Joseph, Israel, Moses
Psalm 105:23-25 (Opening) 23 Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. 24 And the Lord made his people very fruitful and made them stronger than their foes. 25 He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants. Introduction Last week I talked about Abraham, and how he sojourned in Canaan. He wasn’t a Canaanite, but he lived in Canaan. He even eventually owned land there, so he could bury Sarah. Some of you are native Mainers, or Mainiacs. Some of you are what we call “from away”, but have been living here for quite a long time, and may as well be native, except you talk a little funny. I’m a Mainiac, but I lived away for a long time, more than half my life. I thought I’d share a bit of my sojourn story with you. I was born and raised in Maine, and lived in two different towns, Medway and Winn. After two years of college, Marie and I got married and had our first child. In 1985, when I was 22 years old, my sojourn began. I joined the Air Force, and was sent to the Azores, islands in the Atlantic that belong to Portugal. We spent three years in the Azores and had two more children while we lived there. God taught me some of the dynamics of a small congregation while we were living there. At the end of the three years, we were moved to Colorado. We lived in Colorado for four years, mostly in Aurora and the east side of Denver. During that time, God taught me how important first impressions were when people visit a congregation. We never found a congregation on the east side of Denver we felt comfortable at. God also taught me how important staying connected with him was, because during those four years my relationship with God wasn’t the best that it could be. After Colorado, I was sent to a school in Texas, and then in Mississippi for almost a year, and Marie came back here with the kids. I think God was showing me the importance of my family, and how I should be treating them and helping them, and also He was beginning to teach me how to share information about Him with other people. After Mississippi, I was sent to the east side of the Saint Louis area, in Illinois. We lived in Illinois for about four years. During that time, God taught me about leadership and service, and how the two of them go together. He also showed me the difficulties involved in benevolence without judgement, which is always a challenge. After Illinois, we moved to Ohio. While we lived in Ohio, God taught me how to pull information together and present it in a meaningful way to people. He also showed me how important it is for a congregation to support its members. We only lived in Ohio for a year and a half and were moved to Washington DC and northern Virginia. While we were in Virginia, God honed my speaking skills, and continued to challenge me in areas of leadership and teaching. We lived in three different places during those 14 years and were members of two different congregations. At the end of those 14 years God taught me humility and patience. He also ended my sojourn by bringing me back home to Maine after being away for 28 years. Joseph sojourns My sojourn taught me a lot about myself, about God, and about my relationship with Him. I think Abraham had a similar experience, although much more significant, historically. God spoke directly with Abraham several times. When God initiated His covenant with Abram, He also told him what the future held for his children for many generations. Genesis 15:13-14 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Abraham died and was buried in Hebron with his wife Sarah. Their son Isaac married a woman from their native land Haran, and eventually settled in Beersheba, near the Philistines. They had twin sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob, the younger of the twins, was sent to Laban in the area around Haran to find a wife, and married sisters, Rachael and Leah. Between the two of them and their two servants, Jacob had twelve sons and at least one daughter, but Rachael was his first love, and her children, Joseph and Benjamin were his favorites. Joseph had a gift of dreams and interpreting dreams. His tact was lacking, though, in who he told the dreams to. He told his brothers about his dreams that could easily be interpreted with them being subordinate to him, and they didn’t care for that very much, so Joseph’s involuntary sojourn started. His brothers were so angry with him they wanted to kill him, but his oldest brother spoke up for him, sort of. Genesis 37:26-27 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. So they sold him to traders who were traveling to Egypt and just told their father Joseph died. Joseph sojourned in Egypt the rest of his life. He started out as the servant of the captain of the Pharaoh’s guard. Joseph was wrongly convicted of trying to assault the captain’s wife, so he was put in prison. While he was there, he made a name for himself as a dream interpreter, and eventually, when Pharaoh had dreams that needed interpretation, Joseph was called for to interpret those dreams. He warned Pharaoh there would be seven years of good crop yields, but they would be followed by seven years of famine. He advised Pharaoh to store up a fifth of the produce during the good years, so they would have enough grain to survive during the famine years. Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of that project, and he became Pharaoh’s prime minister. During the seven years of famine, Joseph was responsible for collecting payment for the grain that was stored. Because of the famine, Pharaoh ended up with all the money in Egypt, all the livestock in Egypt, all the land in Egypt, and eventually all the people of Egypt as his slaves, in exchange for grain for their survival. Genesis 47:20-21 20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s. 21 As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. Pharaoh became the owner of everything in Egypt. The people who lived in Egypt would still take care of everything they used to own, but they were serving Pharaoh and taking care of all that he owned. During the first year of the famine, Joseph’s brothers and father eventually learned who Joseph was, and were invited to live in the Nile delta, where it was good grazing land for their flocks. Joseph made sure they were cared for, and that nothing bad happened to them. They came to Egypt because of the famine but stayed because their brother had been blessed by God and could provide for them. As Joseph put it after their father died, Genesis 50:20 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. God’s providence provided them with all they needed to survive and thrive in Egypt. Joseph died in Egypt and was buried there, but his sojourn ended many years later when his bones were buried in Canaan, after the Israelites conquered the land. Israel Sojourns Because of the famine and Joseph being the prime minister in Egypt, the children of Israel stayed in Egypt. They lived and took care of their flocks, like they would have if they had lived in Canaan. Overall, the Israelites lived for more than 400 years in Egypt. They weren’t Egyptian; they weren’t ever considered Egyptian. They were always considered less than an Egyptian. Exodus 1:8-10 8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Pharaoh considered this large group of immigrants to be a national security risk. He didn’t know the history behind how they had helped Egypt to survive. He probably didn’t care. He just knew they weren’t Egyptians, and they could be a problem if there was a war with other nations, especially other tribes that were related to them. There was a nation-wide effort to keep the Israelites under control, coming from the highest levels of government. It was a form of organized discrimination. The Israelites were given the hardest labor, but God blessed them, and they thrived. Exodus 1:11-12 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. The Israelites continued to increase in number, and that caused more concern for the Egyptians. The more there were, the harder it would be to control them. Pharaoh’s plan had backfired. Instead of making them more easily controlled, they became more of a concern. Israel’s sojourn in Egypt wasn’t a pleasant one. They were forced to do hard and tedious labor at the whim of the Pharaoh. Their skills as shepherds and herdsmen did nothing to prepare them for their work constructing two cities. The term “Store cities” implies they were for storing grain for the army. The cities were likely in the eastern part of Goshen, the northern Nile region, where the Israelites were originally allowed to live and graze their flocks. Exodus 1:13-14 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves. Pharaoh’s plan was to reduce the possible influence of the Israelites by lowering their status in society. Everyone in Egypt was a slave to Pharaoh, but the Israelites were even lower than the Egyptian slaves. The Egyptian slaves were in charge of overseeing the Israelite slaves. Moses Sojourns The Egyptians were so concerned about the increase in the Israelite population, they decided to do more about it. Something drastic this time. Pharaoh called in two influential Israelite midwives and told them to kill all the male babies, but let the female babies live. The midwives disobeyed Pharaoh. So, as a last resort, Pharaoh told all the Egyptians to throw male Hebrew babies into the Nile river. Maybe it was supposed to look like some sort of sacrifice to the god of the Nile that provided fertile soil for planting. The intended goal was to reduce the population of the Israelites and make them less of a threat. It could take years to have an effect, but maybe it would work. Exodus 2:1-2 1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. The midwives didn’t do anything about this child, and he was hidden for three months, to protect him from those who were throwing male babies into the Nile. Eventually, there was nothing his mother could do, so she put him in a basket and set him adrift in the Nile. Technically, she was obeying Pharaoh. She put him in the river. Most of us know the story of Moses. The basket was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, the baby was rescued, and his own mother was allowed to be his “wet nurse”. Exodus 2:10 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” Moses knew he wasn’t Egyptian, but he’d been adopted into Pharaoh’s family. He was an Israelite, living as an Egyptian, and probably wasn’t fully accepted by either group. As he grew up, he must have known who his birth family was, because in later years, he interacts with them. He felt a connection with the Israelites. Exodus 2:11-12 11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. Murder is never a good thing, but I guess this could be considered justifiable homicide? Maybe? Moses knew the possible consequences of what he had done, that’s why he hid the body. He had three options: hope no one finds the body, admit