May 16: Genesis 47

Today’s reading. (Just a few more readings in Genesis! It’s been a blessing to go through it with you all.)

The story is beginning to wrap up now. Jacob and his family settles down in Egypt, and the plot is being set up in “to be continued…” fashion. We will leave the promised family in a few chapters prospering in Egypt, and the story will pick up again in Exodus 400 years later, when Israel will be a large, but oppressed nation.

At the beginning of Gen. 47, Joseph moves his whole family down to Egypt to settle in the land of Goshen, the “best of the land” (47:5). Joseph brings his father to Pharaoh to meet him, and Pharaoh asks him just one question: “How many are the days of the years of your life?” (47:8). Apparently, Jacob looks pretty old, and Pharaoh wants a number. Jacob’s response is both interesting and applicable to you and me: “The days of the years of my  sojourning are 130 years” (47:9).  Pharaoh wants to know “how long have you lived?”; Jacob responds by telling him how long he has “sojourned.”

so•journ |ˈsōjərn| v. to stay somewhere temporarily

Jacob’s whole life—like both Isaac his father and Abraham his grandfather—he has been a sojourner, a foreigner living in someone else’s land. Jacob lived in Canaan much of his life, which God had promised to give to him and his descendants, but now he would spend his dying years in Egypt sojourning in another land. Jacob lived his whole life as a stranger, lived his whole life in tents, moving from place to place, never able to really find rest or comfort on this earth. The Lord blessed him with possessions, but never gave him a place to call home. Jacob didn’t just “live.” He sojourned.

That puts the American dream in perspective. I so often get caught up in it; won’t it be great when I can finally own a home, I think to myself. Then I’ll be able to rest! Then I’ll be able to settle down. Then I’ll know where I’ll be in 30 years, where my kids will come to visit, where I’ll die when I’m old. For me in my heart, I think of buying a home as one great big exhale, one question about life that I know I’ve got figured out.

That desire in my heart shows my idolatry. There’s nothing wrong with owning a home! But if I want to be defined by that, I’ve crossed over from receiving a blessing to worshiping an idol.

Jacob was a sojourner all his life. And so are we. 1 Peter 2:11 tell us that we are “sojourners and exiles.” Our “life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3), not in a piece of land we can buy (or wish we could buy) on this earth. We are temporarily living in this world, awaiting the day when we will live with Christ in God, when we will worship our Lord face to face, when we will dine with him at his table forever. That should be my hope. Not a white picket fence.

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