Monday, August 01, 2011

Jacob Keeps His Word and Heads for Egypt - Genesis 46:1

So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.

One of the greatest traits a man or a woman can have is to deliver on their word.  Jacob did just that as he set out for Egypt.  For years a friend had promised to come and visit but for one reason or another was not able to.  I was beginning to doubt his sincerity about wanting to do so.  Recently, however, he made that visit and my faith in his credibility was fully restored.  One of the things that I have tried to show my grandchildren is that their ‘pappou’ (grandfather in Greek, which is what they call me) does in fact keep his word and his promises.  Sometimes they need to be patient, but they know that ‘pappou’ will keep his word.  And sometimes that costs me more than I can afford.  Two years ago I took my now ten-year old granddaughter for a trip to British Columbia and the now eight-year old was wondering when her turn would come.  I promised it would.   As I write, we now have tickets for us to go to Florida together.  She is doing her best to be patient until then.

The world has lost its understanding and value of integrity.  Certainly politicians do not have it.  Many people in close intimate relationships do not have it.  And often pastors and lay Christians working in our churches do not have it.  Keeping our word is one way to start regaining that integrity as a group of believers.  We need to make the appointments we set up.  We need to call people back when we say we will.  But doing just that requires us to be careful about what we promise and secondly, to be prepared to pay the cost of what we promise.  

It is interesting that the text says that Jacob set out for Egypt “with all that he had”.  Did that imply his earthly possessions?  You will remember Joseph had given instructions that he only needed to bring his family and the rest would be provided for him.  Are not many of us like Jacob?  When God sends us somewhere, do we want to take our earthly possessions with us?  Are we afraid that His promise to provide all we need may not be delivered as intended?  Are we too attached to our earthly goods?  I am positive that there will come a time, at the end of our lives, for each of us to move on.  And I can assure you there is no single solitary earthly possession we will be able to take with us.  Guaranteed.  For that reason, I would prefer to learn that lesson here and now and be ready for the times God moves me to where He wants me to be, before I die.  How about you?

The family’s first stop is Beersheba.  You will remember this place for it was here that Hagar and her son Ishmael wandered after being sent away from Abraham’s homestead due to Sarah’s jealousy of Hagar, her handmaiden, whom she had given to Abraham to have a child with.  That was also the place that Abraham had planted a tree after his encounter with Abimelech, and where he called on the name of the Lord.  Finally, that is the place the Scriptures said Abraham dwelt after God had spared his son Isaac by providing another sacrifice to be used.  It is likely that Jacob was very familiar with these key events in the lives of his father and grandfather and thus Beersheba had great significance for him also.  That is supported by his action upon arriving at Beersheba.  Our text says that Jacob (now also renamed Israel by God) offered sacrifices to the “God of his father Isaac”. 

The faith that one has as a Christian cannot be based on his/her father or mother’s faith.  It must be our very own.  We must admit our need for a savior, believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins and He alone can save us, and then commit our lives to loving and serving Him.  That is what Charles Price calls the ABC’s of salvation – ‘A’dmit, ‘B’elieve, and ‘C’ommit.  Yet it is a special blessing that some of us have to know that this faith we have made our very own, was also the faith of our father or mother, or grandparent, and even those who lived before them.  If you are in that group of people, you are doubly blessed in this regard.  Back in Genesis 28 we read how Jacob had made the God of Isaac his very own.  In Genesis 32 we read he saw “God face to face”.  Are you still holding on to a faith that is attached to your parent’s garment or have you touched the hem of God’s garment for yourself?

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