Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wagons South! Genesis 46

After last chapter's happy reunion, Genesis 46 (link) has a more tearful, but likely more joyful reunion. Joseph sees his father again after all of their years of separation. Tears flow, and Jacob states that he is now happy to die, having seen Joseph again.

This is not an instant happening, though. It takes a little while to make this happen. Why? Well, you've got to remember, there's five more years of famine happening here. Five! In the first two years, Jacob has had to send his sons to Egypt for food twice. How much time and effort will be wasted by the family making annual trips to Egypt?

Additionally, it appears that Joseph cannot, at this time, leave Egypt. Take a look through the narrative: he sends wagons, sends brothers, but he does not go until the family is in Egypt. There's nothing textual to give a definite answer, but the explanation is either that his duties do not allow him to leave or that Pharaoh will not allow him to leave. Keep in mind that he was a slave in prison before he was placed in his current job and nothing explicitly states Pharaoh ended Joseph's status as a slave. Besides, with an absolute monarch like Pharaoh, everybody's really just his slave.

So, he sends the moving company to pick up his family. An important event to note is Genesis 46:1-4. Jacob, called by his name Israel, stops off at Beersheba and offers sacrifices to God.

There are not many times that Jacob is recorded as offering sacrifices. Generally, those moments are when things have been very tense for Jacob. This is not much of an exception. Here he is, leaving the land of promise and headed south. Abraham had been to Egypt, and that did not go well. Isaac had been in the land of Gerar, and that hadn't gone well. Jacob had been in Paddan-Aram, and that had not really gone well.

The idea of leaving the land a second time likely weighs heavy on the heart of Jacob. So he stops in the area he had grown up in, for Beersheba had been Isaac's primary dwelling place, and he offers sacrifices to the God of Isaac. God appears to him there, and reassures him of the presence and the promise.

The promise was that Israel the man would become Israel the great nation. That promise is fulfilled, initially, in the growth from the seventy-odd names recorded in this chapter to thousands of names recorded in Numbers that leave Egypt later.

The presence, though, is a different matter. Many times we have the same misunderstanding that the ancients, like Jacob, had. We misunderstand that there are places where God specifically is and, by extension, there are places where God is not. Jacob is headed into pagan territory: these Egyptians do not worship the One God of Isaac and Abraham. They do not even worship the same multiple gods as his distant relations in Mesopotamia.

If there is a place where God is not, then Egypt has got to be it.

Except God appears to Jacob at Beersheba and assures him that, no, Egypt is not a place where God is not. He assures Jacob that the presence of God is inescapable, and for Jacob, that's a good thing right now. Even traveling in a wagon, an aged man surrounded by his offspring, leaving the land of his birth, the land of his family, and headed to the edge of what he knows, God is with him.

When life brings us to that point, it is good to remember that there is nowhere to go that God is not. I know that, in some ways, that sounds intimidating, and it should be if we're talking about living in obedience or disobedience. Yet when we consider the idea of living in reliance on God, it's a reassurance. He is inescapable, not even accidentally. You cannot accidentally end up beyond the reach of God, you cannot intentionally get beyond the reach of God.

As His promises are good, so His presence is always with you. Even as you go from where you have been comfortable and cross over wilderness, desert, and wadi to go somewhere you never thought you'd be, God is there with you. Trust Him with your fears.

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