What we see in these two chapters is the long-awaited family reunion between Joseph and his father along with the rest of his family. After so many years, so many heartbreaks, Jacob finally sets his eyes on his long-lost son. On the way to see Joseph in Egypt, Jacob, bringing with him all he has, stops at Beersheba and offers sacrifices to the God of his fathers. The Lord appears to him in a vision and speaks to him, telling him to not be afraid to go down to Egypt. He promises him that he will make Jacob into a great nation, that he will go with him to Egypt, that he will bring Jacob up again, and that Joseph will close his eyes. This is followed by a list of the descendants of Jacob, a total of seventy people.
Joseph then makes haste with his chariots to meet his father and the two have a tearful reunion. Jacob declares he is then content to die in his old age now that he has seen his son and knows he’s still alive. Joseph tells his brothers that he will go make introductions to Pharaoh and instructs them as to how they ought to make themselves known as shepherds were not popular among the Egyptians.
Five of Joseph’s brothers approach Pharaoh who gives them permission to dwell in the land of Goshen. Jacob is then presented before Pharaoh, an aged patriarch who, when asked about the days of his life, answers “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.” Jacob then blesses Pharaoh and departs at which point Joseph settles his father and brothers possession in the best land of Egypt.
The famine that had been predicted in the previous few chapters settles on the land, not just Egypt, but the surrounding country as well. Many peoples come to Egypt for food and things get worse and worse. People pay for the grain stockpiled by Joseph using coin, and when that runs out they trade their livestock, and when they have no more livestock they give their land and themselves to be the possession of Pharaoh. The chapter ends as, seventeen years after coming to Egypt, Jacob sees the time of his death approaching and has Joseph promise to him that he would not bury his father in Egypt but take his body to be buried with that of his fathers.
We see in these chapters much of what God has promised come to pass. At long last, there is reunion! The plans made for evil have unexpectedly made way for good as, finally, there is a moment of rest for this beleaguered family. Jacob was presented before Pharaoh who, in the eyes of the Egyptians, was a god himself. It was a measure of respect for this aged patriarch that he let Jacob bless him. Jacob then reflects that his days have been few and evil.
I was taken aback by that phrase. At first glance, things have really turned out for Jacob: he was prosperous, full of many days, and had many children and grandchildren. Why would he say they are evil? Firstly, he refers to his time on earth as a pilgrimage, he is a sojourner here on earth and knows full well that his eternal destiny is not on the shores of this land but a different, heavenly one. As a man on a journey and after a life of much heartache (his brother, his marriages, Rachel’s death, his son’s behaviour, a famine, a wounded body, etc.) he was undoubtedly weary. This was not helped by the fact that old age had come upon him much sooner than his father and grandfather. As for the evil days, this is especially tangible when one is so near death and thus close to eternal life with a holy God. Jacob must have been all too aware of his foolish acts and hard-headedness as a youth.
As a man who lived a rebellious youth, it is true that though there is forgiveness and healing in all things when one comes to Christ, memory fades slowly and some things stay with us for a long time. It is vital to remember that we are here as sojourners only for a short time before we stand before God Almighty and we need to live in that truth each day. As Josh Garrels says –
“One day when the sky rolls back on us,
Some rejoice and the others fuss
‘cause every knee must bow and tongue confess
The Son of God is forever blessed!”
We are more than simple creatures of the Earth, we have a spirit and bear the image of God. We need to be fed with heavenly food. Just as the people of Egypt sold everything they had that could not feed them, even selling themselves over to the king so they might live, so we too need to do away with anything that hinders our walk – yes, even our very selves – to God Almighty that we might live. If we know whose we are and recognize the way in which he promises to bless and provide for us, it will make our pilgrimage here that much more blessed and effective. These days may be evil, but God is forever GOOD.
The many pushes and pulls of our daily lives threaten to consume all of our attention. We can become so focused on the here and now that we can completely ignore the eternity toward which Christ has called us. God provides here, today, for all our needs, but everything around us is temporary. It is of the utmost importance that we are sufficiently heavenly minded and ground all that we do in Jesus. As Christians we have been bought by the blood of Christ and it is on his terms we now live. We have given ourselves over to him that we might live – a free gift of salvation! It is with that eternal perspective by which we approach the temporal. We are sojourners, exiles and strangers to this world, in the world but not of it. Whatever we face here and now ought to be tempered with a reminder of the eternal salvation that is already ours!
Application question –
Have you reflected on the nature of this life compared to the promise of eternal life? How does knowing we will be with our good God forever, no matter what this life throws at us, encourage us day to day?
Thank you Father for walking through this world with us and for not leaving us when things are difficult. Thank you for having the entire world in your hands and for binging us to be with you when our time on earth has ended. We thank and praise you for your provision and goodness, now and forever. Amen!
Song – Farther Along, Josh Garrels
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.