The Fathers and The Prophets
Hebrews chapter 11 begins with these words; “Long ago, in many portions and in many ways, God spoke to the fathers, in the prophets.” For a long period of time, that’s how God communicated with man; He choose men from among the Israelites, and made them “prophets of God” to reveal God’s will, and God’s message, to the people. In Amos 2:11, the Lord says; “Then I raised up some of your sons to be prophets.”
A prophet is simply a spokesman, that’s the meaning of the word. A “spokesman” for God. And the word “prophesy” means “religious instruction”, or simply, “the word of God”.
In last weeks lesson we talked about how in an even earlier period of time, God spoke directly to the head of the family, who was usually a man, but sometimes it was a woman. You remember that I gave the example of God speaking to Hagar, the mother of Ishmael. Actually it was an angel of God that spoke to Hagar. In Genesis 21:17 & 18, it says; “And God heard the lad crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her; What ails you Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand. For I will make a great nation of him.”
Ishmael was the son of Abraham, but Hagar and Ishmael were driven away by Sarah, Abraham’s wife. And so we could say that Hagar was now the head of the family, or the “head of the household” of her and her son Ishmael.
Now, there was a point in time, when God stopped speaking to the heads of the families, and he began speaking to prophets whom He raised up, to instruct the nation of Israel. We could say that the dividing line, between that first period, when God spoke directly to the head of the family, and the period when God began to speak to the nation of Israel through a prophet, came about, with the death of Jacob, who God called Israel, and with God’s selection of Moses, who was the very first prophet.
Now there’s quite a long period of time involved there, because the last time we find God speaking to Jacob, was before the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. And the bible tells us that they were enslaved for four hundred years. But Genesis 46, verses 3 & 4, give us the last words that God spoke to Jacob.
Joseph was in charge in Egypt, and he had sent his brothers to go back to the land of Canaan, to get their father, and bring him to Egypt. And God said to Jacob; “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will surely bring you up again, and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.”
Those are the last words that we have recorded in the bible, when God spoke to anyone, for over four hundred years, until He spoke directly to Moses. But for the rest of our lesson, I want us to consider what God said, when He last spoke to Jacob.
Jacob was in the land of Canaan. And the land of Canaan was a mountainous region. A lot higher in elevation than most of Egypt. And so the Lord said to Jacob; “I will go DOWN with you to Egypt”. But what did God mean when He said; “and I will surely bring you up again”? And what did He mean when He said; “and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes”?
When God told Jacob, I will surely bring you up again, He was telling him that he was going to be exalted, you might say. God had just reiterated His promise to Jacob, that “I will make you a great nation”. But Jacob was old, and God hadn’t made him a great nation yet. And so God was telling him, that down in Egypt, is WHERE you are going to be exalted, and become a great nation. In Egypt is where it’s going to happen.
I would imagine that Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob, all would have thought that they would become a great nation, right there in the land of Canaan. That’s the land that God had promised to all of them. Why would it happen anywhere else? Well, we don’t know why, but we do know that it did happen somewhere else. It happened down in Egypt. Don’t ever get the impression that you can “out-think” God. We have no idea how God is going to accomplish, what He accomplishes, until it’s done.
And not only did God raise Jacob up again, by making him a great nation, but even before that, Jacob and his sons were given the best land in all of Egypt, to live on. Listen to this passage from Genesis 47, verses 1 thru 12. And as I read this, think about the fact that God doesn’t always bless us according to our time schedules. Sometimes He leaves the best blessings for last.
Genesis 47:1-12; “Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh and said; My father and my brothers and their flocks and their herds, and all that they have, have come out of the land of Canaan, and behold, they are in the land of Goshen.” Goshen was the area in the eastern part of Egypt, and it encompassed the Nile river delta. It was an extremely fertile area, perfect for both livestock and for crops.
Now let’s continue in Genesis 47; “And he took five men from among his brothers (Joseph did) and presented them to Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said, What is your occupation? So they said to Pharaoh, Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers.” And they said to Pharaoh, We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servant’s flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now therefore, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen.”
“Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, saying; Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land. Let them live in the land of Goshen, and if you have any capable men among them, then put them in charge of MY livestock. Then Joseph brought his father Jacob, and presented him to Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.” (Jacob thanked Pharaoh)
“And Pharaoh said to Jacob, How many years have you lived?” Now listen to this part and think about how the humble, are exalted by God; “So Jacob said to Pharaoh, The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty. Few and evil have been the days of my life, nor have they attained to the days of the life of my fathers, in their sojourning.” A hundred and thirty sounds like a lot of years to us, but it didn’t to Jacob. Isaac, Jacob’s father, lived to be 180, and his grandfather, Abraham, 175.
