GENESIS-SERIES NR 44
Genesis 46 >> LIFE BEGINS AT 130!
Although Jacob had been a believer for many years – someone who’d truly begun to build his trust upon the Lord God’s great promise to Abraham, the promise of the coming Messiah – it was as if he first truly grasped what the essence of belonging to the Lord meant when he was 130 years old.
Joseph is alive! And there is LIFE in Egypt, because there are food and abundance in Egypt in the midst of drought and famine in the surrounding countries. And Jacob – with his sons – have to move to Egypt!!
Jacob was then 130 years old (47:9). Can one imagine how hard such a move must have been for him? Unthinkable. He had to leave behind all forms of security. Older people are inclined to cling to familiar things because it provides a feeling of security. But Jacob had to leave everything behind when he was 130 years old and move to Egypt – at Joseph’s request (45:9).
When they reached Beersheba, it was as if Jacob suddenly realized something of the impact of what was happening. Of course, it was a place full of significance, because it was here where Abraham called upon the Lord and where he went after he had left Mt Moriah where he was to sacrifice Isaac. It was also here where the Lord met Isaac and reaffirmed the covenant promises. Jacob himself was there after he had deceived his father and he had to flee from Esau.
Beersheba was also the southern boundary of Canaan. After that point, Jacob would be leaving the promised land. Would the Lord’s blessings still be upon him – he might have pondered. In addition, at different occasions both Abraham & Isaac wanted to leave for Egypt but it was never the will of the Lord. Will Jacob be doing the right thing to go there? Will he not be opposing the will of God by going to Egypt?
Therefore Jacob offered sacrifices to the Lord at Beersheba. It is clear that he had a deep desire for the Lord’s guidance in his life – particularly regarding the way ahead. The words of God in verses 3-4 confirm this. The Lord is the speaking, answer-giving God. He is the living Lord. Jacob experiences that here. Seek the face of the LORD and you will not be disappointed.
The Lord then spoke to Jacob in a vision during the night – probably while he was asleep. Remember Jacob did not have a complete written Bible as we have. In the past God spoke to people in various ways (Heb 1:1-3). But in the time of the New Covenant He speaks through the word of Christ, according to the same Heb 1! We are not to seek after dreams and visions. We are to read God’s written Word!
What the Lord was doing with this vision, was to encourage and strengthen Jacob by a) reminding him of God’s faithfulness in the past, b) encouraging him to be obedient in the present, c) giving him a promise about the future, d) assureing him of His presence, and lastly giving him a word concerning Joseph.
In a nutshell, the Lord God was saying to Jacob that it was indeed His will that Jacob had to go to Egypt and that He would be with him and that it would be in Egypt – and not in the promised land – where He would make Jacob into a great nation. But that the Lord would bring Jacob back to the promised land – not him in person, but his descendants. Because it was THERE – in the promised land – where all God’s promises would be fulfilled.
And looking back today, we see how true these words were. For hundreds of years the Lord kept His Word. There, in that land, the Lord Jesus would eventually be born, die and be resurrected. It was there where the Holy Spirit would be poured out and there that the church – in the form of the New Covenant – would be established.
The Lord also assured Jacob that he would die comforted. And Joseph’s own hand would close his eyes. Yes, for many years Jacob thought that Joseph was dead and that Joseph’s death would cause his (Jacob’s) untimely death. But where the Lord is at work, things often happen differently. Jacob still survived for 40 years, and Joseph was indeed with him when he died. And Joseph’s presence was God’s comfort in Jacob’s last moments on this planet.
And then – in verses 8-27 – we find an extended genealogical register of Jacob’s descendants. Why specifically at this point in Genesis? Well, to indicate how true God was/is to the Covenant. Indeed the descendants of believers are the infrastructure through which the Lord works and the basic way of how He gathers His Church. No, not everyone in the generations becomes truly saved people, but certainly the chosen ones. The Apostle Paul explains this in detail in Romans 9.
You will notice that women are not mentioned in this register. It is because the list serves a particular purpose as we shall soon see.
The idea “sons of IsraeI” also includes much more than only the individual sons of Jacob. It is a very broad notion that indicates that Jacob’s descendants must be seen in a broad scope.
It is clear that the meaning of the genealogical register is not to focus with exactitude on individuals, but to show which leaders, families and clans would eventually take the lead. Who would be the heads of families and the heads of tribes – that is what the purpose of this genealogical register. And interestingly: If you would turn to Numbers 26, you will see that ALL the heads of family and tribes mentioned there, appear in this list of Genesis 46. That shows how reliable these descriptions are. After all, it is God’s Word. And bear in mind what this list wants to indicate theologically: It says: “Look at how faithful the Lord is – within the contours of His covenant.“
And then the great moment when Jacob arrives in Egypt – in the region of Goshen – and Joseph comes to meet him – after a separation of 22 years. Words can hardly describe it. Judah has to go ahead to show Jacob the way. Joseph goes out in his royal chariot to meet his father. Then Jacob says: “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.” Little knowing that he would be blessed with another 17 years of life.
