Dwelling in Egypt | Genesis 46:31-47:31

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Then Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their dependents. (Genesis 47:11-12 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

The book of beginnings, Genesis perfectly sets up the story and themes for the remainder of the Bible. After describing creation, humanity’s fall into sin, and the great flood, the narrative shifts onto the family of one man, Abraham. The LORD gave his family three promises: they would become a great nation, possess the land of Canaan, and bless all the families of the earth. Both Abraham and Isaac, his son, died without seeing these promises fulfilled.

Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, had twelve children, and drama ensued. He loved Joseph, the eleventh son, most of all, so the older ten brothers sold Joseph into slavery to get rid of him. By the providence of God, Joseph went for slave, to prisoner, to ruling all of Egypt. Also by providence, God used Joseph to rescue the world from a severe famine, which also gave him the opportunity to be reconciled with his brothers.

With his father and brothers in Egypt, Joseph must now present his family to Pharaoh. The meeting with the Egyptian king is made tense by the Egyptians disdain for shepherds, but God uses Pharaoh to graciously bless Jacob’s family. In turn, Jacob pronounces two blessings upon Pharaoh. We are then told how Pharaoh came to be blessed through Joseph wise management of Egypt during the time of the famine.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read 46:31-47:31 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Genesis 46:31-47:31? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. Through Joseph’s shrewd management, he saved Egypt from the famine while also prospering Pharaoh richly. Why does Genesis present Joseph’s actions in a positive light? How do our tithes and offerings resemble the people of Egypt’s tax to Pharaoh? How does the gospel impact our giving?
  3. Our text ends with Jacob demanding that Joseph pledge to bury his body in Canaan. Why was Jacob so adamant about ensuring that his body was carried down to Egypt? Like Jacob, how are you planning to display your faith in God’s promises beyond your own life?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you in obedience to His Word.

The Journey to Egypt | Genesis 46:1-30

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” (Genesis 46:1-4 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Because Genesis is the Bible’s introduction, we cannot properly understand the rest of the Scriptures without knowing this book. Here we learn that God made the world good and created humans in His image, but we rejected God’s paradise, choosing rebellion instead. But God did not give up on us. In fact, He promised a Savior that would one day defeat sin and death for good, and that Savior would come from the family of a man named Abraham.

Although none in Abraham’s family have proved to be the Savior, God miraculously uses Joseph (Abraham’s great-grandson) to save his family. After being sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph went from being a slave, to being a prisoner, to becoming Pharaoh’s right-hand man. Through divine wisdom, Joseph guides Egypt through a devastating seven year famine, and now he beckons his brothers to bring his father Jacob down to Egypt.

Regularly fearful and nearing 130 years old, the journey to Egypt would have been frightening for Jacob, but God speaks to the patriarch, encouraging him to make the journey down to his long-lost son. Just as Joseph, the grain supplier in Egypt, is an image of Jesus being the bread of life, so Jacob’s journey into Egypt is similar to the journey we must all make toward Christ.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 46:1-30 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Genesis 46:1-27? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. Jacob responds to the news that Joseph is alive in Egypt by worshiping God through sacrifices. Do you regularly turn to God in worship upon receiving blessings? What does that worship look like?
  3. Even in his old age, Jacob must make the perilous journey into Egypt to meet Joseph and save his family from the famine. How does this journey parallel our daily walk as Christians? How is Judah similar to Jesus in preparing the way for his brothers? In what ways does discipleship help others on their journey toward Christ?
  4. The always fearful Jacob finds peace to die upon reuniting with Joseph. How is this similar to Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:6-8? How does the gospel remove the sting from death?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you in obedience to His Word.

Joseph Sold into Slavery | Genesis 37

Week 1 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. (Genesis 37:28 ESV).

