Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Promise Preserved...

Genesis, chapters 37 through 50, tells us the story of Israel’s sons and of one in particular, Joseph. In the story of Joseph, we see the promise of God’s coming Kingdom preserved through Israel’s sons and Joseph’s faithfulness.

Israel (Jacob) has returned to the promised land of his forefathers. He has received the promise of a land, being made into a great nation and having all nations on earth blessed through his offspring. After the death of his father, Isaac, he makes a tenuous peace with his brother, Esau (Genesis 35:27-29). His favorite wife, Rachel, dies while bearing him her second son, Israel’s twelfth (Genesis 35: 16-20).

The twelve sons of Israel are to become the twelve tribes of the nation Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher.

Trouble brews when we are told that Joseph loved all his sons but loved Joseph as his favorite. A few blogs back, I briefly told the story of Joseph. He was a dreamer. He even dreamed and shared with his brothers and father that one day, they would all bow down before him. It just increased the jealousy the brothers had in their heart for Joseph but Israel kept this in mind (Genesis 37:1-11).

The brother plotted and sold Joseph into slavery letting their father think Joseph had been killed by a wild animal (Genesis 37:12-36). However, God had preserved Joseph and the promise through Joseph by sending him to Egypt (Genesis 37:36).

Through a series of God-events, Joseph rose to power in Egypt only to be second to Pharaoh himself (Genesis chapters 39, 40, 41). Joseph interprets a dream for Pharaoh telling him that there will be seven years of abundant harvest followed by seven years of famine. He outlines a plan to save Egypt and her people and Pharaoh rewards Joseph by placing him in charge (Genesis 41:41-57).

As famine covers most of the known world, it reaches Canaan and the family nation of Israel. Israel sends his sons, minus the youngest Benjamin, to Egypt to get food. To bring the story full circle, the brothers wind up having to bow down to Joseph and ask to buy grain (even though they don’t recognize Joseph at this point – Genesis 42).

Again, through a series of God events, the brothers have to return a second time and ask to buy grain. During this time (Genesis 43 to 45), Joseph makes himself known to his brothers, they reconcile and Joseph sends for his father and whole household to come live in Egypt due to the prolonged drought.

There were 70 in all from Israel’s family nation who went down to Egypt. They probably did not know that they would be there over 400 years when they first went. Joseph’s brothers asked him at least twice for forgiveness for what they had done (selling him into slavery and passing him off for dead to their father). Joseph assured them that, “And now, do not be distressed and o not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…” (Genesis 45:5). Later, after Israel’s death and the brothers are afraid once more that Joseph might retaliate for what they had done, Joseph assures them again saying, “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.” (Genesis 50:20)

One final promise was spoken to Israel by God. When Israel was struggling with the decision whether or not to go down to Egypt, God spoke to him in a vision saying, “I am God, the God of your father…Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you and I will surely bring you back again…” (Genesis 46:3-4)

God’s plan will always be accomplished. God’s purpose will always stand. He planned for Israel to become a mighty nation, set apart for Himself. This happened and He used the nation of Egypt and Joseph’s faithfulness to preserve His promise. God’s ways and thoughts are not the same as ours. They are as high as the heavens are apart from the earth. They are as wide as the east is from the west when compared with ours. What God promises, that He will bring about. He is God, there is none other.

So, the family of Israel, 70 in all, have gone to Egypt. God has preserved the promise by providing for them. Little did they know that they would stay there for over 400 years and grown into a people too numerous to count.

Next blog: The Promise Perfected…

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