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Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

josephWe just finished a series on Joseph, son of Jacob, at church. Such a familiar story full of dreams, threats, seduction, rise from ashes to power, surprise revelations—all the elements of great drama! I’m surprised it has not been the subject of more movies.

I learned something completely new to me this time through the old story.  Let’s start with a little back story review for those of you who have not read Genesis in a long time!

In Genesis 12, God calls Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees to go to Canaan. He promises to make of Abram a great nation. In verse 7, God also promises Abram, “To your offspring I will give this land.”

For many years, Abram is pretty nomadic, even going down to Egypt to escape a famine in Canaan, but he eventually returns to the place where he first pitched his tent and where God made him the promise of land, between Bethel and Ai for those of you with Bible maps.

But Abraham owned no land until he purchased a site near Hebron (Mamre) to bury Sarah, the cave and field of Machpelah (Genesis 23).  Two chapters later, his sons Isaac and Ishmael bury him in the same cave.

The family of promise owned so little, but God didn’t want them to forget his promise of the whole land, so when another famine came in the time of Isaac, the Lord told Isaac NOT to go to Egypt:  “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham (Gen. 26).

Isaac’s son Jacob flees the revenge of his brother Esau and must leave the promised land, but before he gets beyond its borders, God appears to him in a dream and says, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying (Gen.28).  Only then does God allow Jacob to continue to the “lands of the eastern peoples.”

After accumulating wives, sons, and wealth, God sends him back: “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land (Gen. 31).’”

Upon arrival in Canaan, Jacob does purchase a plot of land near Shechem, but God keeps moving him southerly towards Bethel, where the promise of land was given to him, and where he buries his father Isaac in Mamre (Hebron) in the cave with Abraham.

So, interestingly enough, the story of Joseph starts in Genesis 37 with the words: “Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.”

You remember that as a very young man Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt!  The son of promise is taken forcibly from the land of promise, but it is all the design of God. Almost 25 years later, the whole family comes to Egypt to be rescued by Joseph from the terrible seven-year famine.  They are given the land of Goshen in which to settle and they thrive and multiply there. “God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives,” Joseph tells his brothers (Gen. 50).

But Egypt was not the Promised Land, so Jacob gathers his children to his deathbed and says, “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 31 There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites (Gen 49).”

Joseph learned something from Jacob. When it was his turn to die, this man who had lived almost a century in Egypt, who had lived the best life an Egyptian could have—once he got out of prison—and who had children and grandchildren born and raised in Egypt, this man’s final words were, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”

So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

Maybe 400 years later, Moses and the people of Israel carry Joseph’s bones with them as they exit Egypt (Exodus 13)! 

So, does it make a difference where you are buried?  It certainly did to the children of Abraham.  It made a difference because they did not want to forget the promise!  And it made a difference because they wanted their children to remember the promise!

And—this is the cool part—what do you think they did with Joseph’s coffin for 400 years???  It was probably honored royally for awhile—until a Pharaoh came along who did not know Joseph—and then it was just another coffin.

But not to the emerging Hebrew nation. To them, his bones were the reminder that Egypt was not their home and that they had been promised another land.  For 400 years, kids asked their parents who was in the coffin, and they got to tell the story of Joseph and that someday his bones would go back to Canaan to rest beside his fathers in the land of promise.

Here are the takeaways:

  • Generations may pass with no resolution of the Promise, but each generation is responsible for holding on to the promise of God and bringing the next generation a little closer to its fulfillment .
  • Don’t go places that take you away from the Promise, and if you must—get home as soon as you can.
  • This world is not our Home, so don’t get too comfortable in Egypt.
  • Use the opportunity of your death and dying for your children!  Tell your children and grandchildren where you are going when you die!  Make them promise never to forget where their Home is.  Make a plan for all of you to be there!

Thank you, Lord, for the story of Joseph’s bones!

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Did you hear the broadcast from Egypt on Sunday that told of Coptic Christians conducting mass in Tahrir Square?  What caught my attention was the report that Muslims surrounded the Christians in order to protect them while they worshipped. (Reuters, February 6 2011).

This action follows many reports of Egyptian Christians protecting Muslim men in the same square as they prayed last Friday. Coptic Christians make up approximately ten percent of the population of Egypt, perhaps the largest Christian community in the Arab world. (For background information, you might want to read this article from Foreign Policy.)

Have you heard about the big controversy among some Christians over whether Christian churches should rent church space to Muslims to conduct their prayer services. What do you think your church would do?

Recently, Christianity Today has featured several articles that raised questions about the relationship between Islam and Christianity as well as between Muslims and Christians.

Why We Opened Our Church to Muslims | A response to “Muslims in Evangelical Churches.” (January 27, 2011)

Muslims in Evangelical Churches | Does loving your neighbor mean opening your doors to false worship? (January 3, 2011)

From Informant to Informer | The “son of Hamas” senses God in his life before coming to Christ. (June 8, 2010)

Dispute in Dearborn | Small ministry creates big waves at Arab festival. (August 18, 2010)

Out of Context | Debate over ‘Camel method’ probes limits of Muslim-focused evangelism. (March 31, 2010)

How Muslims See Christianity | Many Muslims don’t understand Christianity—especially the idea of salvation by grace through faith. (March 1, 2000)

The above list appears in a lengthy article discussing the use of the phrase “Son of God” in Bible translations used in Muslim countries. It is an excellent discussion of the difficulties inherent in cross-cultural evangelism (Christianity Today, February 4, 2011).

 

If you are having trouble even reading the word Muslim without thinking terrorist, then I think you are a pretty normal American Christian.  Unfortunately, I think the dominate word in that last phrase is American, not Christian. But it is very difficult for many of us to separate the flag from the cross, isn’t it!

I am encouraged that in the middle of the political tumult, Christians in Egypt have acted like Christians to those who sometimes even persecute them.  I’m equally thrilled to see Muslims responding favorably to the Christians.

It begins to sound like the early chapters of Acts, you know those verses that describe the good that the first followers of Jesus did among the people who had killed Jesus (2:47) and the “good favor” that ensued from the entire community.

We and LST have been involved in faith-sharing work with Muslims for many years now. Our first experiences were in western Europe–which is struggling with a mushrooming Muslim population. Then later we began work in places that were secular politically though Muslim culturally, both in Asia and Africa.   I have no personal experience in the fundamentalist Arab Muslim countries, but I do know people who have worked there.

So I have many more questions than I have answers, but I am more and more convicted that not only is vilification of Muslim people wrong, but that either intentionally or indifferently ignoring them is equally ungodly.

I am convicted—as you are, I believe—that God so loved the Muslim world as well as the Christian world that He sent His only Son to die for the whole world!  Isn’t that what you believe too?

So how does that change anything for you today?

 

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