Whew! Genesis Wrap-Up

Thank you so much for joining me on the adventure of Genesis. It’s been a long journey and I’m glad we are done, yet sad we are done.

I’ve learned so much during the time and hope you have also. I’d love to hear what you have learned if you would like to leave a comment or email me.

What’s next? 

I don’t really know! I’m waiting on the Lord. Exodus feels good, like the next in the “sequel,” but like Jacob, I want to stop in the midst of my feelings, worship God and make sure it’s where he wants to go.

So, stay tuned. While doing Genesis, I got behind in several other things, including revamping our website. It’s so old, it needs to catch up with the rest of our lives. But I’ll let you know when things change so that we can continue to grow together…

Into new beginnings!

The End of an Era – Chapter 49-50

The end of an era, a lifetime, invites reflection.

Genesis 49-50 is the end of Jacob’s life. As he reflects over each son, he thinks about their lives and what would be appropriate to say. Sometimes it’s uplifting and sometimes it’s shocking.

Again, I cannot help but imagine the boys surrounding their father’s bed, eager to hear of wealth and fame. Instead, one was called “unstable,” another a “donkey,” another a “serpent,” another a “wolf” and two were “cursed” rather than blessed. One son never received land in the “promised land while the linage of Jacob to Jesus would go through Judah, the fourth son. And Joseph got a double inheritance since both of his sons were considered Jacob’s sons, despite their Egyptian heritage. The list goes on…

Not at all what the boys were expecting.

And then Jacob died. His family and Egypt mourned him for a length of time fitting a Pharoah. Then there was another grand parade back to Canaan to fulfill Jacob’s request to be buried in Canaan.

Then they all came back to Egypt to their homes, the brothers herding sheep and Joseph ruling. The brothers become nervous. What if Joseph only forgave them because his father was alive? 

So they sent a message to see if Joseph was going to take revenge. It may have also been tempting for Joseph to take revenge as the years went by, but he held firm to his relationship with God and continued to forgive. Then Joseph died, putting a seal on the end of this era.

What do I take away from these chapters?

First, what we do during our lives is remembered by others. Jacob (his earthly name) knew the character of each of his sons. It came out in his final words to them and was fulfilled throughout history of earthly nation of Israel.

Second, God’s forgiveness is eternal, going beyond history. Joseph forgave his brothers, continued to forgive his brothers. and never went back on his word. And even when the nation of Israel turned away from God, he never turned his back on them, giving them opportunity after opportunity to return to his love and blessing.

And it’s true for us – our character is built on the sum of our actions just as our actions come out of our character. That’s how people will remember us.

And it’s true for God – his forgiveness does not dissolve with circumstances. What he forgives, stays forgiven. Even when we sin, he gives us opportunity to confess and enjoy a personal relationship with him…

The relationship is what he desired when he created us, “In the beginning…”     

Peace Genesis 47-48

But God wanted Jacob around a little longer, so he didn’t die after embracing Joseph. Instead, he settled in the land of Goshen. 

Once there, Jacob first experienced God keeping his nation separate from Egyptians. Egyptians despised shepherds, so voluntarily they wouldn’t have anything to do with them.

Second, Jacob experienced meeting Pharaoh himself. Again, can you picture the encounter? Joseph himself brought Jacob to Pharoah, maybe in his fancy chariot or a parade into the city? Can you imagine Jacob’s eyes as he beheld great monuments being built? Huge storehouses of food? The wealth of the Pharaohs?

And Jacob was Joseph’s father. Earlier we heard Pharaoh saw Joseph was a father-figure, so this was like meeting a long-lost grandfather to him, a piece of who Joseph was.

The first question from Pharoah was about how old Jacob was. Jacob humbly responded, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.”

Jacob knew what he was not. He was not a saint and fell sort of his ancestors. And he wasn’t afraid to admit it.

