As preached by Timothy O'Day.
While we wait...
1) God protects His people.
2) God provides through His people.
3) God prepares His people.
4) God preserves His people.
While We Wait
February 4, 2024
Haley and I were ecstatic when we found out that she was pregnant with Julia, our first child. We were also ignorant of what to expect. Logically, we turned to to where millions of others have turned and read What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I say we, but really I mean just Haley. I don’t think I ever read a page of that book. Yet, I did glean much from it as Haley would relate to me what she was learning. She would share with me things that the baby was doing, how she was growing, and would lament when she learned about common effects of pregnancy that she didn’t expect. In short, the book is helpful because it protected her from surprises and mistakes, helped her provide better for the baby immediately, prepared her for what was to come in birth, and preserved her when she had doubts about what to do.
Waiting may seem passive, and in many ways it is, but it can also call us to do something at times. While she wait for the baby, there was nothing she could do to shorten the time between the present moment and our holding her, but there various ways she could act in her diet, sleep, and exercise.
Waiting isn’t always just waiting.
As we come to the end of Genesis, we see that the theme of waiting is prevalent. Genesis ends by preparing readers for something greater—the Exodus—and telling readers what to expect. But, in preparing for the Exodus, the end of Genesis isn’t simply instruction for Israel that is no longer needed—like a manual for a computer you haven’t had for 10 years. No, Genesis is instruction for Christians as well. It speaks to God’s church today.
This is because the end of Genesis doesn’t just prepare for the Exodus event that takes place through the agent of Moses and occurs with the redemption of Israel out of slavery from Egypt and their deliverance into the promised land. Genesis does prepare us for that event, but that event itself is merely a picture—a true and historical one, certainly, but a picture all the same—of the greater redemption that God is going to work to fulfill his promise in Genesis 3:15. There God promised that one would come who would crush the serpent and reverse the curse of sin in the world. If you know the story of the Bible well, you know that Jesus is the one who reverses the curse. He is the greater Moses who leads a greater Exodus by rescuing God’s people from the bondage of sin and death by becoming our passover lamb, bearing the penalty of sin on the cross so that death would pass over his people. And, as the resurrected Lord, he has promised to come again and bring his people into the true promised land—the new heavens and the new earth.
Thus, as Genesis prepares God’s people in how to wait for the coming of his promise, he doesn’t just prepare them for the first Exodus. He is preparing us and teaching us how to wait for Jesus second coming.
As Christians, we wait for God to fulfill his promise, but he does not simply tell us to what without giving us words to live by as we wait. In these last chapters of Genesis, we see that we wait while God protects his people, provides through his people, prepares his people, and preserves his people. Let’s walk through each of these ideas in turn with the rest of our time.
While We Wait, God Protects His People.
What the text says: Israel comes to Egypt and has a grand reunion with Joseph. They are in need of sustenance, as the famine still has years to go. The Lord gave leave for Jacob to sojourn in Egypt until he brought him out again. But where in Egypt will Jacob reside? Joseph has a plan for them to reside in Goshen, which he discloses in verses 31-34. He will tell Pharaoh that his family has come to him and that they are shepherds. Since shepherds are an abomination to the Egyptians, they won’t want them to dwell directly with them. Instead they will grant the land that they are already in, which is Goshen—the best of the land for shepherds, as 47:6 states.
In 47:1-6, this plan plays out. Joseph presents five of his brothers to pharaoh, they declare that they are shepherds, and Joseph asks for permission for them to stay in Goshen. And just like that, they are accepted as sojourners by the most powerful man in the known world, and they are able to settle in the best of the land.
God Protects Through Lowliness and Adversity
But notice what God uses to procure this dwelling place in Egypt: their lowliness. Shepherds are an abomination to the Egyptians, so they gladly put them at a distance from them in the land of Goshen. This is not merely gaining land and a place, but protection of God’s people. They will be in a foreign land, but separate in that foreign land. They will not become one with Egypt, but remain distinct so that they will one day be able to go forward and enter into the land that God has promised.
What You Expect While You Wait
Expect lowliness, but also thank God for it. You may experience adversity because you do not blend into the world. That’s a good thing. Imagine a ship out at sea that is carrying a bomb meant to destroy all the crew. Turbulent waters arise and, in response, the sailors toss unnecessary cargo overboard—including the deadly bomb. While they may be cursing the rough sea, it was exactly what they needed to stay alive. So adversity can cause us to cast off sin that clings to us and prosperity that would poison us.
As Christians, we should not conceal who we are in an attempt to fit in and become acceptable to the wider culture. I am not saying that we should be purposely offensive; we simply must not hide who we are. For being despised by the world can actually protect you from the corruption in the world.
As a church, we cannot conceal who we are in an attempt to fit in and grow in number. If you review our statement of faith and compare it to the believes of the wider culture around us—one that is predominantly Mormon—then you will find many similarities, but two huge differences: who God is and how we have a relationship with God. For while we may agree with Mormons that sin separates us from God, we do not agree on what must happen in order for us to be right with God.
But talking about this can feel awkward. We want to be friends. We want to get along. We don’t want to be an abomination as Joseph Smith called the creeds of the protestant churches.
Yet it is not honoring to God to change who we are because we are uncomfortable. It is not loving to others to hold back what we have come to see as true.
So speak the truth in love and embrace lowliness and rejection if it means you are faithful to Christ.
While We Wait, God Provides Through His People.
The rest of chapter 47 tells of two events: Jacob blessing pharaoh and Joseph giving food to all of Egypt in exchange for their property and service.
After introducing his brothers and procuring the land of Goshen, Joseph brings in Jacob his father. We see in verses 7 and 10 that Jacob blessed Pharaoh in this meeting. This is interesting because in Scripture the greater always blesses the lesser. That is to say, the more powerful and higher status figure blesses the lesser figure. So you might expect that Pharaoh, ruler of the mightiest Kingdom around, would bless Jacob, but Jacob blesses him.
While Jacob was lowly in human terms, he was mighty in his heavenly promises. He was a prophet of God, called by him and entrusted with incredible promises of land, progeny, and blessing. In this authority, he blesses Pharaoh. He is living out what God said of Abraham—that through him all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. It is this blessing that Jacob is proclaiming over Pharaoh.
And Jacob’s action is similar to Joseph’s, even though in human terms he is mighty in Egypt—second in command to Pharaoh. As was clear through Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph is God’s chosen instrument to bless the people of Egypt and the world. At the end of Genesis 47, the people of Egypt completely run out of money, so they make a deal with Joseph to sell their livestock to pharaoh in exchange for food for a year. After that year, however, the famine is still raging and now they have nothing left. So they sell their property and say that they will still work the land, giving the produce to Pharaoh. In exchange, they will receive food. Joseph makes this deal with them, but only takes a fifth of the produce and provides them with seed so that they can continue to plant and harvest.
In this way, God blesses Egypt because Egypt listened to Joseph in his interpretation and in his administration of the food collection and distribution.
The promise of Genesis 12:3 is in action. There the Lord promised Abraham—and subsequently Isaac and Jacob—saying, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonorers you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Christians Bless the World
In a similar way, the world has been blessed by the work of God’s people in it. If you trace out the development of western civilization, it is a history of God blessing the world through the spread of the church. As the church spread, the needy are cared for and fed; hospitals are created; the marginalized are cared for; and living standards improve. I’m not saying that a utopia arises, surely not. But even atheists do not want to live outside of western civilization—primarily because they most likely would not be allowed to live long in some parts of the world outside of western civilization.
History tells the story that God provides good things to the world through the work of Christians who aim to bless those around them for the glory of God.
