The Beloved Leader
“They said, ‘You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh’” (Gen. 47:25).- Genesis 47:23–26
Continuing our examination of the precise methods Joseph employed to save the Egyptians from starvation, we begin today’s study with comments from John Calvin. He writes that Jacob’s son benefited the pharaoh and the people as he “so conducted himself between the two parties, as greatly to enrich the king, without oppressing the people by tyranny.”
Calvin speaks of the agreement Joseph makes with the people of Egypt. In exchange for seed, the Egyptians will give one-fifth of the crops to the king and keep eighty percent of the harvest for themselves (Gen. 47:23–24). The citizens happily embrace this deal and agree to become servants, or “slaves” (nasb). Due to the nature of slavery at that time they see Joseph as their savior, not a harsh slave-driver (v. 25). In Joseph’s day, slaves were more like modern-day employees who have signed a contract of employment, and the master was akin to a self-employed person who has certain freedoms not shared by the contractual worker. Of course, good business owners today also have more concerns than their workers, for they must labor hard to keep people employed. Likewise, the slave owner bore a greater burden than the slave. The pharaoh is enriched under Joseph, but he must also supply seed and make sure everyone has enough to eat.
In any case, the people loved Joseph, and this gives us an example of how we should respond to our own leaders, especially those who “feed” us the Word of God. We should do what we can to help our overseers perform their tasks “with joy and not with groaning” (Heb. 13:17). This is especially true in our relationship to the pastor who, unfortunately, often finds himself in a very lonely and difficult position. Shepherding the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1–4) is no easy task, and we make his job harder when we criticize him or fail to volunteer our time and gifts in service to the congregation. Our pastors have a special calling in our churches, but in the end, all of the Lord’s people are “ministers” (Eph. 4:11–12). Therefore, let us embrace our responsibility to minister one to another, and let us not entertain a critical spirit so as to help our pastors fulfill their specific callings.
John Chrysostom explains what will come to lay people who are a special blessing to their pastors. “If anyone renders a service to those afflicted for God’s sake and carrying the dignity of priesthood, he will …[enjoy a reward] many times more abundant, since the loving God generously surpasses without fail what we do” (Homilies on Genesis, 65.15–16). Take time today to encourage your pastor and contribute your time and talents to your local church.
Passages for Further Study
1 Sam. 21:1–9
1 Sam. 22:6–23