Sunday, December 5, 2021

Hebrews 6:13 -20 - "THE CERTAINTY OF GOD’S PROMISES"



We have a key word in our text: “Promise”[1] (6:12,13,15,17). Before we unpack that, let me ask you a few searching questions: 

Can you remember promises that have been made to you, but which weren’t kept? How did you feel about that? What impact did that have on your life? 

And then these questions: Can you remember promises that you made and didn’t keep? What impact, do you think that has had on others, and what would have been  the result of those broken promises?

Is there anyone in this world that has not experienced broken promises? 

And then this last and important question: Is there anyone who never breaks a promise? 

Last week Pastor Brits took you through that challenging text in 5:11- 6:12, in which the writer warns his readers concerning the real danger of apostasy – of falling away, of cutting yourself loose from the heavenly gift, the Lord Jesus (6:4), the promised Saviour and the chilling consequence of that: 

“It is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted  the heavenly gift, and have  shared (tasted)  in the Holy Spirit and have  tasted  the goodness of the Word of God and of the powers of the age to come, and then  have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance…”  (6:4-6)

The writer however expresses his confidence that this is NOT the case with his readers:

9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Well, there we are.  He is convinced that these men and women who are tempted to abandon Christ, the promised Saviour, will not do so, but that they will persevere  in the  full assurance of hope and  that they will be  imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

The promises…This now becomes our connecting thought in 6:13, where we read concerning the  promise God  made to Abraham: “For when God made a promise  to Abraham…”. Let’s stop and rehearse what we have learned so far.

We have learned that this letter was written to Hebrew Christians who struggled to hold on to their faith in Jesus alone. They were tempted to substitute the absolute glory of Jesus with the lesser glories of created glorious beings like the angels. They were tempted to substitute the Lord Jesus, that perfect man from heaven with great and revered, but imperfect men, like Moses.

The problem lay in the fact that the Christian life must be lived from the principle of faith in Christ ALONE. Here is the problem. We must live in the future hope of His promises (e.g. John 14:1-3), and that is not easy. We have believed in Him, and we believe that He has redeemed us from the consequences of sin, but we are groaning inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).  There is incompleteness while we are waiting and Romans 8:18-24 makes that very clear. We have been told that there is more to come. There is an inheritance in the waiting.  We are heirs[2] - we will inherit[3]  the full promise of our salvation, but it takes so long! We must wait for our promised inheritance in “faith and patience”.  It is this waiting process, that is so very challenging.  To live this Christian life we need faith and patience. We need to live in the hope of the future promises of God. This is very difficult for our generation which lives very much in an  age of instant gratification. 

We don’t like waiting. 

We don’t do well with patience.  

But that  is what is required  here, and again I ask you to consider  6:11,12, which   introduce us to  our  text  which deals with the certainty  of God’s promise.  God’s promise is obtained by patience, faith, hope – all looking towards the future. 

This is what we learn here.

Abraham- an example 

And now we are given the example in the person of Abraham, last mentioned in 2:16. Abraham is a massive figure in the Bible when it comes to illustrating the practical outworking of faith, hope and patience. These attitudes exemplified in the life of Abraham help to persevere in the Christian life and to obtain the promise. Faith, hope and patience in Christ are the antidote to drifting away (2:1) and falling away (3:12). They are the antidote to developing a hardened heart (3:7,13, 15; 4:7). They are the antidote to becoming dull of hearing (5:11) and sluggish (6:12).

And now we need to see something beautiful and so very encouraging in this. At the heart of this passage is not a call to self- effort, to do more. At the heart of this passage is a promise from God. The call is  not to do more, but to trust more, to lean more upon God’s promises!

Back to Abraham! Remember that Abraham became God’s friend by virtue of the fact that God first appeared to him   in Ur of the Chaldees (Gen. 11:31, 12:1).  God sought out Abraham. Thereafter God called him and then He gave him a promise, that He would bless and multiply Abraham’s offspring (Gen. 12:2,3 cf.re- iterated in  Gen. 22:15-18). The promise, was accompanied by an oath, and since there was no one higher to swear by, God swore the oath – which is “final for confirmation” (6:16), by Himself (6:13). An oath bears “the unchangeable character of His purpose” (6:17) and this purpose will stand because God cannot lie (6:18).

