The Gospel for the City in Genesis 41-45

The Refining of the covenant family (42:1-45:28)

The covenant family has suffered brokenness due to their own sinful choices born out of jealousy, rivalry, and succumbing to pagan morality. If dependent alone on Jacob and his eleven sons, the covenant promise of blessing to the nations through the seed of Abraham would fail. Nevertheless, though in exile, Joseph fulfills the responsibility of Abraham’s descendants as he brings blessing to Egypt.

Reconciliation and restoration come to this broken family from an unlikely person. The one who has been betrayed and most deeply offended and hurt is the one whom the Lord uses to bring about restoration to a broken family. Joseph models the grace of one who submits to God’s sovereignty and who experiences God’s grace in the midst of his hardship.

Joseph as a model of grace in the midst of betrayal anticipates Jesus whose experience of betrayal would lead to His death on the cross and who through His suffering brings about the reconciliation and restoration of those who have rejected Him and betrayed Him.

Here in the City of Philadelphia, we are asking God to use the unlikely to bring about His purposes of reconciliation and restoration in this city. In some sense, my brother Steve and I are a lot like both Joseph and his brothers. In being like his brothers, we know what it is to betray our upbringing, to reject the grace offered to us, and to cause brokenness in the lives of others. Yet, like Joseph, we know what grace is all about. We’ve experienced God’s sovereign and gracious hand in preserving us through our arrogant rebellion and forming us by the gospel through the challenges of a life-time of ministry with all of its joys and its sorrows.

We want, like Joseph, to live out the grace of the gospel which enables us to be a part of God’s plan of reconciling and restoring the brokenness of the nations of the world.

The Gospel for the City in Genesis in 37:2-38:30

Family disunion in Canaan (37:2-38:30)

These chapters demonstrate the far reach of sin even among those chosen to bring blessing to the nations. The family disharmony that temporarily interrupts the advance of God’s purposes is eventually reversed by the gracious work of God.

Joseph is the son favored by his father yet envied by his brothers. In their jealousy, they revert to a vicious act of casting their brother into a pit, selling him into slavery, then telling their father that he was killed by an animal.

As we read this story, we wonder how those who have been graciously chosen of God to bring blessing to the nations can at the same time be so ungracious within their own family. We read these chapters with sadness, yet with faith in the covenant God who remains faithful. Our hearts ache in seeing the brokenness of the covenant family, yet we wait in faith knowing that the Lord is working even through the tragedies and the sin of His people.

The absence of grace in the brothers of Joseph reminds us that apart from grace there would be no chosen people to fulfill God’s purposes of bringing the blessing of Abraham to the nations.

The betrayal, rejection, and discarding of Joseph anticipate the suffering of Jesus who in His rejection offers deliverance to all of those who will believe in Him.

11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (Joh 1:11-12 ESV)

Unfortunately, the church in cities has often reflected a disharmony similar to the family of Jacob. Often divided along racial and economic lines, the urban church fails to reach the nations around it because it is captured by its own jealousies and, consequently, is unattractive to those who look in from the outside. When the covenant family fails to display the grace which it has received in the gospel it loses its power to be a blessing to the nations.

 Cities need churches that reflect the grace of the gospel, which displays for us and in us the most passionate love, the deepest mercy, the most magnificent grace, the most underserving forgiveness. These are the churches that will bring the blessing of Abraham, i.e. the gospel, to the nations whom God is bringing to the urban centers of the world.