“And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:”
Genesis 46:3 KJV
To whom was God speaking “fear not” too? Genesis 46:3 is not the only time we see this verse or section of verses in Genesis directed to the same person. It was Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, who would hear it three times: once when he was younger — Genesis 28:10-16; once in middle age where he dreams of a ladder that extends to heaven where angels were ascending and descending upon it and where Jacob wrestled with God till morning found in Genesis 32; and the third time was when Jacob was too old and decrepit to make the journey to Egypt found in Genesis 45:27 through 46:7. Yet, it was actually a big deal to move his home to Egypt. Jacob was probably thinking that he would see him once before he takes a long dirt nap before returning to his home in Canaan. But Jacob wanted to see his son, Joseph, one last time, whom his brothers lied about when they were recounting the story to their father Israel several years ago. Joseph was now second to the throne in Egypt, and Israel must have received some comfort from God telling him to “fear not” to make his new home in Egypt.
What did Israel, have to fear about Egypt? Well, remember Isaac, his dad? Isaac was told not to go down to Egypt by the Lord (click on * Genesis 26:12). Even though there is no proof in the Bible; I would contend that his wife, Rebekah and his twin sons, Esau and Jacob, were told many times of that time the LORD appeared to Isaac. Not only that he saw the Lord, it’s that He told Isaac to stay out of Egypt and stay in Gerar, which is borderland of Canaan. Furthermore, I would be shocked if Isaac didn’t tell Rebekah and their twin sons at least once or twice. I don’t think that is something to keep to yourself, and probably, Isaac told anyone who was abiding in his farmland, right down to men and women maidservants.
How would you like to move to a different place when you are getting up in years? It takes a lot of planning, and your body doesn’t act the same way as it did when you were twenty or thirty. Well, I am going to say one thing about this issue — my mother-in-law expects to die in the same house that my wife was reared in. However, there are some instances where moving fits your need when you are older i.e. my grandparents wanted a simpler life so they moved from there modular home with plenty of acreage to a simple apartment for seniors. The reasons are wide and varied.
Yet, this third and final time that God sought out Jacob (Israel) in the book of Genesis to confirm that his seed would be blessed, I would just like to count just how many times the Lord promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: three times for Abraham (click on* Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 17:1-8, Genesis 17:19-21; once for Isaac (click on* Genesis 26:2-6); and three times for Jacob: (click on* Genesis 28:1-6; Genesis 35:10; Genesis 46:1-7). If you count them all up, it would be seven times in three generations. I am always fascinated by numbers as God has made me that way through His Word.
Now for some personal application: One will say that God doesn’t speak through dreams anymore. Well, I have a problem with that, since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And although the Bible doesn’t tell the age of Jacob when he had this dream of the ladder and wrestling with God, I was on the cusp of my eighteenth birthday, ready to graduate high school with honors, my college plans to be a youth pastor all set, and then I had this dream on the night of May 19th, 1989 (six years later, I married my still beautiful wife). Now, I want to put this in to context— when I was younger I dreamed several dreams which I counted as déjà vu when some of the dreams came to life. However, this dream of where I was in the hospital, I didn’t want this one to be true. Yet, it was. Most of my eighteenth summer through mid-fall, I spent in two hospitals: 1) in a general hospital suffering from a month-long coma, 2) in a rehabilitation hospital/facility.
Nearing the end of my out-patient activities in the rehabilitation hospital, I passed this doctor going to our respective places. I thought I would ask him if there was any hope for me to shake off this expressive aphasia. He said it almost nonchalantly as he said the expressive aphasia doesn’t go away. That answer frustrated me even more as I already noticed that I talk slower than most people. For me to prove I wasn’t unintelligent after the accident was important to me. Taking a year off from my undergraduate degree, I enrolled in the masters program of a Springfield College campus in Manchester, NH. Now, I have a master’s of science in human services. However, I count that all as dung for others to experience the saving gift of Jesus Christ (click on* Philippians 3:8) which says:
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,”
Back to the story of Jacob and his wrestling match with God. In “Man Enough” by Nate Pyle, he suggests that God and Jacob wrestling was like that of a father and a son playfully wrestling. They both know who will come out on top, and God leaves him a reminder of that by dislocating his hip because Jacob wouldn’t let go. Then we come upon Genesis 35:10-12 where God had to remind Jacob of His promise that his descendants would be so many that it would defy imagination.
