Monday, January 16, 2006

What the Jacobsons taught me

Genesis 46:34 “Every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.”

Tucked and folded neatly into the end of genealogies and records of all those who left Canaan and went to Egypt with Joseph is this little statement. At this point in time, the shepherd is identified with all Jacob’s family, whom we have affectionately referred to as “the Jacobsons” collectively—these are the one in whom, through whom and by whom the LORD God will conduct the fulfillment of His promises, namely that the seed of the woman would come to crush the head of the serpent (See Genesis 3). The Egyptians are those who are not of the promise but being one of the nations who will be blessed by the promise of Abraham, are a people of the world.

The contrast is so clear; that is, the contrast of the people of God and the people of the world. Also clear is attitude of the people of the world toward the people of God. This got me personally when I remember what the Bible teaches concerning how ministers of the gospel will be treated in this world.

Just a few days ago I was in an online community wherein I was accosted by a “joke” that was intentionally quite vile. As I was preparing to post my weekly devotional, I thought to include this individual’s account into receiving what I was going to post. The response was wicked. I am struck by the attitudes of people, who, when they find out a “preacher” is in the room are suddenly careful to watch their words; yet, will speak so carelessly until they are “discovered” by the preacher and they are suddenly offended and defensive.

Joseph and his family were making their hosts understand what they already knew: here we are and you will not like us. I know of a young man who states boldly up front, “I am a Christian and will be offensive to you. I don’t drink, smoke or have sex, so I will not get drunk, will not smoke nor will I have sex with you.” This is the attitude we should have with the world. We are in the world but not of it.

How can this be done? How can those who have been called and set apart by God get along in this world, knowing the world despises the name of Christ and those who bear it? I think Charles Spurgeon nailed it on the head (it’s worth the full read). Commenting on Genesis 46:3-4, Spurgeon wrote:

  • “Jacob must have shuddered at the thought of leaving the land of his father’s sojourning, and dwelling among heathen strangers. It was a new scene, and likely to be a trying one: who shall venture among couriers of a foreign monarch without anxiety? Yet the way was evidently appointed for him, and therefore he resolved to go. This is frequently the position of believers now—they are called to perils and temptations altogether untried: at such seasons let them imitate Jacob’s example by offering sacrifices of prayer unto God, and seeking his direction; let them not take a step until they have waited upon the Lord for his blessing: then they will have Jacob’s companion to be their friend and helper. How blessed to feel assured that the Lord is with us in all our ways, and condescends to go down into our humiliations and banishments with us! Even beyond the ocean our Father’s love beams like the sun in its strength. We cannot hesitate to go where Jehovah promises his presence; even the valley of deathshade grows bright with the radiance of this assurance. Marching onwards with faith in their God, believers shall have Jacob’s promise. They shall be brought up again, whether it be from the troubles of life or the chambers of death. Jacob’s seed came out of Egypt in due time, and so shall all the faithful pass unscathed through the tribulation of life, and the terror of death. Let us exercise Jacob’s confidence. “Fear not,” is the Lord’s command and his divine encouragement to those who at his bidding are launching upon new seas; the divine presence and preservation forbid so much as one unbelieving fear. Without our God we should fear to move; but when he bids us to, it would be dangerous to tarry. Reader, go forward, and fear not.”[i]
Genesis 47:7, 10: “Jacob blessed Pharaoh.”

This is a strange event, the despised and rejected giving a blessing. It is so unordinary; the text records it twice (in case you missed it). What else is notable is how Jacob presents himself to Pharaoh as a man with nothing to give—he just talks about his age. Yet the Bible says Jacob blessed Pharaoh. What did he have to bless Pharaoh for? How about a place to stay—a place prepared by God, having sent Joseph ahead (see 45:8). Imagine, the godly passing along an acknowledgment the ungodly are being used by God, whether they like it or not. Jacob was dispensing to Pharaoh what He had received from God as he could give nothing of himself. And in whose name was Jacob giving a blessing since he could not do so of himself, but God! I don’t think Pharaoh could say much in response—just sit there thinking, “I’ve just received something wonderful from this loathsome outcast . . .”

Isn’t this how it is when we walk our walk out in this world? Believe me, there are times when the ungodly rub me the wrong way—I mean, they really go out of their way to show me how much they hate me and I find myself wanting to “bless” them right back in the language only they can understand . . . but what does that do to the testimony of what God is doing? All harm. If I do that, they can sit back and say, “See what kind of fake you are.” How do they know?

[i]Spurgeon, C. H. Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, May 12 PM. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

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