Week 12 is scheduled for study March 14-20, 2022. One of God’s greatest talents is His ability to take something we view as lamentable and turn it into a great blessing. The sorrows of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt, is a great example of this ability.

Day 1

Reading the scriptures invites the Spirit. Listen for His promptings as you read, even if they don’t seem directly related to what you’re reading.

Genesis 45:1-8; 50:20 – “God sent me before you to preserve you.”

The manual focuses on how the life of Christ, and the mission he came to fulfill, is reflected in the life and mission of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt. Joseph served as a deliverer to his family, who though only 70 strong at the time they went into Egypt, left as a nation of millions. He also served as a deliverer to all the countries who bought grain from Egypt during the years of famine. Joseph singlehandedly made Pharoah the most powerful man in the Mediterranean area (see ch. 47 where the entire country of Egypt sold themselves into servitude to Pharaoh in exchange for food).

The story of Joseph in Egypt is just one of a number of examples I regularly refer to where the Lord plays out in physical form something that He will do later in a spiritual way. Abraham’s sacrifice of his son is in similitude of God’s sacrifice of His only begotten Son. Joseph, the favored son was sent by God to be the savior for his family and for the entire world they lived in who were affected by the famine. Moses was in the similitude of the great law giver that would follow him many centuries later. Moses gave them a law of physical performances, while Christ gave his people a law of spiritual performances. These are examples of the Lord giving us physical demonstrations, followed by spiritual fulfillment of those same things with a higher law.

A personal example

But there is another principle we can look at in Joseph’s being sold into Egypt. In our personal lives, we probably won’t be called upon to mirror something Christ will do in the future. Yet in our own way, all of us are paving the way for future blessings or cursings to follow us to our posterity. Joseph came from a messed up family. There was bickering, jealousy, murder, incest, all kinds of problems they had to deal with. And for all of that, the Lord was still able to bless and prosper those who followed Him faithfully. Joseph rose above the sins and examples of his older brothers to become a great prophet, and one who was highly favored of the Lord.

Much of what we experience in our own life will seem unnoteworthy, and unexceptional. In today’s society that is like saying we will all be losers and social dross. But that is not how God sees it at all. Anyone who lives a righteous life contributes a lifetime of good examples to those around them, including to their children and grandchildren. The Lord is especially adept at multiplying and magnifying good wherever He finds it, so that it blesses the lives of all who come in contact with it. All He asks is that we do the good. He will do the rest.

Israel was not a bad father. But being a good parent doesn’t guarantee our children will always choose the right. All we can do is set the example and teach them what is right. Their agency is their own, and as long as we have done all we know to do to teach them correct principles, and to model them to our children, the Lord will not hold us responsible for our children’s poor choices. Look at your scriptures, they are full of examples where good parents had wayward children. The Lord never condemns a parent who is trying their hardest to set a good example for their children. He only condemns us when we are lax in our duties as parents.

Despite all the prophets’ wayward children, there were still those among their posterity who chose to live the commandments and the spirit of those commandments, and found joy in their service to God and man. We can look at Joseph and his father Israel and see all their descendants who rebelled against God, or we can focus on all the great leaders and good people among their posterity that we look up to today. Remember, their posterity includes all of the house of Israel and it’s prophets, as well as all of the Book of Mormon people, their prophets and righteous examples.

Our own life, like Joseph of Egypt, may start as any other life, completely nondescript and ordinary, but the Lord has things He wants to accomplish with each of us. We may be like Isaac, who seems to get lost between Abraham and Jacob, but yet still lived a remarkable righteous life. We don’t know what the Lord may do in our life to influence others and bless them with His love. It is our privilege to serve one another and to grow in our spiritual stature before the Lord, so that one day He will be able to use us to display our full potential. It will probably be in the next life, but this is where we put our trust. And in the meantime He will fill our heart and life with reasons to have joy.

Day 2

Reading the scriptures invites the Spirit. Listen for His promptings as you read, even if they don’t seem directly related to what you’re reading.

Genesis 45; 50:15-21 – Forgiveness brings healing.

My comments here assume you have already read this week’s assigned chapters. I had concluded that Joseph forgave his brothers long before his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain. But forgiving them in their absence is not the same as facing them and still having forgiveness in his own heart. Remember that his brothers hated him when he was a 17 year old who seemed to boast in his own superiority to his family, even to his own prophet father. They hated him for being a tattletale, and for being the unabashed favorite of their father. During their time apart, Joseph changed a lot. His brothers also changed. But neither of them knew that the other(s) had.

