Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Israelites and Moses in Egypt (Exodus 1-2).

God promised Abraham multiple descendants and a homeland to bless the world (Gen. 12:1-3). The blessing would come through Abraham’s son, Isaac, and through Isaac’s son, Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons but due to a famine they end up in Egypt where they are taken care of by Jacob’s son, Joseph, who rose to power in Egypt. The 'Book of Exodus' begins with Israel multiplying but becoming slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh sought to exterminate the Hebrew baby boys, but God was raising up Moses who would rescue Israel from Egyptian bondage. In this story we find God shaping the life of Israel’s future deliverer and working in severe circumstances through ordinary people to accomplish God’s good purpose for His people. Watch or listen to the story here and read the comments. https://www.dropbox.com/s/hpnmt401rjyke90/16.%20The%20Israelites%20and%20Moses%20in%20Egypt..MP3?dl=0 
Joseph and his brothers died but the Abrahamic blessing continued because Israel became exceedingly numerous though they were in Egypt. A new Pharaoh, who didn’t know or care about Joseph, came to power in Egypt who thought the Israelites were too numerous. He feared they would fight with their enemies against Egypt and leave the country.  They put slave masters over Israel and forced them to build store cities for Pharaoh. The Egyptians worked Israel ruthlessly in ‘brick and mortar (See Gen. 11:3)’ and in their fields. Joseph had built great stores of grain for Egypt so that both Egypt and Jacob’s family flourished despite the famine. But when Joseph was forgotten the Pharaoh forced Israel to build him store cities. With God’s help Israel was multiplying and with Israel’s help Egypt was prospering. 

Yet, Pharaoh oppressed the Israelites, but the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and Egypt came to ‘dread’ them (Exodus 1:12). The Pharaoh sought to eliminate the Israelites as a distinct people by commanding the Hebrew midwives to kill the Hebrew baby boys. But the midwives didn’t obey Pharaoh and God gave the midwives families of their own because they feared God more than Pharaoh. A Levite couple had a son, who was a fine child, and they hid him for three months until they could hide him no longer. The mother waterproofed a basket with tar and pitch (see Gen.6:14), put her child in the basket, and placed it along the banks of the Nile as the child’s sister stood by to see what would happen to him (Exodus 2:1-4).

Pharaoh’s daughter, who came to the river to bath, sees the basket and has her slave girl retrieve it. They find a Hebrew baby crying and she feels sorry for the child. She sends the baby’s sister to get a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby. Ironically, the Pharaoh’s daughter ends up rescuing the child and paying the baby’s own mother to nurse him. When the child grew older he became the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and she named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” God’s chosen deliverer of Israel, Moses, would actually become the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. As an adult Moses was watching the Israelites at their forced labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, so Moses looked around, killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand. The next day Moses saw two Hebrews fighting and he asked the one in the wrong why he was hitting a fellow Hebrew. The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge… are you going to kill me like you killed the Egyptian?” Moses realized people knew about what he had done (Exodus 2:11-15)

When Pharaoh found out what Moses had done he tried to kill Moses, who fled to live in Midian. In Midian, Moses was sitting by a well when the seven daughters of the priest of Midian came to draw water for their flock. Some shepherds tried driving them away, but Moses rescued them and watered their flock. The girls returned home and explained to their father how the Egyptian rescued them from the shepherds and watered their flock. Moses ends up staying with them and the man gives Moses his daughter, Zipporah, to be Moses wife. Moses and Zipporah had a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, “I’m an alien in a foreign land.” Now during this time the king of Egypt died and the Israelites groaned in their slavery. Their cry for help went up to God, who heard their groaning, and remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob (Exodus 2:16-25).

