Hannah tired from reading all those maps.
Sunday, 17 April 2022
Now a famine and great trouble came over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and our fathers found no sustenance. Acts 7:11
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
The previous verses referred to Joseph’s being sold off to Egypt, but also God’s care of him while there, eventually exalting him to being governor over the land and all of Pharaoh’s house. The thing that most precipitated this was Joseph’s ability to properly interpret the dreams of Pharaoh that anticipated a coming famine. In his wise interpretation of the dreams, and of his excellent counsel concerning what to do about the coming famine, Pharaoh had said –
“‘Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. 40 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.’ 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’” Genesis 41:39-41
With that context remembered, Stephen now continues by saying, “Now a famine and great trouble came.” Just as Joseph had spoken, so it came to pass. That is recorded in Genesis 41 as well –
“Then the seven years of plenty which were in the land of Egypt ended, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread.” Genesis 41:53-55
The famine covered all lands, including Egypt, but Egypt had prepared for the coming famine by having supplies stored up. The term “all lands” specifically includes where Israel was, as is stated by Stephen, saying, “over all the land of Egypt and Canaan.” That is seen in the opening words of Genesis 42 –
“When Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, Jacob said to his sons, ‘Why do you look at one another?’ 2 And he said, ‘Indeed I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down to that place and buy for us there, that we may live and not die.’” Genesis 42:1, 2
Stephen properly explains this sentiment with the words, “and our fathers found no sustenance.” Here is a noun found only this one time in the Bible, chortasma. It signifies food, sustenance, or provision. It is derived from the verb chortazó which means to feed, satisfy, fatten, and so on.
The famine covered all lands, including the land where Israel was. The famine was revealed to be coming in advance by a dream from God. Joseph was able to interpret the dream when no other person could. Enough advance notice was given to ensure that Egypt would have abundant provision, even enough to sell to other nations. And this abundant provision led Israel to go to Egypt to be saved from perishing in the famine.
The sequence of events clearly indicates that God’s guiding hand was behind what occurred, leading to a specific end purpose.
Life application: Though the entire section of Stephen’s speech concerning Egypt is not yet complete, it is already apparent that God’s hand of care for the events taking place is clearly evident. There is a famine of such magnitude that it is described as covering all lands. The number of people affected by it would be in the millions.
And yet, the entire focus of the story is on one family. And despite this being the case, the family and its history – ultimately numbering in the millions later in the Bible – is highlighted for one main purpose as well, which is the coming of the Messiah.
As this is so, it demonstrates that God’s ultimate purpose for everything recorded in Scripture is this Messiah, Jesus Christ. And Jesus came to highlight the many attributes of God, thus bringing glory to God through His Messiah.
Let us remember this. The Bible is not about Israel, even if Israel is a highlighted aspect of it. The Bible is not about man, even though man may be the purpose of why Jesus was sent. The Bible, above all else, is about God’s coming in human form in order to demonstrate His magnificence, His perfection, His glory, and His care for the people who come to Him by faith.
May we never change the ultimate focus of the word to anything less than God, who has revealed Himself through the Person and work of Jesus Christ. When we keep the focus on God, everything else will find its proper place as we search out the mysteries of this precious and sacred word.
How magnificent is the story You have laid before us in the pages of Scripture, O God! It is a story of love and tender care for Your people. May we be willing to expend ourselves to get this word out to those who so desperately need to hear what it says. Help us to be bold in our proclamation of Jesus! Amen.