The brothers assumed Joseph had died in the slavery they sold him into. While Joseph was gone they had to live with the mourning and pain they caused by their evil deed and their lies to their parents about Joseph. They had to live with the secret of that lie for more than 20 years. The pain that process caused them humbled them and caused them to vow to themselves that they would be better men than they had been that day when they sold their own brother into slavery.

Joseph, in the meantime, learned to focus on being faithful to God. As a slave, his life was controlled by others. He went from master to master, and had to learn to thrive in each new situation. He learned to rely on God as his support and comfort. The Lord in return blessed Joseph and prospered him no matter what he did. The Lord placed him in situations where Joseph’s natural talents (dreams and their interpretations) would place him in a position to fulfill the dreams God had sent him as a teenager.

The secret of Joseph’s ability to forgive his brothers was his being able to see how the Lord’s hand was always guiding and blessing him no matter what his current situation was. Even when he was in prison, God blessed him and prospered him. And the whole time he was preparing for the day he would be the savior of Egypt and the Mediterranean world, Joseph was seeing that he was learning new skills, gaining in wisdom, and was growing up. When he was given a wife, he learned to love her and the two children they had together. He was in a position to see that God had led him into a position to do a whole lot of good. If his brothers hadn’t done what they did, how else would have the Lord been able to make him the most powerful man in all of Egypt, next to Pharaoh himself? Joseph was grateful and ware of all of God’s blessings in his life.

How could he be bitter about what his brothers had done to him when the Lord had blessed him to be such an influence for good for so many people? That would have been the greater betrayal. When faced with his brothers Joseph naturally wanted to test their hearts to see if they had changed for the better. His gratitude for their change of heart, and their penitence, made him weep. It wasn’t a weeping that he had finally gotten the better of his hated brothers. It was weeping because Joseph was grateful to God for helping his brothers have a change of heart. Now he could love them freely as he wished he could have done for many years. (No, the scriptures don’t directly say this. I look at Joseph’s reaction to his brothers’ behavior and this seems to make sense to me.)

Sometimes people do mean things to us. Sometimes life is just rotten to us. That is the nature of this life, it is equally awful to everyone. But when we turn our gaze and fix it on our Savior and our loving Father, they can take all that pain that life throws at us and replace it with peace and love. Forgiveness is the path forward from our trials and hurt. It is the doorway to personal release of many of the pains of this life.

Day 3

Reading the scriptures invites the Spirit. Listen for His promptings as you read, even if they don’t seem directly related to what you’re reading.

Genesis 49 – What does the symbolism in Jacob’s blessings mean?

The Lord rarely passes up an opportunity to teach through symbolism. The advantage of using symbols to teach is that a symbol can represent something very simple to the uninitiated, but that same symbol can represent something deep and often completely different to someone who has had more experience with spiritual things. So symbols can teach to the level of the learner. The Lord uses symbolic language regularly throughout the scriptures. For example, in Doctrine and Covenants 50:44 that is referenced in today’s lesson, it says this:

44 Wherefore, I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. He that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall. [emphasis added]

The Lord refers to Himself as a shepherd, a stone, and a rock, all in one verse. Whole books have been written about how Jesus is the good shepherd. When the scriptures refer to Jesus as the stone, they mean he is the cornerstone upon which all other doctrines are built upon. And Jesus as a rock is our source of truth and knowledge through revelation, and those who build upon the revelation he gives us will never fall to Satan’s wiles.

When Joseph is told that he is a fruitful bough growing over a wall, it tells us a number of things. Primarily it refers to his posterity being great, which the Book of Mormon people, his posterity, were. And they were great in not only number, but in the blessings they received, for they were promised a visit from the Savior of the world after his resurrection in Jerusalem. Joseph’s posterity was separated from the rest of Israel’s family when the Lord took them out of Jerusalem and into a Promised Land. Though these verses talk about Jacob’s blessings to his sons, Joseph came to learn on his own, through revelation, that the posterity of his father, Israel, would serve some 400 years as slaves in Egypt, and that the Lord would raise up a great prophet, named Moses, to free His people and lead them to the land He had promised Abraham was to become the home and possession of his descendants.

Through the rock of Israel, who is Christ, they knew all about their four centuries of servitude in Egypt, as well as their deliverance and their receiving the land of their inheritance long before Jacob ever died in Egypt or his posterity became slaves. Such is the power of the rock of revelation Christ represents to us.

When you read the verses associated with today’s lesson, just remember that everything that isn’t a straightforward statement is probably using symbolic language and needs some thought and interpreting. What it means to you today will most likely be very different than what these same verses will mean to you ten years from now. Such is the power of symbolic language.