What You Should Expect While You Wait
Expect to be received and blessed by some, yet rejected by others. Still, no matter what, seek the good of the land in which you sojourn. Yes, we hope for a better city. Yes, this world is not our home. Yet, we are to seek the good of the city in which we dwell. Just as Jeremiah instructed the Israelites to seek the good of Babylon, the city that had conquered Jerusalem and took into exile the people of Israel. God commanded them to do this because this was the place in which they would dwell and would be a witness. It is the same for us today.
Likewise, we are commanded in 1 Tim 2:1-2 to pray for our leaders. If you think this is hard now, imagine praying for pagan Roman leaders. No matter who rules, Christians aim to bless for the good of all around them. This does not mean that Christians neuter the truth or water down boldness. It means that we aim to bless by speaking the truth and living it out.
While We Wait, God Prepares His People
What the text says: chapters 48 and 49 captures this idea for us. In these chapters, Jacob prepares for his departure by blessing and foretelling what is yet to come. He is preparing God’s people, then, for what is to come through the means of prophecies and promises. Let me show this by covering the high points of these chapters.
First, in chapter 48, Jacob calls Joseph to him in order to prepare for his death. Jacob still loves Joseph greatly and shows this love by taking Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim as his own through adoption. This is an incredibly gracious act because, as Jacob has received from the Lord the promise of the land, Joseph is going to receive two inheritances in the land instead of just one. This is seen later on in Exodus when Ephraim and Manasseh are allowed portions in the land of promise.
In formalizing the adoption through blessing, Jacob places his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left hand on Manasseh’s head (48:14), which displeased Joseph because Manasseh was older, thus he should have the honor of receiving the right hand in the blessing. Yet, when he goes to move Jacob’s hands thinking that his father had just made a mistake, Jacob stops him and says in verse 19, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.”
In other words, Jacob could foretell as a prophet that Ephraim’s descendants would be greater than Manasseh’s in influence. But this is not simply a factual statement about the history of Ephraim and Manasseh, though it is factual history.
Such a reality overturns natural human thinking about what is deserved and what we expect, yet this fits with what we have seen so far in Genesis.
Though Cain was born first, God was pleased with Abel.
Though Ishmael was born first, God was determined to give Isaac.
Though Esau was born first, God chose Jacob.
Though Reuben was first born, God used Joseph as his agent to save many.
Now, though Manasseh was born first, Ephraim would excel him.
This is what some people have called a “promised shaped pattern.” This phrase captures the fact that God often tips off what he is doing by doing similar things throughout history. For example, a common theme throughout all of scripture is barrenness. Several women play a prominent role in scripture because they are barren, but then somehow conceive and birth a child of great significance. You see this with Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, and ultimately with Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was not only barren but a virgin!
Likewise, scripture develops this pattern that the one you would expect to not rise to preeminence does. This prophecy by Jacob fits into that pattern.
The Promise of the Messiah
But there is more. As events turn to Genesis 49, Jacob continues to prophesy about the future. In this chapter, he calls his sons to him in order that Jacob may, as it says in verse 1, “tell you what shall happen to you in the days to come.” These blessings he is about to give, then, are not mere blessings. He is speaking of what will happen to them. But neither are these blessings just facts about what will happen to these sons, for after he is done speaking, we read in verse 28, “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him.” Did you catch that? He is speaking to the twelve tribes, not merely the twelve men.
In these blessings, Jacob foretells where some of these tribes will be located in the promised land, what will become of them, and how they will be defined as a people.
But for our purposes this morning, I want to focus on two tribes in particular: Judah in verses 8-12 and Joseph in 22-26. These two men and tribes are the obvious focus and highlights of these blessings since they are the longest and the most positive of the bunch.
What does Jacob’s prophecy in these verses show us? The Messiah, the one whom God would use to overturn the curse of sin introduced in Genesis 3, would come from the line of Judah, but would be a man like the person of Joseph.
Just look with me at what Jacob says of Judah in verses 8-12. Of Judah he says,
“Your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies.” Judah will be defined by being adored by his brothers people and in conquering his enemies.
