Introduction: This week we move forward in Joseph’s life to his years as exalted Prince and Provider of food during the famine in Egypt, and then continue to climb by faith to an even higher plane of encouragement as we celebrate with Jacob his being gathered triumphantly to His fathers in the faith at the moment of his death in Genesis 49.
Mon/Tues: read Genesis 47:13-25; Deuteronomy 8:18 and Psalm 104:27-30. Joseph’s harsh regimen for Egypt over the seven years of want are an emergency measure to save the lives of starving Egyptians (and the rest of mankind) from famine. Even the Egyptians themselves – who lose all their money (47:14); livestock (47:17); land (47:20) and even their own bodies to serve Pharaoh (47:21-23), respond in Genesis 47:25 by declaring that Joseph has indeed saved their very lives. These are the harsh realities throughout world history – that there is no such thing as a ‘free lunch,’ and that without a provider such as Joseph, survival will be impossible.
In the same way for us as believers, we know that the very breath of our mouths, as well as the works of our hands, will all wither unless sustained by God. In the words of Deuteronomy 8:18, it is God “who gives us the power to gain wealth,” and it is the Lord who provides us with the most basic of necessities. When He in His justice chooses to afflict this fallen, undeserving world, then all that men have acquired can blow away on the ill winds of Divine Providence. In terms of Psalm 104:28-29, “when God opens His hand, we are filled with good things” … but “when You hide your face, we are dismayed; when He takes away our breath, we die and return to the dust.”
It is a sober reality that without the ongoing blessing of God on all that we own and enjoy, our lives can be reversed overnight! Therefore, let us avoid the foolishness of the rich farmer who built bigger and bigger barns – because he assumed there would be years of enjoying the good things of this life. He gave no thought to God – until his very soul was demanded of Him when God came to him unawares (Luke 12:20)! Instead, let us depend moment by moment on God’s provision and ever wise rule over our lives.
Meditate and Pray: What great reason for thanksgiving we enjoy, since we have one greater than Joseph and one who is able to “save our very lives” – not just our bodies, but our souls as well! More than that, let us give thanks that because He is our Redeemer, He has purchased by His blood on the Cross all we are and have. We are not our own! So our ‘investment’ and our ‘inheritance’ are safely stored up, and cannot be destroyed by anything that happens in this world – even devastating famine and death!
Sing about God’s provisions for our every need with hymn # 95:
1 Though troubles assail us and dangers affright,
Though friends should all fail us and foes all unite,
Yet one thing secures us, whatever betide,
The promise assures us, The Lord will provide.
2 The birds, without garner or storehouse, are fed;
From them let us learn to trust God for our bread.
His saints what is fitting shall ne’er be denied
So long as ’tis written, The Lord will provide.
3 When Satan assails us to stop up our path,
And courage all fails us, we triumph by faith.
He cannot take from us, though oft he has tried,
This heart cheering promise, The Lord will provide.
4 No strength of our own and no goodness we claim;
Yet, since we have known of the Savior’s great name,
In this our strong tower for safety we hide:
The Lord is our power, The Lord will provide.
Wednesday: read Genesis 47:25-30 and Hebrews 11:13-14. What a contrast between the destitute, bowed down nation of Egypt, which (apart from Joseph’s intervention) has nothing to eat for the seven years of famine – and the constant care for Israel which the Lord provides through Joseph in Genesis 47:12 & 47:27! The Lord takes great care in providing exactly what is needed among His people – down to the littlest and the weakest – whereas the unbelieving world finds itself unable to sustain even the very basic provisions of life. What a judgment from God on this world, and what a comfort for God’s church!
Meditate and Pray: We often don’t appreciate the full extent of God’s care for every aspect of our lives! Even down to when the time came that Jacob must die (Genesis 47:29), each moment was synchronized by God! Why, Jacob was even confident by faith that God already had His “burial plot” arranged back in the land of Canaan, and therefore made Joseph swear that he would not bury him in Egypt! The verdict on such far-seeing faith is clear from Hebrews 11:13-14: “For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.” Oh may the Lord enable us to speak to our sons and grandsons as Jacob did, about the future certainties which God has promised those who trust Him!
Thursday: read Genesis 47:29-31 and 49:29-33. We saw yesterday how the Lord orchestrates every detail and aspect of His people’s lives – even down to the moment they die and where they are buried. But there are clues in today’s Scripture reading which show that God cares for more than just our burial. Jacob confesses the extent of His hope in God’s minute care at death as follows.
He says to his sons that, when he dies, he believes God will open a way back into Canaan so that he can “lie with his fathers.” This happens when Joseph takes his father’s body back to Canaan in Genesis 50:13. But Jacob underlines not only his desire to be buried with his family. Even more important, he proclaims that he will be at death “gathered to his people.” This is the important concluding description of Jacob’s state at the moment of death – “Jacob breathed his last and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 49:33).
Meditate and Pray: Give thanks that not even the experience of death could separate Jacob from living, spiritual communion with those of God’s people who had gone before! How does our Confession of Faith put it, describing our communion as God’s people, whether down here or in glory?
“All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by his Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory…” (Chapter 26:1)
Friday: read Genesis 49:33 and Genesis 25:7-8. Genesis 49:33’s description of Jacob’s soul being caught up immediately into heaven at the point of his death is not used only here. Abraham’s death is described in the same way in Genesis 25. Abraham dies and is ‘gathered to His people’ (Gen. 25:8). For Abraham and Jacob after death to be added to a definite gathering of God’s people implies that there was still a living group to which they would be joined after death. Adam, Eve, Abel, Enoch and others of real, saving faith are still alive, and Abraham and Jacob are ‘gathered’ to them in death! Believers are not gathered as corpses into the mass grave of history; they are rather welcomed by the host of saved sinners who surround all true believers while they run their earthly course (Hebrews 12:1).
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that to have Him as your God means to have God’s people as your own family – even after death. There is even now a huge cloud of witnesses, including Abraham, urging us on. They say: ‘It is all true. Heaven is waiting; your inheritance is kept safe for you. Keep walking the road of faith and you will receive the crown of life which does not fade away!’
Saturday: read Genesis 25:8-18. A secure inheritance in heaven, with a waiting heavenly Father and a real heavenly family waiting to welcome us, is sadly not the inheritance of all men. Though both Isaac and Ishmael bury their father Abraham in Gen. 25:9-11, Ishmael, as a rebel against all men (Gen. 16:12), does not reap the spiritual benefit of associating with Isaac, the blessed son of The Promise (Gen. 25:11). Like Esau who follows in his profane steps, Ishmael doesn’t value the blessing which God has bestowed on Isaac. His family tree, therefore, is only briefly mentioned in Gen. 25:12-18 and then he is cut off forever: with no further historical evidence of interaction with the One True God.
Meditate and Pray: Let us thank God that by faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior and Holy Seed of Isaac and Jacob, we can be spared the terrible alienation and rootlessness of Ishmael. The promise for us is clear: ‘Yet to all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gives the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.’