One of the most touching Bible accounts about family transition is found in the latter part of Genesis which deals with Jacob and his children. Although a beautiful story, yet life was difficult, and there were many twists and turns in the road. But from one generation to the next, the plot deals with the connection between fathers and their children.
By the time we get to chapter 46, the old man is living alone in Canaan because his sons have gone to Egypt to get help during a horrible famine. While the boys are away, God begins speaking to Jacob (who is now named Israel because of a personal transformation in his life). Please allow me to share part of the story with you.
Gen. 46:1-5 “And Israel took his journey with all that he had (the last move of his life), and came to Beersheba (This was a family well that his grandfather Abraham had dug, the same well that his father Isaac later re-dug, and now Jacob has returned to the place of his ancestral roots), and he offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac. 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. 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.”
There is a line in the previous passage that I want you to read again, “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.”
Our culture often focuses on what children need from their fathers, but too many times we forget what Dads need from their kids. At the end of his life, Jacob was looking for assurance, and God made him three promises....
1. I will go down with you into Egypt. 2. After you’ve died, I will not leave you among strangers, but I will bring you back home to be with your fathers. 3. Your son Joseph will be the one who closes your eyes for the last time.
Although the sons were now grown with families of their own, God was sending Jacob to Egypt on a special mission at the end of his life. Regardless of all the ups and downs the family had faced while living in Canaan, there was something the old man needed. He needed to know that it would be his son’s hands that closed his eyes in death. You see, in a strange sort of way, the son had now become the father by doing something for Jacob that he could no longer do for himself. It was a simple act that didn’t cost any money and didn’t take much time, but Jacob’s life wouldn’t be complete without his sons’ help.
Having reconnected with his family in Egypt, the moment came to face the inevitable... Genesis 49:29-50:1, 12, 14 “And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite... 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife (Jacob’s grandparents); there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife (Jacob’s parents); and there Jacob buried Leah... 33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people. 50:1 And Joseph fell upon his father’s face, and wept upon him, and kissed him. 12 And his sons did unto him according as he commanded them: 14 And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brethren... after they had buried their father.”
According to Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” God provides a time for all things. Our challenge is to see and make use of the opportunity that God allows before the moment passes. In Psalms 90:12-17, King David prayed a most beautiful prayer in which he asked God to help him number his days, to help him keep track of the opportunities that came his way, “Teach us to realize the shortness of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. 14 Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our days. 15 Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. 16 Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory. 17 And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!”
In John 14:4-8, I would like to leave you with a conversation that Jesus had with His disciples about the connection between a father and his son... “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.... 5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?..... 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. 7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him..... 8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. 9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.....”
When my children were old enough to understand, I tried to impart a little fatherly wisdom that I learned from my father.... This is what I told them: “Kids... watch my life and learn from it in order to chart your own course. Copy the characteristics you see in my life that have value, but the other traits you see that have no worth, avoid those things and do not repeat them. In everything I do, good or bad... learn from them in order to make a way for yourselves as my children.”
If we have accepted God’s Son as our personal Savior for the forgiveness of our sin, then we are truly sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father... through good times and bad, through happy and sad, from beginning to end... because Jesus lives, we will see Him and be with Him again!