In today's passage we see Jacob finally living and resting in faith. Yes, he had his salvation moment when he wrestled with God, but he still seemed to not quite grasp the concept of grace and faith.
When Jacob found out that his beloved son Joseph was alive, he immediately set out for Egypt. But this would not have been an easy thing or an easy journey. He was 130, and he was leaving everything that he knew and was familiar to go somewhere new. Not only that, he was leaving the land of promise and going to the land of Egypt - where things had not gone well for Abraham, and God had previously told Isaac not to go to Egypt. Naturally, Jacob had some concerns about this trip. And so, at Beersheba, as they were about to leave the promised land, Jacob offered sacrifices to God.
God graciously spoke to Jacob and reassured him of His promise, that God would go with him to Egypt and multiply his family there, that Jacob would be comforted in his death by the presence of the son he had thought was dead, and that He would bring the nation of Israel back to the promised land as a mighty nation. Now, Jacob could proceed to Egypt, secure in the promise of God.
This reminds me of the fact that God calls us to different things (jobs, places to live, friendships, etc) at different times. It was God's plan to Jacob to live in Egypt, just like it was God's plan to live in Canaan. We need to be ready to move to our Egypt if God calls us out of our Canaan.
We then have a genealogy which is not intended so much to inform us of every person who entered Egypt, but rather every leader of family or clan which would come forth from Egypt on their return to the promised land. It would be important for the returning nation to know their roots as the land would be divided by tribe, and the nation would be administered and tasks assigned by tribe or family line.
When Jacob's family arrived in Egypt, Joseph made sure they would be settled in Goshen and known as shepherds, in order that the family would remain distinct from Egypt and their pagan practices.
To me, this is a good reminder to be careful whom we choose to become our close friends. Yes, we are to be in the world, and we are to befriend unbelievers and love those around us. But the ones we choose to have the closest relationships with will, without a doubt, impact and influence our lives either for the better or for the worse, and so we need to be careful whom we choose to bring into that realm of influence.
When Jacob speaks with Pharaoh he tells him that he's had a hard life. Deffinbaugh makes a great point here....
what Jacob said was true. His earthly beginnings were prophetic of his life. He struggled with his brother in the womb (25:21-26). He lived in a home where the parents were divided in their affection for their children (25:28). He gained the blessing of his father by deception and then was alienated from his family because of the hatred of Esau (chapter 27). He spent years in exile, serving his deceitful uncle Laban. He sought one wife and ended up with four (29:18ff.), and the outcome of this was continual competition and strife (29:30ff.). He finally fled from his uncle and eventually had to make a non-aggression pact with him lest further conflict arise (chapter 31). He suffered the loss of the purity of his daughter Dinah at Shechem and feared the reprisal of Canaanite kinsmen when his sons killed the men of the city and took the women, children, and cattle as booty (chapter 34). Rachel, his most beloved wife, died prematurely along the way to Bethlehem (35:16-19). His oldest son lay with one of his concubines (35:22), and his favorite son was tragically lost and presumed dead. Finally, there was the famine which threatened the existence of his family, and the second in command to Pharaoh appeared to be taking even his youngest son away. Jacob, you see, was correct in his evaluation of his life.
There was a significant difference between the suffering which Jacob alluded to and that which Joseph endured. Joseph’s suffering was undeserved; Jacob’s was not. Jacob suffered virtually every painful experience because of his willfulness and foolish choices. He deceived his brother. He chose to live near Shechem rather than to go up to Bethel. He unwisely showed preference for Joseph. The suffering which Jacob experienced was due almost entirely to his sinful decisions and responses.
Jacob did not see the hand of God in his adversity, but Joseph did. Jacob became more fearful and protective, while Joseph was forgiving and eager to serve others, even at his own expense. In his adversity Joseph grew closer to God, while Jacob seemed to drift farther and farther away. In this interview with Pharaoh all of these bitter experiences may have begun to come into focus.
It seems that it took that moment, standing before Pharoah, for Jacob to realize that his salvation does not come from works, and that he had to rely on God, not his tendency to wheel and deal.
Why is it that Joseph was such a great and godly man, and yet he had no tribe named after him? Why did he not have a son whose heir would be the priestly line? Why did Messiah not come forth from Joseph rather than Judah? I do not know, other than the fact that God chooses to accomplish His purposes through men like Jacob and Judah, and you and me. If Joseph is a type of Christ, then surely Jacob is a type of most Christians. One reason why so much time and space is allotted to Jacob (in my opinion) is that it took this long for him to grasp the matters of salvation and sanctification.
The primary lesson I have learned from the life of Jacob is the greatness of the grace of God. Surely it was nothing else, nothing less than grace which saved and sanctified Jacob. And so it is for you and me. We cannot bargain with God, for we have nothing to offer. We cannot get ahead by striving in our own strength, but only by resting in Him. We must labor to enter into that rest (Hebrews 4:1), but by His strength, not ours. That is the lesson which Jacob learned. And this is the truth which made the last chapter of Jacob’s life the best.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Genesis 48-50