The Christian hope is of life after death. We live now for that future. Jesus came to pay the price for sin so that we can live forever. We can choose whether we follow him or not. What we see modelled by Jacob is how to die well.
Live now for God’s future kingdom
It’s easy to get distracted by the things around us. Jacob wants to make sure his sons don’t live for the now but for the future. He doesn’t give Joseph a list of tasks to achieve. He wants to remind him of God’s promises. He wants their lives to be shaped by that reality. Do we really believe it’s better to live for Jesus and lose everything?
Joseph notices that Jacob got the blessings the wrong way round, but Jacob knows he didn’t. He knows God blesses the weak. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Blessing is a gift and not a right. Jacob gathers the rest of the sons together and they all receive a blessing. It’s an encouragement because we know that God’s kingdom in Canaan was built.
The king of God’s kingdom comes from Judah. As God’s people there are still consequences for our actions now (1 Cor. 3). We shouldn’t get distracted by the comfort of Egypt. We are called to live for Canaan, to live for God’s future kingdom.
The slavery in this passage is different from the slavery we think of today.
The Lord cares for all people through his gracious leader (v13-26)
This is probably about four years into seven years of famine. Pharaoh gets all the money. The people go to Joseph and ask for food. They know they have a choice of either life or death. Joseph says he’ll buy their animals from them. The Egyptians know that losing their possessions and living is better. They’re at least fine for a time. When that year was over, they go to Joseph again. They offer themselves. The people make the suggestion this time to sell themselves and their land. They carry on living on the same land. It costs them a 20% tax. They get food, seeds to sow, and their land. They know it’s good.
God had brought Joseph to Egypt to save the lives of Jacob and his sons. Joseph was only ever a small picture of Jesus. When they were confronted with a choice the Egyptians would’ve been foolish to go it alone. We have the same choice. That way leads to death. We can give ourselves to Jesus. That way leads to life. We need to know the truth like the Egyptians did. We also need to show it.
The Lord cares uniquely for his people through his gracious leader (v27-28)
Every person has lots of blessings. It’s better to live as a Christian now than not to. There is comfort through suffering as the Holy Spirit is with us. We need to remind each other that this is true. The love, care and mercy that God expects us to show each other is wonderful.
The Lord’s people live now for his future promises (v29-31)
God’s future is far better. Jesus is going to remake the world and begin a new world of joy. Isn’t that what helps us to forgive? This life isn’t all there is. We need to keep encouraging each other not to live for the now but for the future promises.
Sometimes we want justice to be done and we want to take it into our own hands. Justice is good but what does it look like here? God is providing for his people. He knows there will be a seven year famine across the world and he makes sure his people will survive. Joseph has been betrayed and spent 13 years in slavery and prison and another seven in Egypt. Just because God is bringing good things out of this doesn’t mean his brothers aren’t guilty.
It’s been more than 20 years since Joseph’s brothers last saw Joseph. He recognised them but they didn’t recognise him. He had had dreams that his whole family would bow down before him. He sees that this is the fulfilment. Joseph tests them. He puts them in prison. He shows mercy and tells one of them to stay behind. He tells them to prove their innocence. They know they’re guilty. Joseph orders his servants to plant their money in their sacks. They see that this is God’s judgment on their sin for their treatment of Joseph.
Reuben is a bit different. He’d intended to free Joseph. He offers to take responsibility for Benjamin. The promise he makes is foolish at best. Losing two grandchildren for losing a son is hardly retribution. Judah steps up. He had only ever cared about himself. He takes his charge personally. He does it for his family.
Joseph is thrilled at seeing his younger brother and almost can’t hide it any more. He tells his servants to plant his own cup in their sacks. Joseph then tells his steward to go after them. Is God’s justice finally catching up with them? They all claim innocence. Each sack is opened until only Benjamin is left. There’s the cup but they’re all devastated. They all stay to become slaves. They’re not the same as who they were 20 years ago. We shouldn’t judge people by that. They are still guilty. It doesn’t undo what they’ve done in the past.
