************ Sermon on Genesis 46:1-27 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 9, 2014
"Jacob Goes to Egypt"
I A Promise Given
A On this Lord's Supper Sunday, I want to begin by pointing to a promise of God to Abraham in Genesis 15.
(Gen 15:13-14) Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. (14) But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions."God is talking about the slavery in Egypt. Now, this doesn't sound like much of a promise to me; in fact, it sounds more like a threat. Furthermore, to leave Canaan usually was a signal of unbelief and trouble usually followed the patriarchs every time they moved outside the borders of the Promised Land (Gen 12:10-20; 19:1-22,30-38; 29:1-30). Yet, God announces that Abraham's descendants will leave Canaan.
B In one way, the Promised Land was hard on God's covenant people. Look at what we have seen so far. We have watched as Lot and his family were carried off by the alliance of four kings (Gen 14). We watched again as Lot and his family were ensnared by the fleshpots of Sodom (Gen 19). We watched as Esau married five pagan women (Gen 26:34; 28:9; 36). We watched as Dinah was taken and raped by a heathen young man (Gen 34).
We see that God's covenant people found the heathen of Canaan to be attractive. And, the heathen of Canaan found God's covenant people to be attractive. If this kept up, God's people would no longer be separate and holy and different. If this kept up, God's holy people would be assimilated by the world.
Contrast this with what we have learned about Egypt and the Egyptians. Do you remembered what happened when Joseph ate with his brothers before he revealed himself to them?
(Gen 43:32) They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians.What was true for the Hebrews themselves was also true about their sacrifices – those, too, were detestable to the Egyptians (Ex 8:26).
In this light, where do you think God's people would be safer in terms of identity and holiness: in Canaan or in Egypt? In Egypt, of course!
So we look at God's promise: "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own" (Gen 15:13). And we realize Egypt is vital to the Lord's plan for salvation history. It is there that Jacob's family will grow into a great nation that God will later redeem for His glory (Gen 46:3). It is there that God was building for Himself a people. It is there that the children of Israel will be fruitful and increase greatly in number (Gen 47:27).
C We are also reminded about the ways of God. How does God establish His kingdom? How does God bring about the redemption of His people? The answer: by suffering! You heard me right: by suffering!
Think back to the mother promise of Genesis 3:15. How does the victory of God come about? How will the head of the serpent be crushed? The answer: only after the Savior's heel has been struck. So, as we celebrate the Lord's Supper today, we know the woman's seed was bruised on the cross as He defeated the Devil.
Now, apply this to Israel in Egypt. How will Israel be established as the people of God? "They will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years" (Gen 15:13). Through the forge of slavery and misery God will be turning Jacob's descendants into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex 19:6).
We cannot leave it there. Scripture makes plain that we, too, will share in the Savior's pain (Col 1:24). As a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, we too will experience suffering (1 Pet 2:9). This is how God furthers His kingdom rule in our lives.
II A Promise Kept
A At the time of our Scripture reading, 215 years has passed since the Lord spoke to Abraham. But where is Israel? Still in Canaan. Still in danger of being assimilated. Still in danger of losing what makes her distinctive.
Jacob needed a word from the Lord to make him move to Egypt. This is why he stops at Beersheba. Beersheba was Isaac's home (Gen 26:23-25). Jacob's sacrifice there "to the God of his father Isaac" (Gen 46:1), is proof that Jacob has not forgotten God and His promises.
God appears to Jacob and assures him that it is His will for Jacob to move to Egypt. Notice, God calls Jacob's name twice, and Jacob replies, "Here I am" (Gen 46:2). This is exactly the same as God's call to Abraham, Moses, and Samuel (Gen 22:11-19; Ex 3:1; 1 Sam 3:10-14).
Like Jacob, we need to depend on God's leading. Like Jacob, we need to follow the simple directions of God's Word in our everyday lives. Only then are we blessed.
B God says, "I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will bring you back again" (Gen 46:4). God assures Jacob of His presence (Gen 46:4). And, Jacob is also told that one day he will be brought up again from Egypt. Ultimately, this looks forward to the resurrection of the body when Jacob will be restored to life and will rule over Canaan.
Look at Jacob, congregation. Look at Jacob and know, whatever low or dark valley we are called into at any time, that the Lord God is with us and will surely bring up us someday to glory. Like Jacob, we may be called to go down paths we really don't want to go. God may call us to do hard things for Him. But like Jacob, we can be confident that God is with us.
