In today's day and age, it is clear to see that even when people have "good intentions," there is a strong likelihood that they will go about the wrong way to accomplish their noble philosophy. For example, in recent years, the United States has seen a variety of different types of protests. While some of these protests might have been for noble causes, many times these protests were conducted illegally or were demonstrated in ways that were hypocritical in nature. This is a common problem, not just amongst Americans, but amongst human beings. Consider this reality: if the Bible says that none are righteous, no not one, how does an unrighteous person produce positive effects from good intentions? How can one expect a tree that naturally produces bad fruit to produce good fruit? The Bible teaches that only God is able to produce that which is good, requiring God to be the motivator, facilitator and producer of any "good cause."
In Exodus 2:11-22 the Bible shows that Moses had this same issue. In Exodus 2:11-22 the Bible describes that Moses had some confrontational issues with the Egyptians. Being a Hebrew by nature, but raised in the position of Egyptian privilege, Moses' upbringing was unique. The scriptures describe that Moses became a man that had difficulty identifying with both Hebrew and Egyptian. Nevertheless, Moses had a noble cause to try and identify with his people, the children of Israel, and scripture shows that he went about his cause the wrong way.
Exodus 2:11-22 explains that one day Moses saw an Egyptian overseer striking a Hebrew worker and Moses was moved by what he saw. He was stirred up. The Bible describes that Moses desired for justice and responded in such a way that demonstrated his desire to facilitate justice, equality, and that Moses wanted things to be right and fair. However, the Bible describes that Moses murdered the Egyptian who struck the Hebrew. Moses' reaction is reflective of good intentions. He desired to help his brethren. Yet Moses demonstrated that his good intentions were manifested in a way that was consistent with his sinful nature as a human being - in murder. The scriptures explain that Moses then buried the dead Egyptian and sought to move on with his life.
The Bible then explains that shortly after, Moses saw two Hebrew men arguing and and fighting with one another. Once again, seeking to do what was right according to his noble desires for justice and equality, Moses tried to break up the fight. However, scripture states that when Moses broke up the two men, both men made sarcastic remarks against Moses seeking to be judge, and referenced the murder that Moses had committed. The men basically stated to Moses, "Who do you think you are trying to tell us what to do, and to tell us what's right and wrong? Are you going to kill us like you did the Egyptian if we don't do what you say?" Though Moses had good intentions to keep his own people from fighting each other, his response in sin previously had found him out, so the Bible explains that Moses departed from Egypt in panic since Pharaoh had also heard about Moses' actions and desired to kill Moses.
Exodus 2:11-22 then explains that Moses fled to the land of Midian. Upon arriving at a well in Midian, Moses encountered seen daughters of the priest in Midian, who wen to the well to water their flocks. Once again, Moses was put in a position to be the "good guy." The Bible explains that some of the local shepherd approached the daughters of the priest of Midian and tried to drive them away. Therefore, Moses responded and drove away the local shepherd and helped the daughters of the priest water their flocks so that they were able to fill more water more quickly. Consequently, the daughters were able to get home earlier than normal so that their father - the Midian priest - asked why they were so early. The daughters explained to their father that Moses had helped them, and the priest was willing to invite Moses into his home for food. Scripture then states that Moses was content to remain with the priest, took one of his daughter as a wife and had a child named Gershom while staying in the land of Midian.
There is an important pattern to see in Moses. When trouble arrives, Moses always had the natural desire to do the "right" thing. However, the "right" thing was done incorrectly according to God's standards and so God had to remove Moses from Egypt in order to teach Moses what was "right" according to God's standards of righteousness. In other words, God planted the desire for "good" in the heart of Moses, but had to remove Moses from his regular surroundings in order to teach Moses was the true essence of goodness and righteousness were. Consider that the Bible uses Egypt to represent "the world." Thus, while God implanted the noble desire in Moses' heart to desire justice and righteousness, Moses was unable to do either according to God's standards while in Egypt - "the world." It was in the land of Midian that Moses would learn to do things God's way. Moses had to be separated from "the world" in order for the Lord to be able to use Moses' noble desires in ways that were genuinely righteous according to God's standards.
This is the way it works in life. There are many people who desire for justice, equality and righteousness. The problem is that, while one is a part of "the world" those definitions of justice, equality and righteousness are not genuine and true since they are not reflective of God's justice and righteousness. It is not until one is separated from the world through sanctification, which comes by faith in Jesus Christ, that one is able to learn of authentic righteousness, goodness, and justice according to God's standards. Thus, today news headlines feature chaos as the results of people seeking to do good. This is because bad trees cannot produce good fruit. No matter the desire, until one is removed from the ways of the world in repentance and faith in Christ, one is unable and ill-equipped to do anything that is reflective of "good" since God is the only one who is good and all goodness comes from God and God alone.
The sovereignty of God is on clear display throughout the scriptures. However, there are those moments in scripture where God will exercise His sovereignty to bring benefit to His people in ways that are overwhelmingly awesome! Its these moments in scripture that can bring about great encouragement to the believer. Yet it is also important to recognize the greater work that God desires to do as He works towards the fulfillment of His promises so that one can recognize why God did certain things in the Word. When one understands the motives for God's work, one can better dissect the circumstances of one's life to better ascertain the likelihood of God responding in similar ways again.