Having said that Abraham   had to patiently wait for a very long time to obtain the promise. The promise was a son to be born of the covenant wife, Sarah. Isaac was born against hope when his wife Sarah was old and barren, and when he was already 100 years old (Gen. 21:5). 

How did Abraham cope in this long, long wait?  Well, he believed God! To be sure, Abraham doubted the promise at times, but that  doesn’t mean that the promise itself was ever in doubt. The promise comes from God, who cannot lie.  The same is true for us. Just because we, at times doubt God’s promises, that doesn’t mean that His promise is ever in doubt. He keeps His promises, because God’s character is unchangeable and “it is impossible for God to lie,” (6: 18). It may have taken a long time for it to come to pass, but God brought it about in His own time.  God is never in a hurry, but always on time.  And so, Abraham hoped against hope (Romans 4:18-25).  He trusted God to build his covenant family line,…”and thus  Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise” (6:15).  This patience was built on the basis of faith and the  assurance of hope  (6:11,18). And that   is all built on the  unchangeable character of God’s purpose guaranteed by an oath  (6:17), so that  by two unchangeable things  (i.e. the promise and the oath), in which it is impossible for God  to lie, WE who have fled for refuge (to Jesus) might have strong encouragement  to hold fast to the hope set before us (6:18)

This hope, says 6:19, is a “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.”  An anchor keeps a boat from drifting away.  

What is the nature of our soul anchor? How do we know that the anchor will hold? Again, we are reminded  that,  that anchor held for Abraham, because God  had promised, on oath, that he would be the father of many nations.  

Now we need to apply  all this to these  dull of hearing, sluggish,  Hebrew Christians who were in danger of drifting away. We also need to apply this to ourselves.  God's great promise on oath to them and to us is the Lord Jesus Christ, our great High priest, after the eternal  order of Melchizedek (this will be explained in Chapter 7)

Hope in the Work of Christ!

6:19 says that we have, “a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.”  

6:20 says that Jesus is “a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”  The concept of an OT high priest entering behind a curtain into the holy of holies to make atonement is  a strange concept  to us. To the Jews the concept of a priest in the order of Melchizedek (and nor according  to  the order of Levi) was  even stranger.  But the big point is that we do need a high priest to present   the sinner before a holy God! That was the function of the Old Testament priest, and in many ways that is still the Roman Catholic model.  

So then, who is the priest to whom the NT Christian must look?  Many evangelicals are tempted to look  to their  pastor (cf. the Corinthian church problem with Apollos, Peter and Paul[4] ). But we must not do that.  Our great pastor and High Priest is Jesus ALONE. 

He ALONE  is the promised gift from God. 

Jesus ALONE can deal with our sin and our guilt.  

Jesus ALONE secures the promise and blessing of God.  

Jesus ALONE secured the promised land (Heaven) and the promised rest for us. 

Jesus ALONE can do this because He ALONE is qualified to enter into the presence of God, behind the curtain,  into the holy of holies. His going into the holy place in heaven and offering Himself as a sacrifice on our behalf, His resurrection, His ascension, enables Him to be the Mediator between a holy God and a sinful people.

Jesus ALONE is God’s promise by whom and through whom we can enter into that great assembly of true believers. By Him ALONE we inherit that great promise and blessing of a city and country whose designer and builder is God (see 11:10). That is where we are heading. That is our promised destiny. That is  our future hope.

So, in times of temptation and inclination to drift, when we become sluggish, we must hold on to the promise given by oath. God has fulfilled the promise and the oath by the blood of His Son on the cross. He is our anchor.   The anchor is one of the earliest symbols in the history of Christianity. He ALONE is our promise and hope. Hold on to  Jesus – and the fulfilment of  His promise  in patience, and faith and hope -  to be where He is (John 14:1-3)

In 1572 the Scottish Reformer John Knox (1514 – 1572) was dying. In his last hours he asked his wife to go get his Bible. He asked her  to “read where I first cast my anchor”. She read to him the verses where he had first come to faith in Jesus Christ,  and the text  where he had first found hope. It was in John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”  In His death He held on to the promise of Christ.[5]

The temptation for us to drift away may not be the same as those Hebrews who were tempted to turn back to Judaism, but the temptation for us is certainly always that we may be looking for hope somewhere else other than the Word of God and the work of Christ. We tend to  regard this world as our only home. Therefore many put their hope in the solutions that man offers for our many earthly problems. We look at political and philosophical solutions. We put our hope in better education or in social reform, but what does it lead to? We still feel like being adrift in a sea of change and unpredictability.

