IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




I Promise...

Date: Mar. 3, 2019

Author: Bob Henkins

Genesis 46:1-27

Key Verse: Genesis 46:3

““I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.”

How many times have you said “I promise…” only to go back on your words? Whether it’s a promise to ourselves “I promise I’m going to lose weight!”, or a promise to someone close to us “I promise I’ll get it done!”, or a promise to God, “I promise to never do that again!” sometimes promises are sooooo hard to keep and we end up breaking them. We make them with good intentions and feel terrible when we can’t keep them. I believe this happens more than we would like to admit. But thank God we don’t have to worry about that with God because when he makes a promise, he keeps his promise. Through this passage today we are going to think about some of the promises God has made to his people. For in this passage Jacob starts his journey to Egypt, which had it’s beginning with a promise from God.

It all began with a promise made. In the last passage, Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers. At first, they were speechless and terrified at what Joseph might do to them. But all Joseph wanted to do was to bless them and to see his father. So, Joseph urged them to go back home, get their father and families, and come back to Egypt for the famine was going to last another 5 years.

Verse 1 tells us, “So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.” With hopeful expectations, Jacob set out to see his most beloved son. Once again, he was full of life, re-energized because Joseph was alive and he hasn’t seen him for 22 years. But for some reason Jacob stops to offer sacrifices. We might wonder why did he do this? Was it possible that fear began to creep into his heart? Was it because he’s leaving a place of security, that he was familiar with, to go to an unknown and uncertain future? Whatever his reasons, he decides to offer sacrifices to the Lord.

When he came to Beersheba his mind was probably flooded with a myriad of memories. It was here that his grandfather Abraham had dug a well, maybe it was the very well he was drawing water from now in order to prepare for the journey through the barren desert ahead. It was at Beersheba, that his father Isaac built an altar because God appeared to him there. Jacob lived there as a kid and it’s the last place he lived in peace before his life of struggle began, starting with the fight with his brother Esau that caused him to run away.

Being at Beersheba, may have reminded him of when God made a promise to his grandfather Abraham saying, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Ge 12:2-3) Abraham believed God and accepted his promise and left his home and ended up at Beersheba. Along the way, he had many ups and down, but Abraham always kept coming back to the promise God made to him. Then as time went by, God began to make promises to Abraham’s descendants, starting with Isaac, right here at Beersheba, and also with Jacob.

Let’s see a promise kept. At this point, as Jacob is on the edge of leaving The Promised Land, maybe doubts came into his mind. It had been about 225 years since God first spoke to Abraham and promised to make him a great nation. And yet after all this time, Abraham only had one son with Sarah. Isaac had two sons, however only one of them was the son of promise. And even though Jacob had 12 sons, still that is a LONG way off from calling someone a nation. Maybe the question, “Was God really going to keep his promise and make them into a great nation?” came into his mind. Matthew Henry’s commentary on Genesis 46 states that “though the fulfilling of God’s promises is always sure, yet it is often slow.” That slowness, coupled with the present famine, might have caused Jacob to wonder they how could become a nation if they die from hunger? Jacob may have wondered if the land could even sustain his family because it seemed cursed. Maybe Jacob struggled to find hope for his family and future. (there are a lot of maybes)

Verse 2 says, “And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!” “Here I am,” he replied.” This shows how personal God is, he knew Jacob by name. (and he knows us by our name too) It’s interesting that even though God said that Jacob should be called by the name Israel, still Jacob is mentioned 15 times while Israel is only mentioned 4 times. This reveals Jacob’s two different characters, where Jacob is his weak side and Israel is his strong side. (or Jacob is his sinful side and Israel is his redeemed side) But God is calling him by Jacob; his name of weakness. This shows how God is meeting him where he is at; in his state of weakness. How beautiful it is that God doesn’t reject him because he is weak (your worthless and weak), but that God goes to him in his time of weakness. God is so gracious to meet us in our place of weakness. God said to St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Co 12:9).

