Genesis 2:18-25 & At Last

It is “not good” that man should be alone because our God is a master storyteller. Marriage is a mystery, and God holds the suspense for over four thousand years before he reveals the mystery climactically in Christ. As John Piper says our momentary marriages are a parable of permanence. Marriage will give way to something fuller, deeper, eternal, and perfect – the marriage that in the heart of God preexisted every other, the one after which earthly one-flesh covenant unions between man and wife were patterned.

This marriage between Christ and His bride has been inaugurated but is not yet consummated. One day we will like Adam cry out “at last!”

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

‘Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God

the Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and exult

and give him the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and his Bride has made herself ready;

it was granted her to clothe herself

with fine linen, bright and pure’—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
–  Revelation 19:6-8

This is the big story all of our little stories (marriages) find themselves in. It is the one they are to tell. The gospel is both the pattern and the power for our marriages (Ephesians 5:22-33). So seek to tell the story with your spouse, and when you or your spouse fail, don’t forget the story that you are trying to tell, and know that one day the struggles will be no more. The temporal will one day give way to the eternal, we will cry out “at last”, and our union will be perfect as we are perfected in our Beloved.

Genesis 49:29-50:26 & The End of the Beginning

By sin man and all creation were cursed.  In Genesis 12 we see God’s plan to reverse the curse and bring man into a state of blessedness through Abraham.  Abraham is promised three distinct things; land, offspring, and to be a conduit of blessing to all the families of the earth.  Our book ends with none of these promises fully realized, but with every reason to expect their fulfillment.

We close with two final requests and deaths.  There are many parallels between the account of Jacob’s last words and passing and Joseph’s, although Jacob’s is so much longer.  These similarities I believe point us toward the common function or purpose they’re recorded in Scripture.  By recalling the promises and making their burial requests both Jacob and Joseph thrust their relatives out of Egypt in hope of the Promised Land.  God will visit His people.  He will make good on His promises.  Egypt is not their home.  Their waiting does not mean God is delaying, but rather fulfilling His promises (Genesis 15:12-16). 

What Jacob and Joseph do for their relatives, Moses does for his readers.  The initial audience wanted to go back to Egypt, but their hearts were never meant to be there.  The promises are meant to dislodge their pseudo-homesickness and replace it with a longing for the Promised Land.  The promises serve a similar function for us, they buttress a sojourning spirit.  They make sin sour and Christ sweet.  They eradicate worldly-mindedness and establish heavenly-mindedness.

How can they, how can we be sure of God’s visitation and deliverance?  The main point of the last section of Genesis is meant to make the light of faith burst forth in our hearts.  Just as God spoke in the beginning such that light came bursting forth, so this last section of Genesis is God speaking, causing faith to burst forth.  The last section of Genesis (37:2-50:26) hammers home one doctrine, the providence of God.  The 1689 Baptist Confession defines God’s providence this way.

God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, to the end for the which they were created, according unto his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will; to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.

Or Joseph simply puts it this way, “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”

How can we be sure of full and final deliverance of a happy “The End”?  The end of the beginning points us to God’s providence.  The same providence that was at work in Christ’s first coming (Acts 4:25-28), is at work now.  This time of waiting does not mean God is delaying, but rather fulfilling all His promises.

Genesis 49:1-28 & Blessing, Blessing, Blessing

We only took a few steps on our journey through Genesis before man was cursed.  From that point on you long for the one who will crush the head of the serpent so that “his blessings flow far as the curse is found.”  In Genesis 12 we gain further insight as God reveals that it is through Abraham that all the families of the earth are to be blessed.  Now as Genesis begins to close we see blessings being pronounced three times by Jacob, grandson of Abraham.

In Genesis 47:7-10 Jacob blessed Pharaoh, in 48:15-20 he blesses his grandsons through Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, and finally here he blessed his twelve sons.  So the book that began with a curse now ends with a triad of blessings all coming through Israel.  In case the triple emphasis isn’t enough the narrator caps this pronouncement by emphasizing blessing three times as well (Genesis 49:28).

But let’s focus in some more.   Can we look more specifically within the nation of Israel for where the serpent shattering, curse reversing hope of the nations will come from?  Will he be the child of the donkey Zebulun?  Or Dan the serpent?  Perhaps Naphtali the doe?  Will a king come from the wolf, Benjamin?  No, none of these will suffice.  The pronouncements are too concise.  But there are two sons who receive extended treatment; together they comprise 40% of our text.  Surely the fruitful bough of Jospeh will again bring deliverance and blessing?  No, it is the Lion of the tribe of Judah whom all the brothers shall praise and bow down to.  It is one from Judah who will crush all enemies and restore a paradise better than Eden.

