Joseph #14 “My Shepherd”
Genesis 47:28-31; 48:1-22 December 12, 2004
INTRO: Know you have heard phrase: “Greatest thing since sliced bread”?
But, when was bread first sliced? July 7, 1928. Iowan Otto Rohwedder invented.
Bakers scoffed—sliced will dry out. Convinced baker friend in Chillicothe, MO
On day mentioned, first sold. Great thing, customers loved, rest is history.
Aren’t you glad you know that? Hope it improves your life this week.
I know you have heard the phrase: “The Lord is my shepherd.”
What is the first place in the Bible where God is called “my shepherd”?
You’re right, it’s here in Genesis 48.
Jacob is telling Joseph about his life.
About how God has been faithful to him throughout his life.
As Jacob blesses Joseph and Joseph’s two sons, he blesses them in the name
of “the God who has been my shepherd all my life”
If you are reading the KJV it says, the God who fed me all my life.
But this root word is one that means to pasture, tend, or graze.
NIV more accurate in translating shepherd.
Very same word in Psalm 23:1 where David writes: The Lord is my shepherd.
Speaking of 23rd Psalm—it’s the best known, most loved chapter in Bible isn’t it?
23rd Psalm has been a comfort to millions of believers through the ages.
It is the psalm we want to hear in times of grief and pain.
Even people who barely know the Bible,
who have had the most shallow upbringing in the church,
know 23rd Psalm and are comforted by it in hospital or at funeral.
The whole psalm brings comfort but the most comforting part is certainly
those opening words: “The Lord is my shepherd . . .”
What an amazing statement—“The Lord is my shepherd.”
The Lord God, who has no beginning and no end—
Who needs no one to worship Him and serve Him.
Who needs no one to complete Him.
Who has all power, knowledge, happiness contained in His being—that God—
Has willingly taken on the lowly, hard, constant work of being my shepherd.
But David wasn’t the first believer to say that—Jacob was. Seed from his faith.
And you can trace this wonderful image of God as the shepherd of His people
throughout the Bible—psalms, prophets.
Finally the fullness of the Lord my shepherd comes in Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.
And New Testament also says that one day the Chief Shepherd will appear.
So Jacob’s faith in God his shepherd looked far beyond his life, to new creation.
As I read and re-read this passage this week,
I was stuck again and again by Jacob’s vivid sense that his whole life was lived
in the constant presence of God. That God was always with him, to bless him,
to guide him along the path, to lead him to pasture, to guard his life.
Jacob, you may remember, had been a shepherd himself for years.
As an elderly man, nearing the end of his life,
he looks back over his life and expresses with unshakable assurance that
God is his shepherd.
Let me tell you how this passage spoke to me this week.
I believe that the Lord is my shepherd. I believe Jesus is the good shepherd.
I believe he is watching over and guiding my life.
I believe it because the Bible says so.
But my heart is so cold toward this wonderful truth that it rarely grips me.
It doesn’t come to me naturally.
I barely think about the Lord’s presence and care.
I go through my daily life and things happen, and I mostly chalk them up to
circumstance, natural causes, or just the way things are.
What was it about this man that gave him such assurance of the presence of God?
Can I learn anything from him?
Can the Holy Spirit take these things and push them down into my heart,
so they become a part of who I am and I am changed? I hope so.
I want to speak this morning to those of you, who, like me, are so often cold
to the Lord’s shepherding presence in your life. Who aren’t aware of him enough.
Three things that Jacob practiced, with God’s help—I want to do too.
MP#1 Know, repeat, and claim the promises of God.
Jacob’s life was dominated by a promise.
He related every event in his life to the fulfillment of this promise.
He judged the value of every decision in relation to this promise.
What was this promise? In verse 3.
Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’”
Jacob was a young man when God gave him this promise.
Running away from brother Esau who he had cheated out of birthright.
God came in a vision, reaffirmed to Jacob, promise given to Abraham.
Jacob no longer a young man, 147 and about to die.
But he is still talking about this promise, basing his life on it.
Says that Jacob lived in Egypt 17 years.
How many times in 17 years do you think he told Joseph about this promise?
Elderly people tell same stories over and over, especially ones important to them.
Tell them like have never told you before,
because it seems like some of these things happened yesterday.
Jacob had told this story about God appearing to him in Bethel countless times.
Told it again to Joseph and sons.
Because this was the story and the promise that defined his life.
That is why Jacob was so insistent that Joseph promise to bury in Promised Land.
Wanted, even in his burial, to repeat and claim promise that this land would be
given to his descendants by the Lord as an everlasting possession.
That is why Jacob so determined to bless Joseph’s sons.
Old and tired rallied his strength to sit up on the bed.
