************ Sermon on Genesis 46:28 - 47:12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 16, 2014
Genesis 46:28 - 47:12
"Israel Settles in Goshen"
Do you remember what Pharaoh said to Jacob's sons when arrangements were being made for them to move to Egypt?
(Gen 45:19-20) "Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come. (20) Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours."Forget about your belongings because Pharaoh will look after you. That sure sounds generous, doesn't it?!
Don't believe it for a moment. At that time and place, politeness demanded the making of generous offers. It put the other party in your debt and someday they would be required to respond with an even bigger offer. This is why Jacob and his sons didn't accept the offer; instead, they took with them to Egypt their livestock and the possessions they had acquired while in Canaan (Gen 46:6).
The generosity continues in today's Bible reading. Pharaoh said to Joseph,
(Gen 47:5-6) "Your father and your brothers have come to you, (6) and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen."What generosity. What kindness. What benevolence.
Again, don't believe this for even a moment. At that time, Goshen was hardly the best part of Egypt. According to my Bible atlas, a number of branches of the Nile flowed through the area and formed a great delta filled with sand, mud, water, dense undergrowth, and all kinds of wildlife. It was a kind of everglades with reeds, papyrus, grass, very little development and very few people. Key cities emerged much later when they were built by the Hebrew slaves (cf Ex 1:11). So, Pharaoh basically was offering a part of Egypt he did not want and use. Yet, Joseph accepted the offer of Goshen. Scripture goes so far as to say
(Gen 47:11) So Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed.
Knowing what we know about Goshen, why would Scripture call this the "best part of the land"? What was so good about Goshen? Why did Joseph, and Israel, accept this offer?
I Goshen is Near Joseph
A We need to go back to when Joseph first reveals himself to his brothers.
(Gen 45:9-11) Now hurry back to my father and say to him, 'This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don't delay. (10) You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me--you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. (11) I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.'Did you hear what Joseph said about Goshen? Goshen is "near" Joseph's palace. It appears it was a quick chariot ride away.
Joseph wanted to be with his family: "Come down to me; don't delay." Don't forget, he had been separated from his father for 22 long years.
B One of our deepest longings as human beings is to be reunited with loved ones after a long absence. This past week at Rotary, for instance, we had a Veteran's Day program. The presenter told us about his lifelong search for his father, a navy pilot, who died in World War II. He searched mission reports, old photographs, letters long forgotten, grave yards, and various manuscripts. The last time I flew into Fresno I witnessed a soldier returning home after months overseas; his wife and children jumped into his arms. Or, consider a little boy expecting a visit from grandparents out-of-state; he waits by the door or window so he will be the first to see them arrive. Whether we have children away in college or friends who live hundreds of miles away, all of us have known the pain of absence and the joy of reunion.
Today's passage describes this experience. The last time we looked, Joseph's family is on its way to Egypt. But Moses pauses the story to list the names of those moving from Canaan. Moses now describes the first encounter between Jacob and Joseph in over two decades. We see that "Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father" (Gen 46:29). Joseph was not going to take his sweet old time to get there. This wasn't a stroll in the park he was taking. He was in a hurry. The matter was urgent. He had to get there as soon as possible.
C So Joseph hurries off to Goshen. "He threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time" (Gen 46:29). These were tears of joy. These were also tears of sorrow about the many lost years.
As for Jacob, he announces he can now die in peace because he has seen his beloved son again – though he does live for another seventeen years (Gen 47:28). Jacob was convinced he would mourn Joseph's death the rest of his life (Gen 37:35). But now after seeing his son alive he can face the end of his life with hope and confidence. Figuratively speaking, as far as Jacob is concerned, Joseph died and Joseph arose. Christians have a similar hope. We can face death with hope because we know the One greater than Joseph – even the Lord Jesus Christ – Who literally died and arose from the grave.
Think today about a loved one for whom you long. Someone you have not see for many years. A relative. A friend. Is the relationship broken? Do your best to restore the relationship. And, if there is unrepentant sin, take time to pray for a new heart, whether for yourself or for the other person.
Remember, God sent Christ to destroy the wall of hostility not only between Him and us, but also between Jew and Gentile, brother and sister, white and black, parents and children (cf Eph 2:15ff). And, He calls us to also be ministers of reconciliation.
So, from Joseph's point-of-view, Goshen is described as the best part of the land because it was near to him. Joseph could easily drop in on his father and brothers. They were able to enjoy each other's company. And, Joseph could easily guard and protect his family.
II Goshen is Detestable to the Egyptians
A From God's point-of-view, Goshen is the best part of the land because it was detestable to the Egyptians.
Let's backtrack for a moment. We already noted that Egyptians did not eat with Hebrews because that was detestable to them (Gen 43:32). Looking forward, we see that Hebrew sacrifices were also detestable to the Egyptians (Ex 8:26). In today's reading we see something else the Egyptians detest: namely, shepherds (Gen 46:34). Because of this, Pharaoh was happy to put Joseph's family in charge of his own flocks and herds (Gen 47:6). And because of this, Goshen was also detestable because this is where shepherds lived and cared for their flocks and herds.
What does this tell us about the Egyptians? This tells us the Egyptians had a superiority complex. The Egyptians were the world's first recorded bigots. The Egyptians were racist through and through. They looked down on all other races and all other cultures and all other foods and all other gods and all other worship styles. They thought themselves better than all others.
B Go back to the problem I laid out last week with the Promised Land. The pagan people of Canaan and their practices were attractive to God's covenant people. And, God's covenant people were attractive to the pagans of the land. So we see intermarriage and rape and assimilation. Compromise with the Canaanites happened in bits and pieces, a little bit here and a little bit there.