Through a series of life events of Israel, in which ten sons lied about the favored son (Joseph), they had to lie about what happened to their younger brother. It turns out that all ten brothers made up some fabricated story, and they came up with a good one. They would tell their father that he encountered a fierce animal and all that was left were remnants of the blood soaked colorful coat that they dipped in blood to make it look convincing. However, when the brothers went down to Egypt for some corn, they encountered Joseph as the second in command over all Egypt. The rest of the brothers except Simeon went back to get Benjamin. After they returned to Joseph’s abode and were all reunited, then Joseph sent for his father and all that he had to come down to Egypt.
On their way to Egypt, Israel and his household stopped at Beersheba to offer sacrifices “unto the God of his father Isaac.” It’s my contention that when Israel stopped to do this, he was making one last sacrifice to God because he was fearing of what would behold him because of what his father warned him about, not to go down there. Yet, God appeared unto Israel again, telling him the exact opposite of what He told his father — “. . . fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will make of you a great nation. I will go down with thee into Egypt . . .” (click on* Genesis 46:3b-4a).
However, let’s go back to the couple of incidents which defined the relationship between Esau and Jacob and established Jacob over Esau. The first incident we are told of in the Bible is that of Esau giving away his birthright over some red pottage and lentils. One could say that Esau didn’t take it seriously as he was giving away his birthright, and he gave away his birthright in jest. I don’t know what the intricacies of that episode was. But, in the Old Testament, birthrights were a big deal. We don’t understand the concept of birthrights since birthrights are the thing of the past, especially in American culture. Yet, to take away someone’s birthright was crucial in those days. Esau must have been so famished that he was willing to give up something precious, his birthright. Now, let us bring it into modern times.
Say you owned a multi-billion dollar corporation and your little brother was a great cook aspiring to be the next Emrald Lagassie. One day, you came in from hunting and you hadn’t anything to eat all day and you knew that your younger brother was trying to improve his cooking skills with fresh stew just wafting through the air at home. Next you find yourself giving away your multi-billion dollar business for some stew. I really don’t think that the transaction was all cut and dry as we are told. I believe that Esau was so hungry that he would do anything for food, including giving away his birthright. But do I actually think he meant it. No, I don’t. However, over the years, I believe that Jacob won out over Esau as Rebekah, their mother, as she received a proclamation from the LORD as (click on) Genesis 25:23.
It turns out that Esau traded his birthright for some “red pottage” that his brother made. What exactly is birthright in Biblical days? According to BibleStudyTools.com, it says that the birthright means one has favor and status above the other children, and it’s meaning is this:
Birthright — This word denotes the special privileges and advantages belonging to the first-born son among the Jews. He became the priest of the family. Thus Reuben was the first-born of the patriarchs, and so the priesthood of the tribes belonged to him. That honour was, however, transferred by God from Reuben to Levi ( click on* Numbers 3:12; Numbers 3:13 ; 8:18 ). The first-born son had allotted to him also a double portion of the paternal inheritance ( click on* Deuteronomy 21:15-17 ). Reuben was, because of his undutiful conduct, deprived of his birth-right ( click on* Genesis 49:4 ; 1 Chronicles 5:1 ). Esau transferred his birth-right to Jacob ( click on* Genesis 25:33 ). The first-born inherited the judicial authority of his father, whatever it might be (click on* 2 Chronicles 21:3 ). By divine appointment, however, David excluded Adonijah in favour of Solomon. The Jews attached a sacred importance to the rank of “first-born” and “first-begotten” as applied to the Messiah ( click on* Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 1:4-6 ). As first-born he has an inheritance superior to his brethren, and is the alone true priest.
Maybe Rebekah told Isaac after she had received that proclamation from the Lord in Genesis 25:23? Yet, from the way the King James has it, I believe she kept what the Lord said to herself, as one sees what happens to the blessing.
“Ok. What’s the big deal about a “blessing” anyway?” one might be thinking. According to (click on) BibleStudyTools.com:
First, a blessing was a public declaration of a favored status with God. Second, the blessing endowed power for prosperity and success. In all cases, the blessing served as a guide and motivation to pursue a course of life within the blessing.