Jacob needed an encouraging word from God to help him to go to Egypt. This is why he stops at Beersheba. Some might have concern because of Jacob's doubt and apprehension to go to Egypt wondering, “if he was really committed to God?” But you have to remember that Egypt had a shaky history with his family. In the past, Jacob’s family received a lot of trouble when they went into Egypt. Most of the time, God told NOT to go there, but this time was he supposed to go? After all, he was told by his sons, who were NOT the most spiritual or reliable guys, remember how they lied to him in the past about what happened to Joseph. (Although Jacob doesn’t know that yet) In the past, Jacob was taught that God told his grandfather and father to stay in Canaan, but now his sons were urging him to leave Canaan and go to Egypt. How would he know if that is what God really wanted him to do? So, God appears to Jacob to assure him that it is ok for him to move to Egypt. Jacob would be re-assured and know that it was indeed God’s will for him to go. It’s also interesting to notice, how God calls Jacob's name twice, and Jacob replies, "Here I am". This is the same way Abraham, Moses, and Samuel responded when God called them (Ge 22:11-19; Ex 3:4; 1 Sam 3:10-14).

Verse 1 said that Jacob offered sacrifices “to the God of his father Isaac” (v1), while this is proof that Jacob hasn’t forgotten God and His promises, but yet there does seem to be some distance between him and God. Jacob doesn’t offer sacrifices to HIS God, but his FATHER’S God. Seeing that, God wants to re-assure Jacob that he is with him, just as he was with his father. So, God says in verses 3-4, ““I am God, the God of YOUR father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make YOU into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with YOU, and I will surely bring YOU back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close YOUR eyes.”” It’s comforting to know that God knows our name. It means that he knows us personally and knows what’s going on in our lives and if we need help or not. It’s good to know that Jacob and God have a close relationship, that they are on speaking terms and not mad at each other. (I’m not talking to you right now)

You might wonder, “Why would Jacob be afraid to go to Egypt? After all his son was there, and he was in charge. There’s no reason he should be afraid.” But since when do we need a reason to be afraid? Sometimes we’re afraid for no good reason, it can be all in our mind. But I think Jacob had reason to be afraid. He was old, and going into unfamiliar territory. For young people that’s no problem, they’re adventurous and want to see the world, but as you get older you want to be in the comfort of your home, because that’s where your favorite chair is. Jacob had lived in the country, close to nature, but Egypt was modern and a big city. Jacob worshiped the one true God while the Egyptians were pantheists and worshipped everything from cats to crocodiles. He was going to an idolatrous country where it seemed like they worshipped almost everything. Sometimes all it takes is a little change from our routine and we become unsettled and fearful. Or maybe Jacob was fearful because he remembered that in the covenant that God made with his grandfather Abraham, there was another promise that God made to him that was a bit mysterious and ominous. It went like this, “Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.” (Ge 15:13-14) Abraham didn’t understand it at the time God gave it to him, but maybe now it was starting to make sense to Jacob and he was wondering what was going to happen to his family when they get to Egypt. Wondering how is his family going to change when they live in a foreign country? Will they lose their identity, their culture, themselves with all the temptations? (How would you feel if you son or daughter, told you they are moving to Hollywood?)

God knew Jacob was fearful and he wanted to relieve that fear. No parent wants their child to live in fear. That would be torment. So, when God said to him, “Don’t be afraid,”, this was God trying to reduce his fear by giving his personal re-assurance to Jacob, that God was going to be right there with him all along the way. God was like a comforting father who takes his child by the hand when they are afraid and walks along with them. He gives them strength when they don’t have any. When King David was in a difficult situation, he knew that God was with him, he said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps 23:4) “When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.” (Proverbs 16:7) It’s comforting to know that if God is for us, who can be against us. (Ro 8:31)

Again verse 4, tell us “I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you BACK again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”” The promise to bring Jacob back again, meant that Jacob was not going to forfeit God’s promise of this land by going to Egypt. The promise that this land will be given to Jacob’s descendants still stood. The promises of God are certain, he will not fail. And even though their future was not clear, they would be ok and eventually they would return to the Promised Land.

Now let’s take a look at a promise fulfilled. So, how did Jacob respond? Take a look at verses 5-7. “Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. So Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan.Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters —all his offspring.” God’s word to Jacob comforted and strengthened him. He was now ready to leave the security and familiarity of Canaan and head to the uncertainty of unknown Egypt. Jacob uprooted his whole family, (you think it’s hard to get your family out the door to go to church, just imagine getting them to move to another place)

Jacob hadn’t had peace in his heart since he lost his son Joseph in a tragic animal attack, but now he was going to live with him and Jacob was ok with that. The rest of the chapter, verses 8-25, list all of Jacob’s family one by one, you might think, “What does a list of names have to do with me?” But this list represents real people, whom God loved, and who walked this earth, and held the same beliefs and trust in God that we do. This list of Jacob’s children, children are part of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham because at the time God promised him, Abraham didn’t have any kids.