Day 4

Reading the scriptures invites the Spirit. Listen for His promptings as you read, even if they don’t seem directly related to what you’re reading.

Genesis 50:24-25; Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 50:24-38 (in the Bible Appendix) – “A seer shall the Lord my God raise up.”

The manual’s questions for today’s lesson have some heavy material in them. Why indeed was it “important for the Lord to restore this prophecy through Joseph Smith?” I suggest you read through the JST translation (Genesis 50:24-38) a few times and see what you come up with. Here are some of my thoughts.

I always assumed that Israel was surprised when the new Pharaoh put them into bondage. After all, if they were to know ahead of time what he intended, wouldn’t they have either fled or prepared to fight for their freedom? That makes sense to me. But Joseph told his brethren what Pharaoh would do, and that this was part of the Lord’s design for His people. For in 400 year (wow that is a long time) God would raise up a man named Moses, who would be raised as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, to free them from bondage and take them to the promised land. There was no surprise about their bondage at all. They knew it was coming and that it was the Lord’s will that they serve in Egypt until the time was ripe for them to enter the land He had promised to Abraham. They were, in fact, fulfilling prophecy.

This changes our perspective on their captivity as slaves in Egypt. They were willing slaves, for they were just waiting on their God to deliver them. After four centuries of waiting, many of them had turned to idol worship, and they don’t appear that they had any active prophets among them, so their promises of God’s blessings must have seemed more like folk tales by then. But they did have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the God of their forefathers, and they did have the stories of their future deliverance from bondage. That gave Moses something to work with when he was sent to them.

As for Joseph Smith and the importance of him knowing about this revelation to Joseph of Egypt, consider how much clarity and knowledge these few verses bring to his, and our, understanding of the greatness of Joseph of Egypt as a prophet. All the Bible gives us is his ability to interpret a few dreams. These verses show us that Joseph was one who walked and talked with God. He was shown the future of not just his posterity, but of all the house of Israel. The Lord showed him their several scatterings, blessings, and their future gathering in the last days. He saw Moses and Joseph Smith. Joseph of Egypt apparently had some great revelations. Too bad we don’t have his own record of them.

This revelation given to Joseph Smith also shows us that God is consistent from generation to generation in His visions and His promises. Did you notice that the promises made to Joseph of Egypt were the same as those Isaiah and other prophets talked about? He saw that the record of his own posterity (the Book of Mormon peoples) would come together with the record of the Jews to the confounding of false doctrines and the testifying of the divinity of Christ. This is just one more of many witnesses to the world that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We can rely on His words.

FHE/Personal Study

The state of Israel

Instead of writing from the selections given in the manual, I think it is helpful to segway from Joseph of Egypt to the coming of Moses. When we read of Joseph of Egypt’s death in Genesis 50, we turn the page and find ourselves in the Book of Exodus. We have only a few verses telling us about how the children of Israel were enslaved. The interesting part about these few verses is that they dwell on the fact that no matter what the Egyptians did to limit the growth of their numbers, the children of Israel continued to be blessed with more posterity than it seemed possible for them to have under the conditions in which they lived.

Almost immediately we are thrown into the story of Moses’s birth and adoption by the daughter of Pharaoh. This makes is seem like just a few years, but it was actually four centuries between Joseph’s death and Moses’s birth. To give some perspective on the time distance we are talking about here, if Moses was born this year (2022), then Joseph of Egypt would have died roughly about the time the Mayflower landed in the Americas in 1620. That’s a long time!

In all this time we have no record of any prophets among the Israelites. We don’t know anything about their religious practices, except that many of them were idol worshipers like the rest of Egypt practiced, though when Moses came declaring he was sent by their God, their elders believed him. One thing seems pretty clear to me is that they still looked forward to their deliverance, and they may not have personally known the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but they all knew of Him. This was the state of the Israelites after four centuries of spiritual decline. This is what Moses had to work with. And this probably explains why the Lord had to wait until this entire generation died off before He could have any chance of gaining a people with any semblance of faith in Him.

So mentally, don’t forget to jump forward 400 years between Genesis 50 and Exodus 1. Much can happen in that length of time, as we have seen by what has happened here in America between the landing of the Mayflower and now. The first chapter of Exodus only gives us the briefest glimpse of their history in Egypt. Chapter 1 is a great primer to our introduction to the Hebrew’s great deliverer, Moses.

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OT12-2022 – God Meant it Unto Good

Week 12