We don’t want people to get away with things. Joseph shows mercy. God isn’t only the God of justice but of mercy too. None of us are any better than Joseph’s brothers. Justice for us is condemnation. A true Christian shows mercy to others. It’s costly. It opens us up to being hurt or betrayed but it is the example of Jesus. It transforms people. Joseph is merciful because God has shown mercy to him. We can be merciful to others because Jesus been merciful to us.
This is a story of real hardship and pain. Even if we’re Christians we can question if we can trust God with this going on. When we say that we’re Christians that means we follow Jesus. We’re told he sustains all things (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus allows all things to happen. That means believing that somehow, for some reason, Jesus allows the hurt and pain and brokenness of this world to continue. Even as we face that, God is good. He is with us and for us.
Even while Joseph was a slave in a foreign land, God was with him. He doesn’t know why this has happened to him. It doesn’t stop him from making the most of the situation he is in. Whatever situation you find yourself in, God has put you there for a reason. By remaining faithful to God things actually go from bad to worse. His master’s wife twisted the story.
Joseph is clinging to God but is longing to be out of his situation. We don’t know why these things happen but God proves himself trustworthy again and again. In chapter 41, Pharaoh had dreams. Joseph is able to interpret. We are to cling to God’s promises. Jesus doesn’t promise a life free of suffering. Joseph received a blessing from God. In Jesus we have certain promises. Eternal life that is free from suffering and pain. Jesus gave himself up and faced the full anger of God the Father.
The change we see in Habakkuk is the result of encountering God.
At the start, he struggles to comprehend the world around him. He feels there’s no response to his prayers. He hasn’t lost his faith in God but is struggling to see the point.
Now there’s a change in tone. He’s no longer complaining. It appears he’s seen that God has done something. Why the sudden change? In chapter 2, God shows his true might and power. This prayer is a direct response to a personal encounter with God.
Pray and declare
He prays and proclaims the God he serves. We are charged with these two roles. Often we are left with the question of how. Habakkuk looks at the world around him and is awestruck at who God is (v2). Instead of anger, he is rejoicing in the Lord. He tells us God accepts us feeling angry but we shouldn’t stay that way. We can allow our attitudes to shift. We need to pray asking God to show us his glory.
Pray for mercy
Witnessing God’s power is no easy thing. It’s changed Habakkuk. He comes away feeling physically ill. If we meet with God this way it will also change us. He was so affected that he describes it as decay creeping into his bones. After seeing the wrath of God and what he’s capable of, we can only turn inwardly and look at our sin. We see ourselves for who we are. Habakkuk will wait patiently (v16).
Look to the cross and be joyful
Habakkuk sees the God who delivers his people and is joyful and is able to call him Saviour (v18). He’s now rejoicing. At the cross, this is where God says he is committed to justice. It’s the cross where Jesus took our punishment. It helps us to pray for a broken world. We know God will act in a final judgement. No matter what situations we face we can pray to God knowing he will act.
Rest in the sovereign Lord
We can be content like Habakkuk (v19). He finishes by ascribing the place where has arrived with feet like a deer walking on the heights. The danger is still real. Habakkuk is now resting in God as his source of strength. We can be changed when we see God’s glory.
We need God to break our apathetic hearts and lead us to trust in the grace of Jesus. Knowing God through Jesus can allow us to be joyful. God is enough.
“Woe” is an appropriate response to our world. Politicians have tried to create a world without injustice. They haven’t sold the problem that Habakkuk brings to the Lord. They can’t. Injustice is our nature. Politics can’t change human nature. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of God’s glory when he acts to end injustice. We should pray for mercy. God will act to end injustice.
Pray with confidence that God will act to end injustice
The judgement that God describes is what he has decided will happen. He has done it in the past (Babylonians in Daniel 4-5). It’s deserved.
Pray with confidence that God’s response to injustice will be just
You can’t have a God who will judge others and not judge you. We see the God we really need. He isn’t just aware of the injustice. His response is proportional. We should bring our questions to him in prayer, asking him to bring the injustice he’s promised. The Babylonians were guilty of many charges. They’re charges that could be made of us. The desires are often acted out at the expense of others. Our world is full of injustice and is fuelled by these desires. God has a proportionate response. It’s having all the evil you’ve done to others brought back on yourself. We try to convince ourselves we don’t deserve it.