We have a better soul anchor. We have that greater hope, and we must look to Jesus with patience and faith. 

And it is no risk at all. You may trust His Word entirely, for all God’s promises are yes and amen in Christ  (1 Cor. 1:20). He will not fail you.



[1]  Promise : epangelia lit.  “to proclaim/ announce upon” – an undertaking to give or do something ( Vine), hence a promise

[2] Rom. 8:17

[3] Eph. 1:11,14,18

[4] 1 Corinthians 1:12

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Genesis 42 : "When Joseph’s Dreams Come True!"

 


In Genesis 41 Pharaoh, dreamed (interpreted by Joseph) of a famine that would come upon the ancient near eastern world, and upon Egypt in particular. This severe drought and famine was ordained of   God (41:28). We learn of God’s mercy in this famine, in that He   gives Joseph a strategy for survival at this time. Joseph, with God given insight   recommends that grain should be stored in the 7 years of abundance prior to the drought. By this means the pagan nation of Egypt and the surrounding nations (42:5) and especially the covenant family in Canaan will be preserved through a time when normally  many people would have starved to death. Here is the beginning of the story of   the survival of Jacob (Israel’s) family in a fallen world. This is the story of the preservation of God’s people. 

This chapter has three sections. The middle section will occupy   most of our attention and will include a study on the power of the conscience.  

OUTLINE

1.      42:1-5  CANAAN : Jacob sends his sons  to buy grain in Egypt

2.      42:6-28  EGYPT : Joseph’s dream in Chapter 37 comes true

3.      42:29-38 Back in CANAAN

 1.      42:1-5  Jacob sends his sons from Canaan  to buy grain in Egypt

The predicted severe drought (41:27) has come upon the region. The situation is desperate in Canaan, where unlike in Egypt there is no prior revelation of the drought and therefore no planning had been done.  Joseph’s[1] foresight and planning in storing up grain (by God’s intervention) becomes known in Canaan: “Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt…” (42:1). He instructs his sons (who were questioningly looking at one another) “to go and buy grain …that we may live and not die” (42:2).

Earlier in Genesis 12:10 we note that Abraham  had been in a similar situation,  and  Abram went down to Egypt[2]. Jacob chose not to go to Egypt, perhaps because he was too well established in Canaan. We note then that this severe providence from God forces some of the covenant family to make the journey to Egypt since this drought became now a matter of life and death. Benjamin, the youngest son, and son of his favourite wife Rachel, and Joseph’s only full brother,   is not permitted to go. “He (Jacob) guards Benjamin with an apprehensiveness that has grown out of his loss for Joseph”[3].  One just never gets over the death or loss of a significant person, does one?   But the 10 sons must go, and as big doors turn on small hinges, so this ‘natural event’ will produce so much more than Jacob (or anyone) is presently able to see or perceive, not only in terms of the reconciliation and preservation of Jacob’s family, but also in terms of the bigger picture, by which  we see God preserving  and redeeming His people in all ages,  time and again.    So, when God works in this drought, He does a thousand things at one time. He makes Himself known  as the sovereign God who rules in the affairs (e.g. droughts / rain)  of the world. He is the all- knowing God who sends and interprets dreams, when magicians /diviners cannot. He is the God who rules the hearts of kings / pharaoh’s.  He is the God who saves and redeems. God uses one man, Joseph (a type of Christ), to save His covenant people. In the meantime He also shows his providential care for believers and unbelievers in providing food in desperate times.

2.         42:6-28 [EGYPT] Joseph’s dream in Chapter 37 comes true

In this section we observe six things,

(i)                 42:6 When Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt they providentially meet Joseph, not knowing that it is him, for he would have dressed and appeared like one of the Egyptians. They bow before Him here and repeatedly elsewhere[4]  and therefore Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37 comes true. Please note that one of those two dreams had to do with sheaves of grain bowing to Joseph.

