There’s no way Abraham could have predicted the path when he received the promise. No way he could have imagined how God’s promise of land, seed, and blessing (Gen. 12:1-3) would be realized. It wasn’t to be realized in his lifetime. It wasn’t to be realized by simply making one move from here to there. It wasn’t to be realized by some simple, clean storyline where family obeyed, family relocated, family grew, and family was blessed. Nope. No way Abraham, or Isaac, of Jacob could have seen how the promise of becoming a great people, in a great land, who would become a great blessing would play out.
That’s what hits home this morning from this little conversation between God and Jacob.
So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.”
(Genesis 46:1-3 ESV)
Back story? Joseph, favored son of Jacob, betrayed by his brothers. Joseph enslaved in Egypt. Joseph rises from prison to pinnacle. Famine hits. Family re-acquainted. People of promise in the land of promise are forced to go back to Egypt in order to realize the promise.
For there I will make you a great nation???
Who woulda’ thunk? Who came up with that plan? Cue Sunday School answer 101: “God!”
It’s not like Jacob and Co. had a lot to show for the promises of God, so far. Sure, they were in the land, but they didn’t possess much of the land — just a burial spot here and there. And, when it came to the annual census of those of the bloodline of Abraham, there was only Jacob and “sixty-six persons in all”, a total of seventy if you included Joseph and the sons born to him in Egypt (Gen. 48:26-27) — not quite yet the promised many “as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude” (Gen. 32:12). But hey, at least they were in the land. At least there was terra firma firmly under Jacob’s feet. At least he had something to show for pursuing the promise. Progress, if even slow progress, was being made. So, go to Egypt now? Huh?
. . . for there I will make you into a great nation.
I’m already picking up from Genesis that God uses pretty dysfunctional people to accomplish His pretty amazing plan of redemption. Also reminded this morning that He often does it in pretty unpredictable ways.
He would incubate a chosen people in a crucible of bondage and oppression. For centuries He would multiply a people of promise to become His own through a great deliverance. Eventually, far beyond what Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob could have imagined, the offspring of Abraham would, in fact, be a great nation in a great land and the source of great blessing for all the world. But in the moment, as Jacob packed everything up and left the land of promise, there’s no way he could have connected the dots. No way of seeing how moving to Egypt would result in a multitude of people possessing the land of milk and honey. Other than by faith in a faithful God and the sure hope that He would somehow, at some point, bring about some sort of exodus.
And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
(Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV)
Trust and obey. For there’s no other way. To realize the promise, but to trust and obey.
By God’s grace. For God’s glory.