Saturday, December 18, 2010

Joseph Instructs Pharaoh On Action He Should Take - Genesis 41:33-36

“And now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. Then let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. And let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish during the famine.”

Through Joseph, God had just given Pharaoh some devastating news on what was about to happen in Egypt. But He also provided him, again through Joseph, with instructions on how to deal with it. Sometimes we as God’s people get advance notice on what challenges lie ahead, sometimes they come upon us unexpectedly. But I believe, as His children, in every case He gives us the means and the wherewithal to deal with those challenges. Most often the directions are in His Word, the Bible. Often they come, if we’re willing to accept them, through the wisdom of a true and tested fellow-believer. Sometimes God Himself whispers them to us. That practice of God’s, like all his promises, is one the Christian can always rely on.

Joseph basically tells Pharaoh that he needs to delegate. Not only does he need to appoint a “discerning and wise” man over the whole of Egypt, but he also needs to give that man lieutenants that are in charge over various parts of the land and report directly to him. God never intends anyone to deal with issues involving a nation or a people or a company or a congregation or a family, alone. No, His way is a team.

[Note: As an aside, many of us have always considered God’s first example of such a preference was provided later in Scripture and in the history of the Hebrews when Moses’ father-in-law instructed Moses to appoint leaders and assistants under him to help rule the people, so Moses would not get burned out. This idea of delegation however was first introduced here when Joseph was telling Pharaoh how to deal with the oncoming famine.]

We also note in this passage that the method God intended to be used in this situation was a form of a tax. The appointed overseer was to take 20% of the produce of the land from those that farmed it. God realizes that not only do those carrying out His instructions need to work in a team with others, but He also knows resources other than human are needed to get the job done. As a leader in now two missions, I have seen God blessing our plans in both those ways. It is expected that His people participate in this way. While we should never give our money to any Christian work without first making sure of the scriptural and spiritual integrity of that work, we have no choice to but to give it to some of those that meet the criteria.

[Note: As another aside, I wonder if, and I admit it is only because it is used here, whether or not that 20% figure is indeed an appropriate goal or ideal to be used by governments in the taxation of their people? At least in comparison to the, in some cases, over 50% rates that apply in countries such as Canada and the way over 20% rates that apply in the United States and elsewhere. I know getting back to 20% would be most difficult under our current economic situations but also because of the great dependency on our governments that we have become accustomed to. I believe ideally a goal of 20% overall taxation to cover all levels of government would help force us to regain a more appropriate balance between two much and too little government. Such improved balance would also provide the means whereby many could regain their self-respect and commence to fulfill their intended role as providers for those for whom they are responsible.]

Notice also the instruction that whatever was gathered, should be well guarded. The implication is at least twofold. First, others would try to take the produce by force. Second, other lands or people would suffer similar famine but not have access to such a reserve of food. I am not certain of the lesson here. Perhaps it is that we as God’s children must be aware that even when we follow God’s instructions for our lives, there will be opposition. People will try to destroy what we have, not only our physical property, but also our spiritual relationship with God. We must therefore take the necessary physical and spiritual precautions to preserve what God has given us. As a mission leader, some missionaries ask, “Why do we have to spend so much money on insurance? Why can’t we just trust God?” Well, the answer is, “Because God Himself values what He has given us and He expects us to protect it.” He has allowed laws and provisions (such as insurance) that protect us in these ways. Notice what the last phrase of this passage is: “ . . . so that the land may not perish during the famine.” It is clear God wanted to save the land, his creation.

Is it not amazing what gems we can find for ourselves when we study scripture? Here God is giving some ancient Egyptian ruler some instructions as to how to govern for the fourteen years that are to follow and yet in those instructions are some life jewels for us.

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