I’ve never experienced a family reunion, but I’ve always wondered what they are like! I’d imagine that they can be a bit overwhelming at first, especially if your family is very big. But imagine the stories and lessons you can learn from the different generations in your family. Imagine the joy and excitement of seeing everyone in one place. It sounds awesome, actually.
Genesis 46 featured what may have been the first family reunion ever, when Jacob and his many sons and their many sons and their wives and daughters pack up their entire lives to move from Canaan to Egypt. It’s been at least ten years since Jacob’s life was forever changed. For all these years, he’s thought that his beloved son Joseph died a gruesome death, his remains tossed away like garbage. For all these years, Joseph has actually been alive in Egypt, first suffering and then triumphing, yet all the while unaware of the details of the lives of the eleven brothers, three mothers, and father he’d been forced to leave behind. Now these two families, torn apart by the unimaginable crime committed by ten of Joseph’s brothers, are finally going to reunite and begin to repair the bonds that were broken long ago.
Jacob and his sons and daughters and wives pack up everything in the entire world that belongs to them. There’s a quick roll call – sixty-six people (not counting wives) are heading from Canaan to reunite with those in Egypt so that the family of seventy can be together again. The reunion is exactly what you’d expect – tears, hugs, joy, relief. Joseph makes arrangements for his family of shepherds to live in Goshen; in Egypt but not of Egypt. Those who worked with animals were considered disgusting to Egyptians, but certainly the sixty-six shepherds before Joseph now were the most beautiful sight he’d seen in years.
The Treasures Within:
We Go With Him
I wonder what Jacob’s emotions were as he prepared for the trip. We hear of nothing but joy and gratefulness to God, but was there anything else? Was he nervous? Was he anxious about the journey? Whatever was in Jacob’s heart, God knew. He even came personally to Jacob in a vision at night to comfort him and assure him of His guidance. I love how in verse 4 God says to Jacob that He “will go down to Egypt with you”. The idea of God “packing up” and heading down there with Jacob must have been extremely comforting.
And who could be a better travel buddy? For all we face in life, God has a reason, a comfort, and a plan. No matter what is ahead of us, God will hold our hand through it all – as long as we stay by him. This was Jacob’s promise and it is our promise. Life is a complex journey. We plan it out extensively and at the same time stress about what it holds. Will someone we love die? Will we lose our job? Will we ever get married? Will we ever accomplish our goals and dreams? These questions and all the questions we ask ourselves about our future, our journey, and our purpose can be terrifying. We don’t know what to expect. But Jesus does. He knows what is coming and how we can get through it. He knows the plans He has for us. He wants us to walk through life with Him. God wants to go down to the future and beyond with us. If we keep our eyes on Him, it will be the best journey we will ever take.
He Comes For Us
Yet every journey has a destination. Ours is heaven. At least, that’s our goal. Because after all this earthly life has to offer us, after all the moves and weddings and new experiences and good-byes, there’s still eternity ahead. We will either die with our sins, eternally separated from the truest Love and greatest Person in the universe, or we will live forever with that Love, that Person, our Father.
What will the latter be like? When Jesus comes all the way from heaven to reunite with us in Earth, what will it be like? Will He throw His arms around us as soon as we see Him? Will we weep in each others’ arms for a long time (verse 29)? Will there be excitement? Joy? Relief? Imagine what it will be like to look into His eyes after years of trying to picture His face. Imagine what it will be like to be physically held by Him after years of only being able to trust that He was holding us. Joseph felt and wondered these same things. Maybe as God watched Joseph reunite with his father, He dreamed of reuniting with you. Or maybe He wept when He thought of you, because He knew He would have only the briefest of moments to look on your face before you perished with the rest of the wicked on earth, because you chose not to stay by His side during your life’s journey. What will our reunion with Jesus be like? Will it be despair or will it be ecstasy?
God’s Message To Us:
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The images here of journey and reunion are deliberate. We have seen throughout the past few chapters how God has stayed with Jacob and even his errant offspring. God is just as loyal to us. He is our ride-or-die; He is our literal day one. There is no one who will stick closer to us than God, who will have our back like God does, who will look out for us and support us that way God does. There is no one on earth like Him. His friendship and His love are unrivaled. Why do we wring the lesser versions for paltry drops of water when the Fountain of living water stands here waiting to satisfy us fully? Hear me: There is no one on earth like Him. Trust Him. Go with Him. Do life with Him. We will not be disappointed.
There Are Always Questions:
- This journey that Jacob and his descendants went on must have been difficult. Without question, they packed up everything to live with Joseph. Yet you know and I know that they did all this only to come back to Canaan generations later. Why did God lead them through all this just to bring them back one day? After all, He was the One who made Joseph ruler of Egypt. He was the One who allowed the seven-year famine! Why did He do all of this?
- In verse 26 the Bible says that seventy people were in Jacob’s family, not counting the wives of Jacob’s sons. It lists everyone out, thirty-three people from the children Leah gave birth to (verses 8-15), sixteen people from the children Zilpah gave birth to (verses 16-18), seven people from the children Bilhah gave birth to (verses 23-25), and fourteen people from the children Rachel gave birth to (verses 19-22). This indeed adds up to seventy, but the individual totals themselves have some problems. The seven people from Bilhah check out, as do the sixteen people from Zilpah, but the thirty-three from Leah and the fourteen from Rachel are kind of confusing. For Leah, thirty-three names are indeed listed, but two of them, Er and Onan, are dead (verse 12). Why are they counted in the people who go up to Egypt? Why wasn’t Dinah counted with the thirty-three, especially since a girl named Serah is counted in verse 17? Why was Serah the only girl counted? Were there no other daughters? Rachel’s fourteen include Benjamin, his ten sons, Joseph, and his two sons. Three of these people (Joseph and his sons) are already in Egypt, yet the Bible says that sixty-six of the seventy traveled up to Egypt. Who is this mysterious fourth person? And again, why are Er and Onan counted in the sixty-six? I know this paragraph is way too long and I probably seem pedantic, but it seems so weird to have these inconsistencies for something so simple.
What do you think? What would your life look like if you always traveled with God? What did God teach you from this chapter of the Bible?