Refuse to bow to God’s King, and you are surely cursed.  Kiss the Son and know the blessedness of taking refuge in Him (Psalm 2), for “He comes to make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found.”  Indeed you are more blessed in Christ than you are cursed in Adam – blessed, blessed, blessed, superlatively blessed.

Genesis 47:28-48:22 & The Terminus of Genesis

From a literary standpoint our book is now coming to resolution.  A plethora of themes that we have followed through our book crop up again in our text.  Blessing, covenant, faith, sojourning, fruitfulness, God’s faithfulness, God’s Providence, and God’s promises are all touched on again here.

But form a theological aspect our book is unresolved.  They are in Egypt not Canaan land, less still are they in that heavenly city that Abraham looked forward to (Hebrews 11:10, 16).  They are only a small group of seventy; multiplying more than they have been, but not yet a nation.  And God is indeed with them (Genesis 48:21), but not in the manifest way He will be when He dwells among them manifestly in the Tabernacle, and that too is yet a shadow of something greater to come.

So where do all the themes of Genesis find their ultimate, full, and final resolution. 

In the second Adam tempted not in a lush garden, but a barren wilderness, who loves the word of God instead of disobeying it, by whose obedience we are blessed instead of cursed.

In that Seed of the woman who crushes the head of the serpent and defeats all of our enemies (Genesis 3:15).

In the Son whose blood does not cry out for our condemnation like Abel, but for our pardon (Hebrews 12:24).

In the singular Offspring of Abraham, through whom all the families of the earth are truly blessed (Galatians 3:16).

In the true Lamb, who like Isaac carried his own wood up the hill, while His Father held the knife and the fire, yet unlike Isaac was not spared, as He was the substitute.

In He who is Jacob’s Ladder, the one meeting place with God where man can meet and be blessed and not cursed (John 1:51).

In the true and better Joseph who though sinned against, is raised up by God as King of Kings using His power not to destroy but to forgive, pardon, and provide for his brothers. 

In our true elder brother who like Judah gives up His life for the innocent because of His love for the Father (Genesis 44:33-34).

All of this and so much more from Genesis finds its terminus in Christ.  He is the fulfillment of all the Scriptures.  In Him all the promises of God to us are “Yes!” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Genesis 46:31-47:27 & The Wisdom Above All Wisdoms

We can divide the passage easily into two chunks demonstrating the wisdom of Jacob indifferent spheres.  In 46:31-47:12 we see His wisdom in getting his family settled in Goshen, then in 47:13-27 we see his wisdom in ruling for Jacob.  But this is only a way of dividing up the narrative; it is not the point of the narrative.  Joseph has received a wisdom from above, but his is not the wisdom above all wisdoms.

When at the end of the text we are told how Israel has settled, gained possessions, and multiplied, you are not to be in awe of the wisdom of Joseph, but the wisdom and providence of God.  God promised Jacob that He would make Him a great nation in Egypt (Genesis 46:4), here we see Him doing that.  While the Egyptians struggle through the famine spending all their money then selling their cattle, land, and lives, God provides for His people, multiplies them, and forms them into a nation.

A couple of reflections are in order.

First, don’t adore the gift more than the giver.  Any wisdom Joseph has is only the faintest echo of God’s.  Lightning bugs are amazing creatures, but it’s a fool that celebrates their rear as being as brighter as the sun.

Second. the wisdom of God, like all of His other attributes, is for His covenant people.  All of God is for us.  This means no enemy is so smart that He can thwart His plans, nor are any of His children so foolish that they can clumsily demolish them.

Revel in this wisdom of God for you as Paul when He wrote,

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 

‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’
‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.  – Romans 11:33-36

Genesis 46:1-30 & From Nothing to Nation

For approximately 22 years Jacob has presumed his favorite son to be dead.  Now he has learned he is alive; can you imagine his exuberant expectation?  Joseph was 17 when he saw him last, he will be around 40 when he soon sees him again.  God comes and makes many wonderful promises to Jacob at Beersheba, and then ends them with a tender personal promise that he will die peacefully with his firstborn closing his eyes.  So they loaded up the wagons to move to Egypt and… genealogy!

Is this the worst commercial break ever?  If this was on the TV and non-inspired you might throw something at it.  We should have known that we couldn’t make it through Genesis without one more genealogy.  I hope our study through Genesis has caused you to see the stunning beauty and perfection of Scripture in all its parts.  I hope you no longer come to genealogies and sigh outwardly with disgust, but inwardly with delight.  I hope you have seen how packed they are with theological meaning.  So what is God communicating?  Why this list of descendants and why here?

Although Moses does write in such a way that we anticipate the reunion of Jacob and Joseph, and although that reunion communicates to us much about our heavenly Father, that is not the main agenda of this text.  This is not simply a sappy sentimental story, but a thick theological tale.  God is going with Israel into Egypt, there He will make Israel into a great nation, and He will bring them out again.  As Bruce Waltke comments, “Egypt is the womb God will use to form His nation.”

