He had treasured so many hopes for that boy, the firstborn of his beautiful wife Rachel. But then they were lost all in a moment, that one dreadful instant when ten of his sons brought him the coat of many colors drenched in blood. All the dreams he had cherished were gone. Even Joseph’s dreams, those dreams that seemed too preposterous to actually be true, were dead. Certainly, he’d give anything to bow before his son, if only his son had still been living. But in that instant, the cherished dreams had been ripped away from him, and all that stood in their place were years to mourn the loss. He would would go down to the grave in sorrow, sorrow more immense than he had ever known.
But now, what a shock! His eleven remaining sons returned from Egypt with impossible words: “Joseph is alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” Surely not. It had been over twenty long years of mourning.
Did God raise the dead? His grandfather Abraham had believed it that fearful day when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham rarely spoke of the day, but Jacob had heard the story nonetheless. Meekly his father and grandfather had made the journey to Mount Moriah with trembling hearts uncertain of God’s plan, grasping only the hope that God would raise the dead. God could not break His Word. At that last moment when there was no hope but God, God had made another way: a way of life instead of death. Could it be now, after so many years, that God would do the same now for him and his own beloved son?
“And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘I am God, the God of your fathers. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make You into a great nation. I Myself will go down to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.'” (Genesis 46:3-4)
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When Jacob married Rachel, did he have any idea of what their life together would look like? When Joseph was finally born, did he know the pain and heartbreak he would eventually experience over that long-awaited boy? It was as if their lives were taken from them, dedicated to God to fulfill a purpose and plan that far surpassed anything they could naturally understand. The tale of Jacob and Joseph is not simply the story of a father and son separated for painful years or God raising the dead, though that may all be true. Mostly, it is a story of God’s plan transcending weak human lives and using them for something much greater.
These words meet the tension I often feel. While I hold onto my own plans and dreams, I grasp that there is unsurpassed beauty in letting go and seeing God’s plan shine above my own. The darkest trials are the times when saints have come to know God intimately. The wrenching heartbreak and pain and hopelessness of everything else- those are the things to throw us entirely onto Christ. Am I willing to desire that?
Even in the painful plans of God, there is such kindness. How often would we complain over all the years of separation, and fail to glimpse the grace of the final reuniting? “Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” Jacob thought the end of that treasured relationship had already come. Joseph is no more. Instead, God’s plan, working through Jacob’s entire journey and heartbreak, brought life in the place of supposed death.
It is impossible to understand what God’s plans will entail, but there is assurance that He will do all things well. What are the plans and cherished dreams that remain in tightly clenched hands? Not one of them is too precious to be entrusted to the Lord. The Kingdom of Heaven, after all, is a pearl of great price worth selling everything to buy.
“Gladly would I leave behind me all the pleasure I have known,
To pursue surpassing treasures at the Throne of God the Son.”