Remember when Jacob worked seven years for his future father-in-law, in order to have Rachel for his wife. And then at the end of the seven years, his father-in-law gave him Leah, instead of Rachel. So then Jacob worked another seven years, to have Rachel for his wife. He must have really loved Rachel. And with both Leah and Rachel, Jacob was blessed with 12 sons. But then how many years did he live thinking that his youngest son, Joseph, was dead? Jacob grieved and mourned, a lot of years over that.
But now, Jacob is reunited with Joseph in Egypt, and here’s what it says in verses 10 thru 12; “And Jacob blessed Pharaoh (again, he thanked Pharaoh) and went out from Pharaoh. So Joseph settled his father and his brothers, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered. and Joseph provided for his father and his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to their little ones.”
God had actually blessed Jacob throughout his life, but as the end of Jacob’s life came near, God blessed him even more. And God truly exalted him. His youngest son was in charge over all of Egypt, and Jacob and his other sons were given the best of the land, AND, he had finally come to the land in which the promise was going to be fulfilled. God had told Jacob, “Don’t be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.” And even though Jacob wouldn’t live to see the fulfillment of that promise, I don’t believe that he doubted it for a moment. And so Jacob took that promise with him, to his death.
Now, one more thing that goes hand-in-hand with this. When God spoke those words to Jacob, He also said, “..and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.” What did God mean by that? Remember, that Jacob is still in the land of Canaan, when God says this. And Jacob has lived a lot of years mourning the loss of his son Joseph. And now he learns from his other sons that Joseph is actually alive.
So listen to Genesis 45:26 thru 28;
“And they told him saying, Joseph is still alive, and indeed he is ruler over all the land of Egypt. But he was stunned, and he did not believe them. When they told him all the words of Joseph, that he had spoken to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent, to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. then Jacob said, It is enough! My son Joseph is still alive! I will go and see him before I die.”
The one thing on Jacob’s mind now, and the most important thing to him, was to see his son Joseph, before he died. And so chapter 46 begins; “So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night..” And this is one of the times that the word “vision”, is referring to a revelation from God, not to something that’s literally seen. So then, “God spoke to Israel in revelations of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. And He said, I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will surely bring you up again, and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.”
Several versions say; “And Joseph will close your eyes.” And they translate it that way, because it refers to the time when Jacob would die. With those words, God was reassuring Jacob with a promise. God was saying, that the one thing that is most important to you right now, namely, seeing your son Joseph, this I am granting to you. And not only did Jacob get to be with his son Joseph again, but it was in joseph’s presence that he died. And thus the scriptures say; “Joseph will put his hand on your eyes”.
And listen to these verses. First, Chapter 48, verses 1 thru 3. Everyone is settled in the land of Goshen, in Egypt; “Now it came about after these things, that Joseph was told, Behold, your father is sick. So he took his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim with him. When it was told to Jacob, Behold, your son Joseph has come to you, Israel strengthened himself, and sat up in bed.”
Now listen to verses 9 thru 11; “And Joseph said to his father, They are my sons, whom God has given me here. So he said, Bring them to me please, that I may bless them. Now the eyes of Israel were so dim from age, that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. And Israel said to Joseph, I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.”
The next thing that Jacob did, was to call for all of his sons, and when they had all been gathered, Jacob basically prophesied to them all, about their future. And then the last verse in Genesis 49 says; “When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.” His spirit left him, didn’t it? And then the next verse says; “Then Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him, and kissed him.”
God fulfilled His promise to Jacob, and not only did Jacob see his son Joseph again, but he saw Joseph’s sons, and he lived in the best of the land of Egypt until his death, and had his son Joseph right there with him. And also, he died knowing without a doubt, that his offspring would indeed become a great nation, right there in Egypt, and from there, they would go to the promised land.
And those words that the Lord spoke to Jacob back in Canaan, were the last recorded words that God spoke to any man, until He spoke to Moses in the wilderness out of the burning bush. From just before Israel was placed in bondage in Egypt, until over four hundred years had passed, no more words from God to man are recorded. Isn’t that interesting. It’s also interesting that about four hundred years also passed, from the last time God spoke to a prophet of Israel, until just before the birth of Jesus, when God once again spoke to man through His angels.
First God spoke to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, through an angel. And then He spoke to Mary, the mother of Jesus, through an angel. And then the Lord spoke to Joseph, the soon to be husband of Mary, through an angel, in a dream. And then, were told in Luke 3, verse 2; “..the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.” We’re not told exactly how God’s word came to John the baptist. Maybe it was in a dream, or maybe in a vision, or maybe the Lord spoke to him out loud, we don’t know. But God spoke to him.
And that’s where we’re going to leave our study today. But we’ll pick up next week, right here where we left off.