Decisions, Decisions! – Genesis 46

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Decisions, Decisions Genesis 46 I welcome you to our time to be captivated together by God’s Word. We come to Genesis 46. Life really can be boiled down to a series of one decision after another. You and I make lots of choices every day. A recent study from Columbia University revealed, on average, we as Americans make 70 conscious decisions a day. Trivial decisions like what shoes to wear or what to grab for breakfast are simple. Other decisions are far more challenging. The story is told of a doctor who asks his patient if he has trouble making decisions. The patient replies, “Well, doctor, yes and no!” We face hard questions that call us to make tough choices. Should I take this job? Should I marry so and so? Should I move to such a such a place? Well, as we approach the coming year, there are many decisions for us to make. And as Christians, our greatest desire must be to make the right choice. For the right choice in every situation is what’s for God’s honor and our best. Praise be to God, His Word shows us how we can make the right decision at every crossroad that lies in our path. The Joseph story, one of the most action-packed in the Bible, has been our focus for the last 9 chapters in Genesis God’s sovereign fingerprints are found on every page. In our last week’s study, we watched how Joseph, vizier of all Egypt, shocks his 11 brothers when he reveals his identity to them. The shocker wasn’t just that he was their brother, but that he was their savior! As soon as he told them “you sold me here” he quickly pointed out “God sent me before you to preserve life!”
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For the grain Joseph saved is the grain that saves them from starving. Remember, there are 5 years more of famine. Joseph sends wagons so the brothers could bring their father Jacob and their families back to Egypt. When they arrive, they tell Jacob what sounded incredible: Joseph is alive, and he’s the ruler over all of Egypt. And on top of that, he’s reserved the best of the land for and your family! As we come now to Genesis 46, Moses the writer directs our attention to Jacob’s response. Three movements flow through this chapter:
Divine Guidance 1-7
Detailed Genealogy 8-27
Delightful Gathering 28-34
Jacob now has a big decision to make- to go or not to go to Egypt. He’s anxious about whether or not to move. Look now with me at the
1. Divine Guidance 1-7
Verse 1: So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2 God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” 3 He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. 4 “I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.” 5 Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob and their little ones and their wives in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6 They took their livestock and their property, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and came to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him: 7 his sons and his grandsons with him, his daughters and his granddaughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt.
The U-Haul motto says, “Adventure in Moving!” Yet for Jacob, it was quite another story: “Apprehension in Moving!”
You see, Jacob has mixed feelings about taking his family down to Egypt. He longs to see his son Joseph again, yet he wants to be sure God is with him in this.
Am I out of God’s will going to Egypt?
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If I leave the Promised Land with my family, will we ever return again?
What will happen to us in this most advanced and secular nation on the earth?
Jacob would have known his grandfather Abraham, during a famine of his day, moved to Egypt (Gen. 12). And that nearly cost him his marriage!
He also would have heard how during another famine, God told his father Isaac not to go down to Egypt (Gen. 26:2).
So Jacob is dealing with deep doubts about moving his family from Canaan. For it’s a tough choice to resettle your entire family in a whole new land.
Early in our marriage, Sonya and I had the opportunity to move from L.A. to the Philippines where we lived for 5 years. Then the Lord lead us to relocate with our family to the Czech Republic where we served another 13 years.
But it was a far more difficult consideration for Jacob with so many unknowns that went far beyond the foreign culture and language.
Friends, Jacob may have been saved many years before when God met him at Bethel. Yet it’s at this point in his life he comes to grasp walking by faith in God.
Well, Jacob with his family packs up and leaves their home in Hebron.
After journeying 25 miles to the south (a 2-day journey), he reaches the town of Beersheba.
Beersheba marked the end of the Promises Land.
That’s why we read in the O.T. of the North-South extremities being “from Dan to Beersheba.”
Beersheba also marks the place of worship where both Abraham and Isaac had called on the name of the Lord.
So, it’s at that very sight we are told Israel (that’s Jacob) offers sacrifices to God.
We’ve seen the only other place that verb zebahim is used- end of Gen. 31 when Jacob makes a pact with Laban and confirms it with a sacrifice.
Jacob’s offering of sacrifices speaks of communion with God.
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You see, he’s at the crossroads of a momentous decision. And he lays his concern before the Lord.
Jacob seeks God’s guidance. For he wants to be assured that stepping out of the Promised Land does not mean he’s stepping out of God’s will.
Christian, make this your default in the choices you make.
