Download or stream the audio with the link below.
- Genesis 47:1 - 31
Expect and accept
There are 2 things we do constantly: we expect and we accept. So for example: we expect our team to win and then we accept when they don’t (but not without a bit of pouting). We expect the sun to come out and then we accept when it doesn’t. We expect to start the day off on the right foot. Then we accept it when it starts a bit rocky. Sometimes, things turn out better than we imagined. But usually our expectations are not matched by reality and we are left with a decision. Will we accept things the way they are or will we stay stuck in the roundabout of unmet expectations?
What gets us out
This staying stuck may last for a few hours, a few days or for a lifetime depending on the degree of expectations and the severity of the disappointment. What gets us out of the trap of unmet expectations? What keeps Christians buoyant instead of weighed down? I think the simple and right answer is faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith in God transcends our disappointments because we know that God never disappoints. He never lets us down. He in fact exceeds our expectations and blesses us beyond our wildest imagination.
This does not guarantee a good day or good weather or another mark in the win column. But it does guarantee that He will do more than we ask think or imagine. So if you are disappointed this morning with something. That is okay. You are human. But in that disappointment accept the invitation to be satisfied with all that God offers through Christ.
The story so far has been jammed pack with unmet expectations. Abraham expected a son allot sooner than he got one. Isaac expected to give Esau the birthright, not Jacob. Jacob expected to marry Rachel, not Leah. And Joseph probably expected to live a normal life as a sheepherder. Instead he has become a slave turned governor. There has been a remarkable plan unfolding for generations. It was a plan designed by God and experienced by His people. And it could not be sabotaged or altered.
We’re going gang!
When you get the kids in the car and head out on a 2-hour trip, you are going no matter the attitudes coming from the driver’s seat or the back. That is how this trip had been going. There is a constant movement throughout this story. The wheels of redemption are turning and taking some turns no one expected but it is all is leading to the Promised Land, the cross and the empty tomb and the eventual resurrection of God’s people to the New Promised Land. And when this big plan is completed, no one will look at God with even the slightest feeling of disappointment. He will eternally exceed our expectations.
But we are still a ways out from that day. What about now? Let’s check in with the covenant family and see how things are going. We left off last week with Joseph’s plan to get his family into the land of Goshen. Joseph had coached his brothers on how to talk to Pharaoh and what to say to him when they met him. “Make sure you tell them your shepherds, alright?” he said. So now it’s show time and Joseph goes to Pharaoh first to pave the way for his brothers.
Joseph prepares the way
Instead of the brothers making the request to live in Goshen cold turkey, Joseph tells Pharaoh that they are already living there. And then he hand selects 5 brothers to come before the Pharaoh. We don’t know which brothers he picked but probably the ones with the fewest symptoms of foot in mouth disease. So they come in and make the speech and ask to live in Goshen. And here is what Pharaoh says, “the land of Egypt is before you.” In other words, have at it. Take the choices of the land, the cream of the crop, what’s mine is yours. This is a case of something exceeding expectations
Jacob meets Pharaoh
Then Joseph brought in his dad, Jacob. The first thing Jacob did was to bless Pharaoh. And Pharaoh (being an Egyptian tickled by the topic of immortality) was fascinated with Jacob’s age. “How old are you?” he says. Maybe not the best conversation starter but he had to say something. Here is how Jacob responds. “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years.” Notice what he says instead of my life. He says, “my sojourning.” A sojourner is someone who does not have a permanent home, someone who travels from one place to the next. Jacob is calling his entire life a series of journeys, a stint of temporary stays. And then he will go on to call the lives of his father and grandfather a sojourn. Sojourning runs in the family.
The theme develops
This theme of sojourning will continue throughout the development of Israel. God’s people will also be sojourners in Egypt and God will remind them of this often. Here are a few examples: Exodus 22:21 – “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 23:9 – “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 19:34 – “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
The list goes on
Let’s keep going: Numbers 15:15, “For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD.” Deuteronomy 10:19 – “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. – Deuteronomy 23:7, “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land.” Fast forward a bit and even King David calls himself a sojourner on the earth, Psalm 119:19, “I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me!”
What this did
This identity as sojourners is important because it did 2 things. It reminded God’s people to treat strangers, aliens, foreigners well because God’s people know what it’s like. And it reminded God’s people that our home is with God wherever that may be. God is our home, our life, our future. Earth is a place of sojourning.
Hebrews 11 gives us a clear picture of how God’s people have lived and how they think. It is a list of many names and their stories and the common theme is homelessness, sojourning and faith. He sums up their lives like this: “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
Sojourners on the earth
To have faith in God is to become a sojourner on the earth. Fast-forward a bit to Jesus. Jesus was a Sojourner of sorts. He did not have a home or a place to lay His head. Foxes had dens. Birds had nests. Most people have a home address. Jesus did not. The homelessness of God’s people is a common theme running throughout the Scriptures and Jesus leads the way. The message is: don’t get too comfortable. (Or don’t try get too comfortable). You are a sojourner on earth and a citizen of heaven. You are here but your hope is there. Live here but set your mind there, Paul says in Colossians 3.
Engaged and free
This doesn’t make Christians ambivalent or flighty or disengaged from the culture. It frees us up to engage the world, to get to work, to live hard. Knowing that we are sojourners keeps us from the roundabouts of disappointments. Our expectations are not met yet. But they will be. Hebrews 11 says this about those sojourners who have gone before us: “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”
The ache and longing
The ache and longing for life forever with God will only be satisfied when we are with God. So we don’t expect heaven on earth. We expect heaven in heaven. And we have little glimpses and flutters of joy that hint at heaven. We have those bright and sunny days but then we wake up with ice on the windshield. And Christian maturity is the ability to accept disappointments in life not by denying reality; But by realigning our hope in Christ.
