June 14, 2015 Genesis 46:5 -47:12
Series: Divine Hope for Dysfunctional Families
Today’s Message: “What’s Your Name? Where Do You Live? What’s Your Story?”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
When we meet a new person, there are a few questions we usually ask them:
1. What’s Your Name? (Who Are You? What’s your Identity?)
2. Where Do You Live? (Where Are You From?)
3. What’s Your Story? (Tell Me about Yourself; Your Journey & Your Life)
I would like to suggest that this narrative in Genesis helps to answer these three questions about the family of Jacob, the beginnings of the people of Israel. Furthermore, in answering these questions about Jacob’s descendants, they also give us pointers about how we can answer these questions, in light of who we are, in Christ, through His glorious gospel!
1. What’s Your Name? (Who Are You? What’s your Identity?) (Gen. 46:8-27)
Let’s be honest: most of you want to skip over any long list of names in the Bible, and vv. 8-, the long list of Jacob’s family, hold little interest for you. But allow me to suggest at least three reasons why this list of names is important and relevant:
A. They are the first fruits of God’s covenant promise to Abraham
This family list highlights the first flowering of God’s promise to Abraham. [Like the early snow peas in my garden, in early June!] We are finally seeing the unfolding of God’s promise to make Abraham’s children into a great nation. And from a barren and elderly Abram and Sara, God has caused their descendants to blossom into 70 people. And so this large company, migrating to Egypt, reminds us that God is keeping His promises to Abraham’s family, despite the all the dysfunction in Jacob’s family. Our God is a faithful God, working out His purposes, over decades!
B. The number (70) is a representative number that includes all others.
In Gen. 10, we have the record of the names of those who are the descendants of Noah’s three sons, each of whom will become nations, to repopulate the earth, after the flood, and there are 70 names given. So all humanity, including each of us, in represented in those 70 names.
Here in Gen. 46, we have the number of Jacob’s family who will live in Egypt, and again, it is 70. These 70 represent all of Israel.
Then in Numbers 11:16, we read of the elders of Israel who were their leaders, and the number is 70. All the people of Israel were represented in those 70 elders.
And finally in Luke 10:1ff., we have Jesus appointing and sending out a number of men, and once again, that number is 70. They represent all the followers of Jesus, whom He sends out into the world, as His ambassadors
Note that in each case, the number 70 represents all the people. Therefore, we are also represented in this group of people entering Egypt. We have continuity and representation with them, as God’s people. In God’s big plan of redemptive history, we are included in these 70!
C. This is your (spiritual) family tree!
Think of the Israelites listening to this Scripture being read by Moses, some 400 years later. How do you think each would feel as they heard their tribe name, their family name, being read out loud? “That’s us! That’s me!” They felt a bond, an identification, because they were the direct descendants of these people in Gen. 46. It was their name, and therefore it gave them a sense of identity.
But what about you? What, you didn’t hear the name “Sanders” “Haage” “Messinger” or “Gomez” in that list? Ah, but there’s something better! “What’s that?” Whenever you hear or read the Name “Jesus Christ” in the Bible, you should feel an identification with Him…if you are “In Christ” by grace, through faith. For in Christ, we have been adopted into this family.
Luke 10:20 – Jesus to His 70 disciples: “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Phil. 4:3- Paul writes to “my fellow workers, whose names are written in the book of life.”
Rev. 20:11-15 John saw the dead, standing before the great white throne, and the book of life was opened. Anyone whose name was not written in that Book of life was thrown into the lake of fire (i.e., everlasting punishment.)
So “What’s your name? Who are you?”
Your identity is seeing (1) that you are part of the fulfillment of God’s Covenantal faithfulness for 4,000 years; (2) That you have been grafted into Israel, and (3) that your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!
That’s your name. That’s why this list of 70 names is important and relevant.
2. Where Do You Live? (Where Are You From?) 46:28-47:6
It’s clear from this passage that Joseph goes to great lengths to enable his family to settle in the land of Goshen, away from the rest of the Egyptians. Why?
There one main reason: he wanted to keep his family isolated and insulated from the pagan culture and the idolatrous religion of Egypt. Joseph foresaw the spiritual dangers to the nation Israel if they were brought integrated into Egyptian life.
That is why Joseph ordered his brothers to say that their only occupation was that of a shepherd. Joseph saw the Egyptian disdain for shepherds as a blessing, in that it would keep the two cultures from merging.
And so through Joseph, God would move His people to this isolated corner of Egypt, where they could multiply without fear of intermarrying and of losing their identity.
Can you imagine if the people of Israel had intermarried with the pagan Egyptians? What would have happened on the night of the first Passover, when the angel of death hovered over each home in Egypt? How many divided, “inter-faith” families might there have been? How many Israelites would have long ago lost their identity as heirs of God’s covenantal promise?