From old Abraham and barren Sarah a nation will come.  From these seventy, God will make a nation.  Remember Moses wrote Genesis as part of a series called the Pentateuch.  Check out how the next volume begins.

These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher.  All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt.  Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.  But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.  – Exodus 1:1-7

Prior to Jacob the covenant family had only been multiplying by one.  Not the quick route from family to nation.  With Jacob the fertility level gets kicked up, but seventy is hardly a nation.  But in Egypt, God will form His people.

Some may infer from Exodus 2:24-25 that God had forgotten His covenant.  But the Exodus passage speaks specifically about remembering the part of the covenaant regarding bringing them back to the land.  God has not forgotten or delayed on His promises during the 400 plus years that Israel will be in bondage in Egypt.  Everything is going according to plan (Genesis 15:13-14).  God is making His people from nothing in faithfulness to His covenant.

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  – Deuteronomy 7:6-8

In faithfulness to His covenant God is still making His people from such nothing today.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  – 1 Peter 29-10

Out of nothing, creation; good, holy, and blest.  Only Elohim can do this.

Genesis 45 & How Providence Relates to Forgiveness and Guilt

Finally Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, and in so doing reveals God to them.  The revelation they and we receive of God here casts light over the whole Joseph narrative.  The Reformation Study Bible comments on Genesis 45:5-8, “These verses, with Joseph’s repeated affirmation ‘God sent me’ form the theological heart of the Joseph narrative.”

Joseph tells his brothers not to be distressed or angry with themselves about their sin.  How can they possibly not be angry with themselves?  They are repentant, they have sinned horribly; they surely messed everything up by such hideous sin right?  Yes, they should repent of their horrible sin, but no, their sin isn’t as big as God’s sovereignty.  They didn’t ruin God’s plan by their sin, they accomplished it.  Ultimately it is not the brother’s hatred that sends Joseph into Egypt, but God’s love; God’s covenant love for Joseph and his brothers.  It is not the brother’s jealously of Joseph that determines the plot of Genesis but God’s jealousy for His glory.

Because they are secondary causes at best, Joseph can forgive; indeed he must forgive, for if he is ultimately to have a beef with anyone, it must be God.  Because they are secondary causes, the repentant brothers can rest in Joseph’s and God’s forgivingness. 

Learn to apply God’s providence from both angles here.  When sinned against know that no human being’s sin against you is bigger than God’s plan for you.  When you are the one who sins, the role we much more often play, don’t be so arrogant to think that your rebellion to squelch God’s plan will actually succeed and bring down the kingdom.

Genesis 43-44 & From Enoch to Philadelphia

All the Bible is God shouting to us, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”   Unfortunately we like the disciples want to build altars to Moses and Elijah.  Judah impresses us here, but don’t settle for second hand glory.  Let his moonlight excite you to discover the source.

One image Scripture uses to speak of Christ is that He is our True Elder Brother.  He is the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29).  We are fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).  As we survey Genesis brotherly love is profoundly absent.  The first brotherly relationship ends in fratricide.  This last section is titled “the generations of Jacob” (Genesis 37:2).  It is about these brothers, the nation of Israel in embryo.  In the ESV “brother” occurs ninety-nine times in this last section.  As we come to the close of this book brotherly love is restored.  And oh how gloriously God does it.

Instead of taking life, a brother will give up his life.  He will pay the penalty for the “guilty” and suffer the consequences.  He will suffer bondage that the “thief” may go free (Genesis 44:32-33).  Which brother does this?  The brother who previously pragmatically suggested they fully benefit from Joseph plight.  He wanted to keep their wallets fat and their consciences light (Genesis 37:26-27).  Now his conscience is stricken, out of love for his father (Genesis 44:34).  Likely having lost two sons of his own has put his heart in tune with his father’s.  Who is this brother?  Judah, who is to become the kingly tribe (Genesis 49:10), the tribe of David, from which the Messiah will come, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

God, to magnify His Son, “exorcises” the “spirit of Cain” from the brothers and fills them with the Spirit of Christ.  He not only is relocating them from Canaan to Egypt, but from Enoch (the city built by Cain in Genesis 4:17) to Philadelphia.

We are not types of Christ as Judah was, but God’s providence is nonetheless at work to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).  He disciplines us as sons to make us look like the Son.

Genesis 42 & Can There Be Right in Our Wrongness?

