Skip to content
Mar 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 2, 2014 – Genesis 46-47

How to Answer When God Calls

So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.” Genesis 46:1-3

Intro: This last week, Derek Nichols posted on Twitter a poem his younger brother wrote

Within twenty-four hours it had been re-posted more than 100,000 times
– what’s remarkable about the 24 lines of verse that eighth-grader Jordan wrote:
• it can be read backwards as well as forward and read backward the message is reversed
– I’ll give you just a sample in the first three lines of his poem:

“Our generation will be known for nothing.
Never will anybody say,
We were the peak of mankind.”
(Now read the lines from bottom to top)

Our negative perspectives are usually formed by way we read things
– for example: our personal history, our current circumstances, and the behavior of others
• if we can find another way to read our situation, we can form a positive perspective
– Joseph’s story is about finding an alternative reading
• it has to do with learning to read from the end – as in Philippians 1:6

For I am confident of this very thing, that He whoo began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

• reading our lives in reverse from this point may help us see that our momentary challenges are doable

Beersheba was the last outpost before entering the desert wilderness

The text reads, “So Israel set out,” but the Hebrews says he “took his journey” or “journeyed on”
– venturing onto the desert road to Egypt was the next step in an ongoing journey
• but first, Jacob wanted to secure his connection with God
– in the sacrifice, Jacob was turning himself toward God with his whole being
• God responded with encouragement to continue on
• our private meditation on God’s words to Jacob will be richly rewarded
• every phrase is meaningful
– “Then Jacob arose from Beersheba . . .” — he got up and got going

Just as we come to the crucial moment, the story is interrupted

With statistics! A list of Jacob’s family members who made this move with him
– there is an interesting interplay of Jacob’s two names
• although he has been renamed “Israel,” he sometimes still acts like “Jacob” (his old self)
• but there is a different emphasis in this chapter
– in verse 8, notice how “sons of Israel, Jacob and his sons” appear back to back
• this may mark a development in Israel’s history — they are becoming conscious of being a people
• no longer just a big family, but this is the birth of a separate people

Finally, Jacob is reunited with his long lost son

Vv. 28-30, For all the build-up their reunion takes up little space in the text
– in real time, it lasted a good while, Joseph wept on Jacob’s neck “a long time”
• but the storyteller discretely draws a curtain over the details
• short but sweet, the scene is packed with emotion

Joseph’s next project – to get his family settled

This takes some planning
– first he coaches his brothers regarding what to say when standing before Pharaoh
• then he selected five of them to introduce to Pharaoh
– they followed his script and got what they needed

After taking care of business, Joseph presented his father
– Jacob must have looked every bit his age, because Pharaoh’s first question was, “How many years have you lived?”
– we saw earlier, “Israel journeyed on”
• that is how he describes his life now: “The years of my sojourneying . . .”
– he gives a depressing description of his long journey
○ “few and unpleasant have been the years of my life”
• if we look back, he won every contest he was in and got everything he wanted
○ but he’s learned, getting what one wants doesn’t guarantee happiness

His father and grandfather were also sojourners
– the implication is that as long as they were in this world, they had never reached their destination
• The writer of Hebrews explains that this is the nature of faith

Abraham . . . went out, not knowing where he was going . . . dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. . . . as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one . . . . (see Hebrews 11:9-10, 13-16)

– there is no end point to our spiritual journey
• we are not yet as aware of God as we could be
○ as free from worry, shame and doubt as he wants us to be
○ we do not know Jesus as intimately as possible
• we are not trying to achieve some final spiritual status in this life — to qualify for our “Certified Saint” card
○ our life with God is in the journey–the daily
– so even as the immigrants settled down in Goshen, they knew this was not going to be forever

Notice how Jacob’s interview with Pharaoh begins and ends with a blessing
– the bent over, elderly nomad believed that, for all his travail, he had something to give to the powerful monarch

The famine dragged on and the Egyptians were forced to barter with Joseph for grain

First, they bought grain with money, until their money ran out
– then the bought grain with their livestock, until they had no more horses, flocks, or herds
– finally, with nothing else left, they sold their bodies and their land for grain
• Joseph agreed that they would become Pharaoh’s slaves and twenty percent of their future harvests

A radical turn-around has occurred here
– when Joseph was first brought to Egypt, his welfare depended on finding favor in eyes of Egyptians (39:4, 21)
• now all Egypt is hoping to find favor in Joseph’s eyes (v. 25)

The story resolves on two positive notes

First, “Israel” prospered while Egypt languished
Second, Jacob lived seventeen years in Egypt
– the same amount of time he had with Joseph before he was sold into slavery in Egypt

Then, in a brief epilogue, Jacob made Joseph swear an oath
– he wanted to be buried in Canaan with his “fathers”
– once he had that assurance, he drew himself up to head of his bed and bowed
• bowing was a physical expression of worship
• it was his grateful acknowledgment of God’s kindness and faithfulness

Conc: Let’s return to where we began

Beersheba was a threshold between civilization and the wilderness
– once Jacob crossed it, everything would change — culture, language, political structure, etc.
• thresholds mark transitions — the space between before and after, out and in, staying and going
• Jacob paused in the threshold for the explicit purpose of meeting with God
– Jacob’s most intense encounters with God took place on thresholds (usually impelled by crisis)
• dream in Bethel, wrestle at Jabbok, when he fled the carnage at Shechem

Later on, God built this practice into his law
– Israel was to write his law on the gates and doorways of their homes — the thresholds of the coming and going
– there are also thresholds of the body, and God wanted Israel to place reminders there too
• sense organs, where information enters the body, and the parts of the body where action begins
• ears and eyes, mouth and lips, hands and feet (Ex. 29:20; Deut. 6:6-8)

As most of you know, my wife Barbara is a physical therapist
– when entering the room of a patient, she will pause at the doorway
• she takes a deep breath and reminds herself that God is with her

What will we do when we come to a transition (ready or not? pleasant or not?)
• we will pause and say, “Here I am”
○ it is a way to bring our full attention to God in the moment
○ it is a statement by which we present ourselves to God for his service
○ it is a statement of trust and surrender, of openness and receptivity

I don’t believe God really cares what brings you to him
– whether he is the end of a long spiritual quest or the last hope in a desperate situation
• whether you come to him healthy or broken, full or empty, happy or sad
• but God does care that you come
○ and when you come, he accepts you exactly as you are in that moment

Leave a comment