As it was, 400 years later, when God took Israel out of Egypt, He also had to take “Egypt” out of Israel! How much worse it would have been if Israel had mingled with Egypt!
So when an Egyptian asked a member of Jacob’s family, “Where are you from? Where do you live?” and the Israelite answered, “I’m from Goshen!” it indicated that though the Israelite lived in Egypt, he was distinct and separate from the Egyptian religion and pagan customs. Where you were from and where you lived said a lot about you. (This is still true in many parts of the Middle East today.)
So what does this mean for us? Obviously, God is not calling us to remain geographically separate from unbelievers. We are not called to sell our homes and form a Christian commune out in the wilderness somewhere! See 1 Cor. 5:9-11.
But God IS calling us to be separate and distinct in our attitude, our behavior, and in our hearts and minds. Indeed, to be “sanctified” is to be “Set apart.”
So the Apostle Paul calls believers to “Not conform to the pattern of the world, but to be transformed.” (Rom. 12:2)
In 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 we are commanded by God to “not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?… 17 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord…
And in 1 John 2:15-17 the apostle John warns us: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of the eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does —comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
Let me be clear: God is NOT calling us to isolate ourselves into Christian communes; rather, He calls us to love Him and others, but NOT to love “the world.” God calls us to distinct Biblical values and priorities, in areas such as who we marry, how we educate our children, our finances, gender roles, the sanctity of life, economics, the environment, and more.
So… Where do you live? Are you “of the world?” or are you “Set apart” to the Lord Jesus?
3. What’s Your Story? (Tell Me about Yourself; Your Journey & Your Life) 47:7-10
Did you ever talk to adult siblings who grew up with the same parents in the same house, and yet had very different stories about their parents and how they were raised? It’s amazing how people can have such different perspectives on the same situations.
And so when we ask someone “What’s your story?” we can expect to get more than the facts; we can expect to get their spin and how they viewed their journey.
So it is here with Jacob, when Pharaoh asks him in 47:8-9 “How old are you?” [That is, you’ve probably seen a lot in your lifetime, old man. Tell me about yourself and your journey.]
9 And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.”
What spin does Jacob put on his life? He focused on his problems and how hard his life had been. Despite all that the Lord had done for him, Jacob was defining his life by his pain and his problems, not by the Lord’s privilege and promises. (repeat)
Jacob was allowing his perceived “victim status” to define his identity, to become the defining story of his life, like a radio that you only allow to play one station…and it’s always playing pity party songs.
But think of what Jacob could have focused on: Here he was- with all his sons and grandchildren, going to live in the best of the land, when the others around him were dealing with famine. In Goshen he and his family would have freedom and prosperity! Jacob now knew that God was reaffirming his covenant promise, that He would make a great nation of Jacob.
Furthermore, God had promised Jacob that He would be with him as he sojourned to Egypt (46:4), which really is the core and central blessing. For if God is with us, if God is for us, who can be against us?
Couldn’t Jacob declare any of the Lord’s great blessings to him, when he summarized his life for pharaoh?
Clearly, God was giving Jacob and his family far more than they deserved, especially after all the awful things they had done. They deserved punishment, but God was richly blessing them.
Are you sometimes like Jacob? Let me ask you: do you tend to focus on your problems and pains, or on your privileges and promises in Christ?
When people ask “What’s your story?” Do you tend to complain, or maybe just manage a tepid, “I’m okay; can’t complain.” Is that really your story?
Your story ought to be wrapped up in His-Story, in God’s story for you, in Christ! We need to “count our many blessings, count them one by one, and it will surprise us what the Lord has done!” Remember: In Christ, we do not get what we deserve; instead we get God’s overwhelming grace!”
There is one other blessing going on, in the background, but you have to look carefully for it. For while God is directly blessing Jacob and his family by giving them good gifts, at the same time God is indirectly blessing the pagan tribes back in Canaan, where they have just come from. How so? Because He is withholding the judgment they deserve, and by giving them the next 400 years to repent and to believe. We read in Gen 15:16 that the Lord says to Abraham: “In the fourth generation (four centuries later) your descendants will come back here [to Canaan], for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
There’s the blessing: God would give the Amorites/ Canaanites, four hundred years to repent.
As we read in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Are any of you still resisting the gospel, though God is being so patient with you? I urge you to repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
What’s Your Name? (Who Are You? What’s your Identity?)
My name is written in the Lamb’s book of life! I am a child of the King!
Where Are You From? Or Where Do You Live? (What’s your Place/ Belonging)
I was from the dust of the ground and the pit of hell, but God has lifted me up to live with Him forever….
Tell Me about Yourself? What’s Your Story? (Your Journey/ Your Life)
My story is that I was a blind and bankrupt beggar, and the King invited me, no, He compelled me to come to His house, where he feeds me at His table, dresses me in royal spotless robes, and adopts me as his child!