Have you ever walked into a room and have everyone shout – ‘Surprise!’? It’s especially exciting when it actually is a surprise or something so good happens that you can hardly believe it. Abraham and Sarah named their baby boy ‘Isaac’ which means “laughter.” Sometimes God is so good to us that it causes us to laugh.
There is a day coming for every believer when they will be overwhelmed with the goodness of God.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
One day all of God’s children are going to hear the sound of a trumpet and a voice from heaven which calls us home. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we are going to be snatched away from this old world and caught up into the presence of our Savior. What a day, glorious day that will be.
A wonderful picture of the goodness of God is found in the story of Joseph and him being reunited with his father. Let’s turn once again this morning to the book of Genesis and read about Joseph’s reunion with Jacob.
I. What the Story Tells Us
A. Joseph Reveals Himself to His Brothers
Last week we saw how after twenty years, Joseph and his brothers were reunited. A great famine hit the land the brothers of Joseph were forced to come to Egypt to buy food. Never in their wildest dreams would they have ever imagined that the one who would sell them the grain would be Joseph. As far as they knew Joseph might be dead or at least a million miles away. Yet the Lord led them to come face to face with Joseph.
1. I Am Joseph
Genesis 45:1 Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren. 2 And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. 3 And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence. 4 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.
As Joseph began to reveal his identity to his brothers, he was overwhelmed with emotions. He wept so loud that the Egyptians n Pharaoh’s house could hear him. What do you suppose were the emotions Joseph’s brothers felt? I am sure that they were surprised. Perhaps they also felt a sense of fear. We have learned that on the day they sold Joseph, he cried out to them for mercy; yet none of them showed him mercy. Perhaps they even mocked him. Now they were standing face to face with him again and this time he was a high-ranking Egyptian ruler. What would happen to them? Would Joseph retaliate?
2. God Sent Me
It was a shock to discover that Joseph was alive. It was perhaps an even greater shock to realize that he wasn’t going to get revenge.
Genesis 45:5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
What a surprise it must have been to hear these words from Joseph. They expected to hear angry words. They expected to hear words of revenge and retaliation. They never expected to hear words of kindness and forgiveness. Though they had meant what they did for evil, God had meant it for good. God has sent Joseph into Egypt to preserve their lives.
What a wonderful picture this is of the grace of God. The Bible says that all we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way. Sin made us the enemies of God. Yet the Bible tells us this about God –
Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (NKJV)
God, who is rich in mercy and love, has made a way for us to not only be forgiven, but to be seated with Him in the heavenly places. We know these truths today, but what a surprise it will be one day when all of this actually comes to pass.
B. Joseph Sends For His Father, Jacob
Genesis 45:9 Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not: 10 And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast:
1. Go Tell My Father
It had been over twenty years since Jacob and Joseph had last seen each other. These twenty years had been filled sadness and sorrow. Perhaps at times Joseph had all but given up hope of ever seeing his father again.
Now that there was the hope that the two of them could reunited and therefore we can imagine how eager Joseph was for his brothers to go and tell his father the good news. Joseph is alive. Joseph is ok. Joseph is a ruler in Egypt!
2. Go Get My Father
The famine had already been for two years and there would be five more. Joseph therefore encouraged his brothers to go and get their father and to bring him and all of their families to Egypt. They would live in the land of Goshen. Goshen was a delta region located in the northern part of Egypt. Since the creation of time the Nile had deposited its minerals in the land of Goshen, therefore it was some of the most fertile land the Egyptians had to offer.
Genesis 45:25 And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father, 26 And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob’s heart fainted, for he believed them not. 27 And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived: 28 And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.
Jacob could not believe his ears. Could it be true? Could Joseph actually be alive? Scripture says that his heart fainted. The news that Joseph was alive almost caused him to have a heart-attack. Finally when he saw the wagons Joseph had sent to carry him, he believed them.
3. Go Get My Children
I remember a dream I had many years ago. It was early one morning and a friend and I were jogging along a road. Suddenly my friend cried out – “There comes Jesus!” I didn’t see the Lord in my dream, but the feeling of rising up through the sky to heaven was so exciting that it caused me to awaken. The thought that Joseph could be alive was so thrilling that it almost overwhelmed Jacob. I believe that what we will experience in the rapture will be even greater. Suddenly all of the problems of life will be over. As the song says –
What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.
C. Jacob Journeys to Egypt
Genesis 46:1 And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.
1. Jacob Offered Sacrifices at Beersheba
So much was happening in Jacob’s life that it was hard for him to handle. After twenty years of mourning, he was now told that Joseph was alive. It would be hard for him to fully believe this until he actually saw his son. In addition, all of his belongings had been packed up into a wagon and he was moving to Egypt. Jacob was 130 years old. Such a move would be hard for anyone, much more so for someone so elderly. Mingled in with all the excitement was a sense of fear.
When Jacob arrived at Beersheba, he paused to offer up sacrifices to God. Beersheba had been the place of his childhood home. So much had happened in his life over the past 100 plus years. God had been good to him. To cap it all off, Joseph was alive! In response to all that was happening, Jacob did what so many of us would do. He got alone with God.