In Exodus 2:1-10 the Bible begins the testimony of Moses. The Bible explains that the parents of Moses trusted in God so that they rebelled against the edict to throw the male children in the river to die. Hebrews 11:23 uses the parents of Moses as an example of faith that God is pleased with because they refused to obey Pharaoh so that they could be obedient to God. Thus, the scriptures reveal that God was willing to honor the faith of Moses' parents as a result, in order to use Moses in a very unique way as His vessel to accomplish His own work.
The Bible states that Moses' parents did they best they could to hide Moses as an infant from the Egyptians. The scriptures state that Moses' parents hid him in their home for 3 months until it became to difficult to hide him in the home. The scriptures state that after that 3-month period, Moses' parents went way out in faith and constructed an "ark" to place the child Moses in every day, covered it with pitch to protect him, and placed him in the reeds by the river to hide him that way. This would have required an intense amount of trust in God. Moses' parents trusted that Moses would not suffer from the elements of nature. Moses' parents trusted that their ark would hold up to the surrounding environment. Then Moses' parents would have been forced to go about their day as if they were not waiting in anticipation to know the safety of their son. The desired their son to live according to God's promises, placed their son in God's hands, and were honored by God as a result.
Exodus 2:1-10 states that one day Pharaoh's daughter was by the river bathing and she noticed the boy. First, it is critical to understand history. The Bible provides enough details to compare to history so that it is possible to know who Pharaoh's daughter was, as well as Pharaoh. 1 Kings 6:1 provides a starting point in time. It explains that king Solomon reigned 480 years after the Exodus. History confirms that Solomon ruled in 966 BC. Thus, subtracting 480 years from that time, the Exodus took place at 1,446 BC. It is also important to recognize that Moses was 80 years old (Exodus 7:7) when he spoke to Pharaoh on behalf of God. Thus, one must subtract another 80 years to know the date of Moses' birth, which was 1,526 BC. History confirms that Thutmoses I was the king of Egypt during this time, and also confirms that Hatshepsut was his daughter. History explains that Hatshepsut was one of the wealthiest and most successful queens in all of Egyptian history. Hence, the scriptures explain that God exercised His sovereignty to place Moses into the hands of one of the most influential women in all of the world at that time.
Since Moses would be one of the most important tools that God would use in all of history, God exercised His sovereignty to ensure that he was well taken care of. The Bible explains that as Hatshepsut found Moses, she had compassion on the boy once she recognized that he was a Hebrew child. Though her father had given the edict to kill the Hebrew boys, she was compassionate and sought to ensure Moses' life. Going against the will of her father, Hatshepsut placed the child Moses back into the nurturing arms of his mother. The Bible explains that Moses' sister would follow Moses in the ark every day to ensure his safety so that when Pharaoh's daughter discovered Moses, she stepped in to offer help. The Bible then states that Pharaoh's daughter instructed Moses' sister to find the boys mother so that she could assist in raising him.
Exodus 2:1-10 then goes on to explain that Hatshepsut adopted Moses as one of her own children, but hired Moses' actual mother to raise him. The Lord had exercised His sovereignty to ensure the safety of Moses, but also to use Egypt as a financial sponsor of Moses' well-being. Moses was able to remain with his family and his mother was receiving wages from Pharaoh's daughter to take care of her son. It is not just that she got to keep her son alive, but she was paid to do it! Here the scriptures reveal that God is willing and able to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of His children; and that He goes above and beyond to protect His vessels that He desires to use for greater works such as Moses. Since Moses would become the one to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, one such as a prophet like the Messiah, and the Lawgiver, God flexed His sovereign muscles to ensure that His tool was in good shape. God also used His sovereignty to equip Moses' future. Since Pharaoh's daughter took in Moses as her own son, Moses would be fortunate and privileged like no other Hebrew. He would have access to education, resources, and safety. Moving forward in scripture, it is important to recognize that Moses was able to do the things he did later because of the position God placed him in as a child.
The Bible explains that the people of God have been under attack since the beginning. When God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, it didn't take much time for the enemy to infect the minds of God's people with sin. As time progressed and God revealed His special plan for a select group of people - the children of Israel - the Bible reveals that the attacks against God's people intensified. One can examine world history and see the persecution and violence that the Jewish people have experienced since the beginning. Yet the Bible is sure to explain that, though there are forces that seek to destroy the people of God, He is sovereign, He is in charge, He is supremely powerful and able to defend as well as multiply His people in spite of the motives others have against them.
In Exodus 1:15-22 the Bible explains that the king of Egypt intensified his efforts to regulate the population of the children of Israel. Being paranoid about a possible takeover, the Bible explains that the king of Egypt first sought to regulate the morale of the children of Israel by imposing harsh labor upon them. The Bible explains that God responded to the actions of Egypt's king and caused the people to multiply even more. Therefore, the king of Egypt sought to respond against the supernatural growth of the Living God. Exodus 1:15-22 explains that the king gathered all of the Hebrew midwives to himself and told them to kill all of the male children that were born. The king of Egypt would allow the newborn girls to live, but in order to regulate the population of the children of Israel, the king commanded that all of the midwives were to kill the male children that were born.
