All eyes turned to the government. “Save us! We will do anything if you will only save us!” And so the government, of course, did. And the people were put in slavery, and the land became the property of the government.
The story of Genesis is primarily about God instituting his plan of salvation for the world. And God did this through a specific person – Abraham – and his very interesting family. Starting at Genesis 12, everything has been about this family that carried with it the promises of God. God would offer salvation to the world through this family, and so the welfare of this family was of critical importance.
Joseph’s story demonstrates how God provided for the family during a brutal seven-year famine that brought nations and tribes to the brink of starvation. The focus of the story is not about those nations and tribes. No, it is about the family of God, the people of Israel.
The Israelites found themselves settled securely in the land of Goshen, working as shepherds and prospering in their work. Meanwhile, the rest of the world continued to struggle, and they came to Joseph and Pharaoh for food.
The people gave up their money and their livestock for food. And then, when all other options were exhausted, they offered up their land and their very own freedom for food. “Give us food,” they said. And they got their food, but they gave up everything to get it.
I am tempted to see Joseph’s famine-relief plan as part of God’s promise to bless the whole world through Abraham’s family. Here, clearly, was a plan that was hatched by a member of Abraham’s family, and the plan did enable many people to survive when they otherwise might have died.
But this is not how God ultimately planned to offer salvation to the world. Salvation does not come through a government-run famine-relief program. It does not come by filling people’s stomachs with food.
God’s salvation plan was in motion, but it had not come to fruition in the Book of Genesis. The Messiah, the Savior, still was to come – and he would offer the bread of life (John 6:35).
It is interesting, however, how important the stuff of this physical and material life becomes to us. And it is interesting where we look for a savior.
If you add $1,400 to $600, you get $2,000. And that number is critically important to the politicians – because they promised everyone, especially the people in Georgia, that they would hand out $2,000 checks to just about everybody.
And people clamor for their government checks. And the government is promising more than just $2,000 checks. Some in the government want to give monthly checks to families with children. Others want to forgive all student loan debt.
The people, perhaps, can be heard saying, “Give us food.”
But we need to be careful and understand that salvation does not come, ultimately, from the government.
One line of political thought is that humans are inherently good, and if we work hard enough together and put the right systems in place, we can create a utopia with minimal suffering and equitable outcomes for every person. Everyone will have enough, and everyone will be happy.
This, of course, is different from the biblical picture of humanity. We are sinful people. And, through our selfishness and our lust for power, we eventually will destroy any human system we might dream up.
The only answer is Christ, who grants eternal life and a changed heart. Any human system, like the government, is likely to take as much (or more) than it actually gives – as we see in the famine-relief program of Egypt.
And the more we look to these human systems, the more likely we are to find ourselves enslaved to the system we thought would be our savior. It would have been better for the people to have looked toward that peculiar family of shepherds out in the land of Goshen.
It was from that family that God brought the Savior.