The Real “First Thanksgiving:” The Pilgrims Meet the Egyptians

May 6, 2011 at 10:27 am | Posted in Genesis | 16 Comments
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It’s fairly easy to pick up on the soteriological symbolism behind the true historical events of God calling His people out of the land of Egypt and into the promised land of Canaan, as they are recorded in the Bible. In the book of Exodus God uses Moses to get his people out of Egypt. Egypt is a picture of the “world.” During the first “Passover,” the people – by the application of blood – are set free from the bondage of the world, and come out of it. This is a picture of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. Then, God’s people pass through the Red Sea. This is a picture of baptism, God’s first step of obedience for every believer. Then comes the book of Leviticus, which is full of rules for helping God’s people stay clean in their freedom. In Exodus, God gets His people out of Egypt. In Leviticus, God gets Egypt out of His people.

As we approach the end of a series of posts on Genesis, it is interesting to see how God’s people – the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – end up in Egypt in the first place. The answer lies in the adventures of Jacob’s son, Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery, and he wound up a ruler in Egypt. Through God’s providence, he was able to relocate his family there in a time of famine, so that they would survive.

There are many metaphors for life: a contest; a war; a game; a race; a battle; a trap; a puzzle. You were probably taught in school that the first Thanksgiving occurred when the Pilgrims met the Indians. But when Joseph brought his father, Jacob, to meet the Pharaoh of Egypt, Jacob explained that he saw life as a pilgrimage.

And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.

Genesis 47:9

Christians truly are pilgrims in this life, for our ultimate home is not in this world. We are just passing through it on our way to our real home in Heaven. Vagabonds have no home. Fugitives are running away from home. Strangers are visiting someone else’s home. Pilgrims are on their way home. Are you living the pilgrim life today?

Check Your Sack Before Jesus Comes Back

March 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Genesis | 2 Comments
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Jacob and his family were out of food, and the famine was still going strong.

And the famine was sore in the land. And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food. And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food: But if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother? And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words: could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down? And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones. I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever:

Genesis 43:1-9

Judah stepped up to the plate for his family. Maybe he learned a lesson from the incident with Tamar.

Jacob sent his sons back to Egypt, and he reluctantly sent Benjamin with them. Now the brothers had three main problems:

1. Returning to Egypt, how would they explain why they still had the money they were supposed to have used to pay for the corn?

2. Simeon was still locked up in Egypt. How would they get him out?

3. How would they make sure that nothing happened to Benjamin?

These problems have spiritual corollaries as they picture similar problems that we, as Christians, may face in our lives today:

1. Are we still carrying some type of material or spiritual baggage from an excursion we made into the world, and, if so, how are we going to get rid of it?

2. Do we have “brothers” who got locked up in the ways of the world while they were out in it with us, and, if so, how will we get them back?

3. Are we doing what we can to make our “little brothers and sisters” safe from the world?

Here’s how God arranged for Joseph’s brothers to deal with these problems:

First of all they confessed that they had something they weren’t really supposed to have.

And they came near to the steward of Joseph’s house, and they communed with him at the door of the house, And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food: And it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight: and we have brought it again in our hand. And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.

Genesis 43:19-22

This took care of two of their problems at once: They were not in trouble over the money, and they got Simeon back.

And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them.

Genesis 43:23

The dream which was part of the beginning of all Joseph’s troubles was now fulfilled:

And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.

Genesis 43:38

The brothers still had one problem left, but God’s grace took care of that one, because “the Egyptian ruler” took a mysterious liking to Benjamin.

And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him.

Genesis 43:34

It must have also seemed exceedingly strange to the brothers that the Egyptians had them seated according to their birth order. How could they have known that?

The events in Genesis 44 take place about 22 years after the brothers had thrown Joseph into a pit, sold him into slavery, lied to their father, and “got away with it.” Now they thought that their problems had been solved. They were on their way home with Benjamin, Simeon, and the corn: mission accomplished. Joy over hidden sin (and the idea of “getting away with it”) might produce a type of relief, but it is a false relief – a false joy. Joseph’s brothers were shocked when they were overtaken on the way home by Joseph’s steward.

And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.

Genesis 44:12

The steward searched their sacks according to their birth order, which, again, must have seemed strange. The brothers had made a deal that the one who was found with the silver cup would remain in Egypt and be a servant. The tension would have been heightened as they moved toward Benjamin.

The word “found” can be “found” about seven times in Genesis 44 [Verses 8; 9; 10; 12; 16 (twice); and 17]. There is also the expression “come upon” in Verse 34. The brothers’ sin was being “found out.”

The word “father” is mentioned about 17 times in Genesis 44 [Verses 17; 19; 20 (x 2); 22 (x 3); 24; 25; 27; 30; 31; 32 (x 2); 34 (x 2)]. Sin was being “found out” and the “Father’s” judgment was coming upon it.

And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.

Genesis 44:2, emphasis added

And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.

Genesis 44:16, emphasis added

In Scripture the “cup” is often the image of God’s wrath.

Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

John 18:11, emphasis added

You do not want to be caught with the cup of God’s wrath in your sack when Jesus comes back.

And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph’s house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground.

Genesis 44:14

Notice that Judah appears to have taken the position of leadership. Also, Joseph’s dream has now been fulfilled again. They all bow.

Judah’s speech in Genesis 44:18-34 is very interesting. Judah may have been divinely inspired to appeal to the Egyptian (Joseph), using Judah’s own father (Jacob), without knowing he was talking to a man who also called Jacob “Father.” Notice “thy servant my father” in 44:24; 27; 30. Now came the fulfillment of Joseph’s second dream where Jacob also bowed before Joseph. Through this speech – this impassioned plea – Joseph realized Judah had changed.

The Son of Suffering and Glory

August 13, 2010 at 9:03 am | Posted in Genesis, Luke | 16 Comments
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Jacob showed up at a place called Padanaram empty-handed, and smitten with love for Rachel. Rachel’s father, Laban, was a shrewd conniver. However, after 20 years of hard labor, Jacob left Laban with four wives, huge herds of sheep and cattle, and twelve children – a blessed and wealthy man!

On his way to Bethel (which means the “house of God”) Rachel died giving birth to Jacob’s thirteenth child (twelfth son). Before she died, she named this child “Benoni” which means “Son of My Sorrow.” Imagine this boy going through life being known as his parents’ greatest sorrow! Rachel’s death was very hard on Jacob. Perhaps after a period of grieving he saw his opportunity to – for the first time – name one of his own children. Therefore, Jacob renamed the boy “Benjamin” (Son of My Right Hand).

The right hand is the side of favor and honor in Hebrew culture, and in Scripture. But how could a child of such great suffering be the child of such great honor? This question would not be fully answered until hundreds of years later.

And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus… He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee… And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them… Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:2-3; 6; 15; 25-27, emphasis added

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

I Peter 5:1, emphasis added

Shove at First Sight

June 29, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Posted in Genesis | 3 Comments
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And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

Genesis 28:18

Jacob’s pillow became a pillar. When you find yourself unable to sleep at night, when your pillow feels like a rock… then get up and kneel on it instead of lying on it – trade your bed for an altar. Trade your rock for The Rock.

In Genesis 29 Jacob continues on his journey.

And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth.

Genesis 29:2

This may have been the same well where Abraham’s servant met Rebekah while searching out a bride for Isaac.

And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep.

Genesis 29:6

In a dramatic reading of this portion of Scripture this is probably the place where you would hear the romantic music strike up. Jacob would appear to forget his own name for a few moments – and then snap out of it.

And he said, Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them.

Genesis 29:7

Jacob is obviously anxious to have a chance to interact with Rachel. “Whoo, boy! You fellas are burnin’ daylight out here! You had better get these sheep watered and rounded up!”

And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.

Genesis 29:8

The stone would have been huge and heavy.

And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep: for she kept them. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.

Genesis 29:9-10

Jacob: “Here, let me get this huge stone off the well. I’ll help you out here…” It’s fun to imagine Jacob heaving and shoving with all his might to improve his chances at impressing Rachel.

Then we meet Rachel’s father. To get an idea of Rachel’s father, here is typical Laban:

And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things. And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month. And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?

Genesis 29:13-15

Tune in next time to see what happens when Jacob the trickster meets his match in Laban the trickster.

Lord, Leader, and Ladder

June 15, 2010 at 9:53 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Genesis | 8 Comments
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In Genesis Chapter 28 we see the account of “Jacob’s Ladder.”

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

Genesis 28:12

This was Jacob’s exclamation when he awoke from that dream:

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.

Genesis 28:16

Why was Jacob so surprised at the presence of God? I suspect, like most of us, Jacob had an intellectual understanding of God’s omnipresence. However, also like most of us, he tended to get distracted by circumstances and forget about God’s presence.

For one thing, Jacob had left his family for the first time. He was on a long trip to the home of his father’s people. He probably did not expect to encounter another Yahweh-worshiper during the whole trip. Christians who do not attend church regularly, and who work with nonbelievers during the week, may tend to miss out on the reminder of God’s presence that comes with being around God’s people.

For another thing, Jacob had left behind his earthly father, and his earthly father’s altars and tents. As Christians we must not forget that the house of the Lord is not the only place we can meet with the Lord. We can make an altar and experience God’s presence anytime, anywhere.

Finally, Jacob may have been too focused on his own fears to focus on God’s presence. Jacob’s mother had told him, before he left,

Until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?

Genesis 27:45

For all he knew, his brother, Esau, might have been hot on his heels, ready to take his life. This would have been quite a reversal of roles, because Jacob is known for sneaking up on his brother throughout their lives up until this point (Genesis 25:26-34). Christians today must remember that fears, dire circumstances, and the possibility of our past catching up to us, should not cause us to forget the Lord’s presence. Our Savior, Christ Jesus, compared Himself to the ladder that Jacob saw in his dream (John 1:51). Jesus, fully man and fully God, is our Gateway into God’s presence. He is the only One who can put one hand on us and one hand on God the Father, and bring us into mediated fellowship.