“Your father’s son’s will bow down to you.” He will be a ruler. But this bow down language should not make us think of a mere ruler, but one like Joseph. Joseph dreamed that his brothers would bow down to him, now Jacob foretells that all of the tribes will bow down to Judah, indicating that one will come from Judah that will deserve the submission of all others.
He is a lion’s cub. He is powerful and it would be foolish to resist him. Or, as we read of the Davidic kings who come from Judah in Psalm 2, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” Just as it is vain to attack a lion, so it is to attack this one that God has anointed.
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” In short, he is king over all and will be so until he receives all he deserves. To him is owed all obedience.
“Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes.” In short, he is prosperous beyond imagination. He is so wealthy, that it matters not if he ties his donkey to his choicest vine and the donkey eats his fill of grapes. He is so wealthy that he makes wine flow like water, washing his clothes in it. This is imagery that should evoke from our minds ridiculous plenty.
Put all of this together and Jacob is saying that THE king is coming from the line of Judah and this king will fulfill the promise of Genesis 3:15 and be a man like Joseph.
What is Joseph like? Jacob’s blessing over him answers this directly. Verses 22-26 give the answer. In these verses, Jacob first speaks of Joseph by his personal history before he gives the blessing that his people will receive. In speaking of Joseph, he says…
“He is a fruitful both by a spring, his branches run over the wall.” Or, as Psalm 1 phrases it, “he is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Such is the man who makes the Lord his delight. This is exactly who Joseph has been. When he was sold into slavery, he did not despair but worked knowing that the Lord was with him. When he was tempted to sin by Potiphar’s wife, he simply said, “how could I do this to God?” And fled. When he had the opportunity to destroy his brothers who sold him into slavery, he instead discerned that God had sent him to Egypt to save many lives, so how could he take the lives of the men God sent him to save? In all he did, he delighted in the Lord.
The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him several, yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel)” (23-24). In other words, Joseph is the kind of man who, when he was attacked, did not attack in return. Instead, he entrusted himself to God and God fought his battles for him and vindicated him.
Verses 25-26 then lay out the blessings that the people of Joseph will have because of the kind of man that Joseph was.
What is Joseph like? He is a man who makes the Lord his delight, who when reviled does not revile in return, but submits to God’s will and is vindicated by God in the end.
Putting It All Together
Let’s put all of this together and see what it means.
God has revealed a promised shaped pattern that one who is unexpected will rise to preeminence and be God’s instrument.
The Messiah would come from the line of Judah, but be like Joseph.
God prepares Israel to see this as they wait and he builds our faith as we see that this perfectly describes Jesus.
Is the son of David, the great king from the line of Judah.
Who conquered his enemies not by taking up weapons, but submitting himself to death on the cross.
Who, when he was reviled, did not revile himself in return, but continue to entrust himself to his Father.
Who foretold his death and felt sure of his resurrection by the power of God
Who was vindicated in his resurrection from the dead
Now has all authority and is owed the obedience of all people
And, as the King of the Kingdom of God, promises to bring all of his people into the New Heavens and Earth in which there will be prosperity, no sin, no death, and joy forevermore.
What You Should We Expect While You Wait
How should we respond to these things? What should we expect? I think we should model our response on that of Jacob and Joseph. After giving these prophecies, Jacob instructs his sons to return his body to the promised land and to bury him in the tomb that Abraham had purchased. After telling his sons to do this in 49:29-32, we read in verse 33 that Jacob dead and was gathered to his people.
These are not mere burial instructions. This is a proclamation of hope. Why would Jacob care where he is buried if he does not think that the promised land will truly be given and that he will one day be raised from the dead? Even in the statement of verse 33, we see that Jacob did not cease to exist when he died. He was “gathered to his people” and, like Abraham and Isaac before him, awaiting the day of resurrection from the dead. Joseph, too, in Genesis 50:22-26, makes a similar request at the close of the book. He says that one day God will visit the people of Israel in Egypt and lead them to the promised land. On that day, they are to take Joseph’s bones with them. He, too, hears the promises and prophecies and lives in resurrection hope.
