************ Sermon on Genesis 47:12-31 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 28, 2014
"Pharaoh's Economic Stimulus Package"
The Egyptian people lost their money, their livestock, their land, and their freedom. The Egyptian government owned and controlled everything but what belonged to the priests. How did this happen? The people gave up everything for food. How come Pharaoh controlled the food? He took a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance; Scripture gives no indication that Pharaoh paid for this food so it was a 20% tax on every man's produce (Gen 41:34-35). And then he sold back to the people the very thing he had taken from them. He used their own produce to enslave them and control them. I call this "Pharaoh's Economic Stimulus Package."
It was the wisdom and Spirit of God which led Joseph to propose this economic stimulus package to Pharaoh (cf Gen 41:38; Acts 7:10). It was Joseph's plan. The 20% tax was his idea. Joseph was in charge. He was the one who took the money, the livestock, the land, and the freedom. With our view of private property and economic freedom this plan doesn't sound good to us, but it was God's will for that time and place. It was because of Joseph's God-given wisdom that Egypt was saved from starvation; through his work and planning he was able to feed the people when they were hungry, enrich the pharaoh, and give the citizens what they needed for survival. Such divine wisdom can also be ours if we acknowledge the Lord and live an upright life (cf Prov 1:7).
At the same time as the Egyptians were losing everything there was another group of people who flourished. No, not the bankers. It is the Israelites who flourished at the same time as the Egyptians were enslaved. So right away we are to see a great contrast between Joseph's family and the Egyptians.
(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.This morning I want to explore this contrast between the Israelites and the Egyptians.
I Living Only for the Moment
A One of the things I do when I study for a sermon is write down a list of questions that I have about the passage. Some of my questions this time: Why did Joseph tax the people? Why didn't Joseph do the same thing he did with Pharaoh and simply tell the people to save up during the seven years of plenty for the seven years of famine? And, why did the people of Israel prosper whereas the people of Egypt did not?
We see the difference here between godless and godly persons. Godless people live only for the moment. They live for immediate gratification. They give no thought to tomorrow. Today, the present time we live in, is all that matters. Their motto is "Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry" (Lk 12:19).
The Egyptians, like most ancient peoples, had a cyclical view of history. Life is nothing more than an endless cycle; it is unending repetition. History does not have a beginning nor does it have an end. Therefore, there is no purpose or meaning to life.
This mindset is evident in our Bible reading. It is clear the Egyptian people did not put anything aside for the seven years of famine even though it was announced there was going to be a famine. They saved nothing. They consumed everything. They put nothing aside. They lived only for the present. Rather than do what we do – that is, work, scrimp, and save – they sold themselves into slavery. Please note, this was their idea, not Joseph's:
(Gen 47:19) Why should we perish before your eyes--we and our land as well? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.
We need to be careful, congregation, that we don't adopt a mindset that thinks only about the here and now. We need to be careful that we don't think more about the pleasures of the body than the temporal and eternal consequences of our actions. We need to be careful that we don't focus more on careers and incomes and business than on the spiritual legacy we leave our children. We need to be careful that the things of the flesh don't become more important than things of the soul.
B Our passage ends with Jacob's deathbed request. Unlike the Egyptians, Jacob is thinking about more than the here and now.
(Gen 47:29-30) "Do not bury me in Egypt, (30) but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried."
Jacob knew something the Egyptians did not. Jacob knew that history has a goal and a purpose. Jacob knew that history is not an endless cycle of the same things happening. Jacob knew that God is in charge. Jacob knew that God had commanded grandfather Abraham to leave country, people and father's household and go to a land God would show him (Gen 12:1). Jacob knew that it was this land, not Egypt, that was Israel's Promised Land. So Jacob knew he belonged not in Egypt but in Canaan.
Be like Jacob, congregation, and believe our eternal and almighty God is in control and that He is working things out according to His plan.
The Book of Hebrews tells us Jacob was living – and dying – by faith. He did not receive the things promised; he only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. He admitted he was an alien and stranger on earth. He was longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called his God, for He has prepared a city for him (cf Heb 11:13,16).
On account of this faith, the children of Israel went to great pains to protect the bones of their ancestors. They expected a resurrection of the body and everlasting life. The Egyptians, too, believed in a future life. They too preserved bodies and possessions and even brought food to the dead. But theirs was a false hope.
II You Have Saved our Lives
A Joseph was God's man doing God's will in Egypt. He did such a good job at this that the people loved him even though they lost their money, their animals, their goods, and their property; even though they were in bondage to Pharaoh.
In Joseph's day, slaves were like modern-day employees. So the people saw Joseph as their savior, not a harsh slave-driver. "You have saved our lives," they said (Gen 47:25). Out of divine wisdom, Joseph greatly enriched the King without oppressing the people by tyranny.
That's how the Egyptians looked at the matter.
B The children of Israel listening to Moses tell them the story of Joseph knew that God's ways certainly are not the same as man's ways. For instance, built into the laws of Israel was the year of Jubilee when all Hebrew servants were to be released and all lands were to be returned to their original owners (Lev 25:8-22).
