Death is the great leveller. Servants and masters, rich and poor, black and white; all are set to die. The principle of Scripture is this: people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Heb. 9:27). According to the thinking of the world death is the end. There is no capacity in the world’s thinking to think rationally and reasonably about death and what is beyond. With no ability to see anything outside and beyond this life, life becomes a meaningless thing. Solomon expresses it like this: I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me (Eccl. 2:18).
However, faith views things completely differently. Jacob in Genesis 47:27-48:22 knew that he was about to die. This is stated in 47:29 and 48:21. And yet after his chequered spiritual career as recorded in Genesis with all its mixture of faith and unbelief; scheming and honesty, misery and delight, he is now full of faith. This is confirmed in the Hebrews 11 that chapter of the heroes of faith, it is this part of Jacob’s life, that is when he is dying, which calls attention to his faith (see Heb. 11:21).
There is now no misery with Jacob. He is not morbidly looking back over lost opportunities and wasted efforts. Rather he is a man looking forward. This is what faith does. Faith looks forward, faith is optimistic. Faith can act this way because God is in the future; He is alive and He is working for the glory of His Name and our benefit. Faith is the most reasonable and sensible response to any crisis in our lives. Let us look, then, at some of the reflections of faith in Jacob.
Faith wants to be connected with God’s place.
The land of Canaan had been promised to Abraham’s descendants by God (see Gen. 15:18). Jacob had hesitated to leave the land until God convinced him in a dream that this was right (see Gen. 46:1-4). But now Jacob was going to make sure that in death his connection was firmly re-established with Canaan and so he asked Joseph to bury him there with his fathers (see Gen. 47:29-30). By application we challenge ourselves as regards to where we desire to be. Do we long to know of our connection with the world or with the church? God’s place on earth today is found wherever His people meet together as “church”. This can be in a building, under a shelter or out in the open.
Jacob got the outcome he wanted. He wanted Joseph to take his remains to Canaan and that is what Joseph promised to do. The worldly way is to say that he was fortunate or lucky to get this commitment out of Joseph. However, faith sees things differently; it appreciates that God is working in this situation. Accordingly, Jacob responds by worshipping the God who is good. Heb. 11:21b records how at this time Jacob worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
Faith appreciates God’s goodness.
The difference between the Christian and non-Christian is very often seen most demonstrably in old age. The non-Christian is inclined towards bitterness. They look back on a life soon gone. Moreover, reduced energy levels and accompanying weakness gives the sense of not being able to enjoy life.
However, the believer has the great privilege of looking back and seeing how good God has been. Accordingly we read of Jacob that he says to Joseph “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me ( Gen. 48:3). Further he says to him in verse 11 “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.” And finally we read of the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day. Are you a believer? Is our faith demonstrated by our inclination to speak of God’s goodness towards us?
Faith looks to the next generation.
The believer appreciates that the ongoing mission of the Kingdom of God does not terminate upon their decease. Genesis 48:4 indicates how the LORD had said to Jacob back at Luz that ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’ Now with Manasseh and Ephraim in front of him he can see how this will have fulfilment. And he asks God to bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly on the earth (Gen. 48:16b).
What of ourselves! Are we focused upon the ongoing mission of God in this world? Or are we just thinking about our personal lot. Regardless of our personal circumstances, let us be fixing our vision of God building His church
Jacob then died in faith. Let us pray that should we be called to pass through death that we would emulate Jacob in having strong faith. But, we need to be reminded that in all circumstances we need to be strong in faith. In doing so we can be numbered among those who through faith see God and therefore have optimism in our hearts.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of February 2010)