Scripture: And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.” So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; the land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh’s. Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. Genesis 47:25-27 ESV
Observation: As this God-story’s timeline moves on, Joseph introduces his elderly father to Pharaoh, who then inquires of Jacob’s age. Upon revealing his age (130 years), Jacob shares how his years of travel on earth do not compare to that of his father and grandfather in their life journeys. He then blesses Pharaoh and respectfully takes leave to Goshen, thereby coming under Joseph’s care, who ensures his family receives their allotment of food according to their number (47:7-12). But five more years of famine remain. So the Egyptians and neighboring aliens of Canaan come to Joseph for food. First, they exhaust their money, then sell their land, and lastly market themselves as servants to Pharoah and promise to tithe a fifth of their grain crops to Pharoah (47:13-26). But, as the author notes, Israel, secluded in the fertile delta region, gains possessions and prospers: growing from a clan to a nation (47:27).
Takeaway: It’s fascinating that Israel thrived and multiplied while citizens of Egypt struggled to survive and hence subjugated themselves to Pharaoh. Moreover, they borrowed from their future by agreeing to a worldly tithing scheme. So what does this mean to you and me? It is certainly not a proof text for the heretical prosperity gospel. But we can glean that we, the covenant children of God, are called to be fruitful and multiply, even during lean times.
Easier said than done? Yep! But if we put into practice the biblical principle of tithing, of giving the best of our first fruits (time, talent, and treasure) to God from a heart of gratitude, he will pour blessings on us, even during years of lean. And it’s never too late to make a course correction. Indeed, a millennium later, when Malachi confronted Israel for hoarding God’s blessings, the promise remained: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:10).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for giving us your best in your Son. Would you please help us faithfully give to you our first fruits of time, talent, and treasure, that we, your covenant children, might prosper and share your blessings even in the worst of times? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling