Who Will Visit Us?
Jan 10, 2014 1942
By Levi James.
Though the book of Genesis comes to an end with its principal characters living in uncertain and troubled circumstances, it nonetheless encourages hope in a future denouement which will render present history preparatory, and purposeful. The theme begins with Abram’s election. He is told to leave kith and kin to journey to a faraway land that God will give to him. Abram obeys and thus commences a long and eventful life, resident in, but not in possession of, the Promised Land.
Isaac, Abraham’s son, comes on the scene. He is the bearer of the promises made to his sire. Jacob follows, similarly. Twice during his turbulent span, God visits him and assures him that the divine pledge still holds. Yet, by no stretch of the imagination does Jacob inherit Canaan land. Long periods of his life are lived in exile in Haran, and in Egypt, where he dies.
But on his death-bed, Jacob professes confidence in the word of the Lord by making Joseph promise to bury him with his father’s in the land of Canaan. Joseph carries out his father’s instruction. There is an elaborate Egyptian-style funeral, with a procession all the way to the cave of Machpela in Hebron. In this way Jacob’s faith that God will honor his promise to Abraham and give his children the land of the Canaanites.
Many more years pass. The descendants of Israel, still in Egypt, are numerous. Joseph, about to die, summons his brothers and urges upon them his conviction that God has certainly not forgotten the promise he made. He elicits from them an assurance that when God does eventually come to their aid, they should exhume his bones and carry them with the people, back to Canaan.
So it comes about that Genesis ends with Joseph’s rehearsal of the patriarchal faith. As it happened, God did come to the aid of Abraham’s descendants in Egypt. God did lead them out of that country with his mighty hand. And he did settle them in the land of Promise.
It is for us who come long after Abraham, Jacob and Joseph to question ourselves. What expectation governs our existence? Are we convinced that God will never let the world continue just as it is? Do we believe that inequality, oppression and monstrous unfairness will be judged? Do we think that God will come to our aid; that he will act on behalf of the weak, the poor and the put upon? Or do we think that we must live and die without hope and without meaning?
In the choice that is ours we are perhaps more fortunate than Abraham and his kin. We live on a side of history in which the light of Jesus Christ has shone. Those who were there when Jesus came, who saw and heard him, they said, “Surely, God has come to help his people” (Luke 7:16). This must be our faith too. In the strength of it, we know that he is with us every step of our way, and that he will visit us again. Then all the people will be glad, and everlasting joy will be upon their heads.
“Surely, God will visit you” (Genesis 50: 24,25).