Don’t follow your gut feelings. And don’t assume what others urge you to do is best. Bring your concerns before God, and seek His guidance by listening to His revealed Word to you.
For the most important thing to ask yourself is, “What does God have to say?”
I can’t encourage you too much to saturate your life daily with God’s Word. For as you listen to the precepts and principles of God’s Word, your decisions will honor Him.
Well, God spoke that day to his servant in a night vision saying, “Jacob, Jacob.”
I love the exchange (v. 2-3). Jacob says, “Here I am.” And the Lord says, “I am God!”
So wonderfully, in the time of his difficult decision, God assures Jacob of his personal presence. He was right there with him.
Would you notice how God further defines Himself when He adds, “I am God, the God of your father.”
Why’s that important? Because it ties Jacob to God’s dealing with his father and His chosen people.
There’s an intentional link here with what Moses later describes in God speaking to him from the burning bush.
Listen to how similar God’s words are to Moses. Exodus 3:4,6 God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then the Lord told him: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
What’s God emphasizing? The continuity of His working through His people from one generation to the next.
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We as Americans tend to be very individualistic. We have little sense of connection with those who have lived before us.
In fact, one survey showed that 75% of college students could not even give the first and last names of all four of their grandparents. Sad!
As children of God, we need to see ourselves as members of His family. We need to view our identity with all God’s redeemed He has chosen.
The apostle Peter has N.T. believers in mind when he writes, “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION….” I Peter 2:9–10
Had you and I been in Jacob’s moment of decision, we would have emboldened by God’s words in that vision.
For God knew full well what’s going on in Jacob’s head. And he tells him, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt.”
This marks the 4th and final “Do not be afraid” consolation that God gives in Genesis.
God makes it clear, “Jacob, you don’t be terrified and distressed.” Why not?
Well, God gives him 4 good reasons why he should not fear.
First, He promises Jacob, “I will make you a great nation there.”
That’s the covenant God made to Abraham and here reaffirms to Jacob.
Yet, this is the first time God announces that this formation will take place outside the border of the Promised Land.
So supernaturally, God would make Egypt a greenhouse for growth of the Jewish nation.
Yes, there in that foreign land, God would multiply Jacob’s 12 sons and family in a mind-boggling way.
In 430 years they would reach a total of between 2-3 million people (Ex. 12:37-40)!
Second reason why not to fear- Go tells Jacob, verse 4, “I will go down with you to Egypt.”
That, friends, is a divine escort! Though Jacob and his family were leaving God’s land, they were not leaving God.
You see, the false gods of the day were thought to be territorial. You cross a certain boundary and
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the god can’t do a thing to help you (as if he could even help you at all!)
But not so with the true and living God. Our God always goes with us wherever we go!
Many years before when Jacob was still single. He was sent by his father to far off Haran to get a wife.
It was there in a dream God assured him, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Gen. 28:15
And God brought him back to the Promised land 20 years later (Gen. 31:41)… with a wife!
Church, God’s promised presence to His children- it’s one of the most precious certainties of all.
Hide this in your heart, child of God. Our heavenly Father cannot and will not ever forsake His own.
We heard God declaration through the prophet Isaiah to His beleaguered people Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! 2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” Isaiah 43:2
And God assures us through the writer to the Hebrews (13:5), “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.”
Our resurrected Lord, after mandating His men to make disciples of all the nations, gave them this parting assurance: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mat. 28:20).
And the Apostle John, in his vision of the New Jerusalem, hears a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.” Rev. 21:3
God will be with us forever in heaven. And He will be with us all our days on earth.
So, friends, when God leads you through a tough patch, it could be this week or this coming year, remember this: His personal presence will be with you in all of that!
Third reason not to fear. God tells Jacob he would not only go down with him to Egypt but he also says, “I will also bring you up again.”
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In other words, “Jacob, this is a 2-way trip from the Promised Land. Down to Egypt and back to Canaan!
God would not abandon Jacob and his family in that foreign land. Instead, He would be with them even there. And at the perfect time, He would whisk them back to the Promised Land!
There’s a fourth reason Jacob should have faith and not fear. End of verse 4: “Joseph will close your eyes.”
That means Jacob would die a peaceful death with his beloved son right there with you.
It’s interesting, that at the moment of death, many people’s eyes remain open. If that was the case with Jacob, his beloved son Joseph would gently close his eyelids.
Don’t forget. Jacob has not yet even seen Joseph after all those years apart. Yet now he has God’s guarantee of seeing him once again!
