BIG IDEA: KEY LESSON OF GENESIS:
“GOD MEANT IT FOR GOOD” –
APPRECIATE THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IN ACCOMPLISHING HIS REDEMPTIVE AGENDA
There are a lot of bad things that happened throughout this first book of the Bible – this book of Beginnings – this book called Genesis. We started off with God’s beautiful Creation and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden where God proclaims all that He has made as fundamentally GOOD. But it didn’t take long for man to ruin that environment with sin and rebellion. Brother killing brother in the Cain and Abel incident; the corrupt conditions of the world in the days of Noah necessitating judgment via a worldwide, catastrophic flood; the prideful construction of the Tower of Babel – all of these serve as very prominent examples of the bad things associated with the Fall and the depravity of mankind.
Then we saw God shift His focus beginning in Chap. 12 to His sovereign election in working out His kingdom agenda through the one person He had chosen – Abraham. As we tracked through the lives of the Jewish patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and even Judah – we continued to see the tension between walking by faith and trusting in the flesh to bail oneself out of the crisis of the moment. But through all of the ups and downs of such roller coaster spiritual pilgrimage, the one constant was God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises. Time after time we witnessed the working behind the scenes of His magnificent Providence to redeem bad circumstances and accomplish His Master Plan.
Never was that more in evidence than in the life of Joseph. Despite being attacked and abandoned for dead by his brothers … then sold into captivity in Egypt … then wrongly accused by Potiphar’s wife and cast into prison … God meant it all for good. He blessed Joseph in surprising fashion and then had that blessing overflow to Joseph’s immediate family, to the inhabitants of Egypt and even the rest of the world who needed deliverance from a devastating famine. But all the time God was focused on the Messianic prospect of the ultimate seed of the woman that would bring about the redemption of His people.
As we wrap up our studies in the book of Genesis today, let’s
APPRECIATE THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IN ACCOMPLISHING HIS REDEMPTIVE AGENDA
This final chapter has the two bookends of the death/embalming/burial of first Jacob and then Joseph. But sandwiched in between is the heart of what God wants to communicate – His prevailing goodness working itself out in the providential governance of His creation.
I. (49:33 – 50:14) DEATH/EMBALMING/BURIAL OF JACOB –
FORETASTE OF POSSESSION OF THE PROMISED LAND
A. (49:33) Death of Jacob
“When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.”
Jacob lasted a lot longer than he probably thought he would as he made the dramatic pilgrimage down into Egypt to be reunited with Joseph and to receive the provision of food his family needed so desperately.
Jacob had seen God deliver him from the emotional depths of anguish and despair as he once again was able to cast his eyes on Joseph. Then God demonstrated His goodness in providing for his household through the instrumentality of His goodness administered by Joseph in Egypt – what a surprising turn of God’s Providence.
Egypt was not his final destination; he gave explicit instructions regarding the transfer of his dead bones back to the promised land. Hebrews speaks to his vision for the future.
B. (:1-3) Grieving/Embalming for Jacob in Egypt
1. (:1) Expression of Grief
“Then Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him and kissed him.”
What love Joseph demonstrated for his father. He had been the recipient of His father’s special attentions in his youth; and now he leads his brothers in grieving for the loss of this key historical figure in God’s covenant program.
Steven Cole: Although it is possible to grieve excessively, the Bible teaches that normal grief is a proper human emotion and that tears are the normal response in grief. . . In fact, God the Holy Spirit is capable of grief, as seen in the admonition, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Eph 4:30). One of the most difficult commandments God has given anybody was when He told the prophet Ezekiel that He was going to take his wife and, as a sign to the disobedient nation, he was not allowed to mourn outwardly or weep for her (Ezek. 24:16-17). But that was clearly an exception. Grief is normal and proper when we lose loved ones in death. You’re not more spiritual if you don’t grieve.
2. (:2-3a) Embalming
“And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father.
So the physicians embalmed Israel. Now forty days were required for it, for such
is the period required for embalming.”
