Genesis Lesson 29 - Together . . . At Last!
What must have been flooding through Jacob's mind as he rode to meet his son for the first time in years? Joy? Excitement? Gratitude?! In this message Stephen lets us witness that incredible reunion.
“TOGETHER . . . AT LAST!”
(Genesis 45:16 - 47:12)
Captain Howard Rutledge was a P.O.W. for 13 years during the Vietnam war. The “L. A. Times”, February 19, 1973, carried the story of his return home after 13 years of being away. There’s a book in my study that I’ve probably read two or three times that’s rather dog-eared now. It’s the story of Howard Rutledge as he became a believer there in, what they called, the Hanoi Hilton as he trusted Christ and how God kept him over 13 years. And the story, in much more detail in this book, tells of how Howard Rutledge sent word that he was coming home. And his wife and children were ready. By that time, he didn’t know it, but he was a grandfather. His daughter had married, one of his three daughters had married and had a son. He also didn’t know that his son had had an accident and was confined to a wheelchair. So everyone was expectant of his return and soon enough he departed or left where he a was staying, I believe, somewhere on the west coast headed for just a brief jaunt to L. A. And all of the media was there. There were thousands of people. You may have heard or read or even seen clippings of this reunion. It showed the men disembarking from that plane and an announcer would tell the name of the man who was finally home. And finally, the announcer said, “Captain Howard E. Rutledge.” And the camera scanned the audience and a lady broke free and ran into the arms of Rutledge and they embraced. And, you can only imagine, of course, then as he was reunited with his family, his son, as he observed him in a wheelchair, his son undoubtedly anticipating his father’s response. “How would he handle the fact that now I am confined to the chair?” And his father, there as he was reunited with his son, knelt beside the wheelchair, they gathered each other up in their arms, and they hugged and wept.
There is something in our hearts that loves a story about a reunion. There is something in our hearts that loves going home. There is something about roots, about going back to where it all started. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been studying this passage that when I was in Virginia preaching at a missionary conference this past week, I decided to go back home where I was raised and hadn’t been back for 13 years. I hadn’t seen the house. I decided to go and my brother wanted to come along with me. He was available at the time and so we drove back home to 4713 Regal Court. And everything had changed, of course, trees were gone, different things had occurred. We went up and knocked on the door and a gal answered it and she had a baby on her hip. And I said, “My name is Stephen Davey. I was raised in this house.” And she said, “For real.” And I said, “Yea, for real.” And she thought I was out, you know, on a limb, probably. And I said, “Would you mind if we just came through and looked at the house?” And she said, “No. That would be great. Come on in.” And so, she went upstairs and got her Dad and he came down and we began going through the home. Evidently, this family had purchased it from my parents. They had moved when I was a college student. And we went all through that house looking at all the little nicks and nooks and corners and nicks too, we put them there. And everything from the laundry shoot, that we stuffed our little brother in, to the little basement, where we would hide, all through that place and finally upstairs to the little cubby-hole that finally was my bedroom after my brother went away to college. And it was there, as an 18-year-old, that I can remember kneeling and giving my life to Jesus Christ. And after 13 years, being back it was really an interesting experience.
There is something about going back. The moment we began studying Joseph’s life, we all were waiting to get to this chapter. And if we didn’t have so much to learn in the process, we would have gone directly here as, finally, he is reunited with his father. Let’s take a closer look.. You remember, if you’ve been studying with us, that the brothers have come to Egypt and Joseph has finally announced in the Hebrew dialect, “Ana Yhowceph! I am Joseph!” And they were terrified. Their legs trembled and they were afraid that now would be the ax. And still, he was very compassionate. And he told his brothers to go home and tell Dad, “Tell Jacob that I’m alive. And I have an open invitation for you to come back and to live with me.” And that’s where we pick up the story again as he is saying goodbye to the brothers, sending them home to get Jacob.