Now, you can go through Scripture and not once do you find this happening. Not once will you find the requirements of the year of Jubilee being followed. Jeremiah tells us about a time that the children of Israel set Hebrew slaves free but then they changed their minds and enslaved them again (Jer 34:10-11). Through the prophet, God pronounced curses upon the people and the land for not obeying this command:
(Jer 34:17) Therefore, this is what the LORD says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom for your fellow countrymen. So I now proclaim 'freedom' for you, declares the LORD--' freedom' to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth.Disobedience to the law of Jubilee brought grave consequences upon Israel.
It wasn't Joseph's fault that Pharaoh was not as generous as God. It wasn't Joseph's fault that the land became Pharaoh's and the people were reduced to servitude from that time on (Gen 47:26).
C "You have saved our lives" (Gen 47:25). We should be really bothered by this statement. The Egyptians are crediting to Joseph what should be credited to God. They are exchanging Pharaoh for God. They are putting Pharaoh in God's place. "You have saved our lives."
Don't we see the same thing today? Don't people put their trust in government when they should be trusting in God? People look to the government to take care of them from cradle to grave. People look for government hand-outs. People want Big Brother to be watching over them.
This week's issue of World Magazine has an article on the government's war on poverty. After 50 years and trillions of dollars, many people are worse off because of welfare dependency. The government enslaves whereas God gives freedom.
I am also reminded, sad to say, of what President Bush said after 9/11. He said, "Your government let you down." No they didn't. No they didn't! The government is not omniscient like God; it doesn't know when a bunch of crazies are going to hijack planes and crash them into skyscrapers. The government isn't absolutely sovereign like God; it doesn't control men and nations. The government is not God and the people shouldn't treat it like God.
By way of contrast to this kind of thinking, Jesus tells us to trust in God.
(Mt 6:31-33) So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' (32) For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (33) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
The Psalm writer also has wisdom on this subject. Perhaps he was thinking about Joseph and Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Do you remember what he wrote?
(Ps 146:3-10) Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. (4) When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. (5) Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, (6) the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them-- the LORD, who remains faithful forever. (7) He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, (8) the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. (9) The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. (10) The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD.
D "You have saved our lives" (Gen 47:25). This work to save the land of the Nile shows how wickedly ungrateful it was for a future Pharaoh to enslave Joseph's family (Ex 1:8-14). From beginning to end, all blessings are from the Lord. The Egyptians prospered when they rightly treated God's chosen people and when they listened to the wisdom given through Abraham's sons. But in Moses' day, Egypt suffered because she ceased to honor God's people (Ex 7-14).
It is easy, too easy, to forget that we live, move, and have our being in the Lord (Acts 17:28). We must be grateful for every blessing in our lives. When we forget God, as was done by a later Pharaoh, we should not be surprised if we suffer the consequences.
III A Picture of Jesus
A I want to remind you that in Joseph we have a type of Christ. Not everything about Joseph applies. His arrogant attitude and boasting before his brothers and parents was nothing like Christ at all (Gen 37). Joseph was an unwilling victim and cried for deliverance; Jesus, on the other hand, willingly went the way of the cross (Gen 42:21). But still, we can easily see that Joseph's story is nothing less than the Gospel in miniature.
As I mention the following events in Joseph's life, think about Christ and His life.
Joseph was the son beloved by his father yet rejected by his brothers (Gen 37:2-4; Jn 7:5).
Joseph was sold for silver (Gen 37:28; Mt 26:15).
Joseph was condemned as a criminal, although he was innocent (Gen 39:19-20; Mt 27:19-27).
Joseph was in the company of two other criminals condemned by the King (Gen 40:4; Lk 23:32-33). One was restored to life and the other given over to death (Gen 40:20-23; Lk 23:39-43).
Joseph asked to be remembered (Gen 40:14; Lk 22:19).
By the plan of God Joseph was made to rule at the right hand of the king. Every knee bowed before him, even his own family (Gen 41:40; 42:6; Phil 2:9-11).
By the providence of God, Joseph had been sent ahead to prepare a place for his brothers (Gen 45:5-11; Jn 14:2).
Joseph's brothers intended evil for him but God turned it into good (Gen 50:19-21; Rom 8:28).
Joseph gave bread to his own family and to all the earth (Gen 47:12; 41:57; Jn 6:50-51).
B For all the comparisons of Joseph to Jesus, the splendor of the Son of God far outshines the son of Jacob. For instance, Joseph showed himself to be a man of principle when he refused the advances of an adulterous woman; but we know Joseph was still a sinner who fled and left the woman in her sin. Jesus, on the other hand, was perfect in all His ways and rescues people from their sin (Rom 5:1). Joseph gave bread to his own family but sold it to the Egyptians (Gen 47:11-14). But Jesus gives the Bread of heaven to all who hunger (Jn 6:50-51). Joseph enslaved the Egyptians (Gen 47:19-23) but Jesus brings freedom (Jn 8:36).
Joseph was great. But Jesus is greater.
C A later Pharaoh, as I mentioned, forgot about Joseph and his work. So he enslaved Joseph's family. The end result was misery all around – but especially for the Egyptians.
Even worse things happen when we forget about the One greater than Joseph.
So I urge you, congregation, fix your eyes on Christ. Don't neglect Him. Don't reject Him. Don't forget Him. Fix your eyes on Christ Who promises He will provide salvation and freedom.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page