Jacob (20): Tidings of Joseph

Sometimes a bearer of tidings has mixed emotions about the delivery of what he must tell. He may ask, “Would you prefer to hear the good news first, or the bad?” That can be a difficult choice for the one to whom tidings come! Will the good override the bad or will the bad overwhelm the good?

Jacob’s sons surely had mixed feelings as they returned from Joseph in Egypt to their father in Canaan. They brought a message from Joseph to their father but they must first tell Jacob that Joseph was not dead as they had deceived him into believing twenty years before. Their tidings they had to tell now will fully expose their shameful deed then! It is unlikely they told of their sin first, but they must tell that to explain how Joseph could now be in Egypt where he has become the second ruler.

We noted in a previous article that we may easily divide Jacob’s life into three parts, youth, mature years and old age. He is here in that third period in his life. Jacob is not mentioned for twenty years in the record between Genesis 37:34 and 42:1. In the first, he rent his clothes at the time of Joseph’s supposed death. In the second, he heard of corn in Egypt and sent his sons to buy food because of the famine in the land. During those years, his favorite son, Joseph, had gone from slavery to Prison to the place of second ruler in Egypt. Also in that period, Jacob buried his father, Isaac, about ten years before the events we are considering. (Isaac’s death is recorded earlier in Genesis.) It is helpful to remember Jacob was about 130 years old at this time in his life, an old man by any measurement.

“Joseph Is Yet Alive!”

Jacob was overwhelmed by the news Joseph was not dead after all. At the first, “Jacob’s heart fainted, for he believed them not” (Gen 45:26). Did they consider breaking the news more gently? It would hardly be possible to present such incredulous news bit by bit.

Jacob’s initial reaction was unbelief, and this is not surprising. His sons had lied to him in the past and he would not have confidence in their truthfulness. Moreover, what they told him was impossible from Jacob’s perspective. They “told him all the words of Joseph,” and he also “saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him” (Gen 45:27). He could believe Joseph and the provisions for the way confirmed Joseph’s words. Unbelief evaporated and “the spirit of Jacob revived” (Gen 45:27). “And Israel (note his new name) said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die” (v 28). Mark here Jacob’s immediate decision to undertake the journey to Egypt to see his son.

What impact did the news they brought their father have upon the men who brought it? Surely they had to relate the truth about their role in selling him to the Ishmeelites. They must acknowledge their deception when they brought the coat of many colors stained by the blood of the kid. There was shame but overshadowing that was the knowledge they had Joseph’s forgiveness. The father would forgive too. He could not do else when his son had forgiven them.

“Joseph Went To Meet Israel”

We have noted Jacob’s immediate decision to go to Egypt when he became convinced Joseph was indeed alive. The very next verse (Gen 46:1), indicates Jacob had misgivings as to whether this would be the mind of God or not. We read, “And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.” Before physically departing the land, he sought the mind of God regarding his purposed journey. God responded to this inquiry regarding His will for Jacob. “And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night…fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation” (46:2- 3). God also renewed there His promise first made to Abraham in Genesis 12:2, that He would make of his seed “a great nation”. God had earlier repeated that same promise to Jacob at Bethel when he fled from his brother, Esau. God also promised His presence with Jacob all the way to Egypt, that He would bring him up again from there and that “Joseph shall put his hands upon thine eyes” (Gen 46:4).

We may easily imagine the anticipation with which Jacob journeyed once he knew he had the mind of God. It was a difficult journey for a man of his advanced years. The words of Genesis 46:5, “And the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father…in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him,” suggest the trip could have been impossible for him apart from the wagons and their care for their father as he traveled. He went in faith that God would be with him and he would see the one he longed to see at the end of the journey. It is worth noting a large company went with Jacob at this time. Verse 26 tells us there were sixty-six people (plus the wives of his sons) in that company.

Then we read of the happy moment of meeting, “Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel…and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. Their long separation was ended. Their deepest longings were fulfilled. They could rejoice together over God’s providence that had arranged events in their lives that led up to Joseph’s exaltation and their mutual blessing at this moment.

Things Written for our Learning

Joseph’s brothers were obedient to his instructions to them to inform their father that he was alive after all. They brought good news, but it also linked with their guilty past making it more difficult for them to tell it. Jacob and the families were living in famine conditions and the news they brought announced the end of that condition for them. We have good news to tell to a spiritually starving world. We must acknowledge our guilty past too, but we need not dwell upon it, for it has all been forgiven.

Jacob believed Joseph’s message in spite of a tendency to disbelieve it. Let us guard against a similar tendency regarding God’s word to us. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb 3:12).

We are touched by Jacob’s wondering reaction to the news his beloved son was alive after all! We cannot read this narrative without thinking of Another who did die but is now alive. He like Joseph, not only lives but He too is now exalted. His is the highest place in heaven, at the right hand of His Father. Like Jacob, those who knew and loved the Lord Jesus also seemed nearly incapable of believing the angelic testimony to the Savior’s resurrection. “He is not here: for He is risen, as He said” (Matt 28:6). Of these women we read, “They departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy.” We need that same wonder and awe regarding the wonderful truth of the resurrection.

We easily overlook the need to seek the will of God in times of great happiness. Jacob wisely sought this even when his heart was yearning to go to see his son. We may count on God to always reveal His will to us when we pause to seek for it. We may need to wait upon Him to reveal it longer than Jacob had to on this occasion. Just as Jacob, at that time, received anew the promise of the divine presence with him and divine blessing upon him, we may count on the changeless Word of God all our days.

Just as with Jacob, we are the beneficiaries of our Joseph’s provisions for our journey to see Him. Too often we take these blessings for granted and lack appreciation and the thankful spirit that should become us because of them. In the company that went with Jacob to Egypt, we are reminded of our own longing that our loved ones will also accompany us to the place of blessing where our Joseph dwells. Their presence with him must have gladdened Jacob’s heart.

The moment is at hand when our Lord Jesus Christ will rise up and come forth to meet us to escort us into the place of eternal blessing. We often try to imagine what that moment of meeting will be like. We long for that moment. We tend to overlook that Jesus Christ must be looking forward to that meeting too. Joseph’s thoughts would often turn to the company that would be traveling to Egypt. Unlike Joseph who had no means of knowing their circumstances nor exactly where they were at any one time, our blessed Lord “knoweth the way that I take” (Job 23:10). At last that moment came for Joseph. The days of his rejection by his brethren were ended. The humiliation of his imprisonment was behind him and now his was the place of exaltation. We may readily see the parallels to that moment when our divine Lord will gladly greet His loved ones.

It is worth noting there was a special sharing between Joseph and his father. Would this not mirror the Joy and delight of God the Father in His Son who did “always those things that please the Father?” (John 8:29). There is yet another aspect of the mutual joy between the Father and the Son suggested here. Who can tell what that glorious reunion must have been like when the victorious Son returned to the portals of heaven upon His ascension following Calvary and the Resurrection?

Our journey too will soon be done and we shall see Him, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of Glory” (1 Pet 1:8).