After reuniting with his family Joseph became something of a mediator between them and Pharaoh. Not too surprising since Joseph’s life has been a Christlike example to us for ten chapters now and 1 Timothy 2:5 is quite clear that Christ is our mediator. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
Devotional Scripture: Genesis 46:28-47:6
Key Verse: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32)
So in preparation of meeting Pharaoh for the first time Joseph says to his brothers, “When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers’…for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians” (46:34).
“Um excuse me, you want us to do what?” I think I would have balked at the idea. I can hear it now. “Joseph maybe you’ve spent too much time in that little tunic of yours but that makes absolutely no sense. Egyptians hate shepherds! You just said so yourself. Yet you want us to walk into the presence of the highest ranking man in the world and declare we’ve spent our entire lives herding sheep? Great plan little brother.”
But Joseph wasn’t trying to shame his brothers or embarrass them. He wasn’t trying to force them into social suicide. Or cause them unnecessary harm. He was trying to protect them from assimilating into Egyptian society. He knew the temptations and false gods that would beckon for their attention. He knew the lure of Egyptian women. He knew the culture and the politics and the difficulties that lay ahead for them.
Thus he knew the very best thing for his siblings and their families were to be outcasts who lived apart in the land of Goshen. And the only way to accomplish such a thing was to be upfront about who they really were – Shepherds.
Could it be dangerous? Maybe. Life always carries with it an air of uncertainty. But they were safe in his presence. Joseph wouldn’t let anything happen to them. So he urged them to say it. To be truthful. And forthcoming about who they really were.
Today we have a similar struggle. Do we say it? Do we say we’re Christians? Jesus told us “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matt. 10:22). “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:19-20). “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Yet we’re also told not to be ashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16), “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” To go and make disciples. To preach the good news. To say it loud and clear declaring “his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:3)
Hmmmm. Are you sure LORD? It feels a bit like social suicide. The world hates Christians. If I say it, I’ll be forever labeled. They’ll think me an intolerant, short sighted, judgmental, homophobe. They’ll tiptoe around me because of my beliefs and standards. I’ll be a misunderstood Jesus freak. Or better yet – an outcast.
But maybe that’s exactly the way God wants it. To keep us from assimilating into the world. To set us apart. To keep us from losing our true identity. To say I’m a Christian might label me, but it may also be the most effective way to protect me from a world filled with an immense number of false gods and temptations.
Could it be dangerous? Absolutely. But we’re safe in the arms of Jesus. No one can snatch us out of his hand (Jn. 10:28). He is always faithful and will establish and guard us against the evil one (2 Thess. 3:3).
Therefore he urges us to say it. To be truthful. To be forthcoming about who we really are.
“What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matt. 10:27-31
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). Could there be anything more wonderful than Jesus declaring our name to the Father? I don’t think so.
So say it! Say you’re a Christian. Say it with joy. Say it with dignity and respect for other believers. Say it with boldness for the nonbeliever. Say it with love so the world can know what a true follow of Jesus Christ looks like.
When the brothers stood before Pharaoh and told him they were shepherds and always had been. Pharaoh not only granted them permission to live in the best of all the land of Egypt but told Joseph to put them in charge of his flocks as well.
No matter what happens my friend, the blessings of saying it, will always and forever far outweigh the worldly benefits of staying quiet. So say it. Say you’re a Christian. And then live it every single day.
Contemplate and Evaluate
How did the shepherd label protect Joseph’s family? How could the christian label protect believers?
Are you open and honest about your Christian beliefs? Or do you hide them at times because it’s a bit too concerning?