Community Group Study “Genesis: Blessed in a Strange Land”
Read Genesis 46:1-4, 46:28-47:31
It often takes time for us to understand how and why things have unfolded in our lives the way they have. One benefit of scripture is that we know the big story of what God has done with his people and we have an idea of what his goals are in our spiritual formation. Jacob and his family though did not have that benefit. They needed to look to God’s promise and trust the Lord as he led them out of the Promised Land and into Egypt. Jacob was led earlier in his life to the land of his uncle Laban (Genesis 28). We see in both occasions that God reassured Jacob of God’s goodness in the events that were happening and that God would be with him and bring him back to the Promised Land (Genesis 46:1-4).
Looking back we can ask the question, “if the goal was for them to be settled in the Promised Land… Why would God lead them out of the Promised Land and into Egypt?” We know that the people of God had an issue in Canaan and that issue was compromise. They often would assimilate and adopt the religion of the people of Canaan. It would start off innocently enough, they’d move close to the people and start a trade relationship. However, soon they were intermarrying, leaving worship of YHWH and essentially not walking as the people of God. It seems like it was spiritually dangerous to stay in Canaan. Likewise, the famine intensified and they were in physical danger if they stayed. Goshen is described as a place of abundance and peace where they could live off the “fat of the land” and be separate from the Egyptians. Surprisingly one of the reason they would be separate from the Egyptians is that unlike the Canaanites, the Egyptians had no desire to intermingle because of their prejudice (Genesis 43:32, 46:34). So, God moves them to Goshen so they can grow in faithfulness and love to him without risk of being compromised to the worship of Egypt. We also know that this family has been a fractured and divisive family and now they have time to be knit together by the Lord.
Yet with all this, the hope is not for them to stay in Goshen forever. God promised Abraham that his family would be blessed to be a blessing. Israel will go through some intense suffering through being enslaved to the Egyptians and freed by God in the Exodus story. God will also bring them back to the Promised Land where they will have the opportunity to live out the law of God in such a way that the watching world will see what it looks like to follow the Lord and be blessed by God. We see this foreshadowed in two places in our text. First, when Jacob blesses Pharaoh it is a reminder that the world would see Pharaoh as the super power, but blessing flows from the greater to the lesser and God is the one bringing blessing through Jacob to the “king of the world” (Genesis 47:7-10). We also see this call back to the Promised Land in Jacob’s final request to be buried back with his fathers (Genesis 47:29-31). The eyes of the people of God was to be fixed on the call to be a blessing to the world. So they go to Goshen, not to stay, but to grow so they can go back and fulfill their calling.
Christians likewise today are called to be in a reconciled relationship with God and in deep community with other followers of Jesus because they are designed to flourish and find life abundant when they prioritize those two things (Worship and Community) AND because they will best minister to the world when they are formed and shaped in their faith in Jesus (Mission). If you follower Jesus he calls you to be salt and light to the world so that they world may know him and praise him (Matthew 5:13-16, 1 Peter 2:9-10). This passage helps us to consider how we have conformed to the world, what habits and patterns we have to be distinct and how God calls us to be a blessing to the people he has placed in our lives.
God removes his people from the Promised Land so they’d be formed as his people. His goal is to grow them in faith and love for him so they can go back to the land and be light and blessing to the world. Today, the church is formed as the people of God and are called out to be distinct and devoted to God so they can share the good news about Jesus in word and action and bless the world.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read Genesis 46:1-4. What does God promise Jacob? How does he fulfill this promise? Why would this be important for Jacob as he is leaving the promised land?
Read Genesis 43:32 and Genesis 46:34. How does God use this sinful aspect of Egypt’s culture to isolate his people in Goshen? Why does God desire to isolate them in Egypt? List different things that are said about Goshen and what they’d find there.
When it comes to being in the world but not of the world:
What are the 3 or 4 biggest influences that shape your life right now?
The goal is not for us to be ignorant of things in this world or the culture around us. However, we should be aware of how influenced we are by the world. The danger we saw in Genesis is the people of God become like the Canaanites. What usually helps you recognize times and seasons when you’re being shaped by the world instead of the gospel? Are there helpful steps to turn your eyes to the Lord in those times?
Read Genesis 47:29-31 and Colossians 3:1-4. God often directs our attention to heaven and to his promises to give us gospel motivation for how we live here and now. How does looking to heaven help us live better on earth?