For their own protection, God's people needed to get away from Canaan. That was the only way they could become a great and holy nation. As I said last week, this means Egypt played an important role in God's plan of redemption.
In today's reading, we see God used the prejudices and bigotry of the Egyptians in order to protect His people. The attitude of the Egyptians was one easy way to keep Joseph and his brothers from falling in love with Egypt. It was one easy way to keep Joseph and his brothers from apostatizing. It was one easy way to keep the covenant people separate and different (cf 2 Cor 6:17-18). No compromise was possible with the Egyptians. It was their way or no way. To be acceptable to the Egyptians the Hebrews needed to become totally Egyptian in language, culture, worship, occupation, clothing, diet – something that was not going to happen.
To be a holy nation, Jacob's sons must reside in a land where, as clearly defined aliens, they will be less likely to adopt a lifestyle that goes against the ways of God. This explains why Joseph moved them to an area like Goshen. This explains why Joseph told them to declare they are shepherds. This way they are and remain distinctly different from the Egyptians. This way they learn to cherish the love they have for each other.
C We also note that Joseph's brothers think life in Egypt will be temporary. Did you catch what they said to Pharaoh? "We have come to live here awhile, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants' flocks have no pasture" (Gen 47:4). They expect to live in Goshen for "awhile." They do not expect to make it their home. They expect to leave in a few years. They expect to go back to Canaan.
But God has something else in mind. God is engaged in nation-building – a 430+ year process. During all those years it is best if the people of Israel are hated and despised and reviled by the Egyptians – less danger of assimilation that way.
III Goshen is In But Not Of the World
A When we look at Israel in Goshen we are to see the church's relation to culture. Like the children of Israel, we are to be in the world but not of the world. As God says through Paul,
(2 Cor 6:17-18) "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." (18) "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."Christians are obligated to live in a way that is observably different from the unbelievers among whom we live. Our ministry plans, beliefs, and behavior are not to be defined by the world around us; rather, the Word of God is to be the final and authoritative standard for our conduct.
(Rom 12:2) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
B We need to hear this truth again and again for the church has always been tempted to adopt the sinful norms of her surrounding culture. I have already reminded you of the problems that arose when the ancient covenant community became too cozy with the pagan Canaanites. We see the same problem again when the nation of Israel settled in the Promised Land: she embraced pagan ways, violated the Lord's standards, and was sent into exile (2 Kings 17:7-23).
For most of our history as a nation, we have been part of a culture that has accepted the church and seen the benefits of the Christian religion. But that is quickly changing. Unless the Lord intervenes dramatically, our culture will become increasingly hostile to the Word of God and offer us the choice of capitulation or persecution. For instance, hate speech laws that can be wielded against anyone who defends the Bible's views on sexual activity are already on the books in Canada and many European countries. Here in the U.S. there are attempts to enact such laws as well in order to silence faithful believers. We see increasing attempts to silence the Gospel. Our attempt to be salt and light is met with ridicule and hostility. The message: capitulation or persecution.
C Many Christians, I am afraid, find it easier to embrace society's way of doing things than to live as those called out from the world. But conforming ourselves to the standards of the world for its approval and acceptance is disastrous.
We are living too much according to the world's standards if we never encounter any opposition to the Gospel. If you face no harassment for serving Christ, your life may not be measurably different from the world's. So let me ask, do you get any negative feedback for following Jesus?
"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord" (2 Cor 6:17-18). "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world" (Rom 12:2).
Let us do all we can, congregation, to prevent ourselves and our children from falling in love with the ways of the world. In big ways and small ways, let us be willing to lay down our lives for Jesus Who laid down His life for us.
In his commentary, John Calvin teaches us that the Lord often permits Christians "to be despised or rejected by the world, that being liberated and cleansed from its pollution, we may cultivate holiness." We must be ready to lose our homes, livelihoods, family, friends, and reputations if keeping them requires us to deny our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
D Using New Testament language we can also state the lesson of Goshen in a positive fashion. As we learned from the Catechism this morning, Jesus is Lord. We need to live like He is the Lord and Master of our life. Jesus says, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Mt 6:33). Or, as Paul put it in Colossians 3, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Col 3:2); we are to do this as people who have died with Christ and been raised with Christ (Col 2:12; 3:1). Don't ever forget, congregation, we are pilgrims on this earth. Jacob knew that. He tells Pharaoh his life is a "pilgrimage" (Gen 47:9). What he has on earth is only a temporary residence. Like him, our citizenship is in heaven (cf Phil 3:20). So, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven rather than treasures on earth (cf Mt 6:19,20).
Our passage ends with a meeting between Pharaoh and Jacob. Jacob's advanced age is apparent so Pharaoh asks him his age (Gen 47:8). Jacob answers with a number: a hundred and thirty years (Gen 47:9). But he also defines his years as "few and difficult" (Gen 47:9).
Jacob's use of "few and difficult" is inappropriate for a servant of God. That reminds me of what he said when his sons first returned home from Egypt (Gen 42:36): "Everything is against me!" Remember those words? "Everything is against me!" Now he says, "Few and difficult." Again, we see Jacob forgetting how providence has cared for him. Again, we see Jacob thinking first of himself rather than the ways of God. Again, we see the old sinful Jacob rather than the born-again Jacob who trusts in God.
Yes, Jacob's years have been "few and difficult" – especially when compared to Abraham and Isaac. But, and Jacob does not say this, his problems have largely resulted from his own sinful actions. Yet, in all of this, God has been faithful and true.
So what happens to Israel in Goshen? Again God shows Himself to be faithful and true.
(Gen 47:27) Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.God is making for Himself a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (cf 1 Pet 2:9). God is doing no less with us so we may declare the praises of Him Who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light (cf 1 Pet 2:9).
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