You’ll note, in verse 17 of chapter 45, the favor that Pharaoh has given these brothers. Because in verse 17 it says, “Say to your brothers, - Joseph - “Do this: load your beasts and go to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you shall eat the fat of the land.” We don’t know why, perhaps the Hyksos dynasty, we think, was a shepherding dynasty, so they were a little more sympathetic to these shepherds or this shepherd family. But then the Pharaoh says, “Do this:” - verse 19 - “take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father and come.” Now when we read a verse like that, we immediately think that he’s talking about some wooden, rickety old carts with legs, you know, or wheels about to fall off. “Take these old, rickety carts, with some donkeys pulling them, and go get your family.” But yet, if we were to go back in time culturally, carts were an unheard of thing because everyone walked or rode a beast. But the Pharaoh, he had, in a sense, the automobiles. He had the transportation. He had carts and these carts were covered with gold, they were bedecked with jewels, they were pulled by handsome animals and they were attended by the finest of Pharaoh’s court. And you just didn’t ride a cart unless you were somebody. You can imagine this entourage of gold-covered carts pulling into a famished area, like Canaan, where they had never seen anything like that. He said, in effect, “Go in style.” Go back and get your family in, what today would be, a limousine service. “Go get all of your family and bring them back.” This was probably the talk of Canaan for decades.
So, the sons of Israel did just that. And verse 22 tells us that Joseph, “gave” - them all - “changes of garments, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of garments.” And then he sent them to his father. Note verse 24, “He sent his brothers away and as they departed, he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel on the journey.’” Now, I have to stop and ask the question, “Why would these brothers quarrel?” I thought, now, everything was patched up. If you’re taking notes, let me give you two reasons why I think it’s possible that they would break into quarreling. Number one, because of sudden wealth. You didn’t have silver. You didn’t have hard, cold cash where they came from. You traded in goats milk and wool. You lived close to the earth. And these men were now given an incredible amount of money. And wealth, as you and I should know, does not tend to unify. It tends to separate. It tends to cause problems and perhaps it’s the sudden wealth that would bring about the problem. But, I think as well, there is a hidden, subtle temptation that Benjamin is given more. Benjamin is given garments, five times more. And, as I studied and re-studied the passage, I thought we could principlelize it this way: repentance, as they have done from their sins of dishonesty, repentance doesn’t alleviate future temptation. Just because the brothers had repented of their dishonesty - living a lie, they were, in a sense, still having to handle the temptation of dishonesty. They could have, as they did to Joseph, bump him off, get what he had and go back to Canaan with another story, as you know, and live wealthy lives.
But I think, the second thing is, perhaps, more significant and, I think, maybe closer to the truth. And that is, there was the knowledge of serious confrontation. You see, they were going back to Canaan and they were going to have to tell their father that they had lied. They were going to have to tell the story of what had happened. They couldn’t just walk up, and all the text relates is that they walked up and said, “Your son is alive. Joseph is alive.” No. Dad would say, “Now wait a second, 25 years ago you brought me a blood-stained tunic. What happened? What really happened?” And they knew that there would be confrontation involved. They would have to ‘fess up. They would have to admit everything to Jacob. Let me say this, “Repentance doesn’t erase future consequences. Repentance doesn’t erase future consequences.” They had to go to Dad and tell Dad that they had lied. Perhaps you’ve had brothers and sisters. Having three brothers, I can well remember many times doing something that was wrong, led astray by one of my brothers, and we would have to admit that to Dad. I can still remember one day, getting in trouble at school, my older brother and I, and from the school bus stop, two blocks, to our house we argued the whole way as to what the story would be. “Well, let’s say this. No, let’s not say, let’s say this.” And we constantly bickered, “You let me take care... No, you let me handle it.” Well, what do we have here? We have eleven brothers who are having to go back to their father and tell him what happened. And I can just hear it now. I can hear Reuben, “Now look, you need to make sure when we tell him the story that you leave me out of it because I wasn’t there. You remember that.” I can hear Judah saying, “Well, don’t forget that it was my idea to sell him to the Midianites and not kill him.” Benjamin is saying, “Well, wait a second guys, I’m not part of this. I wasn’t even there.” “Oh, well who do you think you are, you goody, goody? We’re going to tell him everything we want to tell him.” I can see eleven brothers, by the time they end their three week journey, at each others throats. And I think that’s the reason why Joseph comes along in verse 24 and he says, “Listen, don’t quarrel on the journey.” He knows his brothers. And when they’re heading back with money that they’ve never had, with garments, these are rough men, men of the earth, he says, “Don’t bicker. Don’t start trading your outfits. Don’t quarrel about what you have. Don’t look at Benjamin and get upset because he’s been given so much more. And whatever you do, don’t begin to argue about the story you’ll tell Jacob, our Dad. Just go back and tell him I’m alive.”