(ii)               42:7,8: Joseph recognized his brothers, but he  does not disclose himself to them. It is difficult to say why he does not do so. Some think that he is perhaps being vindictive, trying to get back at them for all the wrong they had done to him.  Others are more generous, saying  that  God is  leading Joseph here  in  a process that will bring about true and proper repentance   from the heart on the part of the brothers for the thing that they did to him, and to their father and ultimately to their entire family. 42:21ff seems to point in that direction. I personally think that Joseph’s heart is in God’s hand, and He is steering  it  for His greater  redemptive  purposes.  Keep that in mind, particularly as we now consider the next verse:

(iii)             42:9 tells us that “Joseph remembered the dreams (cf. Gen.37) that he dreamed of them”.  But he cannot say anything yet. There is “heart work” to be done. The convicting power of God needs to work in the consciences first, and that is why we must be slow to speak.  Proverbs 15:28 says, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer…”. Oh the wisdom needed to speak only when the opportune time arrives – when the heart is ready to receive  truth, otherwise it would simply be a matter of throwing pearls before the swine (Matt 7:6)! Incidentally, the dream has his whole family bowing down to him (37:10). The whole family is not yet assembled. His young brother and his father  are  not yet   there, and we shall only see the fuller picture in 45:7ff.  Therefore  the  time is  not yet  right.  He knows that. Joseph begins by accusing them of being spies, sent out to see how vulnerable the land may be. The pressure is on them.

(iv)              42:10- 17 Joseph puts them under pressure to establish their motives. You need to see where he is coming from. These 10 brothers have had a devious history (37:2 “he brought a bad report of them to their father”), not forgetting of course their murderous intentions towards him. By putting them under pressure he will soon be able to see where they are at, and so he begins the test by accusing them of being spies, which probably would carry the death penalty.  They protest and say, “We are honest men” (42:11). And so they begin to talk about the tenderest part of themselves- their family: “we are the 10 sons of one man; we were originally 12 sons; one is with our father and one is no more” (42:13). Joseph puts more pressure. “I doubt your honesty. You are spies. Bring me a proof that you are honest. Bring your youngest brother” (42:15). And he put them in prison for three days (42:17). “How cruel of him”, you say. Keep the perspective!   They are in prison for only three days, but Joseph was in prison for three years, and in exile, away from home for much longer!  

(v)                42:19 -20.  And then he  set them free to go home and bringing proof  of the existence  of their youngest brother, Benjamin,  keeping  only Simeon  as  prisoner. He supplies them food for their journey. He gives them all their money back. These are not the actions of a spiteful, vindictive man. There is something far deeper, far profounder going on here, because God is in it,  and  we shall see that it leads to a process of true sorrow and repentance.  

(vi)              42:21 -28. There we are! Here is a true confession among themselves, which they did not  know that Joseph had understood: “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw him in the distress of his soul, when he begged us, and we  did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.And Reuben answered them, ‘Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.’” Here is the abiding power of a guilty conscience! They drew a straight line between the quandary they were now in to that terrible day when they sold their brother into the hand of the traders. Their consciences gave them no rest in this matter. Being instructed in the ways of the covenant  they instinctively knew that  this was God’s hand,  and therefore God's wrath against their sin. And,   for the first time they began an important  and truthful conversation concerning that which they had  sought to cover up for such a long time.  For the first time, they acknowledge that they have caused distress to Joseph’s soul.  For the first time they see the hand of God in their present distress.  Their guilty consciences are accusing them[5], and we see it again in 42:28. When they are on their way back home (minus Simeon) they find  that  as they opened the bags, they find all the money there. Joseph obviously had no intention of receiving money from his own family. Again we see the heart of this man.  But what is their response?  Their immediate response is, “What is this  that God  has done to us? ” In truth it wasn't that God was against them; their brother was for them!  

But their guilty consciences interpreted it in another way. Wise old Matthew Henry comments astutely,“Guilty consciences are  apt to take a good providence  in a bad sense”. 