And then Jacob, after all the grandeur or Egypt he had seen, went on to bless Pharaoh. Can you imagine it? The wandering shepherd blessing the Pharaoh? I would think it came out of gratitude for all Pharoah had done for Joseph, and some out of protocol for all Pharoah had given his family, but I also believe God gave him the freedom to bless Pharaoh for believing Joseph about the interpretation of the dream and providing for not only Egypt but surrounding nations. Pharoah had also recognized God’s power in Joseph.

God does bless unbelieving nations, I believe, to bring them to himself. Blessings also reveal sin. It was also part of the “promise” to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their nation would bless other nations.

Third, by living longer, Jacob was able to bless Joseph and his children. In Chapter 47, we see the precious scene of Joseph with his boys and his ailing father. Thinking Jacob was making a mistake in the placement of hands, he corrected him, but Joseph should have known there are no mistakes in God’s economy.

What God does, God means to do.

So in the midst of famine, Jacob and his family experienced peace. Joseph continued to be successful on Pharaoh’s behalf, bringing the Egyptian people and their land under Pharaoh’s domain. 

But Israel, the first time they are called by their national name, “Settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.

The Problem – Genesis 46

Jacob was overjoyed with the news of Joseph still being alive, his sons returning not only food but the offer of the “best of Egypt” from the Pharoah.

One problem…

The “promised land” was Canaan, not Egypt. Jacob feared if he moved to Egypt, his family might never inherit the land. Could he take the risk for generations to come, the promise from his grandfather’s, father’s and his God? What if his children adopted Egyptian gods? Would it be his failure as a father?

So, he stopped and talked with God.

First, he worshipped God. I wonder what it was like – Jacob praising God for saving Joseph’s life, protecting him, lifting him up? God had provided food, even wagons for his grandchildren. It was more than he could imagine as he presented himself before God, acknowledging the God of his fathers as his God.

Secondly, God acknowledged Jacob’s sacrifice by calling him by name. Think about it, God knew Jacob’s name. And he didn’t call him Israel, the name given to him years before by God. He knew Jacob’s name when he was a sinner, needing God’s grace.

Thirdly, Jacob responded when he heard his name, “Here I am.” He made himself available to God in that very moment. He had no idea what God was going to ask or say. After all, it had been a while since he had heard from God. Maybe God would say, “Turn around. Forget Joseph. I don’t want you to go.”

But Jacob still said, “Here I am.” And God assured him his fears would not come true. In fact, it would be the opposite.

First, God affirmed who he was, God Almighty, the God who provided and forgave Jacob’s grandfather, and father, as well as Jacob.

Second, he acknowledged Jacob’s fear, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.” God knows when we are afraid, especially when making life changing decisions.  We don’t even need to tell him, although it is good to get emotions out in the open. Jacob didn’t have the ability to mess up God’s plan, because God keeps his promises.

Third, God promised his presence, “I myself will go down with you to Egypt.” God goes with us wherever we go. I remind myself of that fact every time we’ve faced a move, surgery, a new challenge, or even when I get up in the morning.

God himself goes with me.  

And fourth, God give us a vision and hope, “And I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” Can you imagine the emotional impact of those words on an old man’s heart? His nation would someday live in Canaan again. His beloved Joseph would close his eyes.

I can’t help but think of my own walk with God. I need to stop…stop going in the direction of my heart, and connect with my God. There are times when I need to simply worship him, to hear him call my name. And I want to present myself with a simple, “Here I am.”  

I want to see him as God Almighty, able and willing. I want to fall to my knees when he acknowledges my fears only he knows. I want to embrace his presence in my life. And I want to be comforted by his vision for my life and let hope surge through my veins.

And then, like Jacob, I can “set out” for whatever God has before me.

Redemption – Genesis 45

So there Joseph and his brothers are, standing there, weeping, repenting, forgiving.

But what God wanted to do wasn’t finished.

God didn’t allow Joseph’s brother to sell him into slavery, serve in Potiphar’s house, be betrayed by Potiphar’s wife, serve in prison, be betrayed again, be remembered and raised to a high position just to forgive his brothers.

