"And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father, 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. And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived: And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die (Genesis 45.25-28)."
When we last wrote of the account of Jacob's sons telling their father that Joseph was yet alive, it was stressed that Jacob believed them not. Jacob was unable to receive their testimony, though it was completely true. He had long nurtured the mistaken notion that his darling son Joseph was dead, even as his older sons had deceived him with false evidence. When the sons returned home from their last journey to buy corn in Egypt they recounted to Jacob what had to seem like a wild, fanciful story. Joseph was not really dead, they told their father; and in fact he was much alive, and even governor over the whole realm of Pharaoh's kingdom. This startling account was far more than poor old Jacob could accept or believe. Far too long he had nursed his bitter sorrow over Joseph to turn from it; especially with nothing more than the word of these rowdy sons who had given him so much grief.
Are we then right to condemn Jacob for disavowing his sons' impassioned story? If blessed to search our own past travels we must conclude that we now, like Jacob then, need something far more compelling than the bare testimony or wild yarns from our beloved kin to enable us to believe that Jesus, our Joseph, is yet alive and reigns over all. We are just as powerless to believe as Jacob was; even more so since the truth that Jesus lives can only be received inwardly in the renewed man. To our satisfaction, there is nothing but those sweet evidences, provided by our Lord Himself, that can remove our doubts and skepticism and then blessedly render us as humble believers. Even then, when unmistakable evidences are conveyed to us we are often made to cry out as did one in the following: "Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief (Mark 9.23,24)." Surely, the Lord's help alone can turn our hearts to acknowledge His testimonies.
"And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them:" The telling Jacob all the words of Joseph was, however, not enough. No matter how captivating, and even fascinating, was the experience of Jacob's sons, all that these newly enthused converts had revealed to father Jacob budged him not an inch. But, there was something else; something Jacob would be moved by. "And when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived." He had no doubt patiently heard their words of testimony his sons had effused upon him, and, he now saw some evidence that, combined with their words, was compelling beyond controversy. He saw the wagons! The witness of the sons which he had heard, and the sight of the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him sufficed the old doubter. He could be obstinate no longer. The sons had spoken in a unified witness; Joseph had spoken by sending the wagons. In the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter was established. Jacob was convinced.
Jacob had seen wagons before. His was a varied and checkered life that exposed him to many lands and peoples. Many years earlier, he had fled the home of his youth and traveled a great distance to his uncle Laban's for an extended stay of over 20 years. God had prospered him there before he returned home with a large complement of wives, children, flocks, tents and other accumulations. No doubt but he employed wagons to carry some of his bounty back home with him. He crossed Jordan at the first with but a staff, (Genesis 32.10) and on returning had two bands. Wagons were thus no new thing to Jacob. Nor would it be likely that any nomadic sojourners of that day were unfamiliar with such a staple moving device as wagons.
What Jacob saw on the return of his sons from Egypt, however, was not ordinary wagons. No, indeed, these wagons were not the everyday run-of-the-mill variety of wagons that travelers might pick up somewhere along their journey. We might expect an "Honest John's Used Wagon Emporium" to provide old rickety, rotted-out wagons to those in need. They would probably have a few spokes missing in the wheels, replete with rusty axles and broken tongues. Not so with Joseph and Pharaoh, though. Nothing but the choicest chariots from Pharaoh's fleet would do for this mission of love and compassion. It was wagons of the most magnificent sort that Jacob now saw. We have no doubt that Jacob had never seen wagons of such splendid nature before. He heard the witness of the returning sons, and saw these wagons of great resplendence. His fears were completely overcome. His doubts vanished as if they were vapor. "The spirit of Jacob their father revived." When his eyes were fixed on these vehicles it was as refreshing as a cup of cold water to a thirsty man; his spirit revived. It was as if newness of life had entered his aged frame, for he had for years grieved about the mistaken notion that his beloved Joseph was dead. Revival, real, God-given revival, had stirred the spirit of Jacob upon seeing the wagons sent to reunite the family. Jacob was revived.
Workmongers make much of what they call revivals. They relate grand accounts of what their revivals have done for the spirits of poor sinners. They boast of conversions, reclaimings, healings, and assorted other lavish benefits for those involved. We leave them to their devices by saying that had the greatest revival touters the world has ever seen encountered old father Jacob, they would not have gotten even as far with him as did his sons. That is, unless they could produce some wagons from Joseph, accompanied with a witness as true as that the brothers of Joseph had gotten from his lips. Joseph's words, and Joseph's wagons were the implements of Jacob's reviving. Had the whole host of wise sages since the dawn of time lent their assistance, and had legions of angels engaged Jacob with their beautiful presence, he would be unmoved still. God's eternal appointment included the witness from Joseph and his regal carriages. Nothing more, nothing less, would have revived the spirit of Jacob.
