There are those who say, “Because God is for me, I will be rich in this life. Because God is with me, I will be healed in this life. Because I’m an overcomer in Jesus, there is no power in heaven or hell that can keep me from becoming the wealthy, healthy, and prosperous child of God that I was meant to be in this life. I’m going to believe it. I’m going to receive it. And I’m not going to let any human naysayer or evil spirit stand in my way.”
Friends, neither health nor wealth are infallible indicators of the favor of God. I’ll go further. It is the height of folly and a despicable misrepresentation of the Word of God to tell someone that if they are REALLY following Jesus, then He will lavish them with health and wealth. Many of you know that’s a lie. You perceive the difference between the true gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ and all he did to accomplish salvation for mankind – and a false gospel that twists the Savior of our souls into the butler of our cravings.
But there is an equally serious danger on the other side of the issue. It’s the danger of downplaying and denying the surpassing goodness and lavish generosity of the God who provides, especially for His people. It goes like this. Because Jesus came to save my spiritual needs, He doesn’t care about my physical needs. After all, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble,” so that’s about all I expect to see. I’m sure heaven will be amazing, but I’ve pretty much given up receiving any sort of material blessings from the Lord on earth.
If you’ve thought that, friend, I warn you. You may very well be trying to make sense of your present suffering by creating a God in your mind who looks nothing at all like the God of the Bible. Psalm 112:1–3, “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in His house, and His righteousness endures forever.”
Matthew 6:31–33, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
There’s not a temporal exception to the abundant goodness of God. There’s a timetable that doesn’t always line up with what we want or understand, but there is no “life on earth excluded” clause in the fine print. What does God’s Word give us, not just once, but over and over again, Genesis 46-47 included? An eternal, unqualified, all-encompassing, body and soul assurance of the lavish generosity of God toward the people of God. Is that the God you worship? Is that the God you’re following? There is no other, friend.
Now we can twist His words. We can misinterpret His words. But it is exceedingly difficult to hear His words, to listen to passages like Genesis 46-47, and not conclude that God’s people should live with a glad and eager expectation of material provision in this life from the One who delights to generously provide for them in this life.
The way God cares for Jacob’s family (and the entire nation of Egypt for that matter) in Genesis 46-47 is designed to work a quiet and steady confidence in our hearts in God’s provision for his people, especially our life in this world. And I think there are at least 7 enduring marks of the Lord’s material provision in this passage. Yes, this is a 7-point sermon. We’re going to linger at the bookends and move quickly in the middle, so let’s get started. First, God’s material provision is generous.
Having successfully brought his entire, extended family to Egypt at Pharaoh’s invitation, Joseph works to secure their permanent immigration status. Genesis 46:33, “When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.”
It’s not clear why the Egyptians didn’t like nomadic shepherds. We also don’t know if the title “a keeper of livestock” was more respectable than “a shepherd” to Pharaoh or if they were basically equivalent. The fact that Joseph conspicuously avoids both of them in his own introductory remarks in Genesis 47:1 suggests the latter, though the gist of his family’s less-than-respectable occupation would have been clear enough to Pharaoh.
Here’s the main point – Jacob’s family has nothing with which to commend themselves or merit favor from Pharaoh other than their connection to Joseph. Nevertheless, Pharaoh demonstrates extraordinary generosity to them in a very practical way. Genesis 47:5-6, “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land. Let them settle in the land of Goshen, and if you know any able men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.”
The land of Goshen, also known as the land of Rameses, most likely represented the eastern part of the Nile delta in northern Egypt. Genesis 45, where Joseph first expresses his desire to settle his family there, makes two important points about the place. First, living in Goshen would keep them “near” to where Joseph lived. Second, Goshen was uniquely suitable for pasturing livestock, likely due to the abundance of natural irrigation which was not the norm in the rest of Egypt.
