Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 20 January 21:
Genesis 47:23 – “Then Joseph said to the people, ‘Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh.’”
The rest of the story…. Remember back in Genesis 41, God enabled Joseph to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams concerning the impending famine, and Pharaoh appointed Joseph as governor to take from the people one-fifth of the produce of the land during the seven plentiful years so there would be a storehouse of food during the famine. Today, in Genesis 47, we read how Joseph arranged to have his family settle in the best land of Egypt, put them in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock, and also provided them with food. Meanwhile, Joseph forced the Egyptians to sell their livestock (Genesis 47:17), their land and themselves (Genesis 47:23) to Pharaoh in order for them to have food to eat (the food they had produced during the seven plentiful years and surrendered to the government). “Only the land of the priests he did not buy” because they were essentially government employees. The Bible further records, “Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.” (Genesis 47:27)
So, how do you think Joseph’s business practices made the Egyptians feel about him, his people, and his God? God had miraculously rescued Joseph from bondage and had uniquely gifted him that he would serve as an instrument of God’s mercy and grace to both the Egyptians and the Israelites, but Joseph used his freedom and his gifts from God to enslave the Egyptians while his own family (foreigners to the land) prospered. What message was Joseph communicating to the Egyptians about his God? We can only imagine the animosity that must have grown amongst the Egyptians about the Israelites. Of course, we will read about the consequences in Exodus – “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph….”
Joseph used his freedom to enslave the Egyptians, perpetuating a vicious cycle of abuse which will come back to haunt God’s people severely and subsequently result in God’s judgment against Egypt for their misconduct (all foretold to Abraham in Genesis 15:14). The Bible doesn’t directly address these issues in Genesis, but we will soon read in Leviticus and Deuteronomy how, following the Exodus, God establishes specific laws for his people to defend property rights, to prevent usury, and to limit servitude, protecting the dignity of all people (see Leviticus 25:23 and Deuteronomy 15:1 as examples). Furthermore, Jesus gives us the Golden Rule – “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) And the Bible teaches, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9) When victims become victimizers (though they never see themselves that way), they work against reconciliation (our earthly mission – 2 Corinthians 5:11-21) and God’s will. See Matthew 5:38-41.
So, what are you doing with the gifts, talents, abilities, and resources God has given you? Are you using them primarily for your own prosperity, or are you using them to serve God as an instrument of His common grace (God’s gracious provision to all) and as a messenger of His special grace (salvation through Jesus Christ)? Are you hording, hiding, and defending the gifts God has given you, or are you sharing God’s blessings with others, even your enemies, in order to proclaim God’s glory? What message are you communicating to the world about your God through how you treat people and resources? Do you intentionally show grace and mercy to those who previously wronged you, or do you ‘return the favor’ and continue the cycle of abuse? Finally, as an ambassador for Christ, how might you be showing favoritism or bias? Are there some people you are more likely to share the Gospel with than others?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 Jan 21: Pray that God will give you a heart for all people and that you will give and forgive in a way that reveals the love, mercy, and grace of God in a powerful way to all.