The Bible then portrays a critical truth about how one perceives God in one's life. In Acts 5:29, the apostle Peter stood before some of the disgruntled Jewish religious authorities that wanted the Gospel of Jesus Christ to stop being preached. They threatened Peter and the other disciples that if they didn't stop, they would die. Acts 5:29 explains that Peter responded to their threats by saying, "We ought to obey God rather than men." This is a bold statement and a proper one as well. The apostle Paul wrote, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" These two men were men that had an understanding of God's eternal plans so that the circumstances they suffered in this physical life were of no concern to them compared to the glory that would be experienced in eternal life. These men understood that God was sovereign over all things that that His position of the throne was cause to fear Him more than men. It would be a much more dangerous outcome to offend the Almighty God compared to offending a few people who are just as mortal as the next. Jesus articulated this point clearly in Matthew 10:28 when He said, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
Exodus 1:15-22 explains that the Hebrew midwives had a perfect understanding of these New Testament points. Exodus 1:15-22 candidly explains that the women feared God and so they disobeyed the command of the Egyptian king. The Hebrew midwives understood that it is more dangerous to offend God rather than the king of Egypt. The Hebrew midwives understood that God was supremely in charge of their own lives, as well as the life of Egypt's king. Knowing that it was better to fear God who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell, the Hebrew midwives sought to protect the people of God and efforts to destroy God's people were foiled again. The scriptures explain that the Hebrew midwives refused to obey the king and let the male children live. When the Egyptian king asked why the children of Israel continued to multiply and the male children continued to live, the Bible explains that the midwives told the king that the Hebrew women were too resilient, and gave birth to the boys before they could intervene - which was untrue. Nevertheless, since the lies of the Hebrew midwives were spoken with the objective to protect God's people and facilitate God's work, the scriptures explain that God blessed the midwives. Since the stories of the Hebrew midwives were reflective of their fear of God, the Bible states that God continued to multiply the children of Israel, as well as the households of the Hebrew midwives.
The scriptures prove some very important truths about the work of God. First, it is important to recognize that the enemy cannot overcome and fully destroy the people of God. God is faithful to keep His promises and is willing to intercede and protect His children when necessary. God works in spite of persecution so that God's people are able to endure and grow in the midst of dangerous trials. When the apostles Peter and Paul wrote, they were undergoing intense persecution as well; yet the scriptures document an explosion in growth so that others considered that the affects of God's work, "turned the world upside down!" The same can be said of the testimony in Exodus 1:15-22. Also, it is important to recognize that the reason God's people will not be overcome is on account of the trust God gives to His people and the confident ability that comes with that. The Hebrew midwives were unwilling to obey the commands of Pharaoh because they were more intent on obeying the commands of God. The Hebrew midwives were more concerned in how God perceived them and wanted to ensure they were in favor of God before being concerned about how other people saw them. The Hebrew midwives had a grasp on God's eternal nature and were willing to risk their physical comforts for the sake of pleasing God. Thus, they responded to Pharaoh by demonstrating faith in God and God's people were saved. The truth of the matter is, there are always going to be some who fear God more than men to witness of the work that God does for His glory. The response of this work is that God's people will continue to be saved because of the work God does through those who believe. No matter how hard the enemy tries to come against the children of God, He will always deliver to ensure the fulfillment of His eternally unconditional promises!
Since the Bible describes God working in unorthodox ways, one can expect that when He brings growth, it comes with unusual results. The human tendency is to apply human rationale to the affects of God's work, but the Bible describes that the affects of God's work are usually contrary to the expectations of human experience. The Bible explains that God does this purposefully so that He is acknowledged as the Author and Finisher of such work and by such acknowledgement, He is glorified.
Consider the testimony of Israel as stated in Exodus 1:8-14. The Bible explains that after Joseph and his brothers died, the circumstances for Israel radically and immediately changed. The scriptures state that the king that took care of Joseph had died and a new king came into power in Egypt. This king did not know Joseph, did not care for his descendants, and was paranoid about their growth. The Bible explains that this king saw the children of Israel multiplying and considered the possibility of an attack. His paranoia caused him to wonder if the children of Israel might grow so much in number that they would be able to join together and overthrow the Egyptians. Therefore, his response was to oppress the children of Israel to make them weak.
The Bible explains that the Egyptians dealt shrewdly with the children of Israel so that they were afflicted with heavy burdens and treated as slaves with taskmasters over them to oppress them. The children of Israel were commanded to build bricks and other tools in order to build up the cities of Pharaoh and were treated terribly. However, the Bible explains that God responded in such a manner that, the more the children of Israel were burdened, the more they grew in number! The objective of the Egyptians was to afflict the children of Israel to deplete them as people. Yet the scriptures explain that the more the Egyptians sought to destroy God's people, the more He caused them to grow in number! This is a characteristic of God's work habit. It is easy to recognize the presence and approval of God in a work when the circumstances should show depletion, but the affects are fruitful growth.
Exodus 1:8-14 explains that the growth of the children of Israel was recognizable and the Egyptians feared the Jews even more. It is interesting to note that the scriptures never explain that the children of Israel sought to grow in numbers or power, and never sought to spite the Egyptians. Nevertheless, the work that God was doing through them created these results. Therefore, the Bible explains that the Egyptians increased the workload and made the children of Israel work with more rigor. The Bible states that the children of Israel suffered greatly in their labor. The Bible states that their bondage was hard, bitter, and oppressive so that their lives became increasingly difficult. Here is another detail that is critical to observe. The affects of God's growth did not provide comfort and simplicity. Instead, the affects of God's growth created fear amongst the people around them and more difficulty and persecution.
