June 7, 2015 Genesis 45:16-46:7
Series: Divine Hope for Dysfunctional Families
Today’s Message: “Trusting God for Amazing Reversals”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Intro: Have you ever experienced a dramatic reversal? Did you ever have a situation where one day everything was going downhill for you, and the next day it all turned around?
In the passage we are looking at this morning, we see God’s grace and power displayed in four amazing reversals, as God brings (1) his people from famine to feasting; (2) from a fractured, feuding band of brothers to a reconciled, reunited family; (3) from suffering the death of a beloved son, to discovering that He is alive and all-powerful; and, (4) in the big picture, from a barren couple to a prolific people…and… here’s the application for you and me: God wants us to trust Him for those kinds of powerful and amazing reversals in our lives as well.
1. The First Reversal: God Brings them From Famine to Feasting
Jacob’s family had been living under the shadow of death for the previous two years, because of a severe famine in the land. They had seen their food supplies dwindle down to almost nothing, and they faced the prospect of death by starvation.
(It’s hard for most of us to imagine what that’s like, because we have such an abundance of food in our country But you might picture times when people are dying of starvation, such as in the 900 day Nazi siege of Leningrad, when people resort to desperate measures.)
But all of a sudden, with the revealing of Joseph as their brother, and with the favor of the Pharaoh upon them, these brothers not only have their shopping carts filled with all sorts of good food; they also have the promise of coming back to Egypt and being given “the best of the land of Egypt” where they “can enjoy the fat of the land.”
The family had hoped, at best, to obtain some grain to merely sustain them through the famine; instead, they would be feasting every day on an abundance of rich food! What a reversal, from famine to feasting! This was the power and the mercy of God!
Question: does this happen today? Yes. God calls to people who are spiritually starving and dying, and draws us in love to His banqueting table of salvation, where He lavishes upon us everything we need for life and godliness! In Christ, we go from famine to feasting! (See Trinity Hymnal #469: How Sweet and Awesome, based on the parable of the great banquet, from Luke 14). This is the hope we offer to those who are spiritually starving without Christ!
2. The Second Reversal: God Turns Them from a Fractured, Feuding Band to a Reconciled, Reunited Family:
Ever since Jacob married sisters and then had 12 sons with four different women, there’s been a lot of dysfunctionality in this family. The sisters are rivals; the older brothers are jealous of the attention that Jacob lavished on the sons of his favorite wife, and a number of the sons have deceived and cheated their father. Though favored by the Lord, this is a fractured and feuding band of brothers. Their relationships have been laced with adultery, incest, deceit, hatred, etc.
But now, after 20 years, God’s grace is transforming the sons, so that they are ready to stand by Benjamin when he is falsely accused, and Judah volunteers to take Benjamin’s place as a slave in Egypt, for the sake of his father. Joseph sees that God’s grace has caused his brothers to repent and to trust God, and so he is able not only to forgive them for selling him into slavery; Joseph also lavishes gifts upon them and they are all reconciled to one another!
Note Joseph’s generosity to his brothers in v. 22: “He also gave (his brothers) provisions for their journey. 22 To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes.” Iain Duguid comments that “Joseph’s gift was a reminder of how comprehensively he had covered over their original sins against him.
Iain Duguid comments that “Joseph was now covering the cost of his test and of their repentance.” “So they all headed home, richly laden, with all their new belongings packed on top of Pharaoh’s own wagons.” What a reversal, from a fractured, feuding band of brothers to a reconciled, reunited family!
Question: Can God do that today? Yes, on two levels. First, I have seen the Lord restore families and marriages that were full of hatred and hurt. I know of two couples that got divorced, and then by God’s grace, they got re-married to their ex, and have walked in love for decades now; another couple who were tragically torn apart, destroying their family and their ministry, and just recently, God has worked an amazing reversal, to heal them and restore their marriage/ family.
But there’s a second level to this reversal. It’s when God in His mercy heals centuries of animosity and hatred between opposing people groups, and unites the two into one church! For example, Muslim Arabs and Israeli Jews, worshipping together in the same church! African-Americans and Anglos and Latinos all singing God’s praises together! God can reverse years of hatred and distrust and form one spiritual family out of many fractured and feuding people!
So we offer hope to the broken, and we praise God for His amazing reversals!
3. The Third Reversal: God Turns Them from Suffering the Death of a Beloved Son, to Discovering that He is Alive and All-Powerful!
25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 26 They told him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
For 22 years Jacob had believed that his beloved son Joseph had been killed by a wild beast, and he grieved every day for this young man, upon whom all his hopes had rested. But now his sons return from Egypt and they tell him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt!”
