Summary: How do we stay true to our identity as God's people, in a culture that does not support godly values or faithfulness to Christ? Jacob faced that in Egypt. Don't be too easily...impressed...influenced...satisfied.
Living in a Strange Land—Genesis 46:31—47:31
If you have kids, you know the feeling. Saying goodbye on the first day of kindergarten. Dropping them off at college, and then finally forcing yourself to leave the campus. Praying for them as they move into their first job, or their own home. Wondering how they are handling the pressures of their new life.
They are no longer under our protection, and the world is not always safe or supportive of a Christian way of life. We know by our own experience that life offers many attractive options, and not all are healthy. The influences of the broader culture are not always good, and there are pressures to conform, and to please other people.
Jacob was facing a similar situation. About 20 years before, his sons had sold their brother Joseph as a slave, and in the providence of God, Joseph had risen to the highest position in Egypt. A couple of years before this time, a famine came, and Joseph’s sons made two trips to Egypt, to buy food. They were unaware that they were dealing with their long-lost brother, until he tearfully revealed himself to them.
Read Genesis 45:4-28.
Jacob was headed for Egypt, and yet, he was afraid to make the move. He wanted to see Joseph, and he needed to provide for his family. Pharaoh had made him an offer he could hardly refuse. Still, he was apprehensive for his family. He sacrificed to God at the family altar in Beersheba, and God told him not to be afraid to take his family to Egypt. With God’s blessing, the 70 members of Jacob’s family packed their belongings and rounded up their livestock, and went to Egypt.
How would Jacob’s family handle life in Egypt? They were moving from Canaan, an undeveloped area where their clan lived independently, to Egypt, one of the most highly-developed cultures of its time. The move was not without risk. The 70 people in Jacob’s family could easily be swallowed up by the pagan Egyptian culture, so that they would lose their identity, their uniqueness as God’s covenant people. What would they need to do to keep that from happening?
Imagine that your son or daughter is going off to college—a secular university, with a reputation as a party school, in a big city. You and your child have gone out for breakfast—just the two of you—for one last chance to talk about life. It is a special time, and you have your last opportunity to prepare your child for the challenges to come. What will you say about how to resist ungodly influences, and faithfully follow Christ?
That is the question on our minds, as we follow Jacob into Egypt:
HOW CAN WE STAY TRUE TO OUR IDENTITY AS GOD’S PEOPLE?
-DON’T BE TOO EASILY IMPRESSED.
Imagine Jacob with his grandkids in Canaan, as his sons come to him, each with new outfits. You can almost see them strutting around, with the young folks impressed by the new Egyptian styles. Then ten donkeys come into sight, loaded down with “the best things of Egypt.” The donkeys are followed by ten female donkeys pulling carts, loaded with provisions. You don’t see this every day in Canaan!
Jacob was a relatively rich man, by the standards of Canaan, but his wealth was mostly in the animals he owned. He was the kind of guy who made his fortune on the business side of his animals, and then came home to wash up a bit, eat a simple meal, and sit outside his tent until bedtime. He had traveled to his relatives in Mesopotamia in his early years, but that was nothing like Egypt. For a country bumpkin from Canaan, Egypt was like another world.
(Note; You could project of collage of Egyptian culture here.) Already at that time, Egypt had scholars, scientists, a written language with hieroglyphics, and a highly-developed, polytheistic religion. Egypt had a centralized government, with Pharaoh at the top, public administration, and a standing army. Egypt had fashion (weird to us!), artwork, and (already) pyramids and mummies.
Jacob and his people had none of those. Jacob’s family was naïve and outclassed, and they could easily have been overwhelmed by the ungodly culture of the Egyptians.
When Jacob first came to Egypt, he didn’t take his family into one of the cities. He sent his son Judah ahead, to get direction to Goshen, a more rural area where his family could settle and graze their livestock. His intention was to stay away from the Egyptians and their culture, because his family did not fit in.
Read Genesis 46:31-34.
After they were settled, Joseph arranged for Jacob to have an audience with Pharaoh. I am sure there were security checks, instructions on royal etiquette, and guidelines on how to address the Pharaoh. This was a big deal, and Jacob was expected to show appropriate deference to the supreme ruler of Egypt.