How much more should we, God’s people, on this side of the cross, live with hope in the resurrection? No hardship should blind us to this reality: while difficulties may abound, while temporal dreams of career and family may struggle, while our bodies may be failing and decaying, in Christ we can be assured that our best days are always ahead of us.
Don’t let present adversity blind you to the overwhelming weight of glory ahead of you.
While We Wait, God Preserves His People
Let’s end on this point and close out our study of Genesis. After Jacob dies, his sons and a company of Egyptians have a time of mourning and lead a funeral procession back to Canaan to bury him. Once returning, however, fear gripes the hearts of Joseph’s brothers.
You see their thinking in Genesis 50:15. Simply put, they begin to wonder if Joseph only forgave them and provided for them simply because he did not want to grieve his father avenging himself on them. In the grip of this fear, verse 16 tells us that they sent messengers to Joseph with what seems to be a made up statement from Jacob to the effect that Joseph is to forgive his brothers. I say trumped up because this seems like something that Jacob would have personally addressed before he died if it was a fear of his.
What this reveals about the brothers is that they actually know what they deserve, and it isn’t Joseph’s forgiveness and provision. They ask sincerely at the end of verse 16 through their messengers, “Please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father,” and then come to him in verse 18 and fall before him submitting as his servants.
Stop and ponder this for a moment. Joseph was the instrument that God used to save them from death and the means by which he became their salvation from starvation was their act of betrayal, lowering him into a pit, and then sending him away. Which is why they now fear that the one used to bring about their salvation from death does not really love them. In fact, they fear that he desires to be the agent of their destruction. They fear his love was not genuine, his care feigned, and that they will be destroyed if they don’t play their cards exactly right.
What Do You Expect?
Have you ever felt the same way, Christian? Do you have moments in which fear grips you and you wonder, “Does Jesus really love me? Am I truly forgiven?” And then that fear drives you to “perform,” either by denying your sin, making up lies about why you should be pardoned, or simply cowering before the Lord in fear instead of love?
Jesus’ answer to you is similar to what Joseph says in verses 19-21. “Do not fear.” Why is this Joseph’s response? Because he is sure that God elected that he suffer for the sake of saving his brothers and many others. In replying this way, Joseph does not mitigate the offense. They meant evil, but the evil was not the only intent in what happened. In the very same act, his brothers meant to destroy, but God meant to give life.
Joseph’s response, then, is simply this: “If God has the agenda of giving you life and using me to give you life, how then could I become the agent of your destruction?” Thus he comforted them instead of killing them, and spoke kindly to them instead of burdening them.
The Unexpected Mercy of Jesus While We Wait
Christian, Jesus is even better than Joseph. Unlike Joseph, Jesus chose the cross. Where Joseph begged his brothers and was sold against his will into slavery, Jesus walked into the bondage of sin and death willingly. He was killed only because he gave himself up willingly. Because Joseph is a mere man, he must say, “Am I in the place of God?” Jesus is the God-man, the second person of the triune God, but he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped—exploited for gain—but instead he laid down his life because he loves his Father and all those who come to him in faith.
So when you go to Jesus and say, “You died because of my sin. It was my sin that held you there,” and tremble, wondering if he would have you, he says to you, “I know. I laid down my life. No one took it from me.”
He who gave himself up to save you so willingly will not make it his aim to destroy you.
So instead of despair, turn to the Lord in confession and faith. His aim is not to destroy you but to keep you and sustain your faith while you wait.
But this is only true for the one who is in Christ by faith. If you are not in Christ, then you are not awaiting the new heavens and earth. You are awaiting the judgment of hell. So I plead with you this morning, if you have not given your life to Christ as he has made himself known in the Bible, turn from all other false hopes and sin and come to him today. He is a most willing and kind Savior and will bear your sin, but he will no wise simply clear the guilty who do not come to him.
His willingness is displayed in the Lord’s Supper, to which we turn now.