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)

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.