I wish we had been in the cart to listen to their stories as they returned home. But they did. And they came to Jacob, “And they told him,” - verse 26 - “Joseph is still alive, and indeed” - “you won’t believe this” - “he is ruler over all the land of Egypt. But” - Jacob - “was stunned,” - literally, his heart went numb - “for he did not believe them.” Verse 27, “When they told him all the words of Joseph that he had spoken to them, and when he saw the wagons.” That is, when he saw the gold-covered carts, when he saw the jewelry, when he saw their garments, he knew that Joseph must, indeed, be alive. And, “the spirit of their father Jacob revived.”
Now, we had studied the life of Jacob but we need to pause and focus on him for just a moment. Because if this is the old Jacob, Jacob will load up the baggage, he’ll pack the suitcases and without any further ado, he is headed for Egypt. But Egypt, you remember, is warned of by the prophets. Egypt was the place where Jacob remembers, Abraham, my grandfather, lied and got away from the Lord, Isaac, he was warned not to follow in his father’s footsteps in going to Egypt. “I can’t go to Egypt if I am to be obedient to God.” And, all of a sudden, Jacob is faced with a tremendous tension, with a struggle. And he decides to do something uncharacteristic of Jacob, he decides to stop and pray. Look at verse 1 of chapter 46, “So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba”. Beersheba is the southern-most tip of Canaan. It’s right before you cross the border. And when he gets to that southern-most tip, before he takes a step into the dessert that will lead him to Egypt, he stopped and he offered sacrifices, probably at the same place where Abraham and Isaac had in Beersheba. “To the God of his father Isaac.” And I don’t know what his prayer was but it must have been something like, “God, you know that my son is there. You know that food is there. You know that the promise is that we will multiply and it makes sense that I’d go to Egypt.” Why should he even pray? I can’t help but apply this directly to you and me. If we were given the same conditions: more money, closer to family members, a better situation all around, able to provide so much more by leaving, pulling up roots. Would we even think that God couldn’t be in it? And yet Jacob stops and he says, “Lord,” - in effect - “what should I do?” “And God spoke to Israel” - note the use of the word “Israel,” “prince of God” - “in visions . . . and said, ‘Jacob . . . Here I am.’” Jacob responds. And God says, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt”.
In the margin of your text, I want you to write two words. The first, at the end of verse 3, the word: expansion. These are self-contained prophecies in the book of Genesis. That is, we will see them prophesied and in a later book we will see them fulfilled. One of the greatest proofs of inspiration. Expansion. “You go to Egypt,” - “and I will make you a great nation there.” You see, you remember from the verse that Larry read, if you took this section right here, about 70 people, that’s how many people were heading to Egypt. Before that, Abraham had been given the promise of a great nation. Seventy people. Isaac had been given the promise of a great nation. Seventy people. Jacob had been reiterated by God, that same covenant promise, “I will make you a great nation.” And still, three generations later, all he could count was 70 people. And yet we’ll learn in Exodus, chapter 15, that when they leave Egypt, on the Exodus, after staying there for many years, nearly four million people will leave Egypt. Seventy people multiplied into four million. Self-fulfilled prophecy.