This is a common response to the work of God. When one examines the Book of Acts, one can see that as the world of non-believers sought to diffuse the work of God in the early church, the church actually grew. Though persecution grew, the number of believers grew by the work of God through His Spirit. Like the children of Israel in Egypt, though the numbers of the people grew, it did not come with simplicity and comfort for the early church. The number of believers grew in number, but the intensity of the persecution grew with the numbers. The church was not able to settle down and relax in their faith. Instead, the growth that God provided was met with intense opposition so that the physical circumstances of those who experienced God's growth suffered greatly.
The things that are seen happening to the children of Israel in Egypt, are the same as can be examined in the early church in the Book of Acts. The reason for this is that as the children of Israel were able to persevere and grow in spite of man's attempts to destroy God's work, God was glorified. In the same way, as the early church was able to grow in spite of man's attempts to destroy God's work, God was glorified. If God worked in this way back in Exodus 1:8-14, and worked the same way in the Book of Acts, it is likely that He will continue to work in these ways today since God does not change.
It is important to recognize the patterns of God's work since it is God's work that brings Him glory. When one is able to recognize the patters of His work, one is able to recognize the types of activity and circumstances that are ripe for God's glory and be a facilitator and vessel of God's will. Those who have a hard time recognizing the patters of God's work typically panic during circumstances that appear dismal or opposite human reasoning, but are characteristic of God's habits. Thus, in these types of instances, it is tempting for one's attitude to tarnish one's opportunity to see God progress towards the fulfillment of His promises with joy and anticipation.
For example, in Exodus 1:1-7 the Bible explains the events that took place after Jacob and Joseph died. These events seem to be contradictory to the promises that God made to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12. In Genesis chapter 12, the Bible explains that God promised Abraham that he would be a great nation, would inherit the land of Canaan as his own possession, and that someone from him would bless all of the families of the earth. If one considers the testimony of Exodus 1:1-7, it would almost seem as if God was unable to produce on His promises. The Bible explains that at the time of Exodus 1:1-7, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all of Jacob's sons were dead. Exodus 1:1-7 is clear to remind readers that all 12 of Jacob's sons were living in Goshen at the time of his death. The Bible is clear to explain that 70 persons left the "Promised Land" to live in Goshen during the famine, but that all of Jacob's descendants remained in Goshen and multiplied there.
The scriptures are clear to explain that the children of Israel did indeed multiply as God had said, and were in the process of becoming a great nation. However, the details of God's promises explained that God would make the children of Israel great in the Promised Land, which at that time, was the land of Canaan. The children of Israel were in Egypt. This is important to consider. God was well informed about His eternally unconditional promises. He knows what He said and He doesn't forget. God is faithful and cannot lie. While the scriptures show that the children of Israel might be multiplying in the wrong place, God was well aware of what He was doing.
It is important to consider the contents and major themes of the Book of Exodus. The Book of Exodus deals with two major subjects that God desired to teach His people: redemption and revelation. The Book of Exodus reveals the Living God as Redeemer and begins to show the methods by which God would fully redeem all of His children unto Himself. The Book of Exodus explains that God redeemed the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt through the Passover feast that required the life of a lamb. This is a picture of the full redeeming work of Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Book of Exodus also deals with the manner in which God revealed Himself to His children while in the wilderness. God spoke through Moses as a mediator, who presented the Law, which defined God's righteousness, as well as the tabernacle construction instructions and worship/sacrifice instructions. All of these things, generally referred to as "The Law," explained important characteristics of God, His plans to offer salvation, and described the manner in which He would fulfill His offer of salvation, as well at the work of sanctification and glorification that would result from His work.
Understanding these truths, one can recognize the importance of God using Egypt to His advantage. Though God promised that He would bless the children of Israel in the land of Canaan (modern day Israel), He first multiplied the children of Israel as foreigners in the land of Egypt in order to teach His children important things about Himself. God strategically chose Egypt as a teaching tool. God would glorify Himself by revealing Himself as Redeemer. God would glorify Himself by revealing Himself through the supernatural miracles He performed for Israel during the wilderness journey. While there were generations of Israelites that suffered in Egypt for a time, God needed that suffering to take place in order for His people to understand the essence of His identity as Savior.
While the testimony of Exodus 1:1-7 might seem counterproductive according to God's promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it is important to consider the affects of God's work and the lessons that were taught as He worked. The Bible reveals that God purposefully placed His people in the land of Egypt for two reasons: first to sustain them from the famine; then to redeem them according to His promises as Savior. How can one experience the beauty of God as Savior if one does not fully recognize the position that one needs to be saved from? How does one recognize the extent of God's love if one does not fully recognize the price that God had to pay in order to redeem His special treasure? Hence, the Bible defines a work habit of the Lord. The Lord will often place His people in positions of difficulty and suffering, where there is discomfort as if one doesn't belong in the position one is in (like a foreigner). This is by design. It is during these times that God intends to reveal Himself as the almighty, mercifully gracious and faithful God who rescues His children from all points of despair and is willing to pay any price in order to do so. Upon God's children recognizing these truths through these types of circumstances, God's children can really come to know and appreciate God for who He is and the favor He provides, and thus, be better equipped to worship the only God who is worthy.
The scriptures reveal that there is a common trait that the heroes of the Bible possess that pleases God. This trait has nothing to do with strength. This trait has nothing to do with power. This trait has nothing to do with knowledge. This trait has nothing to do with any sort of human capacity or ability, yet the Lord continually highlights these traits throughout the scriptures, especially in the lives of the patriarchs. These traits are powerfully exemplified in the very last portion of scripture in the Book of Genesis through the life of Joseph.
