Genesis 45-47: When Things Seem their Darkest

Things couldn’t have been worse for Jacob.  He had lived his entire life very differently from his father.  His father, though not perfect, seemed to do most things right. He lived a long life and prospered greatly throughout.  Jacob was different because he was a man who was headstrong and who wanted to have things his way.  He spent his life seeking his own blessing and it seemed to finally lead him to a dead end toward his last days.  While obviously unadvisable, he decided that though he was married to two “main” wives, he would only love one of those wives.  Though he would have twelve sons, he would only really pledge his wholehearted love to two of them.  He spent his life cheating others and being cheated by others.  Things began to unravel when his wife died while giving birth to her second son Benjamin.  This was a bitter moment for this man who had loved her from the moment he had laid eyes on her.  The final and most tragic moment of deception he suffered was at the hands of his own sons who did away from his favored son and led him to believe that Joseph had been devoured by a wild animal. 


Jacob had started out as a young man with the world at his feet and the most incredible promises for his future from the Lord.  Yet, with all of these wasted years of promise behind him he found that at this point in his life, he had grown to be an old man with too many regrets to count.  After spending his life with an understanding his future destiny, he now was at a place in his life where it all began to crumble. The son he loved was gone, famine had gripped the land and his source of wealth – his animals — were in serious danger of starving to death. It wouldn’t be that bad if it was only his animals that were in danger, but the entire family might be wiped out in terrible time of drought that they faced.


Things couldn’t get worse for Jacob and I’m sure in those moments of reflection, he must have found himself asking the question if this God that had met him, Isaac and Abraham was actually done with him.  After all, he had failed this God time and again and now at the end of his life everything seemed to be falling apart.  For Jacob, one wonders what could actually could have kept him going during this time.  If there was only one thing, it may have been this: his son Benjamin, the son of his right hand, as his father called him was still alive.  He was still alive but he was forced to go to Egypt so that his brothers could return with enough food to sustain the family during the drought.  Jacob must have spent day and night in prayer as the band of brothers were gone only asking that the Lord would return to him his son of Rachael.  There is no doubt that if the boy did not return with his brothers, his life would have been effectively over.  So, day after day, moment after moment, this patriarch who was living in his life’s darkest days wondered what other bad news the future might bring. 


This story is familiar because it sounds like so many of our lives.  There are times where we feel like we are living in the midst of life’s darkest days and that the future no longer has any hope left in them.  Jacob, and all the promises of his youth now seemed so far off and so impossible to recapture.  If his sons’s mission would fail, this might spell the end of this great clan that has been built up over succeeding generations of great men only to meet its demise under his leadership.  Jacob must have been in utter despair during this time where one of his sons was locked up in prison in an Egyptian jail and every one of his sons on a mission to get his brother and some food back to the parched land of Canaan.  Jacob must have wondered if God would really deliver in his life like he had promised. 


You can imagine what it must have been like the day when Jacob saw from a distance the dust from the great caravan of animals and men coming toward the family camp.  The sounds of bleating sheep, the rattling of silver and other precious metals and watching his sons finally dismounting and coming to him.  The relief of their return would for a moment would restore to him the joy that he had lost for so long.  He would have Simeon back, but especially Benjamin and the rest of his family would all be safe.


