Summary: Keys to confidence: God has a plan for the future, God is not limited by time or place, God is faithful and all-powerful. As Jacob leaves Canaan for Egypt, God assures him that his covenant promises will continue there.
Facing the Future with Confidence—Genesis 45:1-46:34
(I projected an old picture of church people, stiffly sitting in church pews, with suits and ties.)
Do any of you remember those old times, or even some of those people? Suppose, by some quirk of time travel, a big screen would appear before them, showing all that is going on in our world today. There would be risqué television programming…ads for products they would not dream of talking about in public…family relationships they would find scandalous. And the most scary programming? The news!
Now imagine that we could see into the future, perhaps 20, 40 or 60 years from now. (Maybe in virtual reality, we could experience it.) As we would swoop across the earth, with nothing off limits, what do you think we might see? Does the thought of it scare you? What is the world like, morally and spiritually? Where are your grandkids in that future? Where are God’s people?
The story of Joseph begins three generations before, in Genesis 12, when God makes a covenant with Abraham. That covenant was passed on to his son Isaac, and then to Isaac’s son, Jacob. Jacob had 12 sons, by four different women. Two sons, Joseph and Benjamin, were from the wife he loved most, Rachel.
Jacob favored Joseph over his other ten sons, and they sold him into Egypt as a slave. After several twists and turns, Joseph interpreted a dream of Pharaoh, which predicted seven years of famine. Pharaoh was so impressed that he appointed Joseph as his chief administrator, to store up food and distribute it.
When the famine hit Canaan, Jacob and his family were running out of food, and Jacob sent his ten sons to Egypt to buy some. They had no idea that the powerful man they were dealing with was their brother! Joseph messed with them, and insisted that when they come back to buy more food, they must bring their other brother, Benjamin. On their second trip to Egypt, Joseph had them sit down to a lavish Egyptian meal, and then threatened to make Benjamin his slave. As his brother Judah offered to give himself into slavery in place of Benjamin, Joseph finally broke down, and told them that he was their long-lost brother.
Read Genesis 45:1-7.
Joseph knew that the famine would last for five more years, so he and Pharoah invited his family to move to Egypt.
Read Genesis 45:16-27.
Imagine Jacob’s joy and wonder, as hears that his long-lost son is alive. Not only is Joseph alive, but he is the ruler of all Egypt! Then the donkeys and carts come into the family compound. The donkeys are loaded with the best of Egypt. (Project a collage of Egyptian images: clothes, finery, etc.) His sons have new clothes—designer clothes. Benjamin shows him five outfits, and 7.5 pounds of silver.
Jacob’s spirit is revived. He will see his long-lost son! Pharaoh has invited him to bring his family to Egypt. He has promised to give him the best that Egypt can offer, so that they can live off the fat of the land.
Yet something is bothering Jacob. In fact, he is afraid to go to Egypt, even while he is excited. Why?
Did you ever make a major move? Maybe you quit your job to further your education, or you moved to take a new job, or you took a transfer far away from family in friends. Maybe your biggest move was to get married, with all of the changes that can bring. You didn’t know what the future would hold, but you knew it would be different from the past.
Jacob knows that life in Egypt will be different for his descendants. But he has a deeper fear: If he leaves the land that God promised to his family, will God keep his covenant promises? When God established the covenant with Abraham, it was tied to the land of Canaan:
Genesis 12:1-3 (NIV2011) The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. ‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’”
Jacob had always assumed that his family would grow into a great nation in Canaan. Would God hold to his covenant promises if Jacob took his family to Egypt?
So before Jacob leaves Canaan, he goes to Beersheba, a place where both Abraham and Isaac had dug wells and worshipped God. For him, it represented stability. For us, it would be like going to the old home place, the church of our childhood, or the place where Dad and Mom said their prayers.