In Genesis 50:15-26 the Bible describes the last two major events of Joseph's life. The Bible explains that after Joseph buried his father in Canaan, he returned to Egypt to serve Pharaoh again. However, the scriptures also explain that Joseph's brothers were still holding on to guilt and fear for what they did to Joseph so many years before. The Bible reveals that the brothers of Joseph were concerned that, since Jacob their father had died, Joseph would seek an opportunity to avenge the terrible circumstances that his brothers had put him through in previous years. Yet the scriptures show that this thought had never crossed Joseph's mind.
Though Joseph's brothers were paranoid about how Joseph might exercise his authority in Egypt to pay them back, Joseph demonstrated an intense sense of humility and explained that, even if he had wanted to get his brothers back, it was not his place to do so. Vengeance belongs to the Lord and Joseph demonstrated humility through his understanding of this truth. Genesis 50:15-26 explains that Joseph's brothers sent messengers to Joseph saying that Jacob had commanded Joseph to forgive his brothers for the wrong that they did against him. The scriptures never reveal that Jacob gave this command. However, the guilt and fear of Joseph's brothers caused them to tell this story anyway. They wanted to be forgiven and didn't trust that Joseph would just accept their apology. Therefore, they made up this story and then offered themselves as servants of Joseph in the hope that Joseph would be appeased and not seek to repay them for their wrong against him.
The Bible explains that Joseph responded in a manner that God is pleased with. Though the approval of God is not immediately stated in this passage, Joseph's conduct and understanding of God's nature is often mentioned in the scriptures as that which pleases God. Joseph explained to his brothers that he was willing to forgive them. In fact, the scriptures suggest that Joseph had already forgiven them, but the fact that his brothers were still fearful grieved Joseph so that he began to weep when his brothers approached him this way. Joseph explained to his brothers that he was not God and vengeance was not his place. Joseph explained to his brothers that he was not equal to God as a judge and that his brothers should not submit to him as if he were God. Joseph quite plainly reminded his brothers that he was not God. Joseph did not seek to take any authority, praise, or focus that should have been placed on God. Joseph humbly forgave his brothers and reminded that his brothers should seek the Lord for forgiveness just the same.
Genesis 50:15-26 also explains Joseph's understanding of God's will and plan, which is what facilitated his humble position. Joseph explained to his brothers that he had no reason to hold a grudge against his brothers because the things that his brothers tried to do as evil, God was able to use for good so that many people's lives were saved by the work Joseph did during the famine. Joseph understood the big picture, and more importantly knew that God was in charge of all things. Thus, Joseph had no reason to resent the things that his brothers had done to him since God used those circumstances to keep people alive through Joseph's efforts. Joseph realized that the Living God who controls all things had used him as a vessel to bring life. This understanding is what facilitated Joseph's humble position.
Genesis 50:15-26 then documents Joseph's death. The Bible simply explains that Joseph lived to be 110 years old and got to see the third generation of grandchildren during his life, which would have been considered a great blessing. The fact that Joseph got to see his great grandchildren grow up would have been considered a sign of God's approval of Joseph at the time. Thus, the approval of God continued to be with Joseph in outwardly observable forms. Before Joseph's death, the scriptures explain why God continued to approve of Joseph. Joseph had an eternal perspective concerning the promises of God like his father demonstrated before his death.
Genesis 50:15-26 explains that Joseph made his relatives take an oath in the same way Jacob made him take an oath. Joseph stated that he wanted his bones to be taken out of Egypt upon his death and buried with his father. This request shows that Joseph believed that God would bring the children of Israel out of Egypt at some point in time, and take them back into the Promised Land in the land of Canaan. This is reflective of Joseph's understanding of God's promises, his understanding of God's faithfulness to keep His promises, and God's almighty nature that explains God's ability to fulfill His promises. The Book of Hebrews even highlights the faith that Joseph demonstrated in the oath that he made his children take. The oath was reflective of Joseph's trust that, though he died in Egypt, and his family lived in Egypt, God would remove the children of Israel from Egypt so that when that happened, he expected to have his bones brought back into the Promised Land as a citizen of the Promised Land. Joseph believed in God's promises and wanted to be identified in them like his father, grandfather, and great grandfather. These are the things that please God: the recognition of God's authority in humility, and the desire for one to be identified by God's eternally unconditional promises in faith.
When the Lord transitions from one phase of His work to the next, it is interesting to see how the people of the Bible respond. When examining God's work and the affects of it, it is critical to try to examine such events and consequences keeping in mind God's eternal nature. For example, when one examines the Old Testament scriptures and reads about the morbid history of the nation of Israel, it can be a depressing exercise to know the circumstances that God's children endured. While most of their trials and difficulties were self-inflicted, the consequences of their sin seem to be bitter and final. Yet Romans chapter 11 makes it perfectly clear that when all is said and done, God will ensure that all of Israel that remains on the earth at the completion of His work, will be saved! Therefore, it can be difficult to experience the transitional periods of God's work at the time, but so long as one keeps God's eternal plan in mind, one is able to move forward with hope and confidence in whatever life brings next.
