then joseph said to the people, “behold, i have this day bought you and your land for pharaoh. now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. and at the harvests you shall give a fifth to pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” and they said, “you have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to pharaoh.” so joseph made it a statute concerning the land of egypt, and it stands to this day, that pharaoh should have the fifth; the land of the priests alone did not become pharaoh’s.
thus israel settled in the land of egypt, in the land of goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. and jacob lived in the land of egypt seventeen years. so the days of jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years.
and when the time drew near that israel must die, he called his son joseph and said to him, “if now i have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. do not bury me in egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. carry me out of egypt and bury me in their burying place.” he answered, “i will do as you have said.” and he said, “swear to me”; and he swore to him. then israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed.
a foreshadowing of holy servanthood
you have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to pharaoh. were you also surprised to read this? who says this when they are being sold—when they are losing their ownership of their own bodies? the egyptians can respond this way because they are staring their imminent death in the face. deservedness and self-pity are far from their minds: they know death is coming, and joseph saves them from certain death by starvation! not because he owes it to them, not because they deserve it, but because God provided for their salvation beforehand, as he provided for joseph’s salvation from death to servitude, and from imprisonment to being the second in charge over the land of egypt. what a beautiful foreshadowing of Jesus providing for our salvation by his propitiation (payment for our sins) on the cross!
do you often find yourself thinking God owes you something, or that he asks too much of you? one reason this happens to us is that we forget we were in the same circumstance as the egyptians: we faced certain death, and unlike the egyptians, we put ourselves in that place by our own sins. we have been saved from death to life! not because we deserve it, not because God needs us, but because God provided beforehand by the blood of his Son. that blood purchases for us the opportunity to live in the life of Christ, who died in the death we deserve. and the life Christ gives us is his very own—the life of a servant! everything we have belongs to Christ, but praise the Lord—he lets us be stewards of our bodies, our choices, and our very life!
when Jesus calls us to be servants, he is calling us to something he did first. Jesus says in john 5:19, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. that is the life we have been born into! a life of intimate relationship, of loving relationship with our Lord God—a life where we can submit moment-to-moment, as the Spirit helps us. i can imagine no greater privilege!
Lord, help us to be thankful for the servanthood into which we have been purchased, as we are reminded of the death from which we were saved. we desire to serve you selflessly as younger sisters and brothers of your only begotten Son—but we cannot do it even a little on our own. we believe you can grow our servant hearts—help us in our unbelief!
~ stephen hall