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:14 ESV)
OPENING THOUGHT

Genesis is the book of beginnings. It opens with eleven chapters that describe the creation of the world, humanity’s fall into sin, the great flood that only Noah’s family survived, and the scattering of humanity at Babel. In the creation account, we learn that God created the world good and even made humanity in His image. We were not content, however, to be made in God’s likeness. We wanted to be God, and so we disobeyed, bringing sin onto the earth. But even in the midst of our sin, God showed grace beyond measure, proclaiming hope that one day sin would be defeated for good. Indeed, these chapters are essential for properly understanding both the Bible and ourselves.

Beginning with chapter twelve, Genesis takes a significant shift in perspective by focusing upon a man named Abram instead of on humanity in general. Through his faith walk with God, the LORD promises to bless him by giving him a son through his barren wife, blessing all the nations through him, and giving him all the land of Canaan. Abraham then dies, only seeing the first of God’s promises fulfilled. The narrative then follows Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, as he attempts to follow God but repeatedly trusts in his own strength instead.

We now come to the fourth and final section of Genesis, which focuses predominately on Jacob’s son, Joseph. As the eleventh of twelve sons, Joseph could have been the runt of his family but was favorited by his father instead. This favoritism ultimately causes Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery, leading to one of the most well-known stories of the Bible. Unlike the lives of Abraham and Jacob, Joseph’s life is marked by stunning displays of God’s glory; rather, Joseph’s life is saturated in the providence of God. Although he faces abuse, slavery, and prison, God’s plan is present throughout and ultimately leading to Joseph becoming Pharaoh’s right hand. As we dive into Joseph’s story, may we become more aware of the everyday glories of God around us.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 37 and discuss the following.

  1. A great benefit of reading narratives in Scripture is that we often are able to become aware of our own sin through reading these ancient sins. Do you presently wrestle with any sins present in this chapter (i.e. Jacob’s favoritism, Judah’s greed, the brothers’ unwillingness to reconcile, etc.)?
  2. How does this chapter serve as a stern warning against the dangers of unrepentant jealousy?
  3. Because no sin is ever committed in isolation, Jacob is grievously impacted by his sons’ sin. Can you recall a time when your sin hurt someone else? How might “secret” sins still harm others?
  4. The chapter ends with a cliffhanger, informing us that Joseph’s story is only beginning and that his visions might still become reality. How might this example of God’s providence provide hope for those suffering?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

What Jacob Taught Me

About a month ago, I finished preaching through the third of four planned sermon series through the book of Genesis. The series covered Genesis 25-36, which is primarily the life of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson. Last summer, as I finished preaching through Abraham’s life, I wrote a post about what Abraham’s life taught me. I planned to do the same sort of the post with Jacob, but four weeks passed by without writing even a word of it.

Before I explain why I was so sluggish to write this post, allow me to first explain why I wanted to write it in the first place. Whenever we read about the lives of people in the Bible, we must understand that their strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, triumphs and sins, are all written down for our benefit. Their lives have been recorded as examples for us: either what to do or not to do. For instance, Paul calls Abraham the man of faith for good reason. The faith he placed in God throughout his life is astounding! Abraham’s faith is worthy of our imitation. We should strive to be like him.

And the same point can be made for David’s love of God. Or Moses’ obedience. The lives of former saints are recorded as both encouragements and warnings.

For me, Jacob’s life blends the encouragement and warning so much that it’s scary.

You see, I’ve had a hard time sitting down to write about what Jacob’s life taught me because in many ways, Jacob connected to me more deeply than Abraham did. And I think it’s because Abraham was such an example of faith. I certainly know that Abraham sinned. He was willing to sell his wife away to save his owe skin twice, and he committed adultery with his wife’s servant (even though it was his wife’s idea). But even with these sins of Abraham on display, he still feels larger-than-life. He feels like a superhero when it comes to following God. I simply don’t know if I could ever pass a test like Abraham’s having to sacrifice his own son.

In a lot of ways, Abraham’s life seems to point toward Christ’s absolute perfection more than it resembles my life.

But Jacob wasn’t like his grandfather.