This illustration is provided in the testimony of Genesis 50:1-14. In this portion of scripture the Bible documents the death of Jacob and the way that his family responded. The scriptures state that upon Jacob's death, Joseph immediately wept upon his father. Having not seen his father for over 10 years, and then being reunited with him in old age close to his death, it likely would have been very difficult for Joseph to see his father die. The Bible explains that after Jacob died, Joseph immediately sought to serve his father in death. The scriptures show that Joseph paid to have Jacob embalmed by Egyptian physicians. The scriptures show that the process took 40 days, but that the Egyptians went above and beyond out of respect, and mourned Jacob for 70 days on account of Joseph.
Genesis 50:1-14 also documents the efforts that Jacob's sons made to fulfill his desire to be buried in Canaan. The Bible explains that after the customary time of embalming and mourning had taken place, that Joseph approached Pharaoh to request time off in order to bury his father and fulfill his oath to his father. Pharaoh agreed and even fully equipped Joseph with all of the travel vehicles, companions, and resources Joseph and his brothers would need to make the trip. Egypt had basically become the sponsor of Jacob's burial and funeral.
The scriptures then explains that upon entering the area where Jacob was to be buried, the tone of the caravan became very sad. While it is expected that the burial of one's father might bring a certain amount of grief, the scriptures explain that Joseph, his brothers, as well as all of the accompanying Egyptians all were grieved. The Bible even shows that the people acknowledged the size of the memorial caravan as well as the intensity of the mourning that took place for Jacob's funeral. This is a stark contrast to the way that Jacob dealt with his own death. When Jacob prophesied to his sons and then gave his burial instructions, the scriptures reveal that Jacob did so with a heavy focus on the Lord's eternal promises, and so was able to possess a great deal of peace. However, Jacob's memorial procession was different in tone as the scriptures mention the intensity of the mourning several different times.
Genesis 50:1-14 explains that Joseph and his brothers did according to the request of their father. The Bible shows that the brothers fulfilled their oath, but that they were extremely saddened about their obligation. While it is understandable that a son would mourn their father's death, the scriptures do not explain any element of hope and anticipation for the next phase of God's work. The tone of Jacob's service makes it seem as if God's work had died with Jacob. However, the Bible discredits that notion is powerful form. The nature of God's promises to Abraham was unconditional and everlasting. Joseph and his brothers were the new heirs of God's promises to Abraham. Though Jacob died, God would begin a new phase in His work to fulfill His promises. Joseph and his brothers would become the new tools of God's work and the new vessels to receive the evidences and benefits of God's work. While Jacob's death would have been a sad affair for the sons of Israel, the response of the Egyptians who were present shows that Jacob's sons were not considering the future work of the Living God.
The Bible explains that God's work is continuously progressive. He is always working towards the fulfillment of His promises dealing with Israel, dealing with sanctification, dealing with salvation, and dealing with the revelation of His Son - Jesus Christ. This work involves many people, but the Bible teaches that it is appointed for a person to die once and then judgment. Hence, people die. The tools that God uses today to bring about the fulfillment of His promises are not necessarily the same tools He'll use tomorrow. Yet for those who remain, it is important to always consider God's eternal perspective. When examining Genesis 50:1-14, one should witness some sort of rejoicing as the sons of Israel considered Jacob's reunion with his father and Abraham as heirs of God's promises. That joy is never mentioned. When examining Genesis 50:1-14, one should witness some sort of anticipation about how the Lord would continue to fulfill His promises through the 12 sons of Israel. That anticipation is never mentioned. As God's children, it is critical to consider that God has good plans for His children and seeks to bless them in eternity. All of God's promises will be fulfilled to the fullest extent so that when one sees God transition in His work, one can be hopeful and confident that His work does not fail and end with the physical lives of His people. Instead, one can expect a new version of the same work. One can expect the same product in a new package. One can even anticipate that one's self might even become the next instrument of the Living God. Thus, when one phase of God's work ends, one should not examine the circumstances through the lens hopeless mourning and depression. Instead, one should examine the circumstances with excitement and anticipation to see what our faithful and almighty God will do next to fulfill His unconditionally eternal promises!
It is important for the people of God to have a fundamental focus and zealous desire for the eternal things of God, and then make basic life decisions that reflect such focus and desire. It is one thing for a person to say that they desire to go to heaven. It is another thing for a person to live in such a way that reflects heavenly citizenship and a longing to go "home." The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who lived normal lives as sinners, but demonstrated a trust in God's promises to a degree that made them do things that might have seemed odd or unusual according to "normal" cultural practices. The Bible is filled with men and women that wanted the benefits of God's eternal promises more than anything else and so they made basic life decisions that reflected their desire, regardless of how unique those decisions might have been.
In Genesis 49:27-33 the Bible documents the final words of Jacob and his death. It is a simple portion of scripture that testifies of Jacob's final wishes before dying. The Bible plainly states that after Jacob blessed each of his sons, he instructed them about the manner in which he wanted to be buried. The thing that weighed most on the mind of Jacob was his burial place. After communicating the prophetic Word of God to his children, Jacob wanted to ensure that he was buried in the right place. The burial location of Jacob was really important, and this importance was a reflection of his focus on God's eternal promises.
Genesis 49:27-33 explains that Jacob desired to be buried in a cave. However, Jacob desired to be buried in a specific cave. Though Jacob was living in Egypt at the time, he demanded that his sons take his body back into Canaan in order that he would be buried where his ancestors were buried - specifically referencing Abraham and Isaac. This cave is the cave that was located in the plot of land that Abraham bought from the sons of Heth in Genesis chapter 23. This was a cave that was located in Canaan that Abraham bought in order to bury his wife Sarah in. Later, when Abraham died, he was buried in the same cave.