These sons of Joseph were in 20s. Jacob calls them boys—but not children.
Manasseh and Ephraim had never seen the Promised Land.
Born in Egypt, Egyptian mother, educated in Egypt, spoke Egyptian.
Jacob wanted them to know the promise. Not set hearts, loyalties on Egypt.
Jacob knew, repeated and claimed God’s promises because in those promises
he heard the voice of his shepherd. Had vivid awareness of God’s presence.
You have to do the same. I have to do the same.
Let me explain how I think this works. Let’s just take some promises in Bible.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
As you know, repeat, and claim this promise, more aware the Lord your shepherd.
Because you start to see all you have as coming from God through Christ.
So you start to see your shepherd’s hand in everything you have.
That makes every meal a sacrament.
God gives you the bread and cup of Christ on Sunday.
God gives you the hamburger you eat on Monday.
Vivid awareness of life in God’s presence.
If you don’t know, repeat, and claim Philippians 4:19 or other promises like it—
you start to look at what you have as just the way things are.
It’s just the way life is that you go into kitchen in morning get something to eat,
open closet and get something to wear.
You miss seeing that the Lord your shepherd is supplying your every need.
Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
As you know, repeat, and claim this promise,
you become more aware that the Lord is your shepherd.
You are suffering physical, mental, emotional pain.
His promise puts into a bigger perspective.
Shepherd is saying, look up. Have wonderful plans.
Still suffering, a glimpse of what Christ has done and is going to do for you.
If you don’t know, repeat, claim Romans 8:18, promises like it—
suffering begins to define the horizons of your life, rather than God’s presence.
Said this summer, when studied promises of God this summer in 2 Peter—
as a pastor, see Christians face crises in two different ways.
Some don’t know any promises. Overwhelmed. Collapse.
I find some. Read, hope they will hear shepherd’s voice in them.
Others, many of you—Pastor, I’m hurting, but this is what Lord has told me. Verse
When that happens, I just shut my mouth, let the Shepherd of church speak.
And I’m always jealous. I want that same vivid sense of Lord’s presence.
In order to say the Lord is my shepherd, you must know, repeat, claim promises.
MP#2 Talk about the gifts of God.
Jacob talked about the good things in his life as gifts from God.
I think this was his common practice.
One of the things that gave him a vivid sense of the Lord as his shepherd.
Just one example in this passage is in verse 11.
Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”
Like father like son—this was Joseph’s common way of talking as well.
vs. 9 says about sons, “They are the sons God has given me.”
That doesn’t surprise us because Joseph talks like this throughout his life—
always mentioning God as the giver of good things.
This may seem like a small thing—but I’m convinced it’s not.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly
lights.” Also “Thanks to be God for his indescribable gift (Jesus Christ).”
Every good thing is a gift, all gifts come from God, all gifts point to Christ.
We receive them and enjoy them in Christ.
I have become more and more convince in my own life the need to say more often:
“God gave me this.”
“The Lord allowed me to do that”
“Thank God for this.”
“Isn’t God good.”
I have to literally say things like.
“God gave me a good day today.”
“The Lord helped me get some things accomplished.”
“Look at this meal, isn’t God good.”
“These are the children God has given me.”
And on and on, those are just examples.
I realize that for different reasons, much easier for some Christians than others.
Some Christians speak so freely of the good things God has given them.
It comes right out of their hearts, sincerely, without self-consciousness.
Has a lot to do with the work of the Holy Spirit in lives—
but also things like personality, upbringing, early spiritual experiences.
For other Christians, it is more difficult.
Can talk about the gifts of God in more formal setting—prayer at meal,
conversation in a Covenant Group when others are talking about God’s goodness.
But in ordinary conversation, much harder.
Not just more self-conscious about it,
often times don’t even think to mention God’s generosity.
I’m in the latter group. But, as I said, growing sense of the inadequacy of this.
Because if I don’t say, “God has given me this, God has helped me do that—
what happens is my sense of Lord’s presence, his shepherding starts to fade.
Ann Tyler novel called “Ladder of Years.” I haven’t read, read synopsis.
Main character woman named Delia Grinstead.
lovely, loveable, utterly giving wife and mother, does best for household.
But as her children grow up, they become ungrateful, ignore her, flinch her hugs.
Expect that their favorite foods in pantry, never thank.
Delia's husband so wrapped up in medical practice, he brushes by day after day.
Never noticing clean house, laundry, the warm food.
Delia slowly wilts, until one day meets someone who thanks for little something.
Stranger’s gratitude like a few precious drops of water on parched land.
Sees how dry and cracked and barren her soul has become.
Finally the day comes when Delia just walks away from her family.