The dwelling place Joseph implicitly suggested to Pharaoh in Genesis 47:1 and his brothers explicitly requested in v. 4, Pharaoh immediately grants in v. 6 and Joseph quickly provides in v. 11. It’s nothing less than “the BEST” of the land of Egypt for Jacob and his family. There was nothing better Pharaoh could have given them because no better land existed. He withheld no form of landed blessing, because the land of Goshen was exceedingly good in every way.
The Lord’s provision wasn’t survival rations. It wasn’t barely enough. It was lavish. It was generous. It was abundant. It was, in a material sense, EXACTLY what they needed to flourish and become all God created them to be.
As sinners, we don’t deserve God’s material generosity any more than Jacob deserved Pharaoh’s. There is nothing you can do to merit God’s material provision in your life. He doesn’t owe us. We owe him. Joseph’s brothers were an abomination to the Egyptians because of their prejudice. Sinner like us are an abomination to God because of his holiness. Yet through faith in Christ, and the spiritual union with him our faith effects, what has God the Father done? He’s lavished his spiritual and material generosity upon us.
He’s given us His word, a promise of provision for all our needs, that is far more assuring and certain than Pharaoh’s. Psalm 84:11, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Who are the upright? They are wholehearted followers of Jesus Christ. What kind of provision has God promised them? The absolute best provision in every way – both spiritual and material.
Christian, God promises to withhold no good thing from you. He is content with nothing less than the best for His children and he has unlimited resources at His divine disposal. His material provision for His people isn’t miserly, it’s generous.
How do we tend to think about the goodness of God? We tend to interpret physical troubles and material suffering as a sign God has not blessed us, and physical prosperity and material blessing as a sign that God has. It’s either one or the other. And when our temporal fortunes in a fallen world inevitably fall, we start wringing our hands and wondering what we need to do to get back on God’s good side.
There are all kinds of problems with that way of thinking, friends, starting with the fact that we can never earn the blessings of God, whether spiritual or physical. We can ever and only receive God’s blessings as a gift of faith. But, there’s a second lie God’s Word corrects through Jacob’s transparent reply to Pharaoh in Genesis 47:9. Our experience of God’s blessings in a fallen world, material blessing included, isn’t something we experience absent suffering and sorrow. Rather, it is a comfort we experience in the midst of suffering and sorrow.
When Pharaoh says to Jacob, “How long have you lived?” Jacob replies, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.” In other words, I’ve lived a long time, but not at long as my forefathers (Abraham & Isaac each lived to roughly 180) and they’ve been full of trouble and difficulty.”
When I first read that, I thought, “Come on, Jacob! Where’s your faith? Then I realized, “Jacob’s telling the truth.” Our life in a broken and fallen world is hard. It is difficult. I don’t need to tell you that. Now think about it. Were Jacob’s years “few and evil” or were they filled with the goodness of God, including all manner of material blessings, a dwelling place in the land of Goshen included?
Therefore, when I say, “God’s provision is comforting,” I don’t mean that his material blessings ensure the absence of material trouble. I mean that they meet us in the midst of our troubles and alleviate the pain of our troubles even as we join the patriarchs in longing for an end to our trouble in heaven.
In that sense, God’s material provision brings real comfort in the midst of real trouble. But that is very different than saying, “If you really trusted God, then He would give you a really big house.” The former – God’s material blessings bring comfort in the midst of material trouble – is a precious gift. The latter is a lie from the pit of hell.
Jesus words in Mark 10:29-30 need to shape our expectations: “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.’”
I alluded to this point earlier when I pointed out that Jacob and his family only received a land grant in Goshen because of their connection to Joseph. God’s blessing didn’t come to them directly. It came to them through Joseph. Genesis 47:11, “Then Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt.”
The same was true in Jacob’s relationship with Pharaoh. God didn’t bless him independently. He blessed him through Jacob. Genesis 47:7, “Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.” And again in verse 10, “And Jacob blessed Pharaoh.” It’s the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants. Genesis 12:3, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God’s provision for the entire land of Egypt fits the same pattern. In Genesis 47:25, the Egyptian people praise Joseph, saying, “You have saved our lives.” In all three cases, God’s material blessings are mediated.