Well, all those promises of God confirm to Jacob this move is of God! His doubts are gone.
So, he chooses in obedience to God’s word to go to Egypt. “He arises” which means he gets up and gets going… but probably a bit in slow gear!
For Jacob is now up in years, 130 years old to be precise (Gen. 47:28).
I can just hear him: “Alright children, grandchildren, all aboard the SS wagon bound for Egypt!
His sons expedite the big move down to Egypt by putting their dad and family members in the caravan of Egyptian wagons.
Our text emphatically states (end of verse 6 and 7) that Jacob “all his descendants with him.” It’s a total migration!
They are all in with no plan to fall back on. They board those wagons uncertain of what lay ahead but certain of the divine guidance of God.
Christian, that’s the way God calls you to follow Him in every choice you face. By a heart not of fear of the future but faith in His promise.
I can’t resist bringing the apostle Paul into the conversation at this point. Because if he was here and heard us talking about the faith fortifying
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promises of God, he would want to remind us of how they find their ultimate fulfillment in Christ.
II Corinthians 1:19–20 For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silvanus and Timothy—was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. 20 For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.
All God’s promises to His own of His love, His presence, His peace, His blessing are made possible through Jesus Christ.
For Jesus is the promised one from God who brought God to us!
Following the divine guidance we now are given a
2. Detailed Genealogy 8-27
With the fresh promises of God, Jacob proceeds to Egypt with confidence that God is with him!
We might expect some vignettes of that long journey.
I recall my dad relating how he as a 2- year old moved with his family and relatives from Nebraska to California in an old Ford Model-A and a second car. It was their big move west. The Model-A had a cracked head (major engine problem) which my grandfather had to fix in Wyoming. As they continued down the road, since my dad couldn’t think of anything more entertaining to do as a toddler, he tossed one of his shoes out the window along Route 66. Well, it was his only pair of shoes, and his parents many miles down the road figured out what became of it!
That’s travelogue. Yet in Jacob’s trip to Egypt, instead of highlights about their journey, we get a family genealogy.
Why is that? It’s not to give us a list of baby names to choose from unless you are fond of Muppim and Huppim!
No, God wants to document His people that came through Jacob. That was key for the Jews after the exodus to be able to trace their roots.
This by the way is the first time that term “sons of Israel” is used to describe the descendants of Jacob that go beyond his 12 immediate sons and includes his grandsons.
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Very key, this catalog of names gives us the infant nation of Israel! And it shows us how that nation would be later organized. How’s that?
Jacob’s 12 sons mentioned here would found the 12 tribes of Israel.
And his grandsons would become heads of families into which the tribes would be subdivided. These are paralleled by Moses in Numbers 26 and I Chron. 4-6).
Why is that important? Because when God’s people would return to Canaan, the land would be divvied up according to these tribal and family divisions.
And they would see how God had faithfully lead Jacob’s offspring to Egypt and back to Canaan.
Let’s now walk through the list. It goes in birth order beginning with Jacob’s descendants through Leah.
Picking it up in verse 8: Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, Jacob and his sons, who went to Egypt: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn.
And then Jacob’s grandsons through his firstborn:
9 The sons of Reuben: Hanoch and Pallu and Hezron and Carmi. 10 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel and Jamin and Ohad and Jachin and Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman.
That last phrase speaks of compromise through intermarriage. Simeon married a pagan Canaanite woman.
11 The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 12 The sons of Judah: Er and Onan and Shelah and Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan). And the sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul. 13 The sons of Issachar: Tola and Puvvah and Iob and Shimron. 14 The sons of Zebulun: Sered and Elon and Jahleel. 15 These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddan-aram, with his daughter Dinah; all his sons and his daughters numbered thirty-three.
Next in line we are given Jacob’s offspring through his maid Zilpah:
V. 16 The sons of Gad: Ziphion and Haggi, Shuni and Ezbon, Eri and Arodi and Areli. 17 The sons of Asher: Imnah and Ishvah and Ishvi and Beriah and their sister Serah. And
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the sons of Beriah: Heber and Malchiel. 18 These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Leah; and she bore to Jacob these sixteen persons.
There’s a shift here in verse 19 which transitions us to : “The sons of Jacob’s wife Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin” (Joseph is considered as being with them).
And we get a sidebar in verse 20: Now to Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him.