One wonders, how did his brothers break the news to their father.  “Uh, dad, could you please sit down . . .  we have something to say to you.”  You can imagine the apprehension in Jacob’s voice when the conversation began, “what is it boys?  You are all back and we have food and we have been blessed with more than we could have hoped.  From my perspective, you boys have proved yourselves to be fine sons and while I don’t have all of my sons around me, you’ve done a great job on this mission.”  Then they respond, “but dad, we have one other thing to tell you.  Your son . . . the son you love . . . your oldest son of the wife that you loved . . . Joseph, is still alive!  In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.”  The text tells us that when Jacob heard the news, he did not believe what they had told him (45:26). Some have a hard time understanding how a man who had missed his son so much could possibly believe that the story wasn’t true.  Yet, when a person has reached their low points in life, very often it becomes easy to doubt even God’s ability to do something miraculous.  For Jacob, this was the day that God would restore his confidence in God’s goodness.  After taking a look at everything he saw the reality finally came to him, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive.  I will go and see him before I die” (45:28).  There is no mention of fury at the news of the brothers’ betrayal of Joseph and one wonders if Jacob was just so happy about Joseph’s being alive that he could not even waste a moment pouting about the fact that he had been deprived of his presence for the twenty years that had passed since he sent him off to check on his brothers.


Think of Jacob’s emotions in this moment that he found out that everything he thought he had lost had been preserved.  Think about what it must have meant for Jacob and the impact that it had to have on his faith.  In one moment, everything he thought he had was all gone – his sons, his wealth and his  future and in the next minute he finds that his wealth had grown, his future was secure and that he had one more son than he thought he had.  God took him from the valley of hopelessness and moved him to the mountaintop hope’s promise.  Joseph moved this family from the famine ravished land of Canaan to the lush greenery of Goshen in Egypt.  Jacob’s son Joseph was the probably the second wealthiest man in the known world and his other sons were given positions tending the royal cattle for the pharaoh.   Every promise that God had made to Jacob had come to pass even though Jacob himself went through the darkest of times and probably the deepest of doubts.  When things seemed to be at their darkest, God came and rescued Jacob and did more than he could have ever dreamed.


Where are you at in your life? Have you begun to question God’s promises? Have you come to a place where you have begun to wonder whether there is anything left to have hope about? Hang in there because sometimes God’s greatest blessings come from the least expected places  during the darkest possible times.    If you want to have real hope for your life, cast yourself on Jesus for he cares for you and in Him you will find the source of true hope, peace and joy.  When you know Christ, and even when things seem their darkest, never forget to leave the door of hope open to the the radiant light of Jesus Christ.  When you have Christ, you will never have reason to remain in hopelessness. 


4 Responses to “Genesis 45-47: When Things Seem their Darkest”

  1. Chris Smith Says:

    That’s beautiful Bruce. I have never thought about what it must have been like for Jacob to have all his hope hanging in the balance. You’ve given me much to ponder.

  2. Derek Taylor Says:

    I agree, Chris- thanks for putting us in Jacob’s shoes, this was helpful. You’re right, he had to have wondered how things could have gone so wrong after all that had been promised to him at a young age.

    When he says “few and evil have been the days of the years of my life”, what do you think he meant? Was he recognizing his own failures or do you think he was still feeling sorry for himself? Maybe a little of both?

    I also appreciated reading about Joseph’s wisdom and balance in handling the distribution of the food. He was compassionate, but he also expected the people to pay what they were able to. These seem like good principles for leaders to follow. It also makes me wonder if Joseph was responsible for making Egypt the great empire that it later became. How ironic that the great wealth that Phaoroh gained from Joseph’s wisdom would be used to oppress Joseph’s own people a few generations later.

  3. John Says:

    You speak to my heart.

  4. Bruce Smith Says:

    Thanks Chris and John for your warm comments. They are very encouraging to me!

    Derek, I wonder the same thing about Joseph. It is difficult to know exactly under which pharaoh Joseph served, but it would be great to get a definitive answer to this. Perhaps archaeologists will uncover some artifact from his era that will link him to one particular reign. There is no doubt though, that his actions must have done much to revive Egypt which went through constant periods of prosperity and decline for centuries.

    As you have said, his leadership style should be an example of leadership in all generations. In our day, many of our politicians have forgotten the value of discipline, thrift and delayed gratification. Perhaps, these leaders are a reflection of our own culture and our own values? This is why Christians must be countercultural so that we may again be the salt and light that we are intended to be. Thanks Derek, and good points, as usual.

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