Pray for mercy because God’s justice will affect all of us
How much do we care about those who suffer? When we get success who do we credit? God’s judgement isn’t just guaranteed and just – it’s universal. When accused we all deny our guilt. That’s human nature, but that doesn’t happen here. We are all deserving of God’s judgement. God sees two distinct groups of people. His enemies and the righteous. The distinction is based on what they believe.
Jesus is the one person who has always been perfectly just. He has paid the punishment. God’s judgement is escapable. That’s our hope. Our faith and our righteousness. In his patience God is paving the way for people to put their trust in Jesus. There are yet more people to trust in him. We don’t need a political or philosophical solution because we have faith.
Walking through fog is similar to Habakkuk’s experience as a prophet. It’s confusing and difficult. Habakkuk asks the question is God enough? He isn’t seeing great progress. It seems God keeps allowing evil to continue and to thrive. Do you feel you’re trying to keep going but there’s not enough light to carry on? As Habakkuk encounters God he journeys from doubt to trust. We are still troubled as to why the world is the way it is. His faith isn’t in understanding what God is doing, but knowing him well enough.
Faith is not impossible – we can bring our complaints to God
Habakkuk uses imagery of fish being swallowed up. He knows his people aren’t perfect. He sees that God is acting but complains he is using evil people. This question is ok to ask. We wonder how and why God uses evil people to achieve his purposes. Habakkuk feels uncomfortable. It wasn’t wrong for him to complain. God doesn’t rebuke him. We must take our complaints to God. The relationship God wants with you is honesty.
Faith is possible because we can depend on God’s promises
Habakkuk returns to the God he knows in his confusion. He has experience of depending on God. In the uncertainty he depends on the God he knows. Though we don’t understand all of God’s ways we can trust him. We can trust that he is sovereign over evil. He has revealed himself to us and given his promises. God has shown his righteousness (v13) since the beginning of time.
Habakkuk knows that God has promised to be with his people. He is for the Israelites, not against. Jesus died so we don’t have to. God is holy and keeps his promises. Habakkuk waits expectantly. He’s standing on the edge of the city and is expectant. In difficult situations we wait for God to work. Trusting God’s promises is the foundation of faith.
Faith is hopeful for the end
God replies with a revelation (2:2-4). God’s ways are often unsearchable. God shows that he sees the Babylonians’ evil. He will deal with it. In the end, God will judge evil. God is coming to set the world right. Faith leads us to righteousness. It’s through the faith that Habakkuk has shown that we can gain righteousness. There is enough light to keep going and to keep praying and speaking for Jesus. Will you relate to God through his promises? Will you wait hopefully for God to come back and put things right?
Are you tired of God not answering your prayers? You’re not alone. Perhaps you’re just like Habakkuk. It’s a book that’s easy to overlook. We know his complaint intimately. He was sent to pray for the nation. Sin and justice were rife. No one listens to him. Calling for help in the face of evil and feel like no one is answering. How many times you cried out ‘how long, Lord?’. It resonates with one of the deepest parts of us. It echoes our deepest struggles. Why doesn’t God act in the face of man made evil.
We know we need to speak and pray for the world, though a lot of the time we simply don’t want to. We’ve grown fatigued with our prayer life. We can see Habakkuk understands how we feel. He puts forward a different question. Is God enough for me to continue to pray and speak for the world in the face of evil? He goes from doubt to strength (3:19).
Knowing the active God is enough
God says he’s going to do something. He promises to act. He says he won’t understand. Perhaps the reason we think God isn’t doing anything is that we don’t see two seemingly unrelated things interact. Perhaps in our prayer life we don’t see God in the middle. We need to realise God is active even when we feel that he isn’t. Sometimes it will confuse us. God says even if he draws the line for us, we still won’t understand. God will act in ways we cannot understand. We can see we can trust him to do so.