And in verse 21, The sons of Benjamin: Bela and Becher and Ashbel, Gera and Naaman, Ehi and Rosh, Muppim and Huppim and Ard. 22 These are the sons of Rachel, who were born to Jacob; there were fourteen persons in all.
The last family group begins in verse 23, those born to Jacob through his maid Bilhah:
The sons of Dan: Hushim. 24 The sons of Naphtali: Jahzeel and Guni and Jezer and Shillem. 25 These are the sons of Bilhah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Rachel, and she bore these to Jacob; there were seven persons in all.
What’s the total count? Verse 26: All the persons belonging to Jacob, who came to Egypt, his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob’s sons, were sixty-six persons in all, 27 and the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt were two; all the persons of the house of Jacob, who came to Egypt, were seventy.
Why two different numbers, 66 and 70?
Well, 66 doesn’t include Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh born in Egypt. And if we add either Jacob and Joseph (or Er and Onan who died in Canaan) we get 70.
You see, not all 70 had to be in the caravan to Egypt to fit into Moses’ way of thinking.
Similarly, in Acts 7:14, Stephen says there were 75 which must have included Joseph’s three grandsons and two great grandsons.
Now, here’s what’s so encouraging about every name in this genealogy. Each of them is a testimony of God’s grace in building a promised people for Himself, Israel!
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And through that nation, Matthew tells us in his gospel, came not only Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but also Judah and his descendants. And the line stretches all the way to the promised Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ!
The divine guidance and detailed genealogy culminate in the:
3. Delightful Gathering 28-34
Still referring to Jacob, we are told in verse 28: Now he sent Judah before him to Joseph, to point out the way before him to Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen.
Responsible Judah leads them toward Goshen. And we surmise that he also went ahead to alert Joseph of their entering that agreed upon northern delta region of Egypt.
So, (v. 29) Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time. 30 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.”
What a sight that must have been! A father reunited with his son whom he thought was dead for over 22 years!
All the grief and sorrow flowed from Jacob’s soul as the tears streamed down his cheeks.
That reunion with his son transformed old Jacob.
Though he seems to have had one foot in the grave for decades, he ends up living 17 more years after this time!
And now, that he sees his long-lost son, he’s ready to depart in peace.
Whom does that remind you of? Old Simeon in the temple. He takes Christ, the son of God into his arms and says, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word! Luke 2:29
For Simeon knew his eyes were looking at the Prince of Peace born to give man peace with God!
If you have turned from a life of sin and trusted in Christ to save you from hell, you have real peace. It’s a peace that’s strong enough for every day and a peace that lasts for eternity. And don’t forget that peace Christ loves to give.
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Our Lord told His fear-filled disciples: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27
Joseph had made big promises to his brothers about giving them the best of the land. And he’s careful to keep His word. That includes preparing them to meet Pharaoh.
Verse 31: Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me; 32 and the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.’ 33 “When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ that you may live in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians.”
Joseph doesn’t drop the ball and become careless about his family settling into Egypt.
Instead, from a heart of love for his father and brothers, he steps in as their personal advocate.
He has a plan ready for their interview with Pharaoh, and he coaches them on what to say.
He doesn’t work them into a place of employment in the corn trade or to serve in the court or army. All that would have exposed them to envy of the Egyptians and temptation to forget Canaan.
And by the way, there’s no scheming or conniving here! Joseph makes it clear to his brothers they are to be completely honest with Pharaoh about their livelihood: we are simple shepherds.
Well, the more cultured Egyptians looked down on those who chased around herds of sheep, goats and cows as uncivilized. And they were happy to leave them at a distance from them up in Goshen.
So, Joseph brought them to that perfect place he had prepared for them.
O what a great reunion!
But there’s a far greater one coming because of one greater than Joseph, Jesus, who has prepared a place for us.
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What our Lord said to His disciples fully applies to all of us as His followers:
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3
Christian, that’s the great reunion that awaits us: see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Gracious God, heavenly Father…
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Decisions, Decisions! Genesis 46 Hope in Christ Bible Church 12/29/19
1. Divine Guidance 1-7
Exod. 3:4,6
I Peter 2:9–10
Ex. 12:37-40
Gen. 28:15
Gen. 31:41
Isa. 43:1-2
Heb. 13:5
Mat. 28:20
Rev. 21:3
Gen. 47:28
II Cor. 1:19–20
2. Detailed Genealogy 8-27
Acts 7:14
3. Delightful Gathering 28-34
Luke 2:29
John 14:27
John 14:1-3
God, how are you calling me to be a blessed and obedient doer of Your Word?