Jacob’s life was essentially one massive struggle against sin and against God. Jacob was a coward and a deceiver by nature. Especially for the first few chapters of his life, it seems that Jacob lets himself be pushed around by everyone. His mom coerces him into deceiving his father. His father-in-law tricks him into marrying the sister of the woman he actually loved. His two wives toss him back and forth while they fight about who is loved most and who has more children. Often it feels like life simply happens around Jacob, like he’s a pawn in his own story.

Of course, when Jacob does take action, it’s rarely godly. Jacob’s cowardliness constantly shows as he tends to flee from conflict, instead of facing it directly. Jacob’s fear was merely the symptom of his little faith. He repeatedly took matters into his own hands rather than trusting God.

Unfortunately, this is the aspect of Jacob’s character that I relate to most. Like Jacob, I tend to be cowardly instead of bold. I’m often full of fear instead of faith. I consider too much what others might think of me instead of being concerned with doing the will of the Father.

I’m not Abraham.

I’m Jacob.

I’m not a man of faith.

I’m a man of struggle, wrestling against both God and sin.

By providence, I think that’s why God chose Jacob. I mean, even though Abraham was awesome, God named the nation of Israel after Jacob, not Abraham. And I think it’s because Israel was more like Jacob than the man of faith. The people of Israel continuously wrestled against God, following the pattern of Jacob.

But the great lesson of Jacob’s life, of Israel’s history, and of us today is that God is faithful even when we aren’t. God’s biggest grace to Jacob was not giving up on him. In many ways, God beat Jacob into maturity through struggle after struggle. But those struggles were grace.

It’s interesting that the brief descriptions we have of Esau (Jacob’s brother) seem to be the exact opposite of Jacob. Esau appeared to have great wealth (much greater, it seems, than Jacob), and there is no account of any great struggle in his long, prosperous life. Chapter 36, instead, simply lists the great men that came from Esau’s lineage.

Esau seemed to have it all.

Given the choice between Esau and Jacob, most people would rather be Esau. We’d rather have the easy life of prosperity. After all, material blessings are a sign of God’s favor, right?

Through the prophet Malachi, God declared His love for Jacob and His hatred for Esau. God’s relentless pursuit of Jacob was Jacob’s greatest blessing. Esau’s prosperity and ease, which led to self-reliance and self-sufficiency, were God’s curse upon him.

It’s a difficult truth, but it’s also full of hope. Jacob was a deeply flawed and sinful man of God, but he was still just that: a man of God. Jacob grew to follow God only because God never stopped wrestling him into maturity.

Like I said, I’m Jacob, not Abraham.

I’m often a man of struggle, not faith.

Thankfully, a wrestling match is often God’s means of grace.

Jacob & Esau: Two Roads | Genesis 35-36

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” (Genesis 35:1)

God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 35:9-12)

OPENING THOUGHT

Our present study began with Isaac learning that his wife, Rebekah, became pregnant with twins after being barren. When the two boys began to battle in the womb, Isaac inquired of God, who declared that the younger child would usurp the older. Esau was born first, then Jacob. The two were destined for conflict. Over the span of two events, Jacob deceived his older brother out of the blessing and birthright of the firstborn. Esau was furious, so he plotted Jacob’s murder, which was sufficient reason for Jacob to flee to his mother’s homeland to look for a wife. In the land of Haran, Jacob found his wife, but he was tricked by his father-in-law, Laban, into also marrying her older sister, leading to intense family drama.

After living with Laban for 20 years who repeatedly tried to cheat Jacob out of his work, Jacob fled back to the land of his father. Once there, Jacob was forced to confront Esau, who was coming to meet him with 400 men. In fear, Jacob sent large gifts to his brother, hoping to appease him. But a personal wrestling match with God finally gave Jacob the courage to meet Esau face to face. Shockingly, his brother met him with love and open arms. God softened Esau’s heart and finally gave Jacob the peace of reconciliation.

