Genesis 47:31b …and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
Confession: sometimes my body hurts for no reason whatsoever. I’m 39 years old – not sure how that crept up on me. My kids think I’m old. I think I’m young, and by most accounts I am. But some days I wake up and regardless of what my mind thinks, my body is pretty sure it is old. My shoulder hurts, my knee hurts, my back hurts. As my father-in-law says, “parts hurt.” My wife inquires as to what I did to strain these aching parts. “I slept” is my only logical explanation. Pretty pathetic, don’t you think?
I’ve got nothing on Israel, however. The guy was 147 years old when he died. His eyesight probably wasn’t all that good and most definitely, “parts hurt.” And as I read Genesis 47, there’s something remarkable that takes place with this 147 year old man. It’s a simple thing, so simple you might even miss it. But it’s also profound, so you can’t pass it up. It comes on the heels of a conversation with his son, Joseph. His heart is full like his life was. So he stood there leaning against his staff. Held up by a stick, he worshiped. There’s no lying around, no moping, no whining, no mention of aching body parts. Just an old man held up by a staff… worshiping.
Do we worship when our bodies are sore and our flesh is weak? Do we lay down, check out, and give up? Or do we stand in the strength that we have, hold ourselves up by a stick if necessary, and worship? There’s a story in Judges about a guy named Gideon. He was weak and afraid. But the angel of the Lord told him, “go in the strength that you have.” I can just see Israel on this day worshiping in the strength that he had. So like Israel, we have a choice to make. Will we worship in the strength that we have? Will we grab a stick if we need to and hold ourselves up, just so we can declare the greatness of God? I hope so. For that’s the kind of person I want to be.
*What inspires you about a 147 year old man worshiping?
Genesis 46:2-4 And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!” “Here I am,” he replied. “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.”I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”
The question always seems to be, “who’s going?” Let’s take a road trip. Come to the football game on Friday night. We are having people over to our house for a game night. “Who’s going?” That’s the question. We want to know who is going to be there. Or maybe we want to know who isn’t going to be there. We might ask because certain people are those we want to hang out with and we would consider it a good time. Other times we ask because we want to avoid being with someone. Regardless of the reason, “who’s going?” is a commonly asked question.
The question of company is a good one though. A road trip with the wrong people is no good. A road trip alone can be boring. But if you have the right people with you, it can be the best time ever. In Genesis 46, God told Jacob to take a road trip. Now Jacob may have been a little nervous about it because he was being called to move to a foreign country. This particular country wasn’t all that fond of Jacob’s family, either. But God told him: “Relax. It’s okay. I’m going on the road trip with you.”
We all have times in our lives that we are called to travel new roads. It can be scary or exciting. It might be difficult or it might be adventurous. Regardless of how the journey takes place, God promises to go on the road trip with us, just like He did with Jacob. “I will go with you,” He said to Jacob. “I will go with you,” He says to you, too. If the road trip is one that He has asked you to take, you can certainly believe that He’s going to hop in the car and go along for the ride. And I bet if you let Him, He would even drive the car.
*Are you anxious about the road trip you are on? Invite God to go with you!
Genesis 45:4-5 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.
I try to have a good attitude. I really do. But sometimes life gets the best of me. Red lights, long lines, mean people, injustice, incompetence… the reasons are vast. I just get frustrated sometimes. Frustration is a normal part of life – it happens to all of us. However, frustration can easily turn into a bad attitude. A rough morning can turn into grumpiness and an unfavorable situation can turn into a whine party. I don’t do it often, but I must admit… it happens.
Joseph wasn’t much of a whiner. He didn’t really complain. The brother had some bad days! That whole “sold into slavery” thing was kind of a bummer. Then the “falsely accused of trying to sleep with Potipher’s wife” situation was also quite unfortunate. Or how about the cupbearer and baker who “forgot” to tell the Pharaoh about the Israelite prisoner who helped them? Are you kidding me? I’m just gonna come right out and say it: Joseph had a better attitude than me.
At the end of the day, Joseph made this statement, “it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” How could he say that? How could he look at his miserable circumstances and give praise to God? Oh… wait a minute… maybe he figured out that it wasn’t all about him. When he looked back at his hardship he was able to see that God used every bit of it to raise him up to great places. He realized that even though it was hard, he was put in a position to save his family. That’s perspective. And that’s an attitude that’s better than mine.
*Some days I need an attitude adjustment. How about you?
Genesis 44:16 “What can we say to my lord?” Judah replied. “What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves—we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.”
Have you ever been in a conversation that just isn’t going your way? Or maybe you have tried to get away with something that you know you shouldn’t be getting away with? Sometimes we try to talk our way out of things, but it doesn’t always work. “Well…” we say, “I was going to…” And at some point we realize that all we have is empty words. There are no excuses, explanations, or angles that are going to get us out of this one. That’s when you simply say, “ya… I’ve got nothing.”
Essentially, that is what happened to Joseph’s brothers. He kept setting them up to look like crooks even though they weren’t. They tried to explain it but there simply was no explanation. There was no wrongdoing on their part in the situation, but they were convinced that God was punishing them for selling their brother into slavery. They kept on trying to find an excuse but eventually gave up trying to make sense of it all. They realized that they were broke; their figurative pockets were empty. “Ya… I’ve got nothing” was all they had left to say.
I wonder sometimes if we try too hard to keep ourselves looking good. We put on the smile and pretend everything is great. We hide our sin behind a facade of good behavior in hopes that no one will notice. At what point are we going to throw in the towel, wave the white flag, and hit our knees? When will we cry out to the Lord in humility and ask Him to change this cold, hard heart? Friends, we all need to come to the “I’ve got nothing” place in our lives. We need to recognize that we don’t have it all together and that there are no amount of excuses that will make things seem okay. We simply need to surrender and know that the God who is calling us out is the same God who loves us enough to redeem us.
*In what places of life are you trying to make it seem like everything is okay? Instead, try admitting “I’ve got nothing” and see what happens next.