Jacob can’t believe this good news! It contradicts everything he had heard up to now. It seemed just too good to be true. But as he sees the Egyptian wagon loaded with food; as he listens to the excitement in his sons’ voices, and perhaps, as he thinks back to the dreams Joseph had shared…eventually, Jacob is convinced. v. 28: And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” What a reversal: from death to life, from shattered dreams to unbelievably good news!
Question: Does God do this today? Yes, on two levels. First, as hard as it is for most of us to comprehend, I believe that God still raises people from the dead. When we lived in the Middle East, we heard reports of God working such wonders, in Saudi Arabia, through the faith of Christian nurses working in the hospitals. But if that’s difficult to grasp, then consider the second level in which this great reversal from death to life is true – that is, in you! For if you are a believer in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then you know that you were once dead in your sins and trespasses, right? And you know that God gave you new life in the risen Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. So you have been raised from the dead, and when Christ returns, your body will also be raised and you will be given an immortal body! This is great news!
4. The Fourth Reversal: God Moves Them from a Barren Couple to a Prolific People:
We read in 46:3 that the Lord says to Jacob: “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.”
“I will make you into a great nation!” Imagine you are Jacob, and you had heard all the stories about how your grandparents were old and unable to have children. And then God gave Abraham and Sarah a miracle baby, Isaac. And then you heard how your father Isaac and your mother Rebekah were not able to have children for 20 years, until God gave them twin boys. And you also recalled that your beloved wife Rachel was unable to conceive for many years.
But after three generations of dealing with infertility and the family line being upheld on a slender thread, now Jacob not only has the promise of God, that He will make you into a great nation in Egypt, but as you people migrate there, you count at least 70 people!
Indeed, the family list in Gen. 46:8-27 highlights the first flowering of God’s promise to Abraham. We finally see the unfolding of God’s promise to make Abraham’s children into a great nation. From a barren Abram and Sara, the clan has blossomed into a prolific people of 70 and counting… soon to be over 2 million! What a reversal, from barrenness to a population explosion!
Question: does God do this today? Yes, and again, on two levels. First, God does, in His good pleasure, choose at times to open the closed womb and give children to those whom the doctors pronounced infertile or barren. Lynn and I experienced a bit of that with having children after the doctor said we would have any more, and that is to His praise!
But on another level, the more amazing and eternal reversal is when God gives spiritual children to his people; that is, when He allows us to be the spiritual midwife to the new birth of other people. We catch a vision of that in Isaiah 54:1
“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.
God is doing an amazing reversal among people groups who for centuries have been very resistant to the Gospel, and now in the last few decades, we are seeing people group movements turning to Christ, by the thousands, ten thousands, and many more!
And so from one elderly and barren couple, Abram and Sara, God was in the process of giving them more descendants than the number of the grains of sand at all the shores of the world… and you and I are part of that population explosion, in Christ!
Summary: So God’s grace and power brought Jacob’s family from famine to feasting; from a fractured, feuding band to a reconciled, reunited family; from suffering the death of a beloved son, to discovering that He is alive and all-powerful; and, in the big picture, from a barren couple to a prolific people.
And God wants you to trust Him for those kinds of powerful and amazing reversals in your life. Will you? Do you? Our God is an awesome God, and He calls you to trust Him for great things. This should impact your praying, you faith, your actions, and your witness.
Let me conclude with three brief comments on these amazing reversals. These reversals are:
- Pictures of God’s grace and power, which fuel our praise and our hope in Christ;
- A challenge to our comfortable assumptions about how, where, and when God is going to fulfill His promises and reveal His grace and power; and
- Foreshadowings of the great gospel of Jesus Christ. Note the foreshadowings/ parallels between the Joseph story and the Jesus story:
- The brother go to Egypt empty, guilty, and distressed; but they leave full, forgiven, & comforted!
- Jacob had sent pistachio nuts to Egypt; Joseph sends back a lavish amount of food and gifts!
- Pharaoh invites Jacob & his sons to feast upon the best of his land, reminding us of Christ’s invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary & burdened, and I will give you rest.” Mt. 11:28
- This is a picture of the gospel! “Blessed are the poor… the hungry… for yours is the kingdom of heaven…for you shall be satisfied.” (Luke 6:20-21)
- The Son who was dead is now alive!
- He is the crown prince of all creation!
- Jesus has absorbed the cost of our sin against Him. He has clothed us in His righteousness… we are welcomed into his kingdom (2 Peter 1:10-11).
- While we await our full inheritance, we are given everything that we need to bring us safely there (like Pharaoh’s carts/ wagons).
- Let us praise God for His amazing gospel reversals! Let us trust Him for when and how He will accomplish His good purposes. And let us stand amazed at what Jesus Christ has done for us!