Finished Genesis this morning. Found myself trying to do the math. Trying to piece together how many years between Abraham receiving the promise of land when he was 75 years old (Gen. 12:3), and when his grandson, Jacob, dies at the age of 147 (Gen. 47:28). Isaac was born to Abraham 25 years after the promise (Gen. 21:5), and Jacob was born to Isaac when Isaac was 60 (Gen. 25:26). So does that mean between the time Abraham was promised Canaan and the time Jacob was buried there, 232 years had passed? I’m thinking. (Let me know if you think differently).
So why am I doing the math? Here’s what I’m noodling on . . .
When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people. . . .
And when the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, ‘My father made me swear, saying, “I am about to die: in my tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there shall you bury me.” Now therefore, let me please go up and bury my father. Then I will return.'” And Pharaoh answered, “Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear.”. . .
Thus his sons did for him as he had commanded them, for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place.
(Genesis 49:33, 50:4-6, 50:12-13 ESV)
Abraham dies 100 years after receiving the promise of enough land to house a great nation, and what does he have to show for it? A burying place. A cave in a field.
Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, a recipient also of the same promise from God (Gen. 28:13-14), dies 130+ years later and still the only acreage (if it was that) in the family, the only place for his body to return to, is a field with a cave suitable as a tomb. That’s a lot of time waiting on the promise without a lot to show for it.
And here’s the real kicker, when Joseph, Jacob’s son, still in Egypt living at the top of the food chain, is about to die years later (not sure how many years later, gotta do that math), he says to his brothers,
“I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. . . . God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”
(Genesis 50:24-25 ESV)
What!?! You have had full command of the pomp, power, authority, and wealth of all Egypt, but you wanna be buried in a cave in a field in Canaan? All because of a promise that really has seen very little produced?
And I think to myself, “Self, you are so impatient.” And then I think some more to myself, “But self, this is what the power of promise evokes in the people of God.”
We live as children of promise. Promise which fuels hope. Promise which provides strength. Promise which requires faith and patience.
Regardless of how meager the cave in the field might look now, “we feel sure of better things — things that belong to salvation” (Heb. 6:9). Ours is the inheritance of promise. Promise already realized through new birth. Promise yet to be fully realized in a new heavens and earth.
So we keep on keepin’ on. With “full assurance of hope until the end” (Heb. 6:11).
. . . so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
(Hebrews 6:12 ESV)
Do the math. Anticipate the answer.
By His grace. For His glory.