Jacob’s Vision

“And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
‘I am God, the God of your father,’ He said. ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.'” – Genesis 46:2-4 NIV


These verses are filled with the compassion of God. The Lord never shares His thoughts with us without an interest in how we are receiving them. The text refers to the son of Isaac as Israel but God called him “Jacob.” It isn’t the Patriarch, Israel, God is addressing but the frightened servant, Jacob, Isaac’s boy. God is not coming to Jacob in some official capacity as the God of the Patriarchs, Abraham and Isaac. He wants to talk to Isaac’s boy. This might have had particular significance to Jacob. Isaac had died just months before Joseph disappeared![Footnote: In Genesis 45:26, the excitement was too  great for Jacob’s 10 older sons to contain. I doubt they even told the old man, “Dad, you better sit for this one!” Perhaps, they were all wanted to be the sharer of such great news and blurted it out in unison: “Joseph’s alive!!!” When I read that, I almost cried for joy like gramma watching the end of a chick-flick movie.  Jacob went numb. I think he then sat down! Moments later, he was calling them liars because one way or another, then, when they claimed he was torn apart by wolves or now when they claim Joseph is second in command in Egypt, these guys tells stories and their playing games with the old man’s heart!  But this time, it’s true!]

Getting back: Perhaps, Jacob’s spiritual development had more to do with his father than his grandfather. Jacob was only 15 years old when Abraham died. Perhaps, Jacob’s understanding of who God was to him had been weakened by the paganism that surrounded him while he lived near his in-laws. (Remember Rachel stealing the “household gods)? Isaac was still alive most of Jacob’s life. As all this may be, Jacob must have known his dad to be a God fearing, praying man of peace—a dad whose God was well known to Jacob. [Sad when Christians do not realize that the children observe their faith!]

God knows where we have been and how life has challenged our faith. God knows where we are at in our relationship with Him—and where He wants to take us!

Relative distance in years between events starting at 1

Even though Jacob spent 20 years in Padan Aram with his father-in-law, Hebron became home to him in old age and in Hebron he wanted to be buried. Joseph was, himself, born in Jacob’s old age when Jacob was 108 years old. 22 years later Jacob had this vision from “the God of his father.”

As God’s practice appears to be, He called twice [Genesis 22:11; 1 Samuel 3:10]. In Abraham’s case, the patriarch was about to kill Isaac, There is a certain urgency in the angel’s call, “Do the boy no harm!!” Samuel, being a young man, did not recognize God’s voice. [How familiar a scene.] The Lord called him by name twice probably to confirm that it was, indeed, the Lord calling.

And what about Jacob? Why not call him by his God-given name “Israel”? And why twice? God appeared to him “in nightly visions” [most translations use the singular, though the Hebrew is plural]. Was there more than one vision, more than one night! Or is the text simply affirming that this was then how God spoke in those times—in nightly visions. God knew Jacob was afraid, afraid to go down to Egypt, though the old man’s reason was never explained in the text.

What if God told me at my young age of 79 that He was in favor of the mission’s department sending me to central Africa as a missionary. That, He, God, would be with me and would guarantee my return—to bury me back in Massachusetts. And he shared all this in a “night vision” (a dream) while I slept. And what if instead of the emphasis being in His words, it was in the overwhelming sense of peace I sensed in my soul. God’s voice brings peace to any internal storm [Mark 4:39]. And lastly what if  God referred to Himself as the God of someone I highly respected for their faith and faithfulness to the Lord.  God might be saying, “See from his testimony how faithful I have been to him.” Maybe a missionary to Africa whom God used that I, in turn, wanted to emulate.

The part that interested me most was what God said to Jacob, “I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again.” God does not send; He goes with us—especially if we are afraid we might be going alone [Exodus 33:15]. But note the word “surely” in the translation. The grammarians say this construction in the Hebrew “strengthens” the idea. What God told Jacob, He actually repeated, “I will bring you back [home], yes, to bring you home!” The English Standard Version in Isaiah 29:14 translates a similar construction where God speaks in a resolute tone as if with great feeling, as if to turn a promise into an oath, He declared, “wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder….” And where might the emphasis be in God’s tone with Jacob?

Here, with Jacob, the Lord allays the patriarch’s concerns—not only by assuring him of His presence always [Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5] but—by assuring Jacob that everything is going according to plan [Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28]. It is as if God just told Jacob, “I am behind everything happening! Go to Egypt! See your son! I know what I’m doing in your life! Just trust me—can you do that!

Now, I wonder, if after this divine encounter Jacob awoke in the morning, gathered his family about him and with an excited voice and an adventurous heart proclaimed, “Fill the carts with provisions, put the children in them, too; hitch up the donkeys! We’re going to Egypt!!!! I’m gonna see my boy!!

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