Friday, August 19, 2011

Sometimes the way leads down

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 46:1-34

TO CHEW ON: "'I will go down with you into Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again....'" - Genesis 46:4

It's moving time for Jacob. At last he has received the word that Joseph is alive and has in fact invited him and the clan to move to Egypt where food is plentiful. This is a momentous occasion. It means uprooting many families. It means arduous travel, and Jacob is old. It means exposing his family to the idolatrous culture of Egypt.

His first impulse is to take the matter to God. At Beersheba, where Abraham had called on God (Genesis 21:33) as had Isaac (Genesis 26:25), Jacob "offered sacrifices to God" - Genesis 46:1. Matthew Henry comments:

"He had an eye to God as the God of his father Isaac, that is, a God in covenant with him. He offered sacrifices:
1] By way of thanksgiving for the late blessed change of the face of his family, for the good news he had received concurring Joseph and for the hopes of seeing him.
2] By way of petition for the presence of God with him in his intended journey.
3] By way of consultation. The heathen consulted their oracles by sacrifice. Jacob would not go till he had asked God's leave" - Matthew Henry - Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 65.

God replies in a vision giving Jacob all the assurance he needs: "Fear not. I will make of you a great nation."

Note the directional words in what God says next: "I will go down with you into Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again." As well as Egypt seeming geographically down from Canaan, might their use signal to us God's awareness of one of Jacob's niggling concerns?

For by leaving Canaan for Egypt, Jacob was forsaking the land God had promised his family. He had, after all, made the trip back home from his father-in-law Laban's to inhabit it. Perhaps he was questioning, Will I slip out from under the shadow of God's protection by again leaving the land of promise? And would he ever get it back? In that nomadic culture, it wouldn't take long for the land to be inhabited by someone else. Leaving Canaan probably felt to Jacob like he was taking a step down, not up.

But down is sometimes how God directs. Matthew Henry again:

"Whatever low or darksome valley we are called into at any time, we may be confident, if God go down with us into it, that he will surely bring us up again. If he go with us down to death, he will surely bring us up again to glory" - Matthew Henry, p. 65.

The safest place to be is wherever God directs — even if it feels like down to us.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for being with me in the downs as well as the ups. Thank You for Your promise of being with me always (Psalm 139:7,8). Amen.

MORE: Valley of Humiliation

"Then he began to go forward; but Discretion, Piety, Charity, and Prudence would accompany him down to the foot of the hill. So they went on together, reiterating their former discourses, till they came to go down the hill.

Then said Christian, 'As it was difficult coming up, so, so far as I can see, it is dangerous going down.'

'Yes,' said Prudence, 'so it is; for it is a hard matter for a man to go down into the valley of Humiliation, as thou art now, and to catch no slip by the way.'

'Therefore,' said they, 'we are come out to accompany thee down the hill.'

So he began to go down, but very warily; yet he caught a slip or two.'

- John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress, "The Fourth Stage — the Valley of Humiliation" - Kindle Location 1091.

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