Scripture reveals that Isaac was also buried there along with Rebekah and Leah. All of the patriarchs were buried in this area. All of the people that God used in miraculous ways to speak and fulfill His promises were buried in this place. In fact, though God promised that Abraham would inherit all of the land of Canaan, this burial cave was the only portion of land that Abraham actually owned upon his own death. Thus, this plot of land became symbolic of God's promises. Each family that God made His eternally unconditional promises to was buried in that place - the only place that they owned in the Promised Land. The burial place in Heth was representative of the greater work God would do to give all of the land to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Therefore, Jacob's adamant desire to be buried there was a reflection of his focus on God's promises to Abraham, and his desire to be a part of them.
It might seem like a morbid topic of discussion when one considers that the last words of significance that Jacob had for his kids was to bury him in a cave. Though Jacob was living plush in Egypt, he was determined to be with his father and grandfather in order to be associated as an heir to God's eternal promises. Jacob wanted to be identified by the promises of God in life and in death. Jacob's focus was not on the comforts and status-symbols of this life, but in the promises that God made concerning eternal life. The things that a person speaks of in the moments before their death are usually the things that person holds in the highest regard. Based on Jacob's conversation with his boys, he held the prophetic Word of God and the eternal promises of God in the highest regard. Such should be the focus of any child of God so that one is not focused on the "blessings" of the moment, but is passionately yearning for the fulfillment of God's eternal promises!
The Bible often presents the Living God in the image of a shepherd. The Bible uses the example of a shepherd to describe the manner in which God cares for and provides for His children, that are often referred to His "flock" or His "sheep." The imagery of the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep is one that is designed to bring comfort in order to let the children of God know that God desires to nurture His children and provide for them in a manner that is similar to the nurturing care a sheep receives from its shepherd. However, it is important to recognize the manner in which the sheep conduct themselves and what is required to care for them in order to recognize the type of relationship the scriptures describe as God being a shepherd.
This illustration is clearly explained in the testimony of Joseph, but specifically in Genesis 49:22-27. In this portion of scripture, Jacob is prophesying about his sons and finally arrives at Joseph. While on his deathbed, Jacob reminded his sons about the circumstances that Joseph had to endure on account of his brothers. Genesis 49:22-27 explains that Joseph was a fruitful son. The position that Joseph was in at the time that Jacob made his prophetic claims was one of great renown. Joseph was second in command in all of Egypt. Joseph possessed the very authority of Pharaoh himself, though as a foreigner. Thus, the fruit that Joseph was able to bear was exceptionally great! Jacob described the fruit of Joseph as being like a well - a life-giving water resource. Since the fruit of Joseph's labor allowed the people of Canaan and Egypt to live during the severe famine, the efforts of Joseph's life were indeed life-giving. Jacob also stated that Josephs' "branches ran over the wall," which was a reference to the extent of flourishing that was observable in Joseph's life.
Genesis 49:22-27 also references the difficulty in Joseph's life. Though Joseph was in a place of great blessing at the time that Jacob prophesied, the scriptures are clear to show how Joseph arrived at the place of blessing. Jacob compared the circumstances of betrayal and deceit amongst Joseph and his brothers to archers that shot at Joseph out of hate. In other words, Joseph's brothers hated him so much that they took shots at him in volume in order to destroy him. The Bible is clear to state that Joseph was greatly grieved by the treatment of his brothers. Nevertheless, Jacob is also clear to prophesy that Joseph remained strong through the difficult times in his life that stemmed from the mistreatment of his brothers because the Mighty God was with him!
It is at this moment that the Bible first refers to God in the manner of a shepherd. The Bible first describes God as a shepherd in the context of Joseph's testimony; specifically the difficulty that he endured. Jacob spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God in order to reveal that while Jacob was strengthened to endure his trials, it was only because the Mighty God was strengthening him. The strength that Joseph received to endure was the very strength of the Living God. Jacob refers to God as "the Mighty God" in order to reference the power of God. God is not only able to be powerful on His own, but also share that power with His children in order to equip them to endure difficulty. Jacob referred to God as "the Shepherd" as well as "the Stone of Israel." This is a Messianic reference to Jesus Christ as the "Rock of Salvation." Thus, as God is the Mighty God, He is also "the Shepherd," which is actually a Messianic reference to Jesus as the Rock of Salvation. It is for this reason that Jesus was able to confidently refer to Himself as "the Good Shepherd" in John chapter 10. Jesus was not saying anything new. Jesus was simply confirming the prophetic truth that was declared by Jacob in Genesis 49:22-27.
It is important to recognize the dynamics of God/Jesus as a shepherd. The testimony of Joseph reveals that, though God is a shepherd, and Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the objective is not to remove the sheep from circumstances of difficulty. God does not desire to remove His children from trials or challenges. Instead, God desires to equip His children to endure those trials and challenges by empowering them with His own power and strength. Though God does desire to lead His sheep to still waters, He does so by first refining His sheep and transforming them into a certain quality as He accompanies them through difficulties and enables them to endure them. It is true that God desires to bless His children, but the scriptures identify that the manner in which God desires to bless is through difficulty. Joseph was able to experience the presence of God when God equipped him with the power to overcome the trials he was going through. One must then consider the manner in which Joseph "overcame" his trials. He did not do so beating his own chest in pride confessing his own ability. Instead, the scriptures reveal that Joseph just quietly and humbly did what was required of him without complaining, trusting that God had purpose and power. Joseph spoke of the Lord when allowed the opportunity, but his attitude to serve in whatever capacity he was in was what allowed others to see the blessing of the Lord in his life. Thus, the Bible defines the blessing of God as the presence of God in the midst of difficulty.
