Last we we introduced the first of two sojourner principles.
Having been called to be a holy nation, God’s people must with intention preserve their distinctiveness during their sojourn in a land of idolatry.
This principle was introduced and illustrated for us in Joseph’s intentionality in securing permission from Pharaoh for his family to dwell in the land of Goshen. Here in the second half of Genesis 47, we find a second sojourner principle, and it is also one that is repeated throughout the Old and New testaments and applied to us:
During the time of our sojourn, we bless our neighbours with our words and work for their good as we watch and wait for God's kingdom to come
Jacob Blesses Pharaoh with Words: The bringing together, face to face of two titans. Jacob, the father of the Jewish nation, and Pharaoh, the god-king of Egypt. If you are an Israelite reading this account, this draws you in immediately. Who is going to blink first? Is there going to be hostility between them?
Notice that Jacob is brought into Pharaoh’s presence as one brought before a superior. Jacob is very old and infirm at this point. However, it is not Jacob who seeks Pharaoh’s blessing, but Jacob who extends, not one, but two blessings to Pharaoh. This blessing is most likely a prayer for Pharaoh’s good through the invocation of God’s name. Later rabbinic practice required the recital of a special blessing upon seeing a non-Israelite king: “Blessed be He who has imparted of His glory to His creatures”.
The significance of this blessing is spelled out in Hebrews 7:7 as a general principle: It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. Pharaoh himself seems to marvel at the greatness and dignity of Jacob, asking him of his old age, to which Jacob gives an answer laced with great honestly humility and hurt. Jacob’s life has not been easy, it has been in his words, a sojourn short and evil, particularly in comparison to his fathers. It is that Jacob is greater that Pharaoh might be blessed by him, it is that the same God who made Jacob great and carried him through his short and evil sojourn, stands behind Jacob to bless Pharaoh through Jacob and his family.
Joseph Works for The Good fo the Egyptians Whereas Jacob blesses the Pharaoh in some direct and verbal pronouncement of prayer, Joseph blesses Pharaoh and his people by working for their good. This is what the majority of the rest of the chapter details.
In verses 10-12, Joseph settles his own family in the land of Rameses, a later name for the region of Goshen that we spoke about last week. Now it may not seem that significant, but verse 12 is extremely important for answering a question about the Bible’s trustworthiness in accounting for the historicity of the Israelites in Egypt.
The issue is that many scholars date the Exodus to the mid-1200’s BC, because Exodus 1:11 says that the children of Israel built the store cities of Pithom and Ramses. However, Ramses was not Pharaoh of Egypt until the 12th century BC. Which raises a problem: not a shred of evidence has ever been uncovered locating Israelites in Egypt in the 12th century. That is enough for some scholars to doubt the historicity of the Bible and regard the Exodus tale as a myth. So why is verse Genesis 47:12 important, because it says that Jacob settled in Ramses hundreds of years before Ramses was supposed to have been built. That is hundreds of years before Ramses, Jacob settled in the land of Ramses. So what is going on here? Well, the answer is pretty obvious, that there is something happening in the text of scripture in which a later editor, some think it was likely Ezra, updated some of the place names at a later time with to more contemporary names. For example, region that we call Kanata today used to be part of the township of March, as was only incorporated as a city in 1978. Did you know that? So let’s say I asked Gabe’s parents if they had lived in Kanata all their lives and they said yes. We would not call them liars, even if it is precisely true that the place that they lived was not called Kanata before 1978. It is how language works. It actually would be more confusing if he said, “I used to live in March but not I live in Kanata.”
This is important because we do have evidence of sojourners from the land of Canaan settling in the region that came to be called Rameses in an earlier period, which happens to be the exact period in which the Bible places the lifespan of Joseph. Underneath the site of Rameses, archeologists have found an older city, some call Avaris, which was settled in the time of Joseph by shepherds from Canaan and rapidly expanded the city as their numbers grew. Avaris is right in the middle of the region that the Bible refers to as Goshen. The Pharaoh during that time was Senruset III, who reigned with his son Amenemhat. Amazingly, Egyptologist’s tell us that during their reign, a great consolidation of power happened throughout the land of Egypt, in which local landowners willingly gave over their land and their titles to Pharaoh’s central governing counsel, which was overseen by a very powerful vizier, second only to Pharaoh himself. Of course, the scripture gives us a reason for this great transfer of land and title to Pharaoh, and describes in detail some of the work of Joseph in seeking to bless and benefit the Pharaoh and his people. During the seven years of famine, Joseph began selling the food back to the Egyptians that he had counselled Pharaoh to store up during the years of plenty.
Gen. 47:20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s. 21 As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. 22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land.
25 And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.” 26 So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; the land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh’s.
