To be convinced to go to Egypt, Jacob had to discern the providence that brought Joseph to power. Today, we have a better guide for discerning God’s will: the complete Word of God.
“Israel said, ‘It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die’” - Genesis 45:25–28.
Scripture depicts God taking dramatic steps to reveal the path His people ought to take. This is evident in the life of Joseph who was brought into authority over Egypt through unexpected and miraculous measures. Despite the efforts of his brothers (Gen. 37:12–36), Potiphar’s wife, and others (chap. 39), Joseph’s dreams did come true, indicating divine superintendence of his life (37:5–11; 44:14).
All of this was done to save many lives (45:7) and convince Jacob and his sons to move to Egypt. Jacob grew up hearing of the great meetings his fathers had with the Lord wherein He repeatedly stressed that Canaan would be the inheritance of His chosen people (12:1–9; 15:17–21; 17:1–8; 26:1–5). Of course, God also told Jacob the very same thing (28:10–17; 35:9–15).
Consequently, it would be hard for him to believe it was God’s will for him to leave Canaan and dwell in the land of the Nile, even if the Lord alluded to this when He spoke to Abraham (Gen. 15:12–16). The proof of divine providence in Joseph’s life showed his father that he was God’s man and that his kin must therefore obey his instructions to come to Egypt (45:4–15).
Living in the land of the Nile was advantageous because it led to the revelation of the Lord’s glory in the exodus (Ex. 6:6–8) and enabled Jacob’s family to multiply and maintain its distinct identity. Assimilation was an ever-present danger in Canaan (Gen. 34), but the opportunity to join with the surrounding pagans was lessened once the family became an alien sub-culture in Egypt (46:28–34).
Jacob cannot believe that Joseph is still alive at first, but soon he is convinced (45:25–27). Note how Moses tells us that Jacob’s spirit was revived once he believed the report of his sons in verse 27. Indeed, this is good news, for the spirit is viewed in Scripture as the source of life. Jacob has lived as a dead man for decades, but knowing that Joseph is alive brings him back to life.
To be convinced to go to Egypt, Jacob had to discern the providence that brought Joseph to power. Today, we have a better guide for discerning God’s will than Jacob did — the complete Word of God — by which we are to interpret reality.
It is not uncommon to hear people say that they wished they lived during biblical times. Many think that seeing the same mighty acts the saints of old saw would enable them to have stronger faith in the Lord. But we live in a far better situation than the heroes of biblical history did. We have the full canon of Scripture in our possession, a treasure most of them lacked. This inerrant and infallible Word is our most trustworthy guide, and we must not fail to study it.
Passages for Further Study
- Deut. 8:3
- Ps. 73:24
- Isa. 40:8
- 2 Peter 1:16–21