We now conclude this third section of Genesis with God appearing to Jacob once again, the deaths of Rachel and Isaac, and the prosperity of Esau. Though Jacob will continue to appear in Genesis, chapter 37 will begin to focus on the narratives of his children, particularly Joseph. As the narrative reflects upon the lives of Jacob and Esau, we find that they both lived prosperous lives; however, Jacob’s life was also molded by God’s grace and faithfulness.

Read chapter 35 and discuss the following.

  1. After God appeared to Jacob again, Jacob responded by ensuring that his household and servants put away their foreign gods in order to purify themselves before the LORD. What are some false gods that are common today?
  2. When Jacob arrives at Bethel, God once again declares that Jacob’s new name is Israel and pronounces the blessings of Abraham upon him. How, in particular, does God’s promise of nations and kings coming from Jacob apply to us today?

Read chapter 36 and discuss the following. 

  1. Though genealogies tend to be quite boring, all of Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for us. In general, what can we learn from the Bible’s genealogies?
  2. Verses 6-8 reinforce what we suspected in chapter 33, that Esau was in fact quite wealthy. How can wealth, prosperity, and ease of life actually become a curse for us?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Just as Jacob called for his household to forsake their idols before he built an altar to God in Bethel, take time to consider any false gods in your heart and how you can forsake them to follow God fully.
  • Pray. Consider the struggle-filled life of Jacob and the Esau’s life of prosperity. Give thanks to God for His grace of stripping us of our lesser gods, so that we might know Him as our eternal treasure.

Dinah & Shechem | Genesis 34

Week 10 | Study Guide & Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34:30-31)

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

OPENING THOUGHT

After a life of wandering and conflict, Jacob has now settled down. Stealing the firstborn blessing and birthright from his brother created quite a tension within Jacob’s family, forcing him to flee for his life from Esau. But Jacob only ran into more conflict by marrying two sisters, blatantly loving one of them more, and having an incredibly selfish father-in-law. After twenty years, Jacob escaped back to his homeland, terrified of reuniting with Esau. But God was with Jacob. Esau’s anger at Jacob was gone, and since peace was made between the two of them, Jacob finally stopped wandering.

But given the events of this chapter, Jacob might have chosen a better town to settle within. While Jacob is camping beside the city of Shechem, his daughter, Dinah, begins to socialize with the women of the city. Soon we are told that Shechem, the prince of the land, rapes her and then goes to her father and brothers for her hand in marriage. Dinah’s brothers in particular are furious, but they agree to allow Shechem to marry Dinah if every man in the city is circumcised. Three days after the men circumcise themselves, Levi and Simeon raid the city, slaughtering all the men and plundering the city.

This chapter ranks with the Flood and Sodom narratives as being one of the most uncomfortable displays of sin within Genesis. There is no innocent party here. Shechem is a rapist. Hamor only wants to make a profit. Jacob refuses to defend his daughter. Dinah placed herself in a foolish situation. And Simeon and Levi go well beyond a justifying retaliation. However, even in the midst of the darkest sins, God is still gracious and in sovereign control.

Read verses 1-7 and discuss the following.

  1. Dinah goes out to see the women of the land of Shechem. This seems to have a negative connotation that her interaction with them was foolish. In what ways do you live foolishly? How are we to live in wisdom?
  2. In these verses, Shechem is guided purely by his own desires. First, he sees Dinah, forcing her to lie with him. Next, he is captivated by, loves, and speaks tenderly to her. What are the dangers of allowing our want of pleasures to guide our lives? What must guide us instead?

Read verses 8-31 and discuss the following. 

  1. The intermarriage agreement between Jacob’s camp and the city of Shechem goes completely against God’s command throughout the Old Testament for Israel to refrain from marrying wives from other tribes and nations. Why did God prohibit Israelites from marrying non-Israelites?
  2. Since they convinced the men of Shechem to circumcise themselves, Simeon and Levi take advantage of their vulnerability by slaughtering all the men of the city, which is far too great of a retaliation against Shechem. Why did God command an eye for an eye in the Old Testament? What is the New Testament thought on vengeance and retaliation?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Learning from Dinah and Shechem, consider areas of your life where you are foolish or are guided by your own pleasures and desires. How does the Bible teach you to live differently?
  • Pray. In their zeal for justice, Simeon and Levi committed a grievous sin themselves by slaughtering all the men in the city of Shechem. Pray then that the Lord would give us a biblical view of evil, justice, and retaliation.