Verse 4 is the second word, right at the end of verse 4: exodus. Note how he promises Jacob an exodus. “I will go down with you to Egypt”. “Don’t worry, I’m with you but I will also bring you back.” That is, “Although you’re going to Egypt, which is not part of the promise, I will bring you back to Canaan, to the promised land. Don’t be afraid. This is my was of multiplying this tribe into a nation in the valley or the region of Goshen, which is very fertile.” The best that Egypt had to offer. So Jacob stops and he prays and God gives him confidence and encouragement that he should go.
And now, the reunion. Verse 27 of chapter 46, “And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him” - all of them totaled - “were seventy.” Now Jacob, “sent Judah before him to Joseph, to point out the way before him to Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen.” And Joseph got the news from a messenger and as soon as he did, “Joseph prepared his chariot”. I have the idea that Joseph went by himself, unattended. He - “prepared his chariot and went up” - by himself - “to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time.” It’s hard for you and for myself to identify with this kind of reunion. All we can do, not even from our own personal lives have we probably experienced something like this, is go back 25 years when Dad and son were torn apart by the jealousy of brothers. They hadn’t seen each other in 23 to 25 years. And now Jacob, finally, he sees that chariot coming. And in the dimness of his eyesight he looks and he sees this Egyptian monarch riding toward him, riding in a chariot, a chariot of gold pulled by prancing steeds. And he sees him coming and I imagine his thought is that, “That can’t be Joseph.” And yet Joseph, with his headdress worn by the Egyptian royalty, clean-shaven, unlike a Hebrew, dressed with all of the garb, finally reigns in his horses and he steps down off the chariot and he walks over to his Dad. And perhaps it’s then that his father looked closely and he recognized, “Yes, this is Joseph.” We don’t know of any words that were said. All they did was embrace and weep for a long time. And finally, through the sobbing of Jacob, he lifts his voice and he says in verse 30, “Now let me die”. “This is the fulfillment of my life. My son that I thought was taken from me is back. If I’m going to die happy, let me die now.” It’s all he could utter. What a reunion that must have been. He said to Joseph, finally in verse 30, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.”
What happens next is a further indication of Joseph’s character. I want to give you two things. Two important elements about Joseph’s life that should be characterized in our lives as well. Let me give them to you rapidly. Number one, he had a sense of family responsibility, regardless of how painful the past. He had every right to stick his brothers over in some corner and elevate his father, Jacob, his beloved father. To forget his brothers, to send them away. And yet he continues evidencing forgiveness. Because, look at chapter 47, verses 11 and 12, “Joseph settled his father and” - circle that: and - “his brothers, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land”. Regardless of how painful the abandonment was, how cruel they had been as he pleaded that they not send him away with the Midianites, they refused to hear, they stopped up their ears. Now, 25 years later, Joseph gives his brothers the best of the land. I wonder if we can have that sense of forgiveness in our hearts for those in our past.