Genesis 49:22-27 explains that additional blessings came to Joseph as well. God desires to bless above and beyond what any person would be able to produce by the efforts of self. Jacob prophesied that Joseph would receive blessings that would extend from heaven above, the deep beneath, in wombs of his descendants, in order that his blessings would exceed the blessings of Abraham and Isaac! Jacob stated that the blessings of Joseph would be as crowns on his head. In other words, Joseph would be identified by others through the blessings of God. This was already seen to be true. Recall that as Joesph remained in Potiphar's house and prison for so many years, those around him recognized that God's favor was on him. The work that God did in the life of Joseph in the midst of trials served to be evidence that Joseph was God's child! The blessings of Joseph being as a crown were also a reference to the manner in which Joseph was able to receive his authority. It was true that Joseph was in a position of authority, but that provision was given by the Living God who is the Almighty Shepherd.
The scriptures powerfully reveal the ways that God desires to work with His children. It is true that God is a Shepherd and that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. However, God's desire is not to remove His sheep from trouble, but to exercise His strength as the Lord God Almighty in order to equip His children to endure trials and challenges. It is in the midst of those trials that the presence of God can be clearly seen, not only by those God is equipping, but also by those who witness God's children go through trials. This is why God works this way. The testimony of God's children enduring problems by the strength of His own power brings glory to His name! Hence, the blessing that God gives is in the trial of life becoming an opportunity to praise and glorify God in ways that are beyond human capacity. The blessing that God gives becomes one's recognition of God's presence during times of adversity. It is then that God truly reveals His strength and providential care as Shepherd so that at the end of it all, God's children/sheep can be crowned with and identified by the blessings that only God can give!
There is great purpose that should be understood when God speaks His prophetic Word. The Bible is filled with prophecy, most of which deals with the fulfillment of God's eternal promises, especially to Israel. God communicated these promises originally to Abraham, confirmed them with Isaac and Jacob, and prophesied the various ways He would execute the fulfillment of those promises throughout the Bible. However, there are many facets of God's eternally unconditional promise that have not yet been fulfilled, but God even prophesied about this truth too. God communicated that in order for His promises to be fully fulfilled, His people would have to be in a certain condition; and while it is His responsibility to transform His people into that condition, there are things about His people that prolong the work the Lord desires to do.
In Genesis 49:13-21 the Bible continues to document the prophetic words of God that were being spoken through Jacob while lying on his deathbed. The segment found in Genesis 49:13-21 concerns the families of Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, and Naphtali and the things that would happen to their descendants. The prophecies of Genesis 49:13-21 reflect the type of temperament that each family would demonstrate as people groups and the various things they would achieve. Jacob stated that Zebulun would become a haven for ships that boarder Sidon. While Zebulun did not boarder the seas next to Sidon, the scriptures do state that Zebulun became infatuated with the goods that flowed through that region as one of its greatest supporters and consumers. Jacob stated that Issachar would be a band of slaves, submitting to others in order to bear the burdens of others, which was partially fulfilled in 1 Samuel chapter 10 as king Saul bore the burdens of Israel as God consumed him to prophesy over the people. The prophecy regarding Dan was fulfilled in Judges 18:27, and the prophecy regarding Gad was fulfilled in 1 Chronicles 12:8, and the trend goes on.
Each of these prophecies is confirmed in various ways throughout scripture, but more fully by Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 33. In Deuteronomy chapter 33, Moses blesses the children of Israel before they enter into the Promised Land. As Moses speaks about the various tribes of Jacob, he states many things that are consistent with the prophecies that Jacob spoke himself in Genesis chapter 49. However, Moses is clear to state that the purpose for God's prophetic Word is to confirm the children of Israel as God's own special people as His own inheritance. God prophesied about the children of Israel because He desired to communicate His faithfulness to them. Though some of the prophetic claims reflected rebellion and wickedness, God's prophetic Word confirmed that God knew the Jews would do these things, but He confirmed His promises to them anyway. God knew what He was dealing with, but desire to bless them anyway as an illustration of the extent of His patience, mercy and grace.
The things that Jacob spoke of regarding his children in Genesis 49:13-21 were not all good. Some of the things that Jacob prophesied reflected that his descendants would rebel against the grace and mercy of the Living God. The rest of the scriptures confirm that these prophesies were true. The children of Israel did rebel against God and in the very ways that Jacob said they would. However, the very nature of the prophecies shows that God knew of their sin before He declared His promises. God knows of the sin of His children but confirms His promises to them nonetheless. One of the things that makes God who He is deals with His willingness to endure the iniquity of His people, as well as demonstrate the ability to change their nature to reflect His own. One of the unique attributes of God is His identity as sanctifier, which deals with the work God does to transform His children into His image in order that they would be able to enjoy the benefits of His promises. The prophecies of Genesis 49:13-21 illustrate that God is well aware of the condition of His children, but is patient to endure that condition, and able to change that condition in order that His children would become as He is, and enjoy the blessings that He desires to give!