2. God Appeared to Jacob
2 And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. 3 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: 4 I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.
The Lord called his name twice. ‘Jacob, Jacob’. There are at least seven times in scripture when the Lord repeated someone’s name twice. Each time it meant that He had a very important message for them. When God calls our name He has something very important to say to us. Like Jacob, our response should be – “Here am I.” Like the boy Samuel we should say – “Speak Lord, thy servant heareth.” Like Saul we should ask – “What wilt thou have me to do?”
God said to Jacob – ‘I am God.’ ‘Fear not, for I will go with thee and I will bless thee.’
3. Jacob Arrives in Egypt
Genesis 46:5 And Jacob rose up from Beersheba: and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6 And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him: 7 His sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.
26 All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six; 27 And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.
God had a very special reason for taking Jacob down into Egypt. It would be in Egypt that God would build the nation of Israel. When Jacob first arrived in Egypt, his family consisted of seventy people. 400 hundred yrs later, when they would leave with Moses, they would be a nation of over 2 million people.
D. Jacob and Joseph are Reunited
Genesis 46:28 And he sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. 29 And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. 30 And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.
You can imagine how excited Joseph must have been to see his father. Scripture says that Joseph made himself ready to present himself. No doubt he put on his best Egyptian garments and rode in the finest of his chariots. Like any child, he wanted his father’s approval and so Joseph did everything he could to please Jacob. But when he arrived, all of the pomp and circumstance was gone and he two embraced and wept.
As I read this I think about the reunion many of us will have one day in heaven. Scripture says that we will be – ‘caught up together in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.’ There are many grand reunions and homecomings here on earth, but nothing of what it will be like in heaven.
E. Jacob Meets Pharaoh
Then Joseph took his father to meet Pharaoh.
Genesis 47:7 And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. 8 And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou? 9 And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. 10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.
1. Few have the days of my life been
The Bible says that our life is but a vapor. It is like the grass of the field that is here today and gone tomorrow. Jacob was 130 years old at this time. Not a few days in our terms, yet few in comparison to many of his ancestors. Even more so, Jacob’s days had been few in comparison to eternity. Jacob knew that he was nearing the end of his life.
2. Evil have the days of my life been
Jacob said that his days had been ‘evil’, not in the sense wickedness, but evil in the sense of pain and sorrow. “Difficult have been my days”, Jacob was saying. We might blame much of Jacob’s trouble on his own doings. Yet Job said: ‘Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.’ (Job 14:1) Jesus said that it rains upon the just as well as upon the unjust.
3. The Days of My Pilgrimage
Jacob referred to his life as a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a journey someone takes to a special place. Often the journey is in a foreign land. Jacob considered his life as a pilgrimage. He had been a sojourner in life.
Scripture says of the patriarchs –
Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
The people of faith found in the Bible often considered themselves to be pilgrims on this earth. In their eyes they were strangers in the land they were living. They were pilgrims and strangers not only because many of lived in tents, but because they were men and women who were in pursuit of a better country; a better place; a heavenly place; a city whose builder and maker is God. They were homesick for a place they had never been. They were longing for Beulah Land.
The Bible says of such people – ‘Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.’ God is not embarrassed to be called the God of those who are longing for heaven. Jesus taught His disciples to pray – ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Every believer should live with a longing for God’s kingdom and God’s rule.
Concerning this Charles Spurgeon said –
“If a man believes in God, trusts Him,— believes that His promise is true, and that He will keep it,— believes that God’s command is right, and therefore ought to be obeyed,— God is never ashamed to be called that man’s God. He is not the God of unbelievers, for they act contrary to His will. They set up their own will in opposition to his; many of them even doubt his existence, they deny his power, they distrust his love; wherefore, he is not called their God; but when a man comes to trust God, and to accept his Word, from that moment God sees in that man the work of his grace, which is very precious in his eyes, and he is not ashamed to be called that man’s God.”
II. What This Story Means to Us
Life is a Journey. It is a pilgrimage. Often our days seem brief and full of trouble. Yet the story of Joseph and Jacob teach us that God is always with us, working in our behalf.
A. The Lord Was Always With Jacob
Even though Jacob could not always see God in his life, God was always there. From the cradle to the grave, the grace of God sustained Jacob through every trial and in the end he experienced more than he could have ever imagined.
B. The Lord is Always With Us
Our life is often full of trouble. Yet the Lord has promised us His grace which will always be sufficient. God is always watching over us and He is always guiding us. One of my favorite portions of scripture comes from the book of Psalms –
Psalm 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD; and he delighteth in his way. 24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. 25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
Spurgeon writes – “No reckless fate, no fickle chance rules us; our every step is the subject of divine decree.”
Does that mean that the good man will never struggle? No, he may indeed struggle and he may at times stumble; yet he will never be cast down to the ground. Why is this so? The Lord upholds His children with His own hand. The very steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.
One day, when we see Jesus, we will better understand why the Lord has allowed what He has allowed and done what He has done. For now much of it may not make sense, yet the story of men like Joseph and Jacob teaches us that God is always in control and that He is always working in our behalf. Who knows, just around the corner may be your next – Surprise!