The Israelites greatly increased in number even outside Canaan in a strange land. The Pharaoh who knew not Joseph oppressed forced hard labor upon the Israelites but the more they were oppressed the more they multiplied. The Pharaoh tasked the Hebrew midwives with exterminating the Hebrew baby boys but they feared God and refused to obey Pharaoh. Then when Pharaoh told his own people to eliminate the Hebrew baby boys, Moses was born. Then when his parents could hide him no longer, it was the Pharaoh’s own daughter actually rescued Moses. Throughout the story the Israelites are challenged to trust that God was working out His plan and God was working out His plan through rather ordinary or even unlikely people. The purpose of God triumphed for when Israel was oppressed they multiplied. When the midwives feared God then not only did Israel become more numerous but God gave the midwives their own families. When Pharaoh commanded his people to throw the Hebrew baby boys in the Nile it was Pharaoh’s own daughter who rescued Moses. Now the Old Testament rescuer, Moses, points us to the Lord Jesus Christ who through his death and resurrection rescues God’s people from sin and death and Satan.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Joseph and his brothers in Egypt (Gen.42-47).

The command to Adam to “be fruitful and multiply” is restated to Noah and it becomes a promise to Abraham (Genesis 1:28, 9:1,12:2). God will give Abraham a homeland and multiple descendants to bless the world. In the Joseph story, Abraham’s descendants are in the land and have become a large family through Jacob’s twelve sons. Jacob favors Joseph, the sons are full of jealousy, and Jacob’s family is in no position to bless the world. Watch or listen to the story here and read the comments below.
Famine brought Joseph’s family to Egypt where God had elevated Joseph so that he managed Egypt’s food supply. Unknowingly, the brothers bow before Joseph as in Joseph’s dream (42:6-8). Joseph tested his brothers to determine whether they had changed in the twenty years that Joseph had been in Egypt. He gave them the opportunity to leave Simeon in Egypt with their pocket full of silver. Then they are given the opportunity to solve their problem by abandoning Benjamin in Egypt and grieving their father. Yet, through these tests they were reconciled to Joseph, to each other and to God.  Joseph’s brothers intended to harm Joseph but Joseph realized that it was God who sent him to Egypt and elevated him to prominence in order to bless Jacob’s family and the world (42:24, 28, 45:7).

Jacob sent his sons, without Benjamin, to buy grain in Egypt. Jacob didn’t trust his sons to take care of the youngest son, Benjamin, Joseph’s brother. In Egypt the brothers bow before Joseph, but fail to recognize him. But Joseph recognizes his brothers and he accuses them of being spies. The brothers claim they are the honest sons of one father, and their youngest brother was with their father in Canaan, but one of them was no more. Joseph put his brothers into prison for three days to test them. Joseph shows them kindness by letting the brothers return with food to their families. He sets up a very specific test by holding Simeon and refusing to let them return to Egypt without Benjamin. The brothers acknowledge that they are being punished for what they had done to Joseph (42:21). Reuben had told them not to kill Joseph and Judah had said they would be better off selling him to the Ishmaelite traders. Reuben’s plan to rescue Joseph failed and Reuben became an accomplice by going along with their plan to make it look like Joseph had been killed. Joseph imprisons Simeon, puts their silver in their sacks and sends his brothers home (42:37-38).

Joseph orchestrated his test to see if they would act differently. Given the opportunity would they abandon Simeon in exchange for silver (37:28, 42:33–34)? The brothers tell their father that they were accused of being spies. Being accused they explained to the man in Egypt that they were twelve sons of one father; the youngest son was with their father in Canaan and one was no more. Joseph refused to let them return to Egypt without their youngest brother. But Jacob refused to risk losing Benjamin as he had once lost Joseph. Reuben proposes that Jacob put Reuben’s two sons to death if Benjamin didn’t return. But why would Jacob be consoled by killing two of his grandsons? Jacob’s responded, “Joseph is dead, Simeon is gone and if anything happens to Benjamin you’ll bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow (42:37-38).”

