Sometimes God calls us to new ventures with Him at a time when we think we are going to be settled for the rest of our life. I understand that, as I write I am sixty three, nearly sixty four. I have been thinking about my retirement and what that might look like. I had a part time job when I was fourteen and started full time employment at sixteen so I felt I deserved a rest from work after fifty years! In truth, this had taken place when I had been sitting in a deck chair out in the garden with a glass of wine and then earlier this year someone prophesied and spoke into my life and turned it upside down. I can’t share it all with you but one phrase will give you the picture “you retire when God tells you to not when you decide!”
Jacob never imagined, in the later stages of his life, when he was settled in the land of Canaan that he would be suddenly called to go and live out the rest of his days in Egypt. He had never been to Egypt. I have to admit my preconceived ideas limited me from hearing God, my expectations limited me from hearing God. Do you do that? Are you doing that?
There are always doubts about new adventures with God, and always reasons why we should not do something new. I am sure Jacob knew that Abraham’s time in Egypt brought him nothing but trouble (Genesis 12:10-20) and that Isaac had been forbidden from going there (Genesis 26:2).
This new life would be very different and he wouldn’t see Canaan again. I don’t know if you are like me, but I can talk myself out of things and conjure up all sorts of reasons as to why I shouldn’t do something God is speaking to me about. The Christian life is one of obedience and faith, but nobody said it wouldn’t be hard and scary. So how did Jacob cope with these changes?
So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. Genesis 46:1
He puts himself in a position of submission and worship and he is open to God’s voice and God’s leading. We have to deliberately take up a posture of openness and honesty before him asking “Father, speak with more authority than my fears. Lord, accepting not being in control isn’t one of my strong suits but here I am”
And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” Genesis 46:2-4
Here’s the great thing, when God sees Jacob’s worshipful and open heart he speaks and confirms that he should be going to Egypt. He calms his troubled heart and tells him that none of the promises given to his father will be lost. It is not a step back but a step forward. What he did do however was to put all his trust in God.
I am reminded of Hebrews 11 and those great men of faith. So what is faith? The word “faith” appears twenty-four times in this chapter alone!
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
As you know, there are a variety of differing translations of verse 1. The old King James Version renders it: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The NIV says: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for.” According to the Phillips translation, “Faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for.” The ESV uses the words “assurance” and “conviction”. Believe it or not, I think the KJV rendering is the more accurate!
But what could it possibly mean that faith is the “substance” and “evidence” of the things for which we hope, the things we have not yet seen? I think it means that genuine faith is more than merely a subjective confidence about what will happen in the future. Make no mistake it is that. Faith is the internal assurance we experience that what is hoped for will, in fact, come to pass but it has to be more than that. Faith is our reliance on God to do what he has said he will do even when present circumstances suggest otherwise.
One word of caution, don’t ever think that these people were extraordinary, perhaps spiritual super-heroes of some sort whose lives were so beyond ours in terms of obedience and love and faith that all we can do is admire them from a distance. Going back to our passage Jacob was not an all round good guy! What we are reading about in Hebrews 11 is not only what God expects from all of us but what he has promised to more than abundantly supply in us. This is ordinary Christian living. You and I, regardless of how much we may struggle, can live in the power of this sort of faith no less so than they did. God has made sufficient provision of his power that whatever is required to walk “with him” in faith is available for the taking.
So let’s drift back into our passage, there is in Chapter 46 a list of the families who would make this trip to Egypt. I will leave you to read that.
Jacob is now about to receive his reward for his faith and trust in God.
He had sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to show the way before him in Goshen, and they came into the land of Goshen Genesis 46:28
Judah goes ahead, now trusted by his father he is leading the family into this new place.
Then Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father in Goshen. He presented himself to him and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while Genesis 46:29
Joseph set out to meet his father. What a day that was. They had not seen each other for more than twenty years. Jacob had never expected to see Joseph again. Joseph had ached for this day that God had promised to him. The day was heavy with emotion. When we commit our ways to God His promises will be fulfilled. When we commit our ways to God He will give us the desires of our heart.
Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive.” Genesis 46:30
Note the satisfaction and the contentment in those words, and he was one hundred and thirty years old! (see Genesis 47:9)
Whilst I was working on my retirement plans, I read Psalm 71 which is harshly entitled, “Forsake me not when my strength is spent” that’s encouraging! The reason that the psalmist could handle his problems so well as an old man was that he had developed a walk with God in the years leading up to this time. He had a proven resource in the Lord which enabled him to be strong inside, even though his body was growing weaker and his enemies were powerful.
Surely that principle should be applied to us all, a developed walk with God will enable us to be open to him, hear his voice and to respond in faith to our next adventure with Him.