In Genesis 46-47, Jacob and his family embark on their “Family Reunion in Egypt.” Jacob has just received the astounding news that his favorite son, Joseph, is alive. So he prepares the family to leave Canaan and head out to join Joseph in Egypt.
“So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.” Gen. 46:1
Jacob is 130 years old as he sets out for Egypt. If he were alive today, he would have been retired and living on Social Security for over 65 years. This is not the time when people begin making radical changes in their lives. But Jacob is about to launch into one of the most remarkable faith ventures of his life.
Yet, in order to participate in God’s incredible plan:
1. He had to leave everything familiar and the security of his earthly comforts. Often, following God’s plan includes stepping out in faith and taking a risk. If God calls you to another location or another job, will you go where He leads despite the risks to your personal comfort and security?
2. He had to believe that he still has a mission from God. His age did not deter him, nor the inconvenience of a long and arduous journey. Jacob, now called Israel, kept alive the passion of his life, even during years of suffering and aging, the reality of his destiny. He never ‘retired’ from the purpose for which God created him and called him.
3. He had to be willing to obey God’s Word no matter the cost. Jacob understood that God’s purpose in our lives is not to pamper us, but to perfect us. When Jacob made mistakes, he repented, got back up and continued to walk with God. Faithfulness is highly prized by our Father in heaven.
Jacob starts off right by first offering sacrifices to God, offerings of thanks that Joseph was still alive. The psalms exhort us to give thanks to God at all times, on the good days and the so-called ‘bad’ days. A thankful heart turns the disappointments and frustrations of life into opportunities to grow spiritually. And the truth is, my friends, we have every reason in the world to be thankful every single day. God’s mercies are new every morning, we read in Lamentations. His faithfulness is forever.
Jacob offered sacrifices at Beersheba. Why Beersheba? It was the point of no return. Before Jacob advanced into the desert wasteland that separated Canaan and Egypt, he determined to inquire of the Lord to be absolutely certain he was in God’s perfect will. Furthermore, Beersheba was a significant place to Jacob’s family. This is where Abraham had dug a well, planted a tamarisk tree, and called on the name of the Lord (Gen. 21:30-33). Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather, lived in Beersheba after offering Isaac on Mt. Moriah (Gen. 22:19). Isaac, Jacob’s father, also lived in Beersheba (Gen. 26:23, 32-33) and built an altar there (Gen. 26:24-25). It is fitting that Jacob now presents his sacrifices in Beersheba.
Sooner or later, we all find ourselves at significant intersections in life when we must make critical life decisions that will have far-reaching consequences on our own lives and the lives of others. How do you make decisions at such points? Many people simply make the best decision they can based on the information they have without turning to God for guidance. But there is a better way.
In Genesis 46:2, “God spoke to Israel in visions of the night.” In this vision, God twice calls Jacob by name: “Jacob! Jacob!” (Gen. 46:2) If you can’t figure out why someone would call out a person’s name repeatedly, then you must not have children. Jacob is smarter than most because he immediately responds with the words, “Here I am.” These are the same words Jacob’s grandfather Abraham used when God called on him (Gen. 22:1). This is the only proper response when God speaks.
God identifies Himself. He says, “I am God, the God of your father” (46:3). He then comforts Jacob with the words: “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt.”
Why would Jacob have been afraid? Jacob is concerned about making a mistake that would affect his life, the lives of those in his family, the future of the nation of Israel, and the fulfillment of the covenant promises of God. So God affirms His promises to Jacob (46:3b-4). He declares what His good purpose is in bringing Jacob’s family to Egypt.
1. I will make you a great nation in Egypt. This promise is a reaffirmation of the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants and demonstrates the unconditional faithfulness of God.
2. I will go down to Egypt with you. God informs Jacob that He will go with him into hostile enemy territory. Where God guides, He provides…and protects. There is no need to ever fear.
3. I will bring you back to Canaan again. God is fulfilling the words He spoke in Gen. 15:13-14 when He told Abraham that his descendants would be strangers in a land that was not theirs but in the end God would judge the oppressive nation in which they stayed and God’s people would be released.
4. Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes. Jacob would enjoy 17 more years of life. And instead of dying without his son to comfort him, God promises Jacob that his son, Joseph, would be there to close his eyes at the moment of his death.
After hearing directly from the Lord, Jacob and his family left Beersheba and traveled to Egypt (46:5-7). While this must have been a challenging endeavor, there certainly was great excitement in the air.
Jacob faced a critical, life-changing decision. But instead of forging ahead (like he had done in the past) he stopped and sought God’s guidance. Then he listened for God’s answer. When he heard the answer he moved forward obediently and with confidence.
That’s the sequence. It’s not complicated. We must ask, listen, and obey. If we do that, God will lead us, protect us, and give us the strength to face the future.