Matins Devotion: March 24, 2023
For Jacob, this journey down into Egypt was bittersweet. For over twenty years, he had believed his beloved son Joseph to be dead—and now he would get the chance to not only see Joseph again, but he would even live long enough to bless two of Joseph’s sons—Ephraim and Manasseh. But Jacob was an old man—with all the challenges that accompany old age. We hear Jacob tell Pharaoh that his 130 years of sojourning have been “few and evil.” No doubt, Jacob is recalling the treachery that he showed to his own brother—the lies that he told to his own father—and the many years spent looking over his shoulder as he fled from the fallout. Or, perhaps Jacob is lamenting his own failures as a husband and a father—perhaps recalling his inexcusable neglect of his wife Leah or even the later trouble that his sons caused when he neglected to protect the honor of his only daughter, Dinah.
You see, like many of us, Jacob’s life bore the scars of sin. The deep wrinkles in his aged face told the story of sleepless nights, heartache, anxiety, guilt, and sorrow. His strained relationships with his own flesh and blood make every interaction with his large family complicated—a mixture of joy and pain—a strange soup made up of both fatherly pride and fatherly shame.
And yet, though on a human level to Jacob these years seemed “few and evil,” the presence of God never leaves him and the promises of God never fail him. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt” the Lord tells Jacob in a dream. “I myself will go down with you…and I will also bring you up again.”
How sweet these promises must have been to Jacob’s ears. Though he was temporarily leaving the land of promise, there was no place that he could go where he would find himself cut off from the presence of the promise-maker. The Lord would go with him and the Lord would bring him up again. Though Jacob no doubt knew that he would draw his final breath in Egypt, he took comfort in knowing that not even death can thwart the presence and the promise of the Lord. As a testimony to his faith, Jacob makes Joseph swear to bring his bones back to the land of Canaan because he knew that, one day, the Lord would breath life back into those dry bones and cause them to live again. Though his days on earth had been “few and evil,” he trusted the Lord’s promise to bring him up again out of the grave into the age of eternal blessing that he had sworn to give his grandfather Abraham and to his father Isaac and also to him.
God’s promise to be present with his people and to bring them back up doesn’t end with Jacob. Rather, it finds its fulfillment in Christ. The son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who redeemed their “few and evil” days by spilling his holy and precious blood and who God raised up from the grave to show up that he would not leave our dry bones to decay into dust but would, one day, by the power of his word speak the command that will cause those bones to live again and enter an age of eternal life lived in his presence.
Though our days of sojourning here in this world may also appear to be “few and evil,” and even if your journey should at last lead your body to lie in the grave—rest assured that even there—the Lord himself will be with you…and on the Last Day he will also bring you up again.