When we approach the climax of Joseph’s story in Genesis 45, we often focus on the reunion between Joseph and his brothers. Yet, I realised that we can learn much from Jacob’s experience also.
Jacob favoured Joseph, the elder son of his favoured wife. All that fancy coat and tolerating of fancy dreams led to nothing because he prematurely lost Joseph, his favoured son, to the claws and jaws of wild beasts (his own understanding of what happened).
Then the great famine happened, and he is forced to part with all his other sons who had trooped down to procure food. In order to retain some sort of control, he asks Benjamin to remain behind. By this time, Benjamin is not some toddler requiring parental guidance. If seven bountiful and seven lean years have passed, Benjamin must at least be a teenager if not a young adult. In other words, Jacob wanted Benjamin as insurance for himself, not exactly because he wanted to ensure Benjamin’s safety.
As the drama continued, Jacob is forced to give up his insurance to be an insurance for sustenance. Do you want your son or do you want to live? In doing so, Jacob gave up everything. He no longer had the pastoral empire he had so cleverly built up under his uncle Laban’s nose, he lost his favourite wife, his favourite son, all his other sons and now even his next-to-favourite son.
Having had his hand forced into a posture of surrender, after losing everything, he gains back all he lost and more. He not only got what he wanted (food), his fears turned out to be unfounded (his sons were unharmed) and his extinguished hope is rekindled into an explosion of joyful reunion as he realises that Joseph is still alive!
Jacob spent a lifetime wrestling for control over his life – wresting payment from his deceitful uncle, wringing his hands over a tragedy he was unable to do anything about, withholding his last security from a transaction he desperately needed to be successful. When he finally surrendered (perhaps out of self-preservation, but remember how lowly he became), he could enjoy rest in the company of his family in royal patronage. That last bit, he certainly could never have imagined in all of his ambitious plans from youth.
It is no wonder that at the end of Jacob’s life, as his family settled in Egypt as shepherds, he acknowledged that he is merely a sheep who needed God, one “who has been my shepherd, all my life to this day” (Genesis 48:15).
*praise God for letting me see explore this side of what is otherwise a familiar story, amazingly through reading a children’s Bible to Andrew. as someone who wrestles with God over control of life, this will always be a reminder to trust in God always and not lean on my own understanding.