No, it was to save a nation, a people God had called to himself. And what a salvation it was! 

Can you imagine the scene? Jacob is sitting in his tent, wondering if his sons would ever return. He’d heard about the Egyptian named Zaphenath-paneah who had talked so harshly to his sons, throwing them into jail, keeping one son even now, while demanding his last son, Benjamin, also come to Egypt. He had lost so much, and if he lost the rest of his sons, the vision from God passed through generations would never come true. Jacob may have regretted giving in to Judah and lettering Benjamin go.

Jacob, who had twelve sons, might die a failure, without any sons.

And then the news…a cloud of dust on the horizon. Egyptian camels and wagons heading towards him. He squints against the sun. Were his sons with them, or was Egypt coming to collect the little food and wealth Jacob had not sent with his boys. Was this the end? Was he a failure?

And then to find out, it was just the beginning…

Eleven sons returned, telling him the twelfth son was still alive – the son he had mourned for years, whom he had no hope to return. Not only was Joseph alive, but he was the dreaded “Zaphenath-paneah,” second only to Pharoah in all of Egypt. Pharoah himself had sent the wagons, to reunite the family.  And in the midst of a famine, Pharoah had promised, “Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.

Take it all in, Jacob…

And no wonder Jacob’s “heart was numb.”  I’m surprised he didn’t die on the stop! As he looked and listened, he started to believe. And then, without hesitation he said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

There have been times, in my despair, I’ve seen a cloud of dust over the horizon, not knowing if it would be more bad news. And even when it’s good news, like salvation through Jesus, it’s hard to take it all in…  

But if we take it in, the good news of salvation, it opens a whole new world! 

Forgiveness – Genesis 44

The party was over. The brothers were sent off with beloved Benjamin. The trip had been a success – or so they thought.

Until they were chased down by Joseph’s steward, with all kinds of accusations. Stunned, the brothers defended themselves, until the cup is found in Benjamin’s bag. Although Benjamin was the accused, they were not going back to Jacob without him. 

Judah steps forward. Yes, this is the Judah who wrongly accused Tamar and was humbled by her sense of justice. That experience matured him and gave him the boldness to refuse to return without Benjamin, even when Joseph makes the offer. He even offered himself to take Benjamin’s place rather than see his father hurt once again.

But it was when the brothers talked about the beloved son of their father who had been killed, that Joseph could no longer hold his emotions. 

I wonder what the brothers thought when Joseph cried, “Make everyone go out from me” and then started weeping so loudly, the Egyptians outside of the room could hear. Then he started talking without a translator that he was Joseph and asking if his father was alive. No wonder they were filled with shock and unbelief!

Reality hit when Joseph asked his brothers to, “Come near to me, please.” He told them his story, how “God sent me before you to preserve life.” He said, “So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” 

There was no recounting of their past sins. They were forgiven. In fact, what God had turned into good, it was if it never happened.

Joseph gave instructions for the family to be brought back to Egypt. Pharaoh even got in on the bandwagon, giving them possessions and land. Jacob was stunned when he heard Joseph was alive.

It’s not quite the end of the story, but let’s not blow past the forgiveness. We’ve been working up to it for several chapters, and it is key to understanding.

The brothers did something that was wrong, horribly wrong. They lived with the guilt of it for years, making up lies to cover their tracks. Joseph felt the impact of their sin the most, paying the price with his suffering. But God had a plan of redemption that sin and suffering could not defeat.

We do things that are wrong, sometimes horribly wrong. We live with the guilt of it, lying to ourselves rather than confessing. As a result, others who are innocent suffer.

And God suffers, knowing our sin, knowing how we are separated from him. So he put a plan of redemption into place so that we wouldn’t starve ourselves, so that he could redeem us. That plan was for the only one who was righteous to suffer and die in our place, Jesus Christ. Through him, we are redeemed.