God knows what we need and what we don’t need, what is good for us and what is not good for us. So we pray and He says, yes, no, or later. When we get disappointed, it is not because God has suddenly changed and is no longer good and generous and faithful to His promises. Instead when we get disappointed, it is meant to jumpstart our faith that God is good and generous and faithful to HIS promises, not our expectations.
How God loved Moses
When Moses struck the rock when he was told to speak to it, God responded by not allowing him to enter the Promised Land. Why? Because God loved Moses and going into the Promised Land with such a giant ego would have been the worst thing for Moses and for the people. Was Moses disappointed with God’s response? Probably. Will we get disappointed when God tells us no when we were so sure He would say yes? Probably. But if God is our home and we have him, the opening and closing of doors will not rock our faith. It will fortify it.
Few and evil
Jacob goes on to describe the days of the years of his life as “few and evil.” How would you like for that to be the summary of your life? “How are things going? Well the days of my life have been few and evil. Okay, sorry I asked.” Pharaoh in fact did not ask about how is life had been so far. But Jacob tells him anyway. Jacob will tell anyone who wants to listen just how bad and miserable and crummy things have been so far.
A downer but a worshipper
But notice what Jacob does not do. He does not throw God under the bus (as though that were possible). He blesses Pharaoh again. He is a bit of downer but He is still a worshipper. He is not the life of the party but he is not a blasphemer. Jacob loves God even though he may not love his life, so far. Unmet expectations have not led him to curse God and die (like Job’s wife told Job to do). Jacob has learned to set his eyes beyond the next big event because those big events are in the rear view mirror. Glory awaits. And God will throw in 17 years with Joseph as a very nice bonus.
Joseph gets to work
Jacob leaves Pharaoh and now it’s time for Joseph to get to work. The famine had brought total devastation and people were coming to Joseph to buy food. In fact, Egyptians were coming to Joseph the Hebrew to buy food. And when their money ran out, they sold their cattle. And when their cattle ran out, they sold their land and then they sold themselves into slavery. And all the while Pharaoh is getting richer and consolidating more and more power, while the covenant family is growing into a nation, person by person.
17 years go by and Jacob is at the end of his life. He calls over his son Joseph and says, “Do not bury me in Egypt but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.” The lure and power of Egypt did not impress Jacob. He consented to living in Egypt but his home was in the land of his fathers.
In 400 years there will be another great leader raised up who was unimpressed with the wealth and power of Egypt. His name is Moses. And Hebrews 11 says, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” Jacob paves the way for Moses. God’s people are not lured by wealth and power. We are drawn and attracted to God. His beauty is enough for us. Beholding the face of the risen Christ is a reward better than anything else. Having God is not second best or second rate or “good enough.” Having God is everything.
Be content because…..
Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have….” And do you know what the basis is for this? It goes on, “for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’.” Religion would stop at the first part: Stop loving money. Cut that out. Don’t, don’t, don’t. But the gospel brings in the basis, the reason for the don’t. Keep your life free from the love of money because you have Jesus. And He has the cattle on a thousand hills. What he chooses to give you and not give you is up to Him and is for your good not your harm.
The rich ruler
There is a story of a rich young ruler in Mark 10. This very successful, prominent, wealthy man comes to Jesus and asks what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. This is itself a weird question because inheritances by nature cannot be earned. But he doesn’t know that. Jesus tells him the commands. And the guy says, I did all that. I have always obeyed the law. So Jesus goes deeper, down to the heart level. “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
This was more than a work or the keeping of the law. This would cost the man something: his security. Would he be happy with just having Jesus and nothing else? Or would he try to hang onto his former securities and add eternal life to his portfolio. The point Jesus was making is that you cannot have both. You cannot be a sojourner and self-secure. You cannot be a self-made follower of Jesus. You gotta be at the point where you are attached to nothing but the Christ.
He went away sorrowful
The man was not ready to give up what he had worked so hard to get. And so “disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” The man did not go away chipper, happy and satisfied with the abundant life. He went away disheartened and sorrowful because not only did he have great possessions but his great possessions had him. The amount of the possession isn’t the point. The attachment to the possessions is the point. People from the 3rd world countries who visit America believe that everyone here is rich and in comparison to the rest of the world we are.
Anything can steal our affections for Jesus. Jesus is not saying that we gotta live in a van down by the river. He is saying that He demands the thing that is most important to us. Once He has that, He has us and we have unstoppable joy. For this guy, it was wealth. For you, it may be a predictable schedule, well-behaved kids (especially in public), a well-balanced life of exercise, socializing and work. Because Jesus loves us, he finds the crevice in the heart that leads to the idol and says, “right there. That is what I want.” And we all have that thing.
What will it take?
What will compel us to release the death grip that we have maybe had our whole lives on something: A strong warning, a threat of punishment, a lecture? How about the love of a dying Jesus? God’s love compels us to give up the little gods in our hearts so that those spaces can be filled with the love of God. Romans 5:5, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It is God’s love that pushes out the idols of the heart so that we can be free.
God’s plans will succeed
I’m not sure if Jacob felt the love of God but he did experience it. I’m not sure if Jacob volunteered his things but God did take some things from him. I’m not sure if Jacob was a happy sojourner but he was a sojourner nonetheless. God’s plans for Jacob were good and hard and frustrating at times. But God’s plans could not be stopped.
What is our confidence that we will make it to the end? It is not our willpower or ambition or cheerful disposition. Our confidence is that God Himself will restore, confirm and strengthen you, that He will present us blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy and zero disappointment. To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.