"And Israel said, It is enough." Three simple yet sublime words exhausted the whole mine of Jacob's current emotions. Nothing more needed be said. "It is enough." "Say no more; produce no more evidence" seems to sum up the exclamation of the old patriarch. He had seen enough; he had heard enough; his spirit was then revived; he lived again. There was nothing more in life that Jacob desired than to see his son, long thought dead, and now he had hope that it would be so. This, we are persuaded, is a lovely figure from the Scriptures to compliment how God sweetly reveals to His little children (at the appointed time) the life of their spiritual Joseph Who is come again from the dead. Old father Jacob said, "It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive." Thus in similar language, when hope is revived in us, so say we. It is a gracious and full experience when the elect are made to feel the sufficiency of God and respond, "It is enough." At such times nothing else, however compelling, could satisfy a child of God more. And, we may add, nothing less would be sufficient. It is a matter of pure fact that when God revives His groaning lambs all is exactly as needs be. That, we believe, is the sufficiency of the saints of God.
This sufficiency was not unique to old father Jacob. Many children of God before, and many of them after, like Jacob, found sufficiency - when God was pleased to reveal His gracious hand. Abraham, for instance, had been instructed of God to sacrifice his son Isaac upon one of the mountains, probably Moriah. He had stretched forth his hand with the knife, about to slay his son, when God called to him from heaven, showing him a ram caught in a thicket. Without so stating, the action of Abraham portrayed his feelings that, "It is enough." His son, like Jacob's later, had been spared the death that seemed so certain (Genesis 22.1-14). The testimony of God and the ram in the thicket was evidence enough to suffice Abraham and so his son yet lived.
In similar fashion Ruth the Moabitess experienced the sufficiency of God's grace. After gleaning in the fields of Boaz, and discovering the handfuls of purpose, her mother-in-law, Naomi, related the good news to her that there was life for her yet. Boaz was her near kinsman redeemer and he would take her to himself. Thus she told Ruth, "Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day (Ruth 3.18)." Here again was sufficient evidence to cause Ruth to "sit still." It was enough. She was sufficed with the testimony of Naomi and the evidences seen in the handfuls of purpose. She was wedded to Boaz, and from this union came a son. In her widowhood she could never have believed such could be possible.
Then there is the account of Hannah who wept sore and was in bitterness of soul because she was barren. While she prayed before the Lord, Eli the priest assumed her to be a drunken daughter of Belial. However, in relating her testimony of the matter to Eli she was given assurance the matter would be blessedly resolved, as can be seen in the following: "Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him (I Samuel 1.17)." God gave her a son and she called his name Samuel because she had asked him of the Lord (I Samuel 1.20). Here too is a case where, like Jacob's, there was sufficiency given at the appointed time, and so Hannah received her desired son from the dead womb. It was enough. Her greatest desire in nature was met and she was sufficed.
David had a much different experience and yet the results were the same. He had sinned grievously with Bathsheba and she bare him a son. In God's displeasure the son died, and yet David was sufficed. "But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the Lord loved him (II Samuel 12.19-24)." While the child was yet alive David had hope, as can be seen in his "Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live?" When the son died David was sufficed with a great assurance that he would see the child again, though it was now dead. It was enough for David. He had seen the evidences of God in the whole affair that all was ordered and sure. Furthermore, David was given a second son, Solomon, which further reinforced his feelings that it was enough.
In each of these cases there is one common thread that unites them all. The experience of each one involved a son. Jacob wrongly believed his son to be dead but had him restored again. And, it was enough. He was sufficed. Abraham was instructed to carry out a death sentence on his son Isaac, but when sufficed with the evidences from God to the contrary, his son was restored to him as well. Ruth believed her hopes of a son were vanished with the death of her husband and subsequent journey to the home of Naomi. Despite her fears of barrenness she too was sufficed and blessed with a son to continue the royal line to Jesus. It was enough. In like manner Hannah was blessed with a fruitful womb and was made to rejoice in the sufficiency of God's eternal purposes m her life. Her beautiful prayer in I Samuel 2 after the birth of Samuel could well have been summed up with, "It is enough." David too was sufficed, both in the death of his son and in the birth of another son, Solomon. Surely each of these, like Jacob, could say and feel, "It is enough."
It must not be overlooked that there was a long train of events, each in their successive order, that brought Jacob to be revived and to exclaim that it is enough. All the sons, with the exception of Benjamin, had a hand in the vile sin that took Joseph to Egypt in the first place. Jacob could not possibly have been revived and sufficed had all this never happened. It was eternally necessary for all to come to pass that Jacob and Joseph be united once again. And, we may add, the end of the matter was much better than the beginning (Ecclesiastes 7.8). All that transpired in the life of Joseph was but the plan and purpose of God to gather Israel, all of them, to Egypt, and to there make of them a great nation. For the gathering of all the family to Joseph, Jacob must first be convinced that Joseph yet lived; and the testimony of the sons and the wagons from Egypt did the job fully. Except for the actual departure, this ended the first chapter of the journeys of the descendants of Abraham. From henceforth they would be a family-nation; first in Egypt, next in the wilderness, and then in the land of promise, there to occupy until the coming of the greater Joseph, our Lord Jesus Christ. We trust the reader has seen in all this the parallel message of how all that transpires in the lives of the saints of God also bring us finally to our Joseph.
God willing, we shall take up the journey of Jacob to Joseph in the next article.
Volume 9, No. 6 - November-December, 1995