Bob Deffinbaugh: The process of embalming among the ancient Egyptians is thus described by Herodotus, b. ii., c. 86—8, “The body was given to the embalmers, who first took out the brains and entrails and washed them in palm wine impregnated with strong astringent drugs; after which they began to anoint the body with the oil of cedar, myrrh, cinnamon, and cassia; and this lasted thirty days. They next put it into a solution of nitre (saltpetre) for forty days longer, so that they allowed seventy days to complete the embalming; after which they bound it up in swathes of linen besmeared with gum. Being then able to resist putrefaction, it was delivered to the relatives, inclosed in a wooden or paper case somewhat resembling a coffin, and laid in the catacomb or grave belonging to the family, where it was placed in an upright posture against the wall.
3. (:3b) Extended Season of Mourning
“And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.”
Shows the level of respect the Egyptians had for Joseph that they showed such concern for the passing of his beloved father.
C. (:4-9) Burial Journey Back to Promised Land
1. (:4-6) Request Directed to Pharaoh
“And when the days of mourning for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, ‘If now I have found favor in your sight, please speak to Pharaoh, saying, My father made me swear, saying, Behold, I am about to die; in my grave which I dug for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me. Now therefore, please let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’ And Pharaoh said, ‘Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear.’”
2. (:7-9) Return of Jacob’s Body to Promised Land
“So Joseph went up to bury his father, and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household and all the elders of the land of Egypt, and all the household of Joseph and his brothers and his father’s household; they left only their little ones and their flocks and their herds in the land of Goshen. There also went up with him both chariots and horsemen; and it was a very great company.”
Impressive funeral procession
Deffinbaugh: For an unknown reason, the procession made its way from Egypt to Canaan by means of an unusual route. Rather than traveling to the north and approaching Canaan from the west, they proceeded northeasterly and entered Canaan from the east, from the other side of the Jordan (cf. verse 10). Perhaps it is not coincidental that this route would more closely parallel the entrance of Israel into Canaan after the Exodus.
D. (:10-11) Gravesite Mourning in Abel-mizraim
1. (:10) Sorrow of Family Lamentation
“When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and sorrowful lamentation; and he observed seven days mourning for his father.”
2. (:11a) Spectacle of Great Mourning
“Now when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, ‘This is a grievous mourning for the Egyptians.’”
3. (:11b) Significance of the Name
“Therefore it was named Abel-mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan.”
E. (:12-14) Summary
1. (:12) Obedience of Jacob’s Sons to His Deathbed Charge
“And thus his sons did for him as he had charged them;”
2. (:13) Burial of Jacob at Abraham’s Plot in Machpelah
“for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field for a burial site from Ephron the Hittite.”
3. (:14) Return of Joseph and Household to Egypt
“And after he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers, and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.”
II. (:15-21) KEY LESSON OF BOOK OF GENESIS: GOD MEANT IT FOR GOOD
A. (:15-18) Worldly Operating Principle = Revenge and Bondage
1. (:15) Expectation of Revenge
“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph should bear a grudge against us and pay us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!’”
How does the world operate when they are wronged?
Steven Cole: Three mean-looking guys on motorcycles pulled into a truck stop cafe where a truck driver, a little guy, was sitting at the counter, quietly eating his lunch. The three thugs saw him, grabbed his food, and laughed in his face. The truck driver didn’t say a word. He got up, paid for his food and walked out.
One of the bikers, unhappy that they hadn’t succeeded in provoking the little man into a fight, bragged to the waitress, “He sure wasn’t much of a man, was he?”
The waitress replied, “No, I guess not.” Then, glancing out the window she added, “I guess he’s not much of a truck driver, either. He just ran over three motorcycles.”
The familiar saying, “Don’t get mad, just get even” sums up the world’s philosophy of how to deal with someone who wrongs you. But in contrast to the world’s way, God prescribes a radical approach when we are wronged: We are to be kind and tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32).
It’s easy to say that, but it’s tough to apply it. The difficulty increases in proportion to how badly you’ve been hurt. When you’ve been hurt badly, you don’t feel like forgiving the person, even if he repents, at least not until he’s suffered a while. You want him to know what it feels like. You want him to pay.
