Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Father and Son Meet - Genesis 46:29-30

And Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time.  Then Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.”

There is obviously a gap between Genesis 46:28 and vs. 29.  Judah had found Joseph, or at least had seen that word got to him, but nothing is recorded about such a meeting or discussion.  Now Joseph prepares to go and greet his new guests.  What strikes me with the opening phrase of this section is how easily it is for someone to find potential fault with Scriptures.  It is unlikely, but not inconceivable, for example, that Joseph actually “prepared his (own) chariot”.  It is more likely that he had it prepared for him, given who he had become in Egypt.  As always, we have to approach Scripture believing it is accurate and truthful and then searching for explanations which make its content possible.  If we seek it, God will reveal it.  The non-believer takes the opposite approach.  He assumes it is not true and seeks ways to prove it.  He too finds what he is looking for sufficient to satisfy himself.

There is a lovely picture here of Joseph, the son, going to meet Jacob, the father.  Altogether there are three ‘reunion’ scenarios in Scripture that often come mind when one is considering ‘reunions’.  One occurs in the New Testament and is part of what we have come to know as the story of the Prodigal Son.  Another one had already occurred prior to this point in Genesis and that is the reunion between Jacob and Esau in Genesis 33.  And the third one is this one between Jacob and Joseph.

The first reunion mentioned above, and clearly meant as a story to get across a point, certainly has interpretations that would instruct us on how God rejoices when we are reunited with Him, as well as provides us with some guidelines on the role of fatherhood or parenthood.  It is a picture of how the older and wiser are to treat the younger.  The second reunion, that of Jacob and Esau, is an example of how brothers (and by inference us) should treat each other.  It is a picture of how mankind should get along.  In this third reunion described here of Joseph and Jacob is an example of how the young should treat their elders, especially parents.  Through these three reunions the whole gamut of life’s basic relationships are addressed: old to young; peer to peer; and young to old.

It was Joseph who now appeared before the aged Jacob.  The grand patriarch had done his part.  He had raised his family for all these years to love and serve God.  He had taken one more step of faith, and at a very late stage in his life, to transition his whole world to Egypt, a new land.  Now it was his son’s turn to come to him and Joseph did just that.

And when he saw his father, Joseph fell on his neck and weeped a long time.  Can you imagine the emotion in that scene?  Can you imagine the memories that were going back and forth like crazy in the minds of both father and son?  Joseph last saw his father when he was a lad.  He had left the comfort of his father’s protection at home to go in obedience to him to see his brothers far off in their fields tending flocks and he never saw his father again.  In fact, he had been sold to slavery, moved to Egypt, and ended up spending years in jail.  Now he had risen to be the second in command of all Egypt and yet he had longed for his father.  Jacob on the other hand, had missed his son and had thought of him as dead for years, and now he once again saw him face-to-face.  It all called for a long embrace soaked with tears of joy and unbelief.

As I read about this encounter, I thought of what it would be like for me to again see my aged father whom I lost to cancer just over four and a half years ago, or my mother whom I lost to heart failure now twenty-nine years ago.  There would be embraces and weeping that last a long time.  But that, as in the case of Joseph and Jacob, is premised on a characteristic that God has bestowed on mankind as He made us “in His image” -- the characteristic of love.  Without love, there would only be disdain as we once again see those we do not care for or even hate.

Jacob then utters his famous words, “let me die now, since I have seen you, and know that you are alive.”  This is proof that since losing Joseph, Jacob yearned for this day.  That is the major thing for which he lived all the years in between.  I understand that.  I know my mother’s wish was to see me married and to see grandchildren.  She got her wish and died.  My father just wanted to see his youngest grandchild get married as his two older sisters had done.  That he lived for and talked about constantly.  He saw our son do just that, participated actively in his wedding, and then shortly afterwards, he passed away.  And now comes our turn (my turn and your turn) next.  What are you yearning to see in your lifetime that afterwards you can say, “let me die now”?   For me, I must admit, it is something similar to what my dad wished for -- to see, by the will of God, my grandchildren married.  But I am also ready to go much before that.  While the weddings of my grandchildren will be filled with joyful tears, the greatest joy comes in knowing that my Heavenly Father knows the perfect time to take me home.  I trust that is true of you.  If not, you can make that the case.       

Before leaving this section, I feel compelled to make the following observation.  I am amazed at how poorly many of today’s ‘children’ treat their parents, especially as they become old.  I have seen neglect of the worse kind -- simple ‘absence’ from their lives.  I do not understand it.  I find it hard to accept.  I believe those that exercise such absence from their parents will indeed reap what they sow many years later.  In the meantime, they are contributing to making this world a colder, lonelier place for a human being to exist in.  God did not intend it that way, and He is not amused.  That’s why He said, “Honor they mother and they father.”  It is never too late to follow such advice.

Yes, I know it takes two to tango.  There are many young and adult children out there that would love to have a relationship with their mother or father, but life has dealt them a different card through divorce or anger.   If you are the ‘missing parent’ in that kind of situation, I urge you to take it upon yourself, as Jacob did, and find your way to your son’s, or daughter’s, Egypt, and let them know “you’re coming”.

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