We cannot dwell on this too much now, but let me leave you with a bit of counsel from the Puritan  pastor,  Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) on dealing with the conscience:  

“(i) the steps to a good conscience are first to be troubled by our sins, (ii) second to find peace by trusting in Christ (iii)  and  third to resolve to please God in all things. With these three elements active in our lives, we are positioned to grow more in a good conscience as we live by faith for God’s pleasure. The most important attitude is honesty and humility before God, for conscience always confronts us with the truth that God is Lord.[6]

In the meantime  Joseph is weeping (42:24), because he has heard everything that his brother  have said, and it is  certainly all a step in the right direction and towards reconciliation.

3.         42:29-38  Back in Canaan

Here we find Jacob and his sons upon their return, and now without Simeon.  We see Jacob upset, and we see that the brothers are now not telling lies .Once before they had reported to him a gross lie concerning Joseph. Now they tell him word for word what has happened, and they squarely face their father’s  accusing words in  42:36: “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.”  Of course Jacob did not yet know the final truth about Joseph. He had no idea how it was going with Simeon. Grief has distorted his mind.  His favouritism towards the sons of Rachel comes out again. One can't imagine how this would have come across to the other sons, and yet  Reuben steps forward, and he says, “ you may kill my own sons  if you will entrust Benjamin to me.” (42:37). Reuben is determined to honour his word to the Prime minister of Egypt. What a change!  In spite of harsh words from Joseph, harsh words from their father, they are acting like humble, repentant men. And they are prepared  for once, to be men of their word. They take it on the chin, and they are willing to see this through. This is the beginning of a big work of God in their family. 

I am not sure what God is currently doing in your lives and in your families.  Joseph's  story  teaches us that God’s strange and painful providences are designed to humble us for the purpose of restoring us to a God  ordained lifestyle. They make us see ourselves for that which we really are - sinners in need of restoration and of much grace, and always in the hands of a good God. He works out all things for His glory and our good (Rom. 8:28).  So, ask yourself, “What is providence currently doing in my life, and how may I embrace it?” Then pray, and trust God for the favourable outcome.  



[1] known in Egypt as  Zaphenath-paneah  (41:45)

[2] Famines in Genesis : 12:10ff (Abraham) ; 26:1 (Isaac) ; 41:27ff (Jacob)

[3] Leupoldt: Genesis  (Vol.2 ) p. 1044

[4]

[5] See also Romans  2:14-16 where Paul discusses the power of the conscience even in the lives of  non Christians

[6] https://www.challies.com/reading-classics-together/the-christian-conscience/  For more details on restoring the conscience, see “A Puritan Theology”  (pp. 919–25).

Monday, November 15, 2021

Genesis 41: "When Dreams Come True! " [#2 Pharaoh's Dreams]

 


Chapters 40 and 41 have dreams and interpretation of dreams contained in their story lines.   This fact does not make this a proof text for a “theology of dreaming”. It does not lend legitimacy to make something of every dream we dream. This is not the point of the narrative. Dreams are incidental and not central to this narrative. The point of the story of Joseph’s life is the story of God’s leading and preservation of His covenant people. And today again,  we shall move closer to   seeing how God uses ‘all things’ to work out His plan of saving and preserving His chosen people, now through Joseph, against the background of many setbacks  and disappointments.

Outline

41:1-8  Pharaoh’s dreams.

41:9-14  Joseph remembered

41: 15 -28 Joseph  hears and interprets the dreams

41: 29- 36 Joseph counsels Pharaoh 

41:37- 57  From prison to  prime minister

1. 41:1-8  Pharaoh’s dreams.

41:1 “After two whole years…”. One of the great disappointments for Joseph must have been the fact that he was forgotten in prison.  The cupbearer to Pharaoh who was spared from death (40:13,21) was asked  specifically by Joseph to  remember him to Pharaoh, but instead he forgot  him (40:23). Imagine that! This act of forgetfulness earns Joseph two more long years in prison before God’s providence brought him out. Again we see and observe that God’s mills grind slowly. This phrase was coined by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow[1] who wrote, 

Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.”  

God is in all the tedious details. What seems  a  waste of time to man  is the outworking of God’s plan with all patience, and  precise timing, working everything for His own glory, whilst preserving His people through  some hectic situations.