Did you catch the other promise God made to Jacob? "And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes" (Gen 46:4). Remember, Jacob has not seen Joseph yet. For 17 years he has been under the illusion that his beloved son is dead. So here is God's assurance that Joseph is still alive and an elderly Jacob will see him before he dies.
C We see, then, that it is God Who brings Jacob to Egypt. This is clear when we look at Jacob's frailty: He is elderly – nearly 130 years old (Gen 47:9) – though he does remain alive for another 17 years (Gen 47:28); and, he must be carried by his sons in the wagons provided by Pharaoh (Gen 46:5-7). Jacob, who wrestled the Lord to a standstill (Gen 32:22-32), cannot make it to Egypt without help. Here is a striking reminder that even the youngest and fittest will someday start the decline that ends in death. And, here is a reminder that God's promises are not achieved by human effort. God must providentially guide Jacob to Egypt. God must direct the events that bring Joseph to power so that Jacob and his family can safely stay in Egypt.
What a hard lesson for Jacob to learn. Throughout his life Jacob has lived by his wits and by deception. He took advantage of his brother to gain the birthright (Gen 25:29-34). He lied to his father and stole the blessing (Gen 27:1-40). He did gene manipulation with sheep and goats so that his flocks and herds increased at the expense of Laban (Gen 30:25-43). But what did he gain? No more and no less than what God purposed to give him anyway.
So God keeps His promises. Jacob ends up in Egypt but not by his own strength and not by his own effort but only through the providence and blessing of God. God's promises are never achieved by human effort.
This is a lesson that we, too, need to learn. The Lord's will is accomplished by His Spirit, not our might, our effort, or our intelligence. We need to believe that God's power is where He says it is.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday I want to assure you, congregation, that God always keeps His promises. In Christ, He kept His promise of the seed of the woman that crushes the serpent's head. In Christ, He kept His promise of the defeat of Satan and all the forces of darkness and evil. In Christ, He keeps His promise that He works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (rom 8:28).
III A Promise Fulfilled
A Abraham had one offspring - Isaac. Isaac had one child of the promise – Jacob. Jacob, on the other hand, was blessed with 70 descendants who went down with him into Egypt.
Obviously someone numbered the members of Jacob's family. Maybe Jacob numbered each and every person as they were born. This reminds me of some of the older people in our church who have shown me group pictures of their family. I dare say their family rivals Jacob's in size – with close to 70 or more members.
Yet, we know Jacob's family was not really 70 in number. For instance, some of Benjamin's sons listed in verse 21 are really his grandsons (Num 26:38-41) and were not yet born when Jacob went into Egypt. And, according to Acts 7:14 when Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, the number was 75. Telling us what? Telling us that the number 70 is to be taken as a general number. Telling us Jacob had about 70 descendants in Egypt. What is important is not the actual number but what the number 70 represents.
B Throughout the Bible the number 70 represents completeness and wholeness. For instance, 70 is the number of nations listed in Genesis 10; in other words, 70 represents all the nations of earth though we know there are many more nations and language groups. Furthermore, 70 is the number of workers Jesus sent out to every town and place He was about to go (Lk 10); in other words, they represent the worldwide mission of the Lord.
"The members of Jacob's family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all" (Gen 46:27). When the Israelites listening to Moses hear this they know the full number of Israelites settled in Egypt, just as God promised. And there, by the providence of God, they were all kept safe and fed in spite of the famine. We see that God overlooks none of His own and protects them all.
C But we can say more about the number 70. This number also points to the future. Someday, the number of God's people will be complete and full. The number 70, then, points forward to the fulfilment of God's promise to make of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob a great nation. So, at the time of the Exodus, by the providence of God, the 70 sons of Jacob had become six hundred thousand in Egypt (Ex 12:37).
And, today, we see something that even Jacob could not imagine. We see children of Abraham from every tribe and language and people and nation, a people beyond number. They wear white robes because they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb (cf Rev 7:9). This number is not yet complete but when it is the Lord Jesus will come again in glory with all His angels.
So, on this Lord's Supper Sunday we are reminded again that God gives promises, keeps promises, and fulfills promises.
Rejoice and be glad and give God the glory.
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