Praise God for that, friends! Why? Because that is exactly how God’s blessings come to His people today. We don’t wrest them from his hand. They are secured and eternally poured out on us through our appointed mediator, Jesus Christ. What did Paul assure the church in Philippi as they poured out what little financial resources they possessed to support his frontier missions work? Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
So if you’re a Christian, what do you do when you have a physical or material need? We bring it Jesus by sharing it with Him through prayer – confident that through Him and Him alone you have free access to the all the resources of heaven. And when we have a material need, but don’t feel worthy of God’s material blessing, we don’t cower in the corner. We step forward with boldness, confident that because of who JESUS is – not because of who we are – we will always receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
What does verse 12 say? “And Joseph provided for his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their dependents.” Let me tell you, as a husband and father with a family to care for, plus all the members of our church with their various material needs, the battle isn’t just trusting God to provide for me. It’s also trusting God to provide for everyone else.
So what do we learn from verse 12 about God’s material provision? It’s perfectly tailored to meet the specific needs of his people in all their various life-situations. It doesn’t say, “And Joseph made a general provision for his extended family.” No! As a channel of God’s provision, Joseph provided for “his father…for his brothers…for his father’s household…and for ALL of their dependents.”
Friend, God doesn’t provide in generalities. He provides in the specific details. He knows the unique dynamics of your situation. Joseph’s specific and particular care for his family is a picture of God’s care for us. It’s yet another reason we should trust Him.
Look at the brothers’ reply to Pharaoh in 47:4, “We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan…” When did God provide material blessing and generous provision for his people? It was after they had tasted and experienced the severity of famine for some time, several years, in fact.
What do we want God to do? We want him to provide for us in such a way that we never have a material need. But what does God delight to do? He delights to bring us to a point where we are acutely aware of our need and then generously provide for our need. Why does He do that? Why not just eliminate the hour of need altogether? One day He will, friend. In heaven there will be no more tears. Until then, however, the Lord uses our experience of material need to strengthen our dependence.
The apparent delays in His provision – the wait for the land of Goshen – wasn’t a punishment. It was God waiting for the perfect time to bring about His perfect provision to accomplish His perfect plan. And his timing proved to be spot on. He delivered Jacob before the hour of certain starvation and destitution in Canaan.
Look at how verse 13 describes the severity of the situation back home not long after the Lord provided a home for Jacob in Goshen – “Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished by reason of the famine. And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought.”
The Lord’s provision for His people is timely. He was intimately aware of Israel’s imminent material need. He is no less aware of your own, friend. And at just the right time, in just the right way, He will provide for you if you are willing to trust him.
Verses 15-26 explain how God used Joseph, and the grain he had stored up for Pharaoh before the famine (during the 7 years of plenty), to preserve the life of the people of Egypt. When all their money is gone, He graciously allows them to mortgage their livestock, their land, and their physical labor in exchange for food and during the final year of famine, seed for their fields.
He established only one further requirement – they must return 20% of their future harvests to Pharaoh. Verse 24, “And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” Their collective response of gratitude in verse 25 is palpable.
Why does Genesis linger so long on how God used Joseph to provide for the material needs of a people who didn’t even worship him? Remember, the Egyptians are pagans. They don’t believe Yahweh. They don’t serve Yahweh. In the very next book of the Bible, they brutally oppress the Israelites. Why show kindness to them? Because it’s a beautiful picture of God’s heart toward his entire creation, sinful men included.
Psalm 145:9, “The LORD is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made.” Matthew 5:45, “For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Luke 6:35, “For He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” There is a distinctly universal character to God’s material provision that continues to this day, friends. However, that does not mean God provides for all people equally.
