"And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father (Genesis 45.25)."
Jacob, the father of the twelve sons, was in low spirits when he sent his sons the last time into Egypt. Simeon had been held hostage by Joseph, the governor of Egypt, and Joseph had demanded the brothers bring Benjamin with them on their return to him. Jacob's lament to them was: "...Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me (Genesis 42.36)." The evidence is sufficient to fairly conclude that poor Jacob had a dim view, if any at all, of the certain promises God had earlier made to him. Without seeking to revile the character of Jacob, it is clear his, "all these things are against me" reveals he was resting more on his feelings than on God's word. May we add, so too do we until revived by God directly.
Father Jacob had moreover complained that following the path the Governor of Egypt had laid out for his family would, "...bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave (Genesis 42.38)." So emphatic was this statement that Judah, in his appeal, repeated his father's words twice to Joseph just before Joseph revealed himself unto his brothers (Genesis 44.29,31). It cannot be overly emphasized that Jacob was in a dark frame of mind, both during the absence of his sons, and upon their return. The record is clear concerning his distressed state of mind.
To properly consider the typical relationship between Jacob and his long lost son Joseph, we must remember the basis for our thesis; Jesus is seen in the life of Joseph. All too often typology is run to imaginative extremes, bounded only by the limits of one's mind to "type away." Joseph, blessedly, can be compared to, and be a figure of, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, as fully as any person in the Bible; but there are limits. For example, before us now is the impending reunion of Jacob and Joseph, who are father and son. Does then this natural relationship give us license to determine that Jacob is a figure of our heavenly Father, simply because Joseph was his natural son? Positively not; unless it is obviously warranted by the Scriptural circumstances, which in this case, it plainly is not. In the particulars before us, Joseph is seen as the saviour of the entire family, regardless of their station in life. Joseph would deliver his beloved family unto him; no more and no less; from the first of them to the last. The position each of them held in the family was of no consideration.
For a New Testament example of the fulfilling of the type, we recommend the reader ponder the relation Jesus held as a son to Mary, His earthly mother. Briefly considered, and contrary to the grave error the Church of Rome holds on Mary's station, it is sufficient to know that in the plan of redemption, Mary occupied the same position as the rest of the elect, her maternal tie with Jesus notwithstanding. This is exactly where Jacob stood in this relation with Joseph.
"And they went up out of Egypt." We have previously mentioned that whenever the saints of God journeyed from Jerusalem they were said to be "going down" and whenever they were approaching that beloved city they were said to be "going up." Even so here, before the establishment of the City of David, as the brothers set out for home from Egypt they are said to be going up out of Egypt. Of course, in due order, we will see Jacob, in his journey to Joseph, being told by God, "Fear not to go down into Egypt." Surely one the grander marks of Divine inspiration of the Bible is its consistency, even in what might at casual glance appear to be matters of insignificance.
In the eternal purpose of God it was time for the brothers to go home; otherwise they would not have moved an inch in that direction. Let the Conditionalists rave on against the purposes of God; the chain of these events was forged in eternity, and nothing, or no one, in time can hinder the accomplishment of the will of God. As pleasant as a stay of greater duration with Joseph might have been, Joseph sent them on, for the fullest joy of reunion would come when all the family was gathered to Joseph. We believe a comparison of some gravity can be made here as this incident relates to the final gathering together of all the family of Jesus, our Joseph. Much as the saints rejoice in the company of our Lord in this world, it cannot be compared with the blessedness of the final gathering when all the redeemed family will finally be in the presence of the Redeemer. What a joyous conclave that will be cannot be known until the hope of it becomes a reality.
"And came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father." Of the actual journey from Egypt to Canaan, nothing is said. Accomplishment and certainty fill in that period of silence. We believe there is a far greater message here, however. It should be evident that the trip was fraught with hazards and constant danger. These brothers were hauling out a sizable portion of wealth and substance from Egypt in a period when a starving world was producing an abundance of thieves and robbers to make the most secure caravan at risk. They carried out silver of considerable worth; at least twenty asses laden with good things, corn and bread and meat." They had changes of raiment and wagons of Egypt. And, depending on where they had started from, the brothers had a journey to cover of at least two, to three-hundred miles, over terrain that would test the most rugged sojourner. But the Spirit of God links the journey and its end together as though they were one.
Though separated by time and distance, the family was a unit, despite the misgivings Jacob had about its present structure. Time and distance could not mar the physical union of Jacob's family. Appearance would suggest they were divided; reality tells us otherwise. Since Joseph had made himself the family's keeper, the only detail of any significance in the journey home is their unity. Thus, when he sends the brothers away to return home to father Jacob, they are as good as there; at least as far as we are enlightened by the record. We will see the same situation when Jacob takes his journey back to Egypt with the rest of the family. This, we believe, is a faint figure of that great union comprising all the elect in Christ. If, as the Scriptures affirm, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ, and since Christ and His body are one, then it falls out in proper order that none of the body can be separated from each other, except in appearance. When time shall be no more, and all our journeys are past, they will be but the fulfillment of purposes born in eternity, enacted in the framework of time, and certain in accomplishment, as though they had been no more than the blink of an eye.
