Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 16, Gen 46-47.

Today's readings are Gen 46-47

Jacob's family moves to Egypt in Gen 46. God has used all the hardship and struggles of Jacob and his sons to place them exactly where He wants them. He has graciously provided for them when all those around them are starving and dying. He will now use Egypt to build them into the nation He promised they would become. Keep your eye on what God is doing here. It is not by coincidence that Egypt is a synonym for the world and its fallen nature in the Bible. Rather than His people becoming victims of Egypt, this powerful nation will become a tool in God's hands used to refine His people.
Jacob and his family travel to Egypt
God makes a promise to Jacob (Israel). God Himself will take Jacob to Egypt and bring him back to the Canaan. Jacob's son, Joseph will "close his eyes" (Gen 46:3-4). In other words, Jacob will see Joseph again and they will be together until Jacob dies. It sounds as though Jacob will go to Egypt, bring Joseph back to Canaan, then die. But, this is a promise within a promise and shows us that we should be careful how we interpret God's promises. As we will see, God will indeed bring Jacob to Egypt. God will also return him to Canaan (The Promised Land), but not until after he dies in Egypt. He and the nation named after him will be blessed in a mighty way. But, Jacob will die while he is in Egypt and be buried in his homeland.   

As Jacob's life ends, we see that God has used his struggles to bring him closer, to change him, to bless him and those around him. Furthermore, He will do the same with Jacob's sons. Each of them, even though they may have some good points, are as flawed and troubled as Jacob was. God shows us that He is the hope and redemption of a dysfunctional, struggling family. They have been petty, jealous, manipulative, deceitful, disobedient and fearful. Yet God has chosen Jacob and his twelve sons to bless the world. Keep this in mind as the story of Israel unfolds. 

The heads of the twelve tribes have been identified. These are the patriarchs of ancient Israel. Many regard them as pillars of virtue and godliness. But, far from possessing Charlton-Heston-Cecil-B.-DeMille nobility and virtue, they are amazingly normal people. 

Meanwhile, in Gen 47 we see Joseph, the one who was sold into slavery to the Egyptians, now selling the entire nation of Egypt into slavery. As a people, they were unknowingly dependent upon God for the wisdom that saved them, the wisdom God gave Joseph. God provided the food they are eating through Joseph's gift of administration. Now the people of Egypt, who continue to follow Pharaoh, have no possessions and no land. Pharaoh has everything. He appears to be a somewhat benevolent leader. Pharaoh sees something in Joseph that causes him to trust him. Yet, Pharaoh does not follow God and leads the nation in godlessness. Yet, while the world starves, Egypt is blessed.

Egypt has become a picture of God's common grace. As a country, she benefits from God's goodness without calling upon Him as the one, true God. She remains a pagan nation led by a pagan ruler even though Pharaoh has seen God's blessing in Joseph. Pharaoh continues to deny God and follows other gods. God allows this because He is using Egypt for His own purposes in providing for His chosen people. Pharaoh and Egypt will prove to be key in God's promise to bring His people back to Canaan.

It would be easy to look at Egypt and feel offended that God is caring for them. "They haven't earned God's grace and favor!" our sensibilities scream. But, neither has Jacob and his family. In another few generations, God will say to Moses, "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." (Ex 33:19) 

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