The Gospel for the City in Genesis 47:28-50:26

Reunion and restoration to Canaan (47:28-50:26)

As the story of Genesis winds down, we are wondering about the outcome of the Abrahamic promise that God’s people would bring blessing to the nations. Ironically, the people of God are in exile from their promised land; yet while living as strangers in the midst of a powerful nation, they have opportunity to be the bearers of blessing.

Not only do they have opportunity while in exile to bless the nations, but here they receive the blessing of their father, who speaks to each of his sons a blessing that is suitable to them. Through the blessing of Jacob upon his sons, they are assured of the continuity of the Abrahamic promise and their ultimate return to the land of promise.

The Abrahamic promise has passed from Abraham to Isaac and then to Jacob.  Jacob has seen his descendants multiply and in some slight measure, through Joseph, he has seen blessing come to the nation of Egypt. Jacob had only sojourned in the Promised Land and wants to be buried there permanently with Abraham and Isaac.

Now that the patriarchs are off the scene, we wait to see how the seed of Abraham will live out their responsibility to be faithful to God and to be a blessing to the nations.

The final chapter concludes with a promise of redemption, i.e. that the Lord will visit his people and deliver them from Egypt and bring them to ‘rest’ in the Promised Land. The ‘rest’ of the land anticipates the ‘rest’ that the Messiah would bring. Jesus inaugurates this rest in his first coming and consummates it in his second coming.  We now enjoy rest to our souls but long for rest for our entire being.

The gospel assures us that the ultimate rest will come in God’s time. Meanwhile though believers live in exile from their heavenly home, they do so with a spirit of hope and expectation. They serve a God who is capable of preserving them in exile, blessing them in exile, and using them to bless others while in exile.

While serving God in the city we live with assurance that we are strategically located in His story of the progress of redemption. We are here to participate in the advancement of God’s purposes of ‘calling out of the nations a people for His name.”

In some sense, any place in this world is like “Egypt’ because all believers live as strangers and foreigners and do not enjoy the consummate rest. If we are here, we are not home. Perhaps even more so, urban centers with their density, diversity, and heightened depravity create a deeper awareness of exile and a longing for ‘home.’  However, like Jacob’s family, we accept that God in His sovereign wisdom leaves his people in Egypt, delays the consummate enjoyment of rest, and employs His people to carry out His purposes. Meanwhile, we pray, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.”

 

The Gospel for the City in Genesis 46-47

Jacob’s family in Egypt (46:1-47:27)

As Jacob and his family go to Egypt during the time of famine, he is assured by the Lord that the Abrahamic promise of numerous descendants will be fulfilled in Egypt and that the covenant family will eventually return to the land of promise.

While in an alien land, God continues to bless Joseph with wisdom and influence so that he becomes a blessing to the Egyptians. God prospers His people as they settle in the alien land.

27 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.”

This sojourn in Egypt is temporary in the plan and purposes of God. Eventually God intends to bring them out. What remains to be seen is whether the people of God will settle down in Egypt, be content with the prosperity they enjoy, and eventually lose sight of the land of promise.

Ultimately their sojourn in Egypt anticipates the greater son of Jacob, Jesus, whom God will call out of Egypt (Matt 2:15) to deliver those who are held captive either by the prosperity or the oppression of Egypt.

People in urban centers are often held captive by either the prosperity or the oppression of the city. Many come to the city and stay because cities offer a promise of economic opportunity. Others remain in the city held captive by their oppressive circumstances and are not able to find a way out. The city becomes like an Egypt that first offers prosperity but often leads to oppression. Yet, whether in prosperity or oppression, there is a restlessness of the soul.

In the midst of this restlessness, the human heart retains a feint recollection of a better promise – a place where the soul can rest. The quintessential son of Jacob, Jesus, who himself was called out of Egypt, is the one who delivers us from the Egypt of our restless of souls. Whether our souls are restless in prosperity or in oppression, they are restless and cry out for that promised place of rest. The call of Jesus needs to be heard everywhere but especially in the city: 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30 ESV)