28 Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, 29 Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.
30 Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.”
31 Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and speak to Pharaoh and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were living in the land of Canaan, have come to me. 32 The men are shepherds; they tend livestock, and they have brought along their flocks and herds and everything they own.’ 33 When Pharaoh calls you in and asks, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 you should answer, ‘Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.’ Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians.”
(Genesis 46:28-34 NIV)
In our last time together, we saw Jacob and all his family pull up roots in Canaan and begin the journey to Egypt. Jacob stopped at Beersheeba to worship the Lord, and the Lord reassured Jacob that this was part of His plan to care for him and his family.
As we pick up today’s text, we see Jacob sending Judah ahead to get directions to where they are to settle. Joseph had told them to settle in Goshen; Jacob wanted to make sure they went to the correct place Joseph had reserved for them.
When Joseph heard of his family’s impending arrival, he went by chariot to Goshen and met them. They family reunion between Jacob and Joseph was overwhelming and joyful at the same time. When Joseph reintroduced himself to Benjamin, he embraced him and wept tears of joy; when Joseph saw his father again, he embraced him and wept tears of joy for a long time.
Jacob’s comment to Joseph said it all – his life was fulfilled, having now seen his son whom he thought was dead and gone.
After the family reunion, Joseph knew that he needed to inform Pharaoh that his family had arrived. This was no clandestine sneaking in of his family to provide for them. Pharaoh had invited Joseph’s family to come live in Egypt; Joseph wanted to let Pharaoh know they had arrived. Joseph gave his father and brothers clear instructions on what he would tell Pharaoh, and what they were to say to Pharaoh when asked about their occupation.
Joseph’s message and theirs were to be one and the same – their family’s occupation was and is that of shepherds – keepers of livestock.
Joseph wanted his family to identify as shepherds for several reasons:
- Because that is what they did for a living
- Because they would not be a threat to the Egyptians or their way of life
- Because they would be left alone and not integrated into the Egyptian culture
- Because they could then freely worship their God and not be forced into pagan worship of the Egyptian gods
- Goshen was closer to Canaan, and was likely less populated than the rest of Egypt
- Goshen had better pastures for their flocks than any other area in Egypt
- Because they could have dignity in what they did for a living, even as lowly shepherds
Joseph knew that living separately from the Egyptians was important to preserve their culture and faith walk with God. Thus, he made their calling and occupation the central part of the message to Pharaoh, knowing that Pharaoh would gladly agree to send them off to Goshen to live and work, as shepherds were repulsive to Egyptians.
May we identify with our true calling, with what the Lord has put before us to do, whether that calling might be. If God calls us to a humble post, may we be satisfied with that post and serve Him with all our might, even if the world looks down on us. If God calls us to something greater, may we serve Him equally well with all our might, and not look down on others serving the Lord as He has called them.
The ground at the foot of the cross is level – we are all sinners, equally guilty before God’s righteousness, except for the blood of Christ that wiped away our sins and provides the way for us to come before God.