Jacob's ladder

The God-Mastered Man

May 4, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Posted in Biblical Violence, Genesis | 16 Comments
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God has a special relationship with the people and nation of Israel. There is no denying the importance of this relationship in the pages of Scripture and in God’s plans for the people of the world. However, not everyone agrees on the meaning of the name “Israel.” Some believe it means “struggler” or “wrestler with God.” Others believe it means “one with whom God strives” or “one ruled by God.”

We know from Genesis 32 that it is the name God gave to Jacob after he wrestled with the Lord. First, the Lord asked Jacob what his name was. Not because God didn’t know – God is omniscient! But because He was making a point. The name “Jacob” meant “heel grabber” or “supplanter,” with the connotation of one who struggles through trickery. Jacob had spent most of his life “wrestling:” wrestling with his brother, his father, his employer, even his wives.

Now Jacob was being taught a lesson about the reward of struggling to know God and to receive His blessings, and at the same time, the futility of struggling against God’s will. This is why the best translation of the name “Israel” might be “the God-mastered man.” A man who desperately wants more of God’s blessings, and has been broken by God, can truly be used by God to change the world.

And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

Genesis 32:26-28

Professing Atheists Worship Creation Rather than the Creator

April 2, 2009 at 8:14 am | Posted in ProfessingAtheists | 24 Comments
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Professing Atheist: I would challenge any Christian to step out side of the Christian “box” and just for a moment consider the vast scientific evidence regarding the origins of the universe and of life.

Christian: Since you have brought up scientific evidence, this may be helpful: Little children, in elementary school, are commonly taught the “scientific method.” I know it’s more complicated than this, but, basically it boils down to teaching them to take matter and examine its properties, and learn about it, using their natural senses. Touch it. Look at it. Smell it. Taste it. I’m not opposed to children being taught that way, but think of the spiritual implications. In Genesis Chap. 27, Isaac employed a form of the scientific method with Jacob. Jacob and Rebekah plotted to deceive Isaac into thinking that Jacob was Esau. Isaac touched him. He listened to him. He couldn’t see him but, no doubt, he smelled him. And he came to the wrong conclusion! It would have been better for Isaac just to believe God’s promise by faith, that Jacob, although the younger, and not Esau, was to receive the blessing.

Professing Atheist: Have you ever been in an aircraft? If so, the fact that you landed again is because a large number of scientists kept working and improving things until they got their sums right. Evidence matters. Planes fly, diseases are cured, water comes out when you turn the tap on, and you and I can argue in cyberspace like this. You benefit from real, evidence-based science as much as I do. It’s hypocritical of you to dismiss it.

Would you say that (for example) Iranians and pagan Vikings would be “without excuse” if they “failed to acknowledge” God?

Christian: Hypocrisy is being grateful for the benefits of evidence-based science while ignoring God, who created all the scientific laws that the aviators, doctors, and engineers have discovered (John 1:3). Every time your heart beats, it is not thanks to cardiology or cardiologists. It is thanks to God, Who has caused it to beat, by His sovereign power, your whole life. When you expel the next breath of air from your nostrils, you will have hope of another breath, not because a scientist discovered evidence of the air you breath, but because God provides it (Isaiah 2:22).

You can check this out by climbing up on a roof. Shake your fist, and cry out, “I don’t believe you exist, Gravity! You can’t be real! If you were real, you would not have held all those Norsemen and Iranians down! You would have let them float away in true freedom! Therefore, I defy, O Gravity, that you exist!” Then, leap off the roof. (By the way, I do not recommend that you really try this.) But if you did, you would see that, if you break God’s law of gravity, then God’s law of gravity will break you – literally. It’s the same way with God’s Biblical laws. You can break them if you want. But, if you do, they will break you (Galatians 6:7).

Professing Atheist: Well, I have other, more worthwhile calls on my time, but the Devil can quote scripture, as they say, so here I go. You will be as familiar with John 3:16 as I am, or as any of those people who hold up placards at wrestling matches. You would, I feel sure, assert that God’s purpose to all humanity, in sending his Son to die for us, is loving and merciful. Tell me, what do you believe that loving and merciful God, and gentle Jesus, meek and mild, have in store for these billions of people, all ignorant, in my humble opinion, through no fault of their own?

Christian: When considering the decision to accept, or willfully reject, the truth of the existence of God, it is irrelevant what anyone “thinks” would produce results, or what anyone’s humble “opinion” is – apart from Scripture.

I hope that the more worthwhile calls on your time do not include actually going to the wrestling matches where the John 3:16 placards are held. You are coming to that verse in isolation, not taking into account the entirety of Scripture. These Iranians and Vikings you mention – just like me, and just like you, and just like everyone else – are wicked sinners, who deserve God’s judgment (Romans 3:10; 3:23). Because He is loving and merciful, He sent His Son to die. Because He is just, righteous, true, and holy, He must judge those Who reject His Son.


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