He also had a sense of family pride, regardless of how humble the origin. This is beautiful. His Dad is a humble shepherd, dressed roughly, perhaps even a little uncouth. He’s used to living out in a tent close to the earth, fingernails dirty, unshaven. I can imagine, once they are reunited, Joseph talking with his Dad and his Dad saying, “Joseph, tell me about your work. I’d like to go see it some time.” “No, Dad, you don’t want to get around the court of Egypt. That’s really not the place for you.” See Joseph could have had an attitude of cover-up, of embarrassment, to keep his father away. Why, to think of how humble his origin was, and now his position as prime minister of Egypt. But, do you know what he does? He arranges for a personal introduction. Verse 7, “Then Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him”. That is, as he would a dignitary, as he would someone of great prestige, someone of diplomatic relationship. He does the same thing to his old 130-year-old father, stoop-shouldered, who shuffles in. Joseph proudly says, “Pharaoh, I want you to meet my father.” I imagine the courtroom buzzed with people. “That’s Joseph’s father. Why, certainly he was groomed for years for this position. He must have come from wealth. This shepherd?” We know that shepherds were loathsome to the Egyptians. And Joseph, probably sticking his chest out, says to all that court, “This is my Dad.” How often a young man or woman will rise to prominence and in the process forget their origin. I think of Marian Anderson, a famous black contralto who had won a number of awards, was, among other things, a United States delegate to the United Nations. She had given private concerts for president’s families and the king and queen of England. She had been presented with the Presidential medal of freedom. She had written an autobiography and it was immediately a best seller. And once the press cornered her and said, “Marian, what is the greatest moment of your life?” And she said, without even blinking, she said, “The greatest moment was when I went back to the tenement house to my Ma Ma and I told her she won’t have to take in washing anymore.” Of all the times in Joseph’s life to be embarrassed, ashamed of where he had come from, instead he introduces his father with great respect and pride to the Pharaoh.
I’ve got to give you at least this, and then we’ll quit. It’s not in your notes but I love what Jacob said to Pharaoh. He said, in verse 9, “‘The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their pilgrimage.’ And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence.” There are a couple of things, as I briefly mentioned before. But this is really a testimony that we miss in our translations, in our cultural distances. What Jacob was really doing, as he stood before the Pharaoh, was mustering up his faith in God and twice he references a pilgrimage. To the man who, to that culture, was the embodiment of the sun god Ray, who would live forever. And Jacob, in effect, says, “We will die.” “I have lived 130 years in my pilgrimage.” And, in effect, saying, “You are on a pilgrimage too, oh great Pharaoh, and you will die.” It was a tremendous declaration of life’s brevity to a man who was worshipped as god. But it was also a testimonial of God’s sovereignty. He briefly, in just a few words, refers to his fathers and their pilgrimage. “And I, in line now, am a pilgrim with them.” I mean, Jacob could have stumbled all over his feet trying to say something that would have impressed the Pharaoh. He could have immediately started bragging on his son and all he had done to make Joseph what he ended up being. And yet, for just a few brief moments, he stands before Pharaoh and acknowledges the sovereignty of God. “God has led me in this pilgrimage. And, in effect, I am following in the line of those who follow God.” But, you’ll note twice, he does something to Pharaoh. What does he do? He blesses him! We can’t understand that but here he is in the court of a pagan, idolatrous king and he blesses him. We happen to think, in America, well, what did he do? Say, “Good morning.” And then, “Have a good afternoon.” No. This was a spiritual, this was, in effect, the bestowing of an acknowledgment of the God who blesses. We don’t know what he said. All we know is that Jacob held out his trembling, old hand and he blessed Pharaoh. And then he left.
I can’t help but think, as I view this reunion, of what it signifies to you and me. Joseph, being a type of Jesus Christ, with many illustrations of that which is foreshadowed that would be fulfilled in the life of Christ. One thing that strikes me is in the message he gave to his brothers. And that message I want to leave with you. Joseph basically told his brothers to do three things. He said, “I want you to go back, go back to your family, go back to your friends, go back to the relatives, go back to the tribe.” And do what? “Tell them,” number one, “that I am alive.” Secondly, “Tell them that I am exalted, I am the lord of all of Egypt.” And thirdly, “Tell them there is an open invitation for them to come and live with me.” Do you see it? Jesus Christ, the anti-type, has come and given us, his brethren, a message. “Go back to where you have had roots. Go back to your family. Go back to your tribe. Go into the neighborhood where you are and tell them three things: that Jesus Christ is alive, tell them He is exalted, and tell them there is an open invitation to come and to live with him.” And what a reunion that will be! What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see. When I look into His face, the One who saved me by His grace, and He takes me by the hand and leads me to the promised land. What a day! What a day that will be!
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