Have you ever been so paralyzed by fear or doubt? Have you ever taken a step of faith and then faltered, questioning if it was the right move? Maybe excitement propelled you forward at first, but now in the thick of it, you feel as though your judgement may have been clouded? Do you keep going or turn back?
These questions are all too familiar to me. I desire so much to do God’s will, but the steps of faith seem like they take so much effort. Is there a way to cut down on that? Is there a state of being that is so sure of God’s will that my time isn’t spent in prayer, but action?
I wrestled with these questions while reading this passage about Jacob traveling down to Egypt. With the help of authors, Oswald Chambers, Jeremiah, and David, I think I came to a good conclusion.
S – Scripture: Genesis 46-47
- 46:2-4 – “During the night God spoke to him in a vision. ‘Jacob! Jacob!’ he called. ‘Here I am,’ Jacob replied. ‘I am God, the God of your father,’ the voice said. ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family into a great nation. I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. You will die in Egypt, but Joseph will be with you to close your eyes.'”
- 46:29-30 – “Joseph prepared his chariot and traveled to Goshen to meet his father, Jacob. When Joseph arrived, he embraced his father and wept, holding him for a long time. Finally, Jacob said to Joseph, ‘Now I am ready to die, since I have seen your face again and know you are still alive.'”
- 46:36 – Joseph tells his family: “you must tell him, ‘We, your servants, have raised livestock all our lives, as our ancestors have always done.’ When you tell him this, he will let you live here in the region of Goshen, for the Egyptians despise shepherds.”
- 47:5-6 – “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Now that your father and brothers have joined you here, choose any place in the entire land of Egypt for them to live. Give them the best land of Egypt. Let them live in the region of Goshen. And if any of them have special skills, put them in charge of my livestock, too.'”
- 47:17 – “So they brought their livestock to Joseph in exchange for food. In exchange for their horses, flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and donkeys, Joseph provided them with food for another year.”
- 47:20-21 – “So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh. All the Egyptians sold him their fields because the famine was so severe, and soon all the land belonged to Pharaoh. As for the people, he made them all slaves, from one end of Egypt to the other.”
- 47:27 – “Meanwhile, the people of Israel settled in the region of Goshen in Egypt. There they acquired property, and they were fruitful, and their population grew rapidly.”
O – Observation:
- God knows our fears and worries even though we may not outwardly share them. He meets us where we are at and can encourage us to move forward.
- God confirms his covenant with Jacob, promising to carry on the family line while in Egypt. Maybe he feared that moving away from the land that God had promised his family would be the end of the covenant. Maybe he was worried that he was making a poor decision that would ruin it all.
- The promise of seeing Joseph again reassures Jacob to continue to Egypt.
- Joseph and Jacob are reunited and it is a beautiful moment.
- Jacob’s fears may have had some validity: Egyptians hate shepherds, which is what his whole family was. Joseph chose their words to describe their occupation carefully.
- Pharaoh welcomed them with open arms and gave Joseph’s family the best land. He even offered to hire the expert shepherd’s for his own livestock. This could be a good example of God going ahead of Jacob and preparing all that needed to happen for a smooth transition.
- The people of Egypt gave up all of their money, livestock, land, and freedom in order to survive. These were desperate times. But the people of Israel flourished and multiplied.
- God can bring life and joy during seasons of famine.
A – Application:
“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” Oswald Chambers
Jacob was being led away from the land promised to his fathers and to his descendants. It was a big move to take 70 plus people to Egypt, a land that despised their very occupation and heritage. Is God keeping his promise? Is he forsaking us? Am I going to be the one who screws all of this up?
But Joseph. He is there! He is alive! There is hope!
I think God is calling us there, but what if he isn’t? What if this is a trap?
Maybe it’s just me, but this commentary is similar to the times when God has called me to do questionable things, big and small. Is it really his will? Is this right? Am I making the best decision? What if it is wrong? What if I’m supposed to stay right where I’m at? It seems like a good idea, but I just can’t be sure. Things are okay, even good here. Ugh, I don’t know!
God, just tell me exactly what to do. Make each and every step known so I don’t screw this up or waste time, I pray!
But God calls us not to focus so much on the direction, but the Director. My prayers for understanding God’s will, change.
“Whenever the insistence is on the point that God answers prayer, we are off the track. The meaning of prayer is that we get hold of God, not of the answer.” Oswald Chambers
This quote sets me straight. The answer to my prayers of worry, anxiety, or fear need not be about getting rid of life’s circumstances and tough decisions. It’s an opportunity to see and feel all of who God is in those moments of greatest need. When my vision is focused upward on him, and he shows me all that he can do and be, my circumstances are no longer impossible. My uncertain direction is no longer an object of fear, but of faith. My mind is now in tune with God. I have surrendered to the point of following him wherever he calls me because my trust is in the right place.
My actions no longer need to be calculated by my own strength, ability, and power. The God that I love and serve is in control and builds me up to take on whatever I need to. God is my answer and that is all I need. When I change my way of thinking to this, I can take that step in full assurance that God is protecting me and guiding me.
“To be so much in contact with God that you never need to ask Him to show you His will, is to be nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you are rightly related to God, it is a life of freedom and liberty and delight, you are God’s will, and all your commonsense decisions are His will for you unless He checks. You decide things in perfect delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will always check; when He checks, stop at once.” Oswald Chambers
This, my friends, is my goal! I long so much to be in a place where no matter how big or small a decision is, I am so connected to God that I can step forward without any doubt. I don’t have to spend time praying to make sure it’s God’s will, I can confidently say yes or no. I can stay or go immediately.
Jacob had to overcome fear and doubt along the journey. Even strong faith can have a wavering moment. But God is gracious and encourages us when we need it.
“Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.”
God kept his promise. When Jacob gets to Egypt, he and his family are fitted with the best land. Where Hebrews and Shepherds are despised, Jacob’s family is honored. They thrive in a land that is in a severe famine. What a fitting set of verses for Jacob, a shepherd, found in Psalms.
And for us too. God’s protection, guidance, favor, comfort, and blessings pour out when we put our full trust in him. Even in, or especially in, those seasons or areas of our lives we feel are in a famine. When we set our gaze, not on our circumstances, but on the most powerful God who can do the impossible with incapable, but willing people.
“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
P – Prayer:
God, you are so good. Help me to dig deeper into who you are, so when trials come, my focus remains on your strength and not my own. Build up in me such a strong faith that I become your will. That every move I make is in perfect step with yours because we know each other so well. I long to know you more. And I long to do your will.
God, keep those that are in fear or doubt close. Give them the encouragement and hope they need to take that next step. Don’t let them be paralyzed and miss out on the great blessings that you give. You are so gracious and love us so much. Thank you. Amen.