Verses 8 through 27 in Genesis 46 list Jacob’s descendants. After this, Jacob and his family come to Egypt, settle in Goshen, and meet Pharaoh. Before meeting Pharaoh, Joseph instructs his relatives to tell Pharaoh they are shepherds. “Then you will be allowed to settle in the land of Goshen,” Joseph explains, “since all shepherds are abhorrent to Egyptians” (Gen. 46:34).
It is stunning to consider what lay ahead for the Israelites and Egypt. This family that the Egyptians despised because of their occupation would grow into a kingdom within the kingdom of Egypt. They were sneered at by Egypt. But because they belonged to God, God would use them to bring the world power to its knees. They would march out of Egypt and away from slavery while the Egyptians watched (Num. 33:3).
In the same vein, Paul says those in the church are not the bold and beautiful. Nevertheless, “God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something (1 Cor. 1:26-28).
Just before discussing God’s call of the insignificant and despised, Paul says that “Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor. 1:24-25). God saved the world from sin, defeated powerful fallen angels, and turned back death through the death of an average Jew who was executed in the back 40 of the Roman empire. The insignificant and despised are fit companions for the foolishness and weakness of Christ crucified. With the Son, God brings the power of the world to its knees through foolish and weak emissaries.
After Joseph’s relatives meet Pharaoh, he presents his father, Jacob. This is the crowning moment of Israel’s arrival in Egypt. Jacob, the chief shepherd, meets Pharaoh, king of the world. Yet twice we are told, “Jacob blessed Pharaoh” (Gen. 47:7, 10).
How is it possible that an unknown shepherd blessed the greatest emperor of that time? As Hebrews tells us, “Without a doubt, the inferior is blessed by the superior” (Heb. 7:7). From all appearances, Pharaoh was the superior. He was the one lauded by all the world. But to God—and therefore in reality—Jacob was the superior and blessed Pharaoh, not the other way around. What is viewed as nothing brings to nothing that which is viewed as something.
Doesn’t all of this take the pressure off us? Our value is not in status, accomplishments, or impressive resumes. We have value because God loves us. Yet how much of the time do we run around trying to be super Christians? How often do we feel we will disappoint God if we aren’t wise, strong, socially significant, and admired? God loves us. But why? How can He love us? Because God is love (1 John 4:16).