The Babylonians are no joke. Is that how God is going to act?
Knowing the ruling God is enough
Habakkuk goes from wondering why God doesn’t act to acknowledging that he does and that he rules over everything (1:12b). We must come to know that God uses evil people to achieve his purposes, that he rules and governs over everything. Habakkuk doesn’t say God causes evil, but he does use it. He will judge it all in the end. Knowing God is sovereign is key for us to move from doubt to trust.
Knowing the trustworthy God is enough
On the cross God declares and shows us he can use evil for good. Though we are filled with sin, Jesus died and had all of God’s righteous anger poured out on him, even though he was perfect, so that we can have a relationship with him. It’s both God’s deliberate plan and it’s wicked (Acts 2:23). God has shown himself to be utterly trustworthy. It’s our mark in history that we can look back to.
Sometimes the answers to our prayers may not look like what we think they will. Truly knowing these three things is enough for us to keep praying in the face of evil. We can be sure that God will act in righteousness.
We have this story before the story of Joseph continues. The key is v26. Why does our view of sin and our view of righteousness seem so different from God’s? The Lord is the God of transforming forgiveness.
V1-5 hint that all is not right. Judah left his brothers, the people of God. He has married a Canaanite. They’re enemies of God’s people. Judah is able to force what he wants on others.
V6-11 show this is a wicked family. We’re not told why Er is wicked but God judges him for it. He will judge sin. Judah doesn’t show sadness and seems to not care about his family when his son dies. The Lord judges Onan and so he dies.
V12-19 shows grief and deception. For once Judah mourns someone. His grief isn’t very long. Tamar dresses herself up to sleep with her father in law. What does that tell us about the kind of person Judah is? Clearly it’s not the first time for Judah (sleeping with a prostitute). He’s wicked and selfish. God blesses Tamar with a child (and later another). Children in Genesis are a sign of God’s blessing. Judah tries to cut his losses to avoid embarrassment (v20-23).
V24-26 shows judgement and forgiveness. Both the man and woman deserve judgement.
Judah and his sons were wicked and evil, not just to Tamar but to God. They went against what God’s good plans were. They were fighting against God and that’s true of our world. Ignorance isn’t an excuse. Tamar is doing everything she can to follow God. She’s been trying to bring about God’s plan. He recognises that and gives her blessing. She is allowed to have her two children. God brings about his plan of rescue through Jesus through the family line of Judah.
God can save anybody but our actions can say otherwise. Judah is transformed by God’s forgiveness. We can never write anybody off. God’s forgiveness is complete and is for all people. We need to recognise and repent of our sin. How do you treat others? Shouldn’t we treat everyone with the compassion and love that Jesus does?
If we are quick to judge others, that shows we think we shouldn’t be judged ourselves. Real Christianity is knowing how much we fail God again and again, but knowing that his forgiveness is complete.
What can we learn about Jesus?
There are similarities between the life of Joseph and the life of Jesus. He can only be a shadow of what Jesus would be like. He was a beloved son acknowledged by his father. The dreams that God gave to him were fulfilled. Joseph knew what it was to experience rejection by his family. How much more was Jesus rejected? We see Joseph suffering in a way that he didn’t deserve. Jesus didn’t deserve his suffering. Joseph was sold for a price. Jesus was also betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered.
What can we learn about salvation?
This is the prelude to Israel’s rescue from slavery in Egypt. Salvation doesn’t come without suffering. Our salvation was purchased through the suffering of Christ.
What can we learn about ourselves?
The family of Jacob is dysfunctional (rival wives, jealous brothers). God’s grace is available to them. There are dangers to parental favouritism. There is an arrogance about Joseph. Jealousy has a corrosive effect. Jacob may have grown closer to God but that didn’t mean his children were godly. Without God’s grace our children will produce the worst aspects of our character. At the end of Genesis (50:20), Joseph said his brothers intended to harm him but God intended it for good.
All the wickedness that mankind poured out on Jesus, God meant it for good. We don’t choose our sufferings, but God means it for good.