Notice that the people of Egypt are extremely grateful to Joseph for having saved their lives. He has worked for their good, and through him, God has blessed the nation. Joseph has worked tirelessly for the land of his sojourn. Still to this day you can see Jospeh’s effect on the land of Egypt. During the reign of these Pharaohs work was begun on a great canal and irrigation system which drew water from the Nile river, creating a new lake that stored water and irrigated the water-famished land of Egypt. Egyptians still refer to this canal system as “the Waterways of Joseph”. And so, through Jacob and through Joseph, God blesses the nation of Egypt through words of blessing and works of benefit. what an amazing testimony! (For more information about Israel in Egypt, a great documentary is “Patterns of Evidence: Exodus” available to friends of OCBC on RightNow Media - contact Pastor Dan for a free subscription).
While Blessing and Benefiting the Land of His Sojourn, Jacob Watches and Waits for a Greater Country
The final four verse both serve as a summary of their initial years in Egypt - the good years, you could call them, and as an important reminder witch fills out the rest of our sojourning principle. First, the summary: Israel is blessed as they bless.
Gen. 47:27 Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. 28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years.
Note the phrase, “they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.” This phrase has come up a few times in the book of Genesis as a signifier of the divine favour over world life. The first command given to Adam and Eve in their unfilled state was they that might be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. These words are repeated again throughout the book of Genesis, sometimes as a command, somethings as a promise (“you will be …”) yet always as something to be fulfilled in the future. This is the only time in the book of Genesis in which these words are used to describe that state tactually being experienced. Israel is being blessed by God as they bless Egypt. This may be the greatest period of safety and security and blessing in the entire sojourning of the Patriarch. It seems that nearly every part of the Promise God has made to Abraham is coming true in Egypt! They are a growing people settled in a land, they are becoming a great nation. Their name, their reputation is great in that land, and they are blessed and they are blessing the nations. And yet, look was Jacob does near the end of his life?
Gen. 47:29 And when the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.” He answered, “I will do as you have said.” 31 And he said, “Swear to me”; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed.
this is the time in which we must be directed to the second part of the sojourning principle - we must never confuse the present tense blessings we experience with the greater blessings God has promised And this is where the chapter ends, with Jacob reminding us that the future of God’s promise does not lay in Egypt, but in the promised land.
And so this sojourning principle brings with it a tension: as we sojourn among the nations, we seek to bless them and work for their benefit. However, we must always keep in mind the reality that this world is not our ultimate home or place of blessing, but that we are citizens of another kingdom, and that kingdom is our home and in that kingdom we find our blessing.
The sojourning principle was reiterated to the Jewish people when in another period of exile, when they were taken captive into Babylon in 586BC. Even though God reveals to them that they will only be sojourning in the land of retie exile for 80 years, he instructs them to “
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
And so they are instructed to live fully in the land of their exile, to do the things that you would do as a permanent resident - build house and plant gardens; they are not to live with their foot our the door, waiting for kingdom come, but to be fully engaged in life as an exile, and to be a blessing to the land in which they sojourn. Specifically, with their words (praying to the LORD on its behalf), and with their work (seek the welfare of the city - the greatest model we have is a person like Daniel, who functioned in a very similar role as Joseph before him as a counsellor/administrator to the king).
Again you find this principle brought into the New Testament, and again it is very clearly stated in the second chapter of 1 Peter, the passage we looked at briefly last week:
1Pet. 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
We passed over a phrase last week which speaks to today’s sojourning principle a bit more directly: believers are set apart as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession so that we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. And so here we are seeking to bless the peoples among whom we sojourn with our words, proclaiming 1) the excellencies of God, and 2) proclaiming the grace of God in salvation. There is no greater word of blessing than the Gospel: the proclamation of what God has done for us in Christ.
And again, in the next few verses we focused on the intentionality to keep ourselves distinct and holy (sojourner principle #1) we also here see this second principle as well
1Pet. 2:11 Beloved, I urge you has sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Notice that we are to keep our conduct among the Gentiles honourable, in such a way that they will see our good deeds. Peter goes on to describe what some of these good deeds might be:
1Pet. 2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
So Peter talks about honouring our civic duty as Christians, being productive citizens, contributing positively to our communities, respecting authorities. Going beyond being good people, to being productive people, working for the the good of those around us. In short, blessing the people among whom we sojourn with our works. It means being a good employee, showing up on time at your job, being part of your neighbourhood community association, volunteering to serve your community, knowing your neighbours and helping them them when they are in need of help. It may mean being an entrepreneur, inventing goods or services that contribute to the betterment of life in your community. It may mean advocating in respectful ways for the poor or weak of society. It definitely means not living for ourselves or assuming the values of success that the world assumes, but living as citizens of heaven with Jesus’ values and life lived through us as we dwell among the kingdoms of this earth.
During the time of our sojourn, we bless our neighbours with our words and work for their good as we watch and wait for God's kingdom to come