Amazing as had been the events in Egypt with Joseph, and as full of anticipation the journey home must have been, that was all past; the brothers were finally back in Canaan once again with their father Jacob. The whole stupendous episode was simply a memory belonging to history. The eleven brothers then were faced with a challenge far more complex than any they had faced in the presence of their younger brother Joseph. While before Joseph, it was the brothers that stood in need of being convinced that things were not as had long been supposed. Reconciliation with Joseph was accomplished, but not because of any effort on their part. Joseph, with love and mercy, fully persuaded his brothers that all was well for them at last. Now, however, these sons of Jacob must approach their father with a completely different story than the one they pawned off on him when they had appeared with the blood-spattered coat of Joseph many years earlier. He who was assumed dead was yet alive, and he would henceforth superintend the affairs of his family. This amazing story must then be laid out before a gloomy and distraught father. In this connection we recommend the reader carefully reflect on the New Testament account of the disciples reaction to Jesus rising from the tomb, and their reaction to each testimony regarding all that had transpired.
"And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not (Genesis 46.26)."
We have heard the sorry doctrine coming out of the Conditionalist's camp for many years now, with affirming certainty characteristic of work mongers, that the greatest of all sins the saints could possibly commit is the sin of unbelief. We have no idea what rigged scales they use to weigh various sins; nor do we care. Unbelief is indeed sin, but nowhere in our Bible have we ever found it to be of greater magnitude than other sins common to all. We do feel very sure, though, that only evidence submitted from God can convert a skeptic or unbeliever to a state of belief; and that by grace (Acts 18.27). Telling a wretched sinner he is a child of God cannot, and will not, cause him to believe it unless, and until, God gives him some sweet token of evidence to believe so. It is just as certain too as is the rising of the sun in the East that God will not give that token of evidence to one unless it is so.
It must be observed as well, there is no guarantee that if we relate the truth of a matter to another one of the family of God that they will be able to appropriate that truth for themselves, simply because we tell it to them. Other evidences, true or false, may compel them to conclude otherwise. This is just the case with dear old father Jacob. When his sons came home with a message that had freshly been made dear to their hearts he was unmoved and believed them not. As soon as they arrived home the brothers began telling their father, "Joseph is yet alive," and positive evidence of the most overwhelming nature had compelled them it was so. But - as yet, this persuasion they possessed could not, and did not, convince their father to believe them. He had lived too long with convictions nurtured by false evidence to suddenly deny what he concluded many years ago had taken place. Joseph was dead! The witness of his eleven sons contrariwise would not move this old unbeliever. (We would point out that Jacob was not an unbeliever in the manner Arminians call lost sinners unbelievers.)
The Conditionalist would, at this point, forcibly condemn father Jacob for his unbelief. Had not these newly made missionaries from Egypt told him the truth? Yes they had, but the truth did not move him. Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not.
"Joseph is yet alive." This was a certain truth, until recently not believed by the brothers of Joseph any more than father Jacob believed it to be so. Why then did they believe this fabulous news and their father did not? Had they not pointedly informed him of this most positive fact? Yes; they had told him, but they possessed something Jacob did not. That was evidence; visible and sure evidence of the most unmistakable nature. Joseph had opened up the very secret regions of their hearts and shown them with infallible certainty he was their brother; the same brother they had betrayed and sold into slavery. He showered them with love and compassion; communed with them regarding the eternal purposes of God in every detail of the events that led him to Egypt. God had sent him to be their saviour and the evidences compelled them to believe his words. Jacob, however, did not yet have these evidences; thus he believed them not.
"He is governor over all the land of Egypt." From the previous visits and circumstances related by these sons to Jacob, he no doubt believed that there was indeed a mighty governor in Egypt which had dealt in a strange fashion with these sons of his, but that he was Joseph, his long lost son? Hardly! If there is any one thing clear to us here, it is this; good news, and the joy we may feel in it, cannot be imparted to others, even those we may dearly love, unless it is accompanied by sufficient evidence that it is even as we have said. Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not.
Most of us have heard the expression, "Seeing is believing" more than a few times. We would suggest, however, that it is not a scriptural expression. One may see, and yet not believe. Recall the many miracles our Lord performed in the presence of the multitudes. Some believed what they saw; others did not believe. It is our conviction that rather than "seeing is believing" the truth of the matter is "believing is seeing." An example: "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27.13)." David exclaimed that he must believe in order to see, not the reverse; otherwise, like Jacob, he would have fainted. Thus, even with evidences, we must first be given a heart to believe. Without belief, God given belief, we shall surely faint.
The fact is, father Jacob was not yet, with only the word of his sons to rely on, capable of believing, no matter how convinced the brothers were their report was true. God must first bless Jacob to believe, and then enable him to see what he would believe. With this we conclude, hoping to take up the subject again of Jacob's reviving.
Volume 9, No. 2 - March-April, 1995