And our sin? It becomes as if it never happened. 

More to the Story – Genesis 43

The Ticking Clock – Genesis 43

The brothers went on to tell their father, Jacob, about the Egyptian, the money, and the ultimatum.  Jacob, not knowing about the sin of selling Joseph, was afraid of losing even more of his sons. If the Egyptian had been this tough, he could wipe out all of Jacob’s legacy in one move. 

The brothers begged. They knew they would all starve if they didn’t return. The clock was ticking…and it was only getting worse.

Judah continued to beg his father and round and round they went. Jacob relinquished praying, “May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”

So the brothers came once more in front of Joseph. As soon as he saw Benjamin was with them, he told the steward to bring them to his house. This must have seemed abrupt and put the brothers into a little tizzy!

So they talked to the steward, so see if it had anything to do with the money returned in their sacks and offered to give it back. The steward put them at ease and said, “Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you.” I wonder how much Joseph’s steward knew about their God? 

Quite different than their first experience with this Egyptian ruler, they were not questioned, but served. Their feet were washed, and donkeys fed. Simeon was brought out of jail. He may have wondered if his brothers were ever coming back.

Joseph appeared and the small talk began as Joseph found out more and more about his father. Then he came face to face with Benjamin. 

“Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out.”

I wonder what the brothers thought, with his quick departure?

Then they were seated, by birth order. Who could have known their birth order, as babies were popping out of wives and mistresses? And they are all men by now. And why would the youngest get 5 times the portions? But with all the food and wine, there wasn’t much opportunity for jealousy.

But Joseph was not yet done…and neither was God.

A Cliffhanger – Genesis 42

I can’t help but reflect on Manasseh name: “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” Joseph may have left the past behind, but God hadn’t.

God didn’t forget Joseph in jail, and he didn’t forget a starving family in Canaan.

Those brothers heard about the grain in Egypt as they looked at their barren fields. Jacob knew he needed to provide for his family, so he sent his sons to by grain, but not all of them.

Jacob couldn’t forget Joseph.

Still mourning his loss, 10-15 year later, he couldn’t bear to send his youngest, the only son left from his beloved Rebekah. So the other brothers joined the crowd headed towards Egypt to beg for the opportunity to buy grain.

Imagine them standing in the courtyard of this Egyptian named Zaphenath-paneah. They may have been practicing how to pronounce it, how to bow, how to approach this ruler who literally held their lives in his hands. Then the doors open and they are ushered before him into a room ladened with gold and wealth beyond any they have ever seen. A man dressed like a Pharaoh sits before them. They never left so small, so helpless.

And imagine Joseph, having left “his father’s house” behind him. And now, his father’s house is bowed before him – those brothers who hated him so much, they sold him into slavery!

I’m not surprised Joseph “spoke roughly to them.” He was probably trying to sort out his own feelings, his own anger. So he started with simple questions. As he asked the questions, he remembered his own dream, where they would bow before him, the reason they hated him. It was coming true.

The questions got harder as Joseph accused them of being spies. This would be a worse case scenario for these foreigners, a certain death. They pleaded with him, as Joseph got more information about them, that Jacob was alive with Benjamin. So he demanded to see Benjamin, to seek if their story was true. And just to put a period on how powerful he was, he threw them in jail, which could have been the same prison he had served in.

Three days later, they were resurrected out of the prison. Joseph has had time to compose himself, and his anger, to make a plan.

The plan started with, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God.” I’m sure fear of God was what made Joseph reconsider his next steps.

Joseph relinquished. Initially he was going to imprison all except one and have him go get Benjamin. But he may have known the fear Jacob would have felt and never allowed Benjamin to come. 

Relieved, the brothers talked among themselves, without thinking an Egyptian would know Hebrew. They had not forgotten about their brother, Joseph, and now felt this test was actually payback from God.

As Joseph heard his name, he turned away and wept. The brothers didn’t notice. Joseph knew he had not been forgotten. 