When their food ran out Jacob tells his sons to go to Egypt. Judah reminds his father that they can’t go back to Egypt without Benjamin. Judah takes responsibility saying that if anything happens to Benjamin Judah would bear the blame all his life. So Israel tells them, “Go; take gifts for the man, double the silver and Benjamin and may God be merciful so that you all return (43:2-15).” In Egypt the brothers tell Joseph’s steward they had brought back the silver they found in their sacks. The Steward tells the brothers that their God had given them treasure. Then Simeon is returned and they are taken to Joseph’s house where they bow before Joseph. Much to their surprise, they are seated in their proper birth order and when their food was served Benjamin’s portion was five times that of his brothers. Benjamin is shown special favor (like Joseph was) but now the brothers were able eat and drink together without being jealous.  

Joseph filled his brother’s grain sacks, put their silver back and put his silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. Joseph sent his steward who caught up with the brothers and said, “You have stolen my master’s silver cup.” This they denied but when they opened their sacks and the cup was in Benjamin’s sack. The brothers bow before Joseph and Judah says, “We are all now your slaves.” But Joseph said, “Only the one with my cup will become my slave.” Joseph gave his brothers the opportunity to become angry with Benjamin (44:16–17) and to abandon him in Egypt. Judah said that Benjamin is their father’s youngest son, the only son of his mother left and if he is harmed they would send their father’s gray head down to the grave in sorrow. Judah pleads to be made a slave in Benjamin’s place for he could not bear seeing the misery that would come upon his father (44:18-34).  Overwhelmed with how much his brothers had changed Joseph reveals himself as their brother, who they sold into Egypt. Moreover, Joseph sees what they did as God’s plan to save lives. Joseph threw his arms around Benjamin, kissed his brothers and wept over them.

Joseph tells them to bring their father and their families to Egypt where Joseph would provide for them during the famine. Joseph gives them abundant provisions for the journey and tells them not to quarrel. Jacob didn’t believe that Joseph was alive and ruling in Egypt until he saw all the gifts Joseph sent. Then Jacob said, “My son Joseph is alive and I will go to him before I die.” Later God would tell Jacob that in Egypt He would make Israel into a great nation and they would return them to Canaan. In Egypt, Joseph threw his arms around his father Jacob and Israel said, “Now I am ready to die, since my son Joseph is still alive.” God had made it clear to Jacob that this temporary migration was all according to plan (46:3–4). The Israelites multiplied in Egypt and when it was time for Israel to die, he made Joseph promise to carry him out of Egypt and to bury him with his fathers in Canaan. Joseph swore to Israel, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff with hope in a future resurrection (Heb.11:22).

The story reveals how God orchestrates the events of his world to fulfill His good purpose for His people. The Sovereign God used the flawed character of His people to accomplish that good purpose. What the brothers meant for evil, God meant for good (45:7, 50:20). God was fulfilling His covenant promise to multiply redeemed images to bless the world. Wherever Joseph was he was a blessing, but the brothers needed to be reconciled and the Israelites needed to be multiple. Joseph willingly forgives his brothers for he looked beyond their treacherous acts to the sovereign hand of God. The story helps us to know and trust that God is in control of everything that happens in our lives in this world. Consequently we can see beyond our personal struggles to God’s bigger plan to fill the world with redeemed images who will do God’s will on the earth.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Joseph in Egypt (Gen. 39-41).

God promised Abraham multiple descendants and a homeland to bless the world. The fulfillment would come through Abraham’s son, Isaac and not Ishmael, and through Isaac’s son Jacob and not Esau. Jacob disguised himself as Esau, so that Isaac gave Jacob the Abrahamic blessing (Gen.12:1-3). Esau planned to kill Jacob, so Jacob went to live with his Uncle Laban and eventually married Laban’s two daughters, Rachel and Leah. Jacob had twelve sons through Leah, Rachel and their maidservants. Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife, gave birth to Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, and later Rachel died while giving birth to Jacob’s twelfth son, Benjamin (35:18-19).   These twelve sons of Jacob became the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel.  