Jacob & Esau Reunite | Genesis 33

Week 9 | Study Guide & Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION 

Please accept my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. (Genesis 33:11)

And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. (Genesis 33:19-20)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

OPENING THOUGHT 

Jacob’s life is a continuous war being waged between fear and faith. Even after God prophesied that Jacob would usurp his older brother’s firstborn right, he still took matters into his own hands by deceiving his father into blessing him instead of Esau. Afterwards, Jacob fled from Esau to his mother’s homeland, where he found his wife, Rachel. Unfortunately, his father-in-law, Laban, deceived the Jacob into also marrying Rachel’s older sister. Chaos ensued in Jacob’s family, but eventually God commanded Jacob to return to his home. Jacob chose to flee in fear of Laban, rather than trusting God to care for him. Then upon arriving at his father’s land, Jacob prepared to meet his brother by giving him 550 animals in a series of waves, hoping to appease Esau’s wrath.

Though Genesis 32 built up the tension of the reunion between Jacob and Esau, the chapter ended with the twist of Jacob wrestling God throughout the night. Having now been given both a limp and a new name, Jacob goes forth to greet his brother. Twenty years had passed, and Jacob assumed that Esau still intended to kill him, which Esau’s four hundred men only helped to imply. Providentially, Esau is not angry with Jacob; instead, Esau warmly greets Jacob, embracing and kissing him. Jacob clearly understood this to be the work of God upon Esau’s heart.

But even though God had changed Esau’s heart, one of the biggest questions of this chapter is whether Jacob’s heart has changed as a result of his wrestling match with God. Some commentators are quick to jump to Jacob’s defense, believing that Jacob is an entirely new man now. Others present the opposite opinion, claiming that Jacob acts here in virtually the same manner as before. I will throw my lot in with others still who believe that Jacob is more complex than the other two opinions give him credit for. Jacob’s life has been a battle of fear and faith, and that fight continues here. Sometimes it appears that Jacob’s faith is winning, but at other moments, fear gets the upper hand. We know this to be true of ourselves as well. After encountering God in salvation, we do not miraculously cease sinning and act only in faith; rather, we still face temptations and doubt. But like Jacob, God’s grace keeps growing us in maturity, even if it is inch by inch.

Read verses 1-11 and discuss the following. 

  • The time has now come for Jacob to reunite with his brother, Esau, and Jacob goes through an elaborate display of submission before having Esau embrace and kiss him. Did Jacob act in fear or faith here? Why?
  • With his 400 men and his calm decline of Jacob’s sizable gifts, Esau seems to be quite wealthy himself. It does not, therefore, seem unreasonable that God may have softened Esau’s heart toward Jacob by giving him material blessings. How can material blessings distract us from worshipping God?

Read verses 12-20 and discuss the following.  

  • Now that Jacob has made peace with his brother, he builds booths for his livestock and settles down. Have you experienced a similar peace that comes from reconciliation?
  • Having settled matters with his brother, Jacob buys land and builds an altar to worship God. What was the twofold purpose of an altar? How do we worship God today?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER 

  • Obey. Having been rescued from Esau’s wrath, Jacob builds an altar to worship God. Similar to Jacob, we have been saved from the wrath of God by the sacrifice of Christ, and worship should be our response to that good news. Take time this week to evaluate your worship of God.
  • Pray. Jacob was far from perfect before he wrestled with God, and he was still sinful after that encounter. But by God’s grace, Jacob continued to grow in maturity and godliness little by little. Pray that the same would be true of you.