God’s purposes to be accomplished here on earth (taking care of the orphan, widow, and poor; spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, etc.)
2 Corinthians 9:6-8, Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Give to the Lord a portion of all that He has given to me, so His plans and purposes can be accomplished.
Reaction of the Egyptians
The Egyptians were grateful to Joseph for saving their lives
They did not see Joseph as a tyrant that was treating them unfairly, but as a savior [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 591]
Joseph mercifully led the Egyptians through the seven years of severe famine
Next we will see that Joseph was merciful to his father at the end of his life by showing him kindness and faithfulness
The mercy of God is for all stages of life, whether we are going through difficulties in the middle of our lives or as we near death
Promising (vv. 27-31)
We know that the Israelites settled in Goshen during the time of the famine and acquired property there
We also know that Joseph provided for them until the famine ended
God was blessing the wombs of the women during this time and the Israelites produced a lot of offspring
This was the fulfillment of the promise given to Jacob in Genesis 46:3
They were becoming a great nation in Egypt
We learn that Jacob lived in Egypt for 17 years before he died
He was 147 years old when he died
Jacob realized that his time was short, so he called for Joseph to come
Joseph has the power and authority to make Jacob’s last wish come true
Joseph is also the oldest son of Jacob’s favorite wife
Jacob asked Joseph to make a solemn vow by placing his hand under his thigh (this was a common practice in the ancient near east)
PRINCIPLE #4 – God is pleased when we show mercy to our loved ones.
Joseph was showing mercy to his father by being kind to him and faithful to his vow
We too can show mercy to our loved ones as they near death by being kind to them and faithful to our vows
I have had the privilege of being with individuals and their families as they have neared death
It is such a sweet time of sharing memories, love, and kindness
I remember one person, who had their entire family with them in the hospital room
The family members were loving on them and perhaps making final promises to care for one another and treat each other with kindness
Maybe you made a promise to a parent or spouse
How have you been doing with that promise?
Have you been faithful to that promise?
Is there anything you need to do to keep that promise?
Perhaps you have a loved one who is nearing death
With dementia and Alzheimer’s being more prevalent today, it can be difficult to show kindness to that loved one, especially when they constantly repeat the same thing over and over again
You can show God’s mercy to them by being kind and compassionate during those times
I want to challenge you today to ask the Lord to help you be kind and faithful to a loved one who is nearing death
He will give you the strength to succeed!
Joseph promised and swore to bury his father in Canaan at Machpelah (Gen. 50:12-14)
Israel/Jacob worshiped the Lord
He was grateful to the Lord that his last wish would be fulfilled
He was also grateful to the Lord that clan leadership had been successfully passed on to Joseph [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 710]
Since, Jacob was too feeble to get out of bed and bow down in worship, he turned towards the head of the bed as a symbolic way of bowing [Kiel & Delitzsch, 245]
“Jacob’s desire was that his funeral would be a clear witness that he was not an idol-worshiping Egyptian but a believer in the true and living God.” [Wiersbe, 164]
Jacob did not want his ailing and feeble body stop him from worshiping the Lord
PRINCIPLE #5 – We should never neglect to worship the Lord.
Do you need to trust in the mercy of God to lead you through the difficulty you are currently facing?
Are you ready to give to the Lord a portion of all that He has given to you, so His plans and purposes can be accomplished?
Is there a loved one that you need to show mercy to?
Have you neglected to worship the Lord for something?
We can trust in the mercy of God to lead us through difficult times
We can show mercy to those in our congregation
We can worship the Lord for all He has done for us
“I recently read a story by a woman who said that as a girl she was poor. She said, ‘I grew up in a cold water flat, but I married a man who had money. And he took me up to a place where I had flowers, and I had gardens, and I had grass. It was wonderful. And we had children.’
‘Then suddenly I became physically sick. I went to the hospital, and the doctors ran all sorts of tests. One night the doctor came into my room, and with a long look on his face, said, ‘I'm sorry to tell you this. Your liver has stopped working.’
‘I said, ‘Doctor, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Are you telling me that I am dying?’ And he said, ‘I, I can't tell you any more than that. Your liver has stopped working. We've done everything we can to start it.’ And he walked out.
‘I knew I was dying. I was so weak, I had to feel my way along the corridor down to the chapel of the hospital. I wanted to tell God off. I wanted to tell God, ‘You are a shyster! You've been passing yourself off as a loving God for two thousand years, but every time anyone begins to get happy you pull the rug out from under them.’ I wanted this to be a face-to-face telling off of God.
‘And just as I got into the center aisle of the chapel, I tripped, I swooned, I fainted. And I looked up, and there stenciled along the step into the sanctuary, where the altar is, I saw these words: LORD, BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER. I know God spoke to me that night. I know he did.’
She didn't say how God communicated this to her, but what God said was, ‘You know what this is all about. It's about the moment of surrender; it's about bringing you to that moment when you will surrender everything to me. These doctors, they do the best they can. but they only treat. I'm the only one who can cure you.’
And she said, ‘There with my head down on my folded arms in the center of the chapel, repeating, ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner,’ I surrendered to God. I found my way back to my hospital bed, weak as I was.
‘The next morning, after the doctor ran the blood tests and the urinalysis and so forth, he said, ‘Your liver has started working again. We don't know why. We don't know why it stopped, and we don't know why it started up again.’ And I said in my heart, But I know. Oh but I know. God has brought me to the brink of disaster, just to get me to turn my life over to him.’”
Source: John Powell, "Prayer as Surrender," Preaching Today, Tape No. 108.