This past week I have been reading and pondering the last chapters of Genesis; specifically the death of Jacob. Genesis 49:33 says, "And after Jacob finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people." It begs the question, "Did Jacob know he was uttering his last few words? Did he know the time he would leave this world?" In pondering that question I could not help but think of my dad! If you've been on this blog for seven years or more, you may remember that incredible weekend I wrote about, when both my parents passed away within 42 hours of each other. They were sharing a room in a nursing home in this last month of their lives. Mom had Alzheimer's and had become non-responsive. John and I and my sister and her husband were all present with them. On this one August morning, Dad suddenly asked my sister to get his teeth! She dutifully ran to find the dentures in his bathroom and placed them in his mouth. Then he turned to me and urgently asked me to find his glasses. I found them and carefully placed them on his face. Then he (literally) drew his feet up and raised up in the bed so he could see our mother, his beloved wife of 70 years. "Is she in pain?" he whispered in a thin, squeaky voice. "No, I answered him. "She is comfortable and the hospice nurse says she will be on her way to heaven very soon." He nodded and then in a voice so soft I could barely hear him, he said, "Okay, then I quit" and he breathed his last.
I feel like Jacob and my dad had some things in common at the time of their deaths. They had some instructions to give. They knew they were setting out on another journey, one that would take them out of this world, away from those whom they had loved and cared for for many years. They needed to feel that they had done all they could to be sure everything was in order, and to leave a lasting legacy of faith, truth and endurance, rather than worldly wealth and things.
In pondering these moments, I felt the Spirit was leading me to a passage in Romans 13:11-12: "And do this, knowing the time, that it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the Day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armor of light." I'm not exactly sure why the Lord brought me to that passage, or how it connects, but what I'm getting is that Jacob knew the time and my dad knew the time, when they would awake from sleep (or death) and enter into the Light of their eternal salvation! So, should this not also apply to each of us? Is the night of our pilgrimmage on this earth not far spent and the Day of His Coming not very soon?
In an attempt to get my sweet husband out for a little holiday cheer, as we have done in the past, I took him to a lovely restaurant yesterday for lunch. He cannot manage a menu but I know what he loves, so I ordered his favorite grilled salmon with a Caesar salad and jasmine rice. For me, fresh fish glazed with Teriyaki ginger and Parmesan spinach. It was so delicious and such a treat! But I watched as he gingerly moved his fork around the salad and struggled with how to eat the salmon. I discretely reached over to cut it in pieces for him. He did not enjoy lunch. It was simply unfamiliar and exasperating for him. I drove into the nearby shopping center and gaily told him we would find each other a special gift and it would be fun! I kept my enthusiasm high, in the hopes of drawing him into the joy of it. I led him over to the men's department to try to find a new pair of dress slacks. He has been so unhappy with how poorly his old ones fit him now. We found a very nice pair on sale that fit beautifully, but as we headed for the check-out, he said to me, "I don't know how much longer I'll be wearing pants!" That took my breath away. He hasn't said anything like that before. Is he sensing what Jacob sensed, what my dad knew? I don't know, dear friends. I only know that as I expressed above, none of us know how close we may be to our last day here; and as I hear the familiar strains of "Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let Earth receive her King!" I am stirred in my spirit that this carol has never been more true right now than it was 2000 years ago! For now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the Day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armor of light."
John and I are still faithfully doing something we have always done together, ever since we were married, nearly eleven years ago. On Shabbats I read the week's Torah portion from the Bible and then we talk about it together. Dementia has not stolen the Word of God from him. It lives deeply in his spirit and for the most part, he is able to recall it to memory, even when most other words escape him. This gives us both a deep peace.
We met at a conference of the Messianic Israel Alliance in Maryville, Tennessee. During this conference we were seated close together at a teaching by Bill Cloud. I remember it well as the teaching really impacted me. Now, all these years later, John and I were watching Bill's Livestream from his Messianic congregation in Tennessee, and once again my spirit was deeply stirred by what he shared. I give him credit for what I will be sharing below with you and if you want to hear more, you can find it on video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-lwhWagtIE (You will want to fast forward it about one hour and 10 minutes to get into the teaching).
In reading Genesis chapters 42-47, John and I found many key verses that catapulted us right into the very same situation that we are in today. Joseph's brothers had come to Egypt because of the severe famine in Canaan and as the story unfolds, they discover that Joseph, the brother they had betrayed and sold into slavery, was now the ruler of all Egypt. Eventually they confess to their father, Jacob, that Joseph is still alive and that they will all have to go into the land of Egypt to find enough food and provisions to stay alive.
Many of us equate the word "Egypt" to the "world" or the "world system." And so here we are - in this very day and age - becoming aware that we could be forced into the corrupt, tyrannical world system in order to survive. As Bill stated, "Jacob was given a night vision in Genesis 46:2-4, and in the darkness of night, God revealed to him that he would be going down into Egypt, but he would not go alone. He said to Jacob, 'Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.'"
Does it feel to you that we are getting ready to enter into a period of terrible darkness? Or maybe it feels to you like we are already there! I am always seeking for a way to encourage God's people, to lift you out of fear and worry. These passages in Genesis remind us that although a severe famine completely overtook the land of Jacob and his sons and all their families, God made a way for them to move into a region known as Goshen. They were separated there from the rest of the people in Egypt. And what was the difference between the Egyptians and the Israelites during that time? The Egyptians used their silver to pay for food; that is, until their silver was spent. Then they began to sell their livestock to the Pharoah in exchange for grain, and finally, when their livestock was depleted, they said to Pharoah, "Now buy US and buy our land. We will be your slaves so we can have food."
Friends, does any of this sound familiar to you? Isn't this pretty much the definition of Marxism and Communism - a people enslaved by their governing masters? So it was for the Egyptians who did not serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and who made the choice to comply with the Pharoah and sell themselves and their land to him. But they were not in Goshen! Only God's people were in Goshen and Scripture tells us that "they were fruitful and acquired property" (Genesis 47:27). The mandate they were under was to be a blessing to God and to one another.
Psalm 18:4-6 illustrates the deep message being portrayed here. "Floods of ungodliness overwhelmed me but God heard my cry." He is not just with us in the light, He is present also in our times of darkness, those times when we feel utterly overwhelmed by the ungodliness, lawlessness, violence and chaos in the world. Psalm 139 reminds us, "If I go to the heavens You are there; and if I go to the grave, You are there!" Where can we go to flee from His Presence? Nowhere!
In Genesis 46:30 Jacob has a powerful revelation. He says to his most beloved son, Joseph, "Now that I have seen your face, let me die." Bill Cloud pointed out that this was a foreshadow of a righteous, devout man named Simeon, who had been told he would actually see the Messiah before he died; and this prophecy came to pass. In Luke 2:27-30, it says, "Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation."
Next time you find yourself fretting and fearful about what you see happening in "Egypt," where grocery shelves are getting bare, food priced too high to feed a family, loss of jobs because you would not comply with the Pharoah, stop and remember these stories about very real people who knew that they only needed the Presence of God to be with them to get through it. Seek His Face. Fill your soul with His Word. And in the midst of a dark and fearful night, cry out to Him. He will say to you what He said to Jacob: "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go."
Kelly Ferrari Mills