The situation unfolds as Pharaoh has a troublesome dream (41:1-8): “So in the morning, his spirit was troubled” (41:8). His dreams troubled him. The cupbearer and baker were likewise troubled by their dreams (40:6). He immediately sent for his magicians and wise men, “but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh” (41:8).  All the magic of Egypt could not solve Pharaoh’s anxiety.  And it’s time for God to shine again, as He brings   His servant Joseph   out of the shadows, out of the most unlikely place – prison, and  into the presence of the mightiest man in Egypt!  We are on the verge of an amazing development. In a short while we shall see Joseph rise from prison to prime minister!     

2. 41:9-14 Joseph remembered

As no one is found to help the Pharaoh, the chief cupbearer suddenly ‘remembers his offenses’ (41:9). He remembers how Joseph helped him with an accurate interpretation of a disturbing dream. He tells Pharaoh about this young Hebrew and the accurate interpretation of his dream (41:12). Pharaoh wastes no time. We are beginning to see that God had appointed Joseph for such a time as this. Joseph groomed himself before he appeared before Pharaoh, “he shaved himself and changed his clothes” (41:14). The Hebrews tended to wear beards, whilst Egyptians did not. Joseph made himself presentable.

3.  41: 15 -28 Joseph hears and interprets the dreams

Pharaoh begins by explaining his dilemma to Joseph:  ‘I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it’ (41:15) …. and in 41:24:  and I told it to the  magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me’.   Before we get to the dream we take note of this important caveat.  Joseph tells Pharaoh, with utter humility:   It is not me that can interpret the dream. God will give a Pharaoh favourable answer.’ (41:16), Joseph’s faith in God shines. He tells Pharaoh that neither his magicians, nor Joseph himself, but God is the revealer of dreams (41:25). It is not because he has some innate power, but because God is at work here. God is using   Joseph to reveal to Pharaoh how He is intending to sustain them   through a very trying time.

In 41:16-24  Pharaoh  tells him the  two disturbing dreams, and before  Joseph  interprets them, he gives Pharaoh another important theology lesson.   He makes 2 things clear: (i) God is the Revealer of dreams (ii) God ordains the future …’God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do.’ (41:25). God not only knows what is going to happen, but He knows what is going to happen because He has ordained what is going to happen.  Even Egypt is in the hand of the God. Nothing and no nation  is outside the reach of God.

After hearing the dreams Joseph sees that ‘the dreams are one.’ (41:25,26).  Pharaoh needs  to understand that it is God  that rules Egypt and the world and so  we find this  insignificant  Hebrew boy, a prisoner, lecturing  the mighty Pharaoh (considered a god in Egypt)  about the  doctrine of  the One True  God! He controls the future of Egypt, and He will show you in a moment what is coming upon your nation, and He will tell you what to do in that situation.

4.  41: 29- 36 Joseph counsels Pharaoh 

Pharaoh is now being given additional advice by this  young  Hebrew prisoner – slave,   who becomes to him a   prophet from God, and in the hand of God.  Not only does  God provide  Joseph  with prophetic foresight concerning the weather patterns for the next 14 years, but He also gives  Pharaoh wisdom and insight through Joseph  concerning the course of action that needs to be taken, and  the planning  that needs to be done.  All this needs speedy resolve, because God will bring this about shortly (41:32). Moreover   Pharaoh is advised that he will need an overseer – a wise and discerning man (41:33) to lead this process. We have no reason to believe that Joseph is thinking of himself in terms  of a future solution  here (cf. 41:39).  He is merely acting as God’s spokesman– period! And God is clear in His counsel through Joseph. This is the plan of action needed. You must get going immediately. Now, you must remember that Joseph did have organisational and managerial talent. We already saw that he left Potiphar’s home his first owner/ employer) in a better shape (39:3). He even left the (39:23) prison in a better shape. So, wait for it, as we see Joseph moving from prison to prime minister! Oh how the logic of God amazes us. David was the shepherd boy who against all odds became the greatest king is Israel’s history. And his greater son, the Lord Jesus, the Son of David, the eternal Son of God, became the incarnate Son of a humble peasant mother called Mary. He comes from glory into this sinful world. After His humiliation He takes up His majestic throne once more. He moves from this sinful world (having completed the work that the Father has given Him, back to glory). Truly God specialises in ‘calling into existence the things that are not’[2] (Rom.4:17). Joseph is called from prison to  high office.

