This devotional is part of a series through the story of Joseph. You can read the whole series here.
This part of Joseph’s story really began with his great grandfather, Abraham. In Genesis 12, God made a special promise to Abraham. God promised that He would bless the one who blessed Abraham and that He would curse the one who cursed Abraham. In Genesis 47, we find a striking example of how God fulfilled this promise.
Although God made the promise to Abraham, Genesis 28:3-4 makes it clear that this same promise now applies to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob. Jacob is the one who has inherited the promises that God made to Abraham. This means that God will bless the one who blesses Jacob and curse the one who curses Jacob.
What has happened in Joseph’s life so far has set the stage for what takes place in Genesis 47. Pharaoh has already declared his desire to take care of Joseph’s father and all his household by giving them the best that the land of Egypt has to offer. No doubt this reflected Pharaoh’s desire to honor Joseph for all that he was doing to preserve the land of Egypt from the extended famine.
However, Joseph recognized that for the sake of preserving the faith, it would be best for his family to live apart from the Egyptians in the land of Goshen, and he realized that Pharaoh might be offended by this plan to live separately from the Egyptians. For this reason, Joseph instructed his brothers to tell Pharaoh that they were shepherds by occupation, because, as it turned out by God’s providence, looking after sheep was considered an abomination by the Egyptians, and this would explain why they needed to live separately.
However, for Joseph’s plan to work, they needed Pharaoh’s blessing. So, Joseph brought five of his brothers to represent the family before Pharaoh. Having heard their request, Pharaoh told Joseph that not only did they have his permission to live in the land of Goshen, but they also had the honor of caring for his livestock, as well. In this way, Pharaoh blessed Jacob and his family for Joseph’s sake.
God does not want us to miss the significance of what happened next. Immediately after Pharaoh blessed Jacob and his family, Jacob appeared before Pharaoh and pronounced a blessing upon Pharaoh. Jacob really was speaking for God, because God was about to bless Pharaoh for Jacob’s sake, just as He promised.
The very next thing we learn in this chapter is that Joseph used the stores of grain in Egypt to enrich Pharaoh. First, Joseph exchanged the grain of Egypt for all the money found in Egypt and the land of Canaan, and we read that “Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house.” Next, he took all the Egyptians’ livestock in exchange for the grain. Finally, when the Egyptians had nothing else to give in exchange for the grain, they were ready to sell their land and themselves as servants: “So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh… and the land became Pharaoh’s.”
There were only two exceptions. Pharaoh had provided the priests of Egypt with grain so that they did not have to sell themselves and their land, and Joseph had provided his family with grain so they that were not impoverished.
The lesson is clear. Those in positions of power, like Pharaoh, have an opportunity to bless or to curse those who belong to God by faith. Because of their positions, their words have authority, and that authority carries with it the power to bring good or to bring evil. Yet, those who have a faith relationship with God are special to God. God declares them to be His people, and God’s promise to bless those who bless His people and to curse those who curse His people is a way of saying that God identifies with His people. What you do to God’s people, you do to God.
Jesus said the very same thing in a parable about the great and final Day of Judgment. In this parable, Jesus explains the principle that He will use in passing judgment, and it is this: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). Those Jesus calls brothers are those who believe in Him. They have become His brothers by their adoption as the sons of God. This includes women who believe because they, too, share equally in the status as sons of God (see Galatians 3:26-29). In other words, Jesus identifies fully with every man, woman or child who believes in Him.
This should also be a guiding principle to those who occupy positions of authority and whose words have power because of that authority. Their words have the power to bless and to curse. In fact, everyone who is in a relationship of some kind with another person has the power to bless and to curse. With that power comes responsibility, and with more power there is more responsibility. We should pray especially for those in government, that they will use their power wisely for the sake of the nation they represent and for their own sakes.
At the same time, we who believe in Him should be deeply encouraged that Jesus fully identifies with His people, for through Him we have the forgiveness of our sins and the hope of our resurrection.
Rev. Dave Durant is the Operations Director for Ministry to State.