Pharaoh had given a promise that he would provide the fat of the land to Joseph’s father and brothers. Therefore, Joseph is very attentive to see that it happens. He gives instructions and his brothers follows it exactly. The region of Goshen would become their home. A good deal of space is devoted to particulars of their settling in Goshen, particularly in chapter 47. Why it should be like that, we will see next time.
The question is, though: What is the message of Genesis 46 for us today. Put differently: The Holy Spirit is the primary author of this chapter. But what does HE want to say and show and reveal to us today here in 2019? That is the question. What is on God’s heart? That is what we have to try to grasp.
Jacob is undoubtedly a picture-image of the spiritual struggle that all people who are truly born of God, experience and undergo. Jacob is thus such an important figure. Genesis covers about a 1000 years of the history of salvation, and almost half of Genesis is devoted to the life of Jacob. The struggle of his life was a see-saw battle of breaking through the thick fog of the sinful brokenness of human nature, to the understanding and comprehension of who and what the true God really is, and what it means to be his child. It is a see-saw struggle, because sometimes it is as if the light clearly breaks through to Jacob’s mind, and then it disappears again in the mist-cloud and shadows with which our brokenness veils our inner heart so that our spiritual vision is totally restricted.
Jacob’s entire life with the Lord was this kind of see-saw struggle, with the occasional highlight of clear vision of who the Lord truly is. Exactly for that reason, Jacob is such an encouragement and inspiration, but also a warning and admonition.
Jacob’s life-long struggle was to try to understand GRACE and to relinquish his own merits/righteousness/works/earnings/efforts to remain in favour with God. When the Lord said to him: I WILL do this and that (firm promise), Jacob was inclined to turn it into a CONDITION: “Well, You will do this and that if I do such and such”. Think of Genesis 28. He thought devotion and obedience were conditions for God’s blessings. He would serve the Lord IF the Lord would protect him, make him prosperous and bring him safely to the Promised Land.
And yet the entire Genesis shows us that the Lord’s blessing came IN SPITE OF Jacob’s actions, and not as a reward for his actions! The Lord’s grace (free favour) did not hold Jacob’s faithfulness as a condition, but was guaranteed by God’s very own faithfulness.
Sometimes Jacob’s spiritual eyes saw with more clarity than at other times. Sometimes his vision was cloudy.
Jacob was continuously inclined to cling to earthly securities. Which included people. But everything he clung too and that he tried to protect, was taken from him. Think of Rachel, Joseph, Benjamin. But once he was willing to let go of Benjamin, he received him back. By letting Benjamin go, he did not only protect the life of Benjamin, but that of an entire nation.
Indeed, when Jacob stood before Pharaoh, it was as if his eyes were finally opened. He realised that all his efforts throughout the decades actually meant nothing. The firstborn-right that he wheedled away from Esau long ago – WHAT gain has it brought him? Now he was old and found himself in the midst of a drought and famine. Here in Egypt there was nothing he could fall back on. Now he HAD to find true life in the Lord ALONE. He found true peace. The peace of faith that rests on God’s promises and the relinquishing of own efforts to retain God’s favour. And this realization, the entering into this peace, was the start of a new life for him. For a further 17 years he could savour it.
Perhaps your walk with God has also been a see-saw struggle through all the years – then up and then down. Well, it is not yet too late. Jacob found LIFE at 130! The greatness of God’s grace was like an umbrella under which he lived. Perhaps that is even the most important truth we can learn from Jacob’s life: To see the greatness of God’s grace – especially against the background of Jacob’s years-long struggle. In fact – measured against what Jacob really deserved – God should have destroyed him. But the amazing opposite is true.
We know today that Genesis 46 was ultimately fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, and is still being fulfilled in the lives of those who are IN CHRIST in 2019!
Let us look again at the 5 promises that the Lord gave Jacob in the vision. And then cast the light of the New Testament over it.
The Lord showed Jacob:
1 GOD’S FAITHFULNESS IN THE PAST : When the light of the NT falls over this, what do we hear? 2 Tim 2:11-13 > If we are faithless, He is faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
2 JACOB’S OBEDIENCE IN THE PRESENT : When the light of the NT falls over it, what do we hear? 2 Tim 1:7 > God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, and love and of self-discipline.
3 GOD’S PROMISE OF BLESSINGS IN THE FUTURE : When the light of the NT falls over it, what do we hear? > Rev 7:9-10 > John sees a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
4 GOD’S PROMISE TO BE WITH JACOB : When the light of the NT falls over this, what do we hear? Matthew 28:20 > Surely, I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.
5 GOD’S FAITHFULNESS WHEN JACOB APPROACHED DEATH : When the light of the NT falls over this, what do we hear? 1 Cor 15:54-55 > When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Translated by Marthie Wilson
Main source: Bob Deffinbaugh