what he did, or run. Moses did the first, until he had to do the last. Exodus 2:15 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well. I guess this begs the question, when did Moses’ sojourn start? When he was born, or when he left Egypt? Or was this trip to Midian a sojourn within a sojourn? However you think about it, Moses was in a strange country now, meeting people with different customs than he experienced in Egypt, either with the Israelites or the Egyptians. These people were different, but related. Midian was one of Abraham sons by his wife after Sarah. Midian and his sons traveled east from Hebron to establish their nation, probably in what is now northwestern Saudi Arabia. To get to Midian, Moses would have had to travel on the King’s Highway across the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, then down into the Arabian Peninsula. Travel would have been relatively easy, but it would have been a long trip. Midian was just outside Egyptian controlled areas in the Sinai Peninsula, so here Moses would be safe from Pharaoh. He helped some shepherdesses draw water for their flocks and protected them from the other shepherds who would normally keep them from doing their work. As a thank-you for his help and protection, they invited him back to their father’s tent, the priest of Midian. Exodus 2:21-22 21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. 22 She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” Of course there’s a lot of time that passes in these two verses. Moses says that he is a sojourner in a foreign land, and names his son Gershom. Gershom sounds like the Hebrew for “sojourner there”. Moses married the daughter of the priest of Midian, Zipporah, and probably didn’t ever expect to return to Egypt again. He never expected to see any of his family again. He most certainly didn’t want to see Pharaoh again, because that would likely cost him his life. Did Moses know the stories about Abraham? Had he been told about the land of the promise, the inheritance that God promised to the descendants of Abraham? He may have heard the stories as a child, or had the opportunity to hear them sometime when he was away from the Pharaoh’s house and among the Israelites. We don’t know. The writer of Hebrews writes about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah when he wrote this. Hebrews 11:13-16 13 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. I believe this applies to all the children of Israel who never saw the promised land. They knew they had a homeland to go to, but they never physically saw this homeland. They also, like us, had a home waiting for them in heaven, if they had faith. Conclusion We, like them, are strangers and exiles. Or we should be. We should be seeking our homeland, the heavenly one. We should be striving to gain that inheritance that has been promised. Just like my experiences when I was away, Joseph and Moses grew closer to God through their sojourns. God blessed Joseph with skills he could use to prosper, and to help his family and many other people. Moses learned to trust God even when he didn’t think what was required of him was possible. Neither of them saw the promised land, and neither did any of the Israelites who lived in Egypt, because of their lack of faith in God. We need to have faith in God to see the heavenly country the writer of Hebrews wrote about. Without faith, we’re lost. Remember, faith isn’t just something you experience, it’s something you do. Faith is belief plus action. In other words, you believe something is true, and you do something about it. That’s what faith is. Without action, we only have belief, and belief alone isn’t enough. If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died as a sacrifice for your sins, and He rose again and is now sitting at the right hand of God, if you believe all that is true, to have faith you have to do something about it. That something is to repent of your sins and be immersed to demonstrate your faith in Jesus, and to reenact His death, burial, and resurrection. When you do that, your sins will be washed away and you will be a new person. Then you must continue to learn to follow Jesus, and do what He would do. If you’re ready to do that, let me know. 1 Peter 1:14-19 (Closing) 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. Bible Study Genesis 47:13-26 13 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. 14 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. And Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. 15 And when the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.” 16 And Joseph answered, “Give your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys. He supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year. 18 And when that year was ended, they came to him the following year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.” 20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s. 21 As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. 22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land. 23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. 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.” 25 And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.” 26 So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; the land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh’s. Exodus 12:37-42 37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. 40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.