Now Jacob loved his son Joseph more than his other sons and so his brothers hated Joseph. Joseph told his brothers two dreams that he had and his brothers took to mean that Joseph planned to rule over them. This caused his brother’s to hate Joseph all the more. Given the opportunity Joseph’s brother sold Joseph to some Ishmaelite traders who took Joseph to Egypt where Joseph became a slave. The brothers smeared blood on the special robe that Jacob had given Joseph to make their father think that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal (37:31-33). This takes us to the story of Joseph in Egypt from Genesis 39-41. Watch or listen to the story and read the comments below.   https://www.dropbox.com/s/7adc0pudj01ojzw/14.%20Joseph%20in%20Egypt..MP3?dl=0
In this story Joseph resists temptation but ends up in prison. Yet, God was with Joseph in prison and everything he did succeeded (39:3, 23). Then after Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams the Pharaoh made Joseph his second-in-command in Egypt. Joseph implements a plan that preserved both Egypt and his own family. This story begins with Potiphar not needing to concern himself with anything in his house with Joseph in charge or so he thought (39:6). Potiphar’s wife notices Joseph and tries to seduce him but Joseph refuses to sin against God. Once when Joseph was alone in their house Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph’s cloak but Joseph ran out leaving his cloak behind. Potiphar’s wife claimed that Joseph attacked her but that he fled when she screamed.  So Potiphar put Joseph in the prison where the king’s prisoners were kept.

Joseph resisted temptation but was falsely accused and thrown in prison. Yet, the Lord was with Joseph and the prison warden put Joseph in charge of everything in the prison (39:20-21). One night Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker, who were in prison with Joseph, both had dreams which they couldn’t interpret. Joseph said that interpretations belong to God so they told Joseph their dreams. The cup-bearer saw a vine with three branches that blossomed, its grapes ripened and he squeezed the grapes into Pharaoh’s cup. The baker dreamed that he was carrying three baskets on his head and the top basket was full of baked goods that the birds were eating. Joseph said in three days Pharaoh would restore the cup-bearer but hang the baker and that is exactly what happened (40:20-23).

The cup-bearer forgot about Joseph until two years later when Pharaoh had two dreams. In the first dream Pharaoh saw seven fat healthy cows come out of the Nile then seven thin ugly cows came out of the Nile and ate the fat cows. In the second dream, Pharaoh saw seven healthy heads of grain then seven withered heads of grain sprouted and swallowed the seven healthy heads. Pharaoh’s wise men were unable to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. The cup-bearer told Pharaoh about the Hebrew prisoner, Joseph, who had accurately interpreted his dream. So Pharaoh sent for Joseph and Joseph said that God would interpret Pharaoh’s dream (41:9-16). Pharaoh told Joseph his dreams and Joseph said that there would be seven years of abundant harvests followed by seven years of famine. So Joseph told Pharaoh to store a fifth of the harvest from the abundant years and to put a wise man in charge of Egypt. Pharaoh put a robe on Joseph, gave him a ring, a gold chain and Joseph was made second-in-command in Egypt (41:37-43).

At the age of 30, after 13 years as an Egyptian slave and a prisoner, Joseph became Pharaoh’s second-in-command. The seven years of abundance came and Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain. When the famine came the people cried to Pharaoh for food and the entire world came to Joseph to buy grain (41:46-57). So God was with Joseph and blessed him even when Joseph was a slave and a prisoner and eventually Joseph was exalted to a position of authority in Egypt. All along God was working behind the scenes in Joseph’s life to preserve Israel and bless the world. Even today God is with those who trust in him, and He works out everything in our lives for our good (Romans 8:28). We cannot assume that God will turn our adverse circumstances around in the same fashion as Joseph’s were. However, this story encourages us that God works even through the difficult times in our lives for our good. God promises to work out everything in our lives according to His plan to restore this world and redeem a people for Himself (Romans 8:19-21, 28, Acts 3:21).