“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. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.’” (Genesis 46:2-4)
From the beginning of my decision to have a second knee surgery, I felt it was the right. I was familiar with the process, and circumstances lined up; my prayers about it brought me peace. However, after experiencing so many difficulties after the surgery, in rehab, there were many times when I questioned my decision and wondered if it was not God’s will but my impatience to get it over with sooner rather than later. Every time doubts would creep into my mind I reminded myself of some fundamental truths about God, a primary one being that He often uses our trials and difficult circumstances for His glory. Difficulties and problems in our lives may sometimes be the result of our mistakes and lack of faith, generating discipline from the Lord. But more often, for Christians, they are opportunities for us to grow and for God to be glorified. I imagine what I would have said if you had asked me in early December, “Will you have the surgery even if it causes you a lot of pain and a long recovery, for God’s glory and your instruction.” I probably would have put it off. But God, in his providence, determined that this was the best way to proceed. I confess that I still have a fear that my recovery may never be complete, and so I continue to remind myself that pain and difficulties do not mean that this is not God’s plan. I continue to ask myself, “How can I glorify God through my continued recovery?”
According to John Gill (and other interpreters that he quotes), Jacob may have had many fears about obeying God’s command to go down to Egypt. Perhaps he was confused about the will of God since the Lord had forbidden Jacob’s father, Isaac to go into Egypt. Or, since Jacob was elderly, he may have worried that the journey would be too physically demanding, that something horrible might happen to cause his death, and he would never see Joseph again. It could be that his family would be tempted with the “pleasantness and fruitfulness of the land, and settle there, and forget and neglect the promised land of Canaan” or that they would “be drawn into the idolatry of the Egyptians, and forsake the worship of the true God.” Maybe Jacob was merely afraid of the actual prediction of God’s prophecy, that obeying the Lord would bring on its fulfillment of “his seed being strangers and servants, and afflicted in a land not theirs for the space of four hundred years” and his “offspring would be oppressed and diminished.” *
When we give in to fear we can come up with many logical reasons why something isn’t a good idea, or why later might be better than now. The Lord knows our proclivity to give in to fear, as Jacob might have done. God did not command Jacob to travel to Egypt alone or in his own strength; He was not punishing Jacob or denying him anything good. If Jacob had given into his fears, God would have still established the nation of Israel in Egypt through Joseph; But Jacob would have missed the opportunity to be an integral part of God’s work. The Lord knew from before the beginning of time that Jacob would need to go to Egypt with his household, joining Joseph and trusting in His plan to fulfill His promise. “And God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ So he called his name Israel. And God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.’” (Genesis 35:10-12)
The Lord knew what Jacob needed to obey the command to go to Egypt—God’s presence with him and the assurance that one day he would return to the Promised Land (even in death). God knows that we need His help and presence when we face difficult decisions, challenges, and trials. He knows that we are weak, fearful, and vulnerable, unable to overcome our fears on our own. When Jacob feared meeting his brother Esau, after years of estrangement, he called on the Lord, remembering God’s promise to do good and raise a multitude from him, rather than see him die at that time. (Genesis 32:9-12) Jesus, knowing the fears of His disciples as He prepared to depart the world, promised that He would not abandon them. “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment because the ruler of this world is judged…When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:7-15) Jesus knows our frame; he remembers that we are like dust (which is unable to do anything). (Psalm 103:14)
God certainly knows how I long for reassurance for healing or at least the capability to walk comfortably, with or without assistance. The best comfort I have is knowing that He is with me in this process and has good plans for me and for it. Is there something that you fear at this time, that makes you feel like mere dust, for which you desire assurance? Are you trying to work it out on your own, or are you willing to lean hard on Jesus for strength to face your fear?
- John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Genesis 46:3, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/genesis-46.html