Many of us are familiar with the story of Joseph and the special coat that his father game him. We may be aware of how his brothers were jealous and sold him into slavery. Perhaps we even know about how God helped Joseph interpret a dream for the Pharaoh, and was taken from prison to a high-ranking role in Egypt. Then, the Bible tells how Joseph’s brothers came to buy food and discovered that the brother they had treated badly was now in charge.
There’s a passage in Genesis 47:13-26, though, that doesn’t seem to be read as often as the events described above. As the famine wears on, Joseph charges the people of Egypt and Canaan for access to the stored grain. Then, when their money runs out, Joseph exchanges livestock for more food. Finally, the people of Egypt exchange their property for the food they need to survive:
So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh. All the Egyptians sold him their fields because the famine was so severe, and soon all the land belonged to Pharaoh.
Genesis 47:20 NLT
In the end, Joseph (working for Pharaoh’s government) pretty much acquires everything in Egypt for Pharaoh. Pharaoh is repaid for listening to God’s prophecy through Joseph, and becomes very wealthy, indeed. Essentially, Pharaoh now owned everything in Egypt.
Years later, though, the regime changed and the descendants of Israel (i.e., Jacob, who was Joseph’s father) stopped being honored guests in the kingdom of Egypt, and they were conscripted into slavery. After Moses returned to Egypt from his exile in Midian, the latest Pharaoh had no intention of honoring the true God. He resisted the opportunity to let the Israelites worship God in the wilderness, loaded them up with extra work, and defied God through 9 plagues.
When the final plague came, though, costing the lives of the firstborn sons of the Egyptians (including Pharaoh), God sent the wealth of Egypt with the departing Israelites, as they made their exodus out of slavery:
And the people of Israel did as Moses had instructed; they asked the Egyptians for clothing and articles of silver and gold. The LORD caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the Israelites, and they gave the Israelites whatever they asked for. So they stripped the Egyptians of their wealth!
Exodus 12:35-36 NLT
Some people might read this and believe that God will give wealth to whoever listens to (and follows) Him. However, both the Pharaoh who listened to Joseph, as well the Israelites leaving Egypt, didn’t necessarily seek out riches. Instead, God had prepared blessings for them (deciding what would happen), and their role was to listen, obey, and receive.
Think about that: the first Pharaoh mentioned above probably didn’t know much about Jehovah (although Pharaoh probably believed in a lot of gods, including himself). If he hadn’t pursued an interpretation of his divinely-sent dream, he wouldn’t have known the famine was coming, and Egypt could have squandered the crops of the seven good years. If he had heard Joseph’s prophecy, but not taken action (by having Joseph run the food program), knowing about the impending famine would not have prepared the country for it. And, by following the path that God offered (in practice, if not in faith), Pharaoh ended up wealthier than probably even he could have imagined.
Years later, the Israelites had some crises of faith when later Pharaohs enslaved and oppressed them. Even after getting their hopes up at Moses’ message, they were discouraged when Pharaoh gave them more work. They weren’t necessarily expecting to become rich; they just wanted some relief.
When the time came for the tenth plague and the Passover, though, the Israelites placed the lamb’s blood on their doorposts to protect their firstborn children. Then, as they were expelled from Egypt, they followed God’s instructions to ask for valuables. Like the earlier Pharaoh, by listening and obeying (even if things didn’t always make sense at the time), they received God’s blessings.
The same three principles can apply to us: listen, obey, and receive. The first two of these steps take some effort, as we must drive out noise that contradicts God’s voice, and give up our own preferences to follow His plan. However, for whatever God has prepared for us, we must then be prepared to receive it. Sometimes, in an overzealous sense of modesty or unworthiness, we decline God’s blessings. Don’t be afraid to accept gifts from Him, especially when they are part of a plan that He made (one that you are striving to follow). He has more than enough blessings to share, and your receiving of them (when done out of obedience) honors the Giver and His love for you.
Listening to God may not always make us rich (so, don’t expect to own an entire country, or have people randomly give you silver and gold when you ask), but is always a better idea than the alternative. Yes, we must listen and obey, or we can expect calamity and destruction. But, we should also be willing to accept the blessings that God gives. May each of us listen to God, obey Him, and receive His gifts today.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.