Question. Are we all broken? Yes. Are we all equally blessed? No. More than anything else, Genesis 46-47 reveals that it is the people of God who are uniquely blessed by God. Do verses 15-26 of chapter 47 reinforce the Lord’s blessing on all He has made? Yes. But that’s not all they do. They also provide a sharp contrast to verse 27 for it is in verse 27 that we see, in contrast, the generosity God has reserved for His people in particular. “Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.”
What happened to the Egyptians? Through Joseph, the Lord sustained their life. They survived. That was a miracle in and of itself. But what happened to God’s chosen people? To the family with whom he had made an eternal covenant of salvation? They didn’t just survive. They didn’t just live. They prospered. The Egyptians lost their possessions…year, after year, after year, including their liberty. They became servants of Pharaoh. Israel gained possessions.
The only parallel to the Israelites’ experience among the Egyptian people were the priests of the land. They were the only Egyptians whose lands and persons didn’t become Pharaoh’s. What’s that make the ENTIRE nation of Israel in comparison? A nation of priests. Some 400 years later, the Lord explicitly announced after the Israelites left Egypt what he implicitly revealed when they first arrived. Exodus 19:6, “And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
In Egypt, it was the supposedly special relationship the priests enjoyed with the so-called gods of the land that preserved their property. In Israel, it was the special relationship she had with the One True God that not only preserved but actually increased her material prosperity in the midst of famine. It’s a direct fulfillment of a mandate God gave mankind all the way back in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply.” The people of God are fulfilling the mission of God in the midst of a massive famine. Imagine that! They didn’t just survive in the famine. They thrived during the famine.
Friend, if you’ve stopped chasing the pleasures and possessions of this world to follow Jesus, know this – you are a chosen recipient of God’s particular favor and blessing. Time and time again, throughout the Old and New Testament alike, it goes well with the righteous. Our blessings start with spiritual salvation from sin and death. That alone would be reason to praise God for all eternity! But they don’t stop there. They include significant expressions of physical and material blessing, just like they did for Israel.
What did Paul say to the church in Corinth as he exhorted her to follow Jesus in a lifestyle of radical, generous giving to saints in need? 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” In context, that’s an explicit promise of material blessing. When we are faithful to serve the Lord, God is faithful to provide for us.
Proverbs 3:9–10, “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
Mind you, the Father doesn’t bless us to make much of us. He blesses us so we can in turn make much of him. The measure of wealth he entrusts to us is the measure of stewardship he requires from us. He doesn’t bless us to make us cul-de-sacs. He blesses us to make us conduits. But the whole point of Genesis 46-47 is that God delights to pour out material blessing on his redeemed people in a way that sets them apart as unique objects of his fatherly affection.
Christian, the Lord doesn’t just care about your spiritual needs and pleasures. He cares about your physical needs and pleasures too. Why? Because He didn’t create you for an ascetic species of spiritual fruitfulness. He created you as embodied souls for a life of holistic satisfaction and joy in Him and all he has made. When the Lord richly provides you with material blessings to enjoy, humbly receive and steward them as gifts of grace from his hand.
I close with a three-fold challenge. FIRST, to the degree we have downplayed or denied God’s commitment to provide for our material needs in this life, we need to repent. We need to repent of believing God cares more for our souls than our bodies. He cares for every part of you, friend, because He created every part of you and if you’re a Christian, He redeemed every part of you.
Second, where we have doubted a particular aspect of His goodness – his generosity, his specificity, his timeliness – we also need to repent. We need to repent of shrinking God to what we feel like he has done (or not done) for us lately instead of allowing the Word of God to forge and sustain our expectations of His character.
Third, where we have tried to earn his material blessings instead of trusting Jesus to freely grant the Father’s provision to all who follow, we need to repent. We need to repent of making a mockery of God, treating him like a cosmic genie, instead of humbling casting ourselves on the Savior’s mercy.
We serve a faithful God, friends, who delights to lavish his surpassing goodness on His people in particular. Allow His care for Jacob and his family to strengthen your faith that God knows your needs, God will provide for your needs, and will be faithful to do so even when you’re living in the middle of a famine.
Psalm 31:19, “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!”