Jacob, finally, receives the blessing leaving Esau with little else. Then, Rebekah overhears Esau planing to kill Jacob after their father dies. Like a good mother, she doesn’t want any more bloodshed, so she tells Jacob to hightail it out of there to her brother, Laban; thus, she sends Jacob away to her brother Laban’s household. Yet, Jacob’s uncle was just as shifty as all outdoors as he would soon find out. Although, I wonder what was said by Rebekah to explain Jacob’s absence.
We are not for sure how much time it took for Jacob to get to Laban’s house or the fact he falls in love with Rachel. As the Bible states, she was extremely fair; thus, Jacob agrees to work seven years for Rachael. However, when the seven years were up, his uncle Laban pulls a fast one on him and gives Jacob his eldest daughter, Leah. Wait a minute! This sounds too outrageous! And it is. Sounds like our current society, doesn’t it? But wait it gets better.
Well, unlike his father who had intercourse with one woman, Jacob had thirteen children through four wives even though it was legal. Leah had six children: Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon, and Dinah – the only daughter born to Jacob; born to Leah’s handmaiden, Zilpah: Gad, Asher; Rachel: Joseph, Benjamin; and Rachel’s handmaiden, Bilhah: Dan, Naphtali. All the while, Jacob had to deal with his Uncle Laban who chased Jacob’s whole entourage. It must have been a hectic time involving Jacob’s family. Yet, we are free from any of this going on, in today’s society and culture since we are so advanced from Biblical times, right?
Again, Abraham and Sarah only had Isaac; Isaac and Rebekah only had Esau and Jacob; yet, Esau had a dirty trick pulled on him by the likes of his mother (Rebekah) to transfer his blessing over to Jacob, and Jacob was secure he had the the “blessing” from his father, ran off to Laban’s household. Then, Jacob has a dirty trick pulled on him, and his Uncle Laban received fourteen years of work in exchange for his daughters. In turn, Jacob had thirteen children (twelve sons and 1 daughter, Dinah).
He had more children than his grandfather or his dad had, it is not enough to make a great nation like the Lord promised on three different occasions. Although thirteen is plenty of children for the household in my estimation, this problem must have been weighing on his mind as, “God promised me that God would make my descendants into a great nation. Thirteen does not equal a great nation.” Yet, as he pondered this and his was health started to deteriorate, he has faith as God speaks:
“And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:”
Genesis 46:2-3 KJV
Yet Jacob was considered one of the patriarchs? Esau was not. He was too busy going out hunting rather than take what the Lord had to say more seriously and believing it; That is the definition of faith. To put it more in simpler terms: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1. I think that’s why God hated Esau (click on * Malachi 1:3). I was always troubled by this verse, until I realized that it was a matter of faith. God hated Esau because he didn’t have any faith. He found better stuff to do. How tragic!
“Fear not,” whether you have faith or not, it will happen. However, it would be better if you have faith as Jacob did and Esau didn’t. Remember, God isn’t limited by our timeline. One may suffer extensively, especially if you’re a Christian submitting to the will of God. Personal example: Going way back to when I was a young teenager, I received a call from the Lord to preach the whole Word of God. But the devil thought that he would play around with God’s plan. When, at eighteen days after my eighteenth birthday, I suffered a traumatic brain injury in which the devil thought that he had won. Even with expressive aphasia and all-around slowness after the horrific, death defying car accident, I am finally doing what God has called me to do: preach the whole Word of God.
Thank you, Pastor Bennett, for taking a risk with me and letting me preach when you are away and, now, adult Sunday school. Truly, you let the Holy Spirit dictate what you do. Even though satan and his demons are having a field day with my emotions, the Holy Spirit keeps reminding me that I have called you to preach the whole Word of God. However, it isn’t that easy as the devil’s demons are constantly upon me — encouraging me to give up through various means. Yet, the Holy Spirit still will not let me cave. PRAISE GOD! HALLELUJAH! “Fear Not” and rest in God’s assurance!
~ Darren L Beattie, The Soul Blogger of TrueLifeChristianity.com ~