Saturday, March 15, 2008

Joseph’s Storehouses

Now the seven plentiful years the ground brought forth abundantly. So [Joseph] gathered up all the food of the seven years which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities; he laid up in every city the food of the fields which surrounded them. (Genesis 41:47-48)
You might recall that Pharaoh had a dream for which God gave Joseph the interpretation: seven fat years followed by seven lean years. Joseph then advised Pharaoh on a wise course of action:
Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be I the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine. (Genesis 41:33-36)
Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph, he said to him,
Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.... See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.… I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:39-41, 46)
So Joseph put his plan into action. He gathered up the abundance of the seven good years and established storehouses throughout the land as a reserve.

Now, here is an interesting thing about Joseph and his storehouse that many Christians often miss. It was a blessing to Egypt and the surrounding region, but Joseph did not give the food away to whoever needed it, he sold it to them (see Genesis 41:53-57). It was not a charity operation but a business set on doing good. In this way, Joseph managed to gather up all the money that was in the land, bringing it all into Pharaoh's house and administered under Joseph’s hand.

When the people had no money, Joseph bartered with them, trading food in exchange for their livestock. So all the livestock in the land came under the power of his hand. When the people had no more livestock, Joseph still did not give away the food, but traded it to them for their land. So all the properties of Egypt came under his control. When he controlled all their land, he gave them seed, let them work the ground, and received twenty per cent of their produce for Pharaoh. In this way, Joseph both blessed the land of Egypt, but also controlled all the wealth of Egypt and the surrounding countries (Genesis 47:13-26).

I have been thinking about this in relation to Proverbs 13:22, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” Now, we can certainly apply that to spiritual inheritance. I am building a spiritual inheritance for my children and their children (and the rest of my line until Jesus comes). However the context within this verse refers more to material inheritance, for the two halves of the verse go together. It does not stop at “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” It goes on to say, “But the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the righteous.”

The “wealth of the wicked” is not a spiritual inheritance. Why would the righteous ever want the spiritual inheritance of the wicked? The wicked do not come to a good spiritual end unless they repent and join the righteous. Rather, “wealth of the wicked” refers to the material wealth that the wicked have accumulated for themselves. But it slips through their fingers because their fingers because they lack prosperity of soul (see 3 John 2). This wealth will not remain with the wicked, nor with their children’s children, but will eventually end up in the hands of the righteous, who first possess prosperity of soul. In the meantime, this wealth is stored up.

I see this illustrated well by the story of Joseph and his storehouse. He was a righteous man who prospered in his soul. By wise and righteous business dealings, he accumulated all the wealth of the Egyptians and the surrounding nations, blessing them with the food they needed, and prospering Pharaoh and himself in the process. The wealth of the wicked came into the hand of the righteous.

Good business, done well, brings prosperity and blessing to others as well as to us. When we learn to develop our storehouse, as Joseph did, we will see the wealth of the wicked come out from under their control and into the hand of the righteous, who know how to use it for good.