Deffinbaugh: Now, years later, they were still plagued with guilt about their treatment of Joseph (cf. 42:21-22). They had not yet fathomed Joseph’s forgiveness, even though 17 years had evidenced nothing but grace. But, they reasoned, that was a time when Jacob still lived. Would Joseph not hesitate to retaliate with his father present even as they had waited for an opportune moment away from their father to eliminate Joseph? Now Jacob was gone for good. Joseph was free to do with them as he pleased. That thought consumed them, even more than the loss of their father. This fear prompted a plan which they hoped would soften Joseph’s anger.
2. (:16-17a) Solicitation of Forgiveness
“So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father charged before he died, saying, Thus you shall say to Joseph, Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong. And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.’”
Sounds like they made up this scenario to try to stave off certain retribution.
3. (:17b) Demonstration of Compassion
“And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.”
Heart of compassion and mercy
4. (:18) Prostration in Servitude
“Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’”
Still operating from a natural mindset – assuming subservient position of bondage and servitude
B. (:19-21) Divine Operating Principle = Redemption and Forgiveness
“But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”
Principle: Vengeance belongs to God
Principle: God’s Amazing and Gracious Providence turns evil into good in accomplishing His Redemptive Agenda
Steven Cole: Should I forgive a person who is not repentant? The Bible is clear that we are to forgive just as God has forgiven us. God doesn’t extend forgiveness until we repent. But, God aggressively offers forgiveness to us and seeks through His kindness to bring us to repentance. He paid the price for our forgiveness in the death of His Son while we were still His enemies. The barrier to reconciliation wasn’t with God; it was our own lack of repentance.
So we must distinguish between forgiving the person in our heart and extending forgiveness to him verbally. We must forgive the person in our heart before he repents, which means that we will sincerely pray for God’s mercy toward him; we will look for ways to be kind; we will make it clear that we want to restore the relationship. We’ve got to root out our bitterness by submitting to the sovereign goodness of God. Then, the moment the offender repents, like the father of the prodigal son, we rush to welcome and embrace him.
Constable: Joseph’s response to his fearful brothers reveals his attitudes toward God and them (Genesis 50:18-21; cf. Genesis 27:41). He humbled himself under God’s authority. He regarded God as sovereign over him and the One who had providentially guided all the events of his life. He knew that God’s purposes for him, his family, and all people were good (cf. chs 1-2). Consequently he behaved with tender compassion toward his brothers. He proved to be his brothers’s keeper (cf. Genesis 4:9). Genesis opened with a couple, Adam and Eve, trying to become like God. It closes with a Prayer of Manasseh, Joseph, denying that he is in God’s place.
Each sentence of his threefold reply is a pinnacle of Old Testament (and New Testament) faith. To leave all the righting of one’s wrongs to God (19; cf. Romans 12:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 4:19); to see His providence in man’s malice (20; cf. on Genesis 45:5); and to repay evil not only with forgiveness but also with practical affection (21; cf. Luke 6:27 ff.), are attitudes which anticipate the adjective “Christian” and even “Christlike.” [Note: Kidner, p224.]
III. (:22-26) DEATH/EMBALMING/BURIAL OF JOSEPH –
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE EXODUS – TAKING POSSESSION OF THE PROMISED LAND
A. (:22-23) Summary of Joseph’s Years
“Now Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his father’s household, and Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. And Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s sons; also the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born on Joseph’s knees.”
Deffinbaugh: More than 50 years elapsed between verses 21 and 22. Moses was intent upon placing the deaths of Jacob and Joseph side by side. Irrelevant details are therefore set aside to take us directly to the death bed of Joseph, and thus to parallel the death of Jacob.
B. (:24) Reassurance of God’s Covenant Promises Regarding Possession of the Promised Land
“And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you, and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.’”
C. (:25) Charge Regarding Ultimate Burial in the Promised Land
“Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.’”
D. (:26) Death/Embalming/Temporary Burial of Joseph in Egypt
“So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years;
and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.”
Hughes: Genesis ends with Joseph’s coffin awaiting the exodus, and the story continues in the second book of the Pentateuch. Even more important, the Old Testament ends with the expectation of the Messiah who, when he came, by grace led his people in a second exodus from the bondage of this world.