They took the deal. Simeon was left in Egyptian prison, grain was purchased, and in one last gesture of grace, or maybe to test their conscience, the money was placed back into the grain sacks. When they opened their sacks, “Their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, ‘What is this that God has done to us?’”

The issue was no longer with the Egyptian; it was with God. And the brothers knew it.

Rise to Power – Genesis 41

Talk about whiplash – Joseph is in the prison in the morning, in a palace by nightfall!

Just as Potiphar had put Joseph over his house, Pharaoh now puts him over his nation, second in command. He gave him his signet ring, giving him the power to give orders with the same authority as himself. And I wondered what the ring looked like, having seen pictures of jewel encrusted staffs taken from Egyptian tombs. I would imagine Joseph’s eyes were popping out as he could hardly believe what was transpiring!

Then came the dress parade, complete with gold chains. Once dressed, Pharaoh took him out for a ride, Joseph in his own chariot, right behind Pharaoh, people cheering and waving. The chariot stopped and the people bowed their knee, not knowing that just days ago, this was a despised Hebrew, jailed and forgotten. 

Now everyone in Egypt knew of him!

Then there was waking up in his own bed, pinching himself as servants waited on him, bringing the best food and wine in Egypt. He went from a prisoner to protected, expendable to vital to a nation and a ruler.

And personally he continued in grace, as Pharaoh renamed him an Egyptian name, so he would not identified with his past. And he gave him in marriage to Asenath, the daughter of a high priest, an honor only Pharaoh could have given.

And the babies came, and Joseph did not forget the Lord his God. He named the first Manasseh because “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The second he named Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

And Joseph worked the plan God had given. And just like in other situations, he was fruitful.

Many of us might have broken under the strain of the transition, the acclaim, feeling unworthy and incapable. Or maybe we would have changed with the wealth, and become prideful? Maybe we become comfortable with the protection wealth and power provide? Maybe broken under the pressure of providing food for a nation, for the world?

But Joseph embraced the position God, not Pharaoh, had placed him, and left the results up to God.

He followed the plan God, not Pharaoh, had given him. 

Forgotten – Genesis 40:23

Sometimes the shortest verses have the most impact. I think of “Jesus wept,” (John 11:35) and the emotion packed into those two words. 

So I can’t skip over Genesis 40:23.

We left Joseph with this glimmer of hope. He had sought God and God had come through with truth. He had been bold to proclaim his name – surely now a grateful cupbearer would remember Joseph’s name!

But silence…

Can you hear it echoing off the cold, stone prison walls? Can you hear the doubts rattling in Joseph’s head? Had he been fooled again? Could he ever trust Egyptians?

And the temptations to grow cold himself, to withdraw from his work, maybe even his God? Maybe his God was a powerless as the Egyptian gods made by hands? I don’t know if he had doubts, but he was human, just as we are, in the midst of waiting…

I wonder if he talked to the chief warden of the jail, trying to get perspective. I wonder about all the little things, those mundane things, that came and went while Joseph waited, day after day.

Joseph was forgotten.

For two long years, he was forgotten. We don’t know why the cupbearer didn’t remember him. I’m sure the cupbearer was grateful and it wasn’t that he had a bad memory. Maybe he “forgot him,” in a more formal way, like not having the nerve to “remember him” to anyone who had power? After all, fickle Pharoah had just had him thrown into prison and butchered the baker. I might be a little hesitant myself. Or maybe he just got caught up in his duties…or maybe a little too much leftover wine?

Like Joseph, we don’t know what was going on in the cupbearer’s mind.  And we don’t know what was going on in Joseph’s mind, but most of us know what it is like to feel “forgotten.” The promotion given to the co-worker you felt you deserved. The friend who looks past you to greet someone else. The person important in your life who misses your birthday. 

God never forgets us. He sees us all the time, the good moments and the bad, and even the empty ones, when we feel we are just waiting…forgotten.