She’s taking a stroll on a beach and just keeps on going.
Once her family realizes she is missing,
they have a strangely difficult time describing Delia to the police.
They can’t seem to recall the color of her eyes, her height or weight, what wearing.
Because they haven’t really seen her for years—blinded by ingratitude.
If we don’t talk about God’s gifts, to friends, to family, afraid over time,
We’re going to have a difficult time describing Lord in convincing way.
I know Lord is my shepherd (Bible says)
But if I have not talked about his shepherding, specifically good gifts,
then my sense of his presence in my life is going to fade.
And for a Christian I am going to have a strangely difficult time describing
what life is really like as one of his sheep.
In order to say the Lord is my shepherd, have to talk about the gifts of God.
MP#3 Bow before and rest in the sovereignty of God.
There is a little drama at the end of this visit.
Joseph put his sons in front of Jacob for his blessing.
Put oldest son Manasseh in front of Jacob’s right hand, Ephraim, left hand.
So that, in accordance with the universal custom of human race—oldest son
would receive the greater blessing.
Well, what did the old man do? Crossed his hands.
Joseph was displeased, tried to move Jacob’s hands. This is firstborn.
Jacob refused, “I know my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become
great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will
become a group of nations.”
Jacob was saying to Joseph—not a mistake, not quirkiness of old man,
not because I like Ephraim more—being true to spirit of prophecy.
I am revealing God’s sovereign plan for the future.
God’s sovereign plan is, Ephraim will be greater than Manasseh.
Jacob was right—Ephraim was the greater son.
Tribe of Ephraim so large and powerful, in later OT will find nation of Israel,
particularly northern 10 tribes simply called Ephraim.
Such a vivid reminder that the Lord doesn’t treat us all the same.
He gives some great advantages, talents, and opportunities,
and He burdens other with great disadvantages.
Also, in a strange way, the Lord often pours out special grace on those people
who are the lowest—he chooses the weak, raises the humble.
One way Bible shows this over and over is just the way you see it in this chapter,
by passing over the firstborn, and pouring out special grace on younger sons.
Lord sovereignly chose Ephraim over Manasseh—
Just as he chose Jacob over Esau, Judah and Joseph over Reuben and Simeon,
and David before all of his brothers.
You can be jealous of the talents, opportunities, resources, abilities, looks
God has given other people.
Can even be jealous of the greater grace, spiritual sensitivity, success in
Christian life He gives other believers. And He does.
Some Christians find spiritual growth, fruit of Spirit relatively easy—
Others fight and struggle to advance one inch.
You can be like Joseph trying to move Jacob’s hands—
But he was really trying to move God’s hands.
And that was impossible. Because Lord had decided for his own sovereign reasons
to make Ephraim greater than Manasseh.
Because the Lord had bigger plans than just these young men, kingdom, salvation.
It’s obvious that Joseph understood that and accepted it quickly—
after all, Joseph himself was the 11th of 12 sons—
and God had decided to pour out many advantages on Joseph,
that he didn’t give to his brothers.
You can be jealous, angry, discouraged—or you can say—the Lord is my shepherd.
And I will not only bow before his sovereign leading, I will rest in it.
When I see others advancing in whatever area of life—myself struggling,
I still know that the Lord is my shepherd.
He will guide me in the way He has chosen and I will be blessed.
Because even though all sheep look alike to people on the outside—
to the shepherd, every one is different, and he knows what each one needs.
And I will not just accept that, I will rest in it.
Few years ago some Christ Covenant women went to a conference in Atlanta.
Allison told me about hearing Joni Erickson Tada speak.
If you don’t know her story—as a teenage girl, paralyzed from neck down
in diving accident.
She said—Of course I want to get up and walk and have a normal life.
But not if it would mean that I wouldn’t have the closeness to Christ
that I have come to on this path.
Went on to say that couldn’t wait until resurrection—when would get rid
of wheelchair forever—but also hoped that her wheelchair would be in heaven,
as a reminder of how Lord brought her close to himself.
She recognized his sovereign path as one she would never have chosen—
but she bowed to it and rested in it.
In order to know the Lord is your shepherd, you have to bow before and rest in
the sovereign plan of God. That plan is so big—nothing less than
restoration of all things.
The King of love my shepherd is,
His goodness faileth never.
I nothing lack if I am His,
And He is mine forever.
Can you say as Jacob did, and David, and so many others—
“the Lord is my shepherd”?
Not only as a truth revealed in Scripture—
but as a comforting truth pressed home to your soul?
If you are cold to the shepherd’s voice.
If you do not have a lively sense of living in the presence of God—
Then ask for his grace and Spirit to change you—He alone can.
And do all you can to make yourself open and ready for his