5. 41:37-57  From Prison to  Prime minister

41:37 “…This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants (advisors)”.   How the tables are turned in a moment!  Pharaoh knows that this man Joseph is God’s spokesman, “since God has shown you all this, there is none  so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house….”. 41:38,39  shows us that  Pharaoh had  understood  Joseph's message. Joseph was plain and clear in letting Pharaoh know that his source of authority was God (41:16 cf. 40:8). Pharaoh instinctively knows that it will be with his household – the nation of Egypt – because the sovereign God of the Universe is in charge here. It is a good thing when politicians listen to the one true God and when they care about their   people’s future.  And so he makes Joseph second in charge, that is, prime minister of Egypt (41:4-44). Again, remember that Joseph is a foreigner, from the tribe of  the Hebrews,  a shepherd tribe,  who are an abomination to the Egyptians (46:34).  This is a rare political move. Sadly,  we see politics often mixed up with nepotism, close  political allies , or bribery. Truly God rules here.  This is an application of Proverbs 21:1:  “ The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hands of the LORD;  he turns it  wherever He will.”[3]

And Pharaoh heaps authority and honours upon Joseph. He makes him second in charge (41:40), give him his signet ring and garments of fine linen, a gold chain (41:42)… a second chariot (42:43), … for citizens to bow the knee. Pharaoh also provides Joseph with a family (41:45). From this marriage will be born two sons, Manasseh (God has made me forget  all my hardship and my father’s house)  and Ephraim ( God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction) (41:51,52), raised  in the fear of YAHWEH who will be incorporated into the nation of Israel and who  will  become tribes  in Israel.  All this reinforces  the fact that this  could only have happened by the providence of God.  And Joseph was only 30 when all this  happened. He was sold into slavery more or less at the age of 18  or so. It would take more than 20 years  before he would be reunited with his family.

It is wise  to stop and reflect here upon the path that  Joseph  had  to tread  to get to this point. For many years, from being sold into slavery by his brothers, he had to patiently endure humiliation. His pain is reflected in the names which he gives to his sons. Through it all he remained faithful, patient and God focussed. And God, in His own time would bring His servant out.  

God did the same thing in the life of Abraham. For a long time Abraham waited for the fulfilment of the promise- a covenant son.  God did the same in the life of Jacob. It took many years and many difficulties, after being in exile for him to return to the land of promise. Patience and trusting in God is a major lesson God is us on our way to  our promised land- heaven!

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It is a Christian  virtue  (Col. 1:11,3:12). It is one of Christ’s characteristics (1 Tim. 1:16). Hebrews 6:12 teaches us to, “through faith and patience inherit the promises”.  2 Pet. 3:15 teaches us  to “count the patience of our Lord as salvation”. 

In  41:46-57  we find  a description of  Joseph’s administration – and all done , just as God had said and directed, as we move from the 7 years  of plenty to  the 7 years of  the famine – just as God had said. And  all this, though he does not yet know it, sets the stage for a reunification of Joseph  and his family – the covenant line of God in the world.   We see the beginnings of this in 41:56,57: 

“So when  the famine had  spread over all the land,  Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the  earth came to Egypt to Joseph  to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.”  

And Chapter 42  will begin with these words, “ When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt…”

What a grand view of the sovereignty of God.  Here we are shown that God will send a famine upon the entire known world  in order to advance  and  bless the family of Jacob- the offspring of Abraham to whom the  promises of the covenant apply.  God rules the world for the sake of his people! God is shaping world events in order to  preserve His chosen family.

So, dear Christian family, do not fear.  God rules this world and the Universe for His glory, and if you are in Christ, then He rules this universe for your benefit also.

 



[1] Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882) was an American poet and educator

 

[2] The reference here is to  Abraham whose wife Sarah was barren and could not produce  an offspring for the covenantal line. God did the impossible by giving her a son (Isaac) in her old age.

[3] The same can be applied in reverse. God may take his hands away from the king and hand him over to his own wicked designs.

Hebrews 6:13 -20 - "THE CERTAINTY OF GOD’S PROMISES"

We have a key word in our text: “Promise” [1] ( 6:12,13,15,17 ). Before we unpack that, let me ask you a few searching questions:  Can you...