Verses 26-27 say, “All those who went to Egypt with Jacob—those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons’ wives—numbered sixty-six persons. 27 With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob’s family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all.” It says there were 70, yet, we know Jacob's family was not really 70 in number. For instance, two of Judah’s dead sons are listed and some of Benjamin's sons listed in verse 21 are really his grandsons. The actual number is not important, but what is important is not the actual number but what the number 70 represents. Throughout the Bible the number 70 represents completeness and wholeness. For instance, 70 is the number of nations listed in Genesis 10; in other words, 70 represents all the nations of earth though we know there are many more nations and language groups. Furthermore, 70 is the number of workers Jesus sent out to every town and place He was about to go (Lk 10); in other words, they represent the worldwide mission of the Lord.When the Israelites listening to Moses hear “The members of Jacob's family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all” it would have been a signal to them that the full number of Israelites settled in Egypt, just as God promised. And there, by the providence of God, they were all kept safe and fed in spite of the famine. We see that God overlooks none of His own and protects them all. But we can say more about the number 70. This number also points to the future. Someday, the number of God's people will be complete and full. The number 70, then, points forward to the fulfilment of God's promise to make of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob a great nation. So, at the time of the Exodus, by the providence of God, the 70 sons of Jacob had become six hundred thousand in Egypt (Ex 12:37). And if we take a sneak peek ahead, we find that God did indeed bring them out of Egypt, and with great possessions, just as he said. God kept his promise (Ex 13:35-36).

So, in conclusion, as we think about this passage and God’s promise to us, we should ask ourselves, are you standing at a crossroad in your life like Jacob? Are you paralyzed by fear at what may be ahead? You need to know that your heavenly Father doesn’t want you to live in fear. If you can hear His voice, He is calling you by name. He is promising to go with you and be with you. This is one of the many blessings of being a child of God. We can face life with confidence and have the assurance that wherever we go, God will be with us, helping us, working out his perfect plan in our lives. Like good parents, God desires to bless his children.

One of the reasons we trust God, is because he keeps his promises. That’s one of the reasons God gave us the Bible, it’s a record of him keeping his promises. We trust people based upon our history with them. It helps to remember God’s promises of the past, so we can trust God in the present and with our future.

Way back in Genesis 3, God promised to send the Messiah, and he did. Jesus came, he lived and died for us. Jesus’ coming, actually proves he is who he claimed to be; the Messiah. After that, Jesus promised that he would one day return. This hasn’t happened yet, so we are in the same boat that Jacob was in this passage. We have to trust God for our future, just like Jacob had to trust God for his future. And this trust is based upon God’s faithfulness of the past. We need to know that it’s based upon something that is bigger than just our feelings. Not only do we have proof of God’s promises with evidence in the Bible, but we also have God’s promises in our own lives that he’s kept. God is very personal, just as he called Jacob by name, he calls us by our name and he knows us.

Like Jacob, we need to depend on God's leading and follow God's Word in our everyday lives. Just as God said that he would be with Jacob, Jesus said that he would be with us until he returns. (Mat 28:20) Today, we see something that even Jacob could not imagine. We see children of Abraham from every tribe and language and people and nation, a people beyond number. But God sees even more, he sees that they wear white robes because they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:9) but this number is not yet complete but when it is the Lord Jesus will come again in glory with all His angels. And we will join him in heaven. So the next time you find yourself breaking your promise, don’t beat yourself up about it, sure you must repent, but remember how God has ALWAYS kept his promise, no matter what, even when we don’t keep ours. That is why I love the hymn we sang this morning, because it reminds me of God’s faithfulness. It goes like this, ’Tis true, oh, yes, ’tis true, God’s wonderful promise is true; For I’ve trusted, and tested, and tried it, And I know God’s promise is true. So, go ahead, trust, test and try God’s promise for yourself and you too will see that it’s true. I sincerely pray that God richly bless you.

Daily Bread

Give Thought to Your Steps

Proverbs 14:1-17

Key Verse: 14:15

  The simple believes everything,
    but the prudent gives thought to his steps.

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Intro Daily