In Genesis 46, we read about the children of Israel who went into Egypt. They were seventy in all. Reading through the list of Jacob’s family members feels a bit like going through a graduation ceremony to me. This family, God’s chosen people, are journeying, marching out of their famine-stricken homes and into the bountiful land of Goshen. God is fulfilling His promise. Can you picture it?
If you take this one moment out of context, it’s very easy to align this with the idea of a simply “loving God.” Look! He saved His people and gave them nice things! Isn’t that great? That’s what God wants to do for me! Hooray! Woah, now! Let’s back up and take a closer look.
When asked about his life by Pharoah, Jacob said, “few and evil have been the days of the years of my life” (Genesis 47:9). His life alone was full of deceit, heartache, years of toil, and most recently consisted of two years of famine. This old man who had once wrestled with God and had spent 14 years diligently working to earn the hand of Rachel now stood before Pharoah and said that he was tired. Why would a loving God allow this to be the testimony of his chosen one?
Let’s look at Joseph. The youngest of his brothers, but destined to be the greatest. Hey, an underdog story! We like those, right? His brothers were so caring and loving that, instead of the preferred route of killing their brother out of jealousy, they chose the lesser of two evils and sold him into slavery. Oh right, and then they lied about it to their father. Sounds like the perfect candidates to make into a nation of God’s chosen people, right? Joseph would go on to be framed and forgotten before lifted to his place at the right hand of Pharoah.
What I really want to emphasize here is the interaction that Joseph has with his brothers when they come to plead for food after two years of horrible famine. Joseph can hardly speak to them without weeping. Standing before him are the men who wanted to murder him. They ripped him from his home and his family and now stood begging at his feet, just as God had revealed to him all those years ago. But these were not the same jealous, bitter men that he had known.
Joseph’s brothers were burdened heavily with guilt and remorse for how they had treated Joseph, not knowing that it was he who stood before them. They had been broken and humbled, coming to Egypt only out of dire necessity for their families. When presented with the opportunity to basically do the same thing with their brother Benjamin, give him over as a slave, they did not respond in the same manner that they previously had. The anguish they felt at the possibility of so tearing apart their family again was agonizing to them, and Joseph could see it.
So, let’s look at this group of people again. A procession of God’s chosen people marching into a blessed assurance that had been promised to them for generations. Do they look the same to you now? I hope not. God humbled these men. When they walked into Egypt, they must have been overwhelmed. They had done absolutely nothing to desire the overwhelming favor that God was pouring onto them. They had lied, cheated, murdered (remember the fiasco with their sister Dinah?) – and now God was blessing them?
These were not proud graduating men strutting proudly into what they rightly deserved. Jacob and his sons had been shown to be unworthy, powerless, and so desperately in need of God.
Alright, now you can claim this promise for yourself. This – this – is what God wants to do for you. The great gift of salvation and life in Christ means practically nothing before we realize that we are dead and helpless apart from Him. God is loving and gracious and merciful, but His way is not without suffering. It is the trials that He brings forth that refine us, not into better versions of ourselves, but into pure, transparent vessels through which He alone may shine. It’s all about Him, my friends.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to pray for, encourage, or simply hear from you.