Sometimes there can be right in your wrongness.  We are frail sinful creatures.  All our good is mixed with evil.  When I was a high school student I overheard a struggling pastor say he didn’t know if he could bring his teenagers to church camp.  I anonymously sent him some money to be used for this purpose.  I’m sure there was some initial pride involved in the deed.  Within the last couple of years I was speaking with my mom about this pastor and she reminded me of the act.  It took a while for her to remind me, I had nearly forgotten the deed.  But now every time I read Matthew 6:3-4, I think, “I did that once.”  In our right there is always some wrong mingled in.  But have you ever considered that by God’s grace in your wrong, there can be right?

God uses the brother’s wrong conceptions of what God is doing, to bring about the actions God desires.  The brothers seem to think God is exacting payment for their sins (Genesis 42:21-22, 28).   God is working to bring about their repentance, by their wrong conception of Him.  These brothers are not experiencing God’s wrath for sins, but His covenant faithfulness.  God is not exacting payment from them.  They couldn’t foot the bill.  The wages of sin is death.  There are only two sufficient payments for sin, eternity in hell, and the cross.  Jesus paid for all their sins.  God’s chastisement is not an exacting of payment, but a mark of love.

This is not to say our wrong perceptions of God are ok.  They are not, they are sin.  Sin is not legitimized, but God grace is glorified.  Tozer was absolutely right when he wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  Yet God graciously leads us to repentance of our sins and to a true knowledge of Him.  Oh matchless grace greater than all our sin.

God uses their sinful perceptions of His providence to bring about repentance.  God uses Joseph to unify, sanctify, and preserver the covenant family.  He uses a famine to provide the world with the Bread of Life.  This should not surprise us.  He used the cross to break that Bread, and extract the wine that we might partake and have eternal life.  God ordained the greatest sin ever as the act whereby our sins were washed away.

ADDENDUM:

As soon as I posted this I read this J.I. Packer Quote on Justin Taylor’s blog.

It is certain that God blesses believers precisely and invariably by blessing to them something of his truth and that misbelief as such is in its own nature spiritually barren and destructive.

Yet anyone who deals with souls will again and again be amazed at the gracious generosity with which God blesses to needy ones what looks to us like a very tiny needle of truth hidden amid whole haystacks of mental error. . . .

Every Christian without exception experiences far more in the way of mercy and help than the quality of his notions warrants

Genesis 41 & Transcendent and Immanent

God’s transcendence and immanence are related.  Because His holy glory is so transcendent, it is immanent (Isaiah 6:3).  God’s glory cannot be contained, it is infinite, immeasurable, vast; it is even right here.  In our text we see God’s transcendent sovereignty mingled beautifully with His immanent mercy.  In fact we learn that they are never separated.  His immanent mercy is a transcendent sovereign mercy.  You cannot dissect God and His attributes.  Consider what we learn of God here.

1. God is sovereign. He raises up kings and brings them down (Daniel 2:21).  Their hearts are in his hand (Proverbs 21:1).  He uses them as his tools (Isaiah 10:5-7).  God gives Pharaoh this dream and is Lord over feast and famine (Psalm 105:16; Genesis 41:25, 28).

2.  Not only is God sovereign, but He also has a plan. Strength without wisdom is a dangerous thing.  In God infinite power meets infinite wisdom.  All His sovereign power is moving all things to His purpose (Isaiah 46:8-10).  It was God’s plan for Joseph to go to Egypt (Genesis 45:5-8).  God desired for the chief cupbearer to forget for two more years.  God wants to relocate His people to Egypt for a time, and He is orchestrating all of this, exercising His sovereignty to achieve His plan (Genesis 15:13-16).

Too many are sloppy theologians, they compartmentalize and rarely harmonize.  For instance, I think few connect the doctrine of God’s omniscience with the doctrine of God’s omnipotence.  Why is it that God knows the future?  Because He has a plan and nothing can thwart it.  He knows the future because he does the future (Proverbs 19:21, Job 23:13, Isaiah 14:27, Psalm 115:3).

3. Not only Is God sovereign, not only does He have a plan, but He also discloses His plan to His people. Two generations before Joseph God told Abraham of these things (Genesis 15:13-16).  Joseph as a young boy was given a dream that is controlling this final narrative of Genesis (Genesis 37:5-11).  Now God is revealing to Joseph what He is about to do.  God does nothing without revealing His secret to the prophets (Amos 3:7).  We are not prophets as Amos speaks of, but we have the word of the prophets.  Jesus makes known to His own His plan (John 15:15; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).

4. Not only is God sovereign, not only does He have a plan, not only does He disclose His plan to His people, but He also graciously uses us to accomplish His plan. Joseph becomes the means God uses to preserve, unify, and sanctify the covenant family.  Joseph is the means God uses to disperse the bread of life.  In a greater way, not lesser, God catches us up into His plan, to proclaim the Bread of Life that has been broken.

Oh what transcendence!  Oh what immanence!

Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples. (Psalm 77:13-14)