Let’s be honest. Our earthly pilgrimage often involves pain. Genesis 47:1-12 does not fit our notion of a good testimony. In this passage, Jacob tells Pharaoh that his life has been short and sour. That isn’t a very good case for Christianity is it? The thrust of much evangelism today is that trusting Christ and following God makes your life happy, joyful, and free from trials and tribulation. If it hadn’t been for the testimony of Joseph, Pharaoh might have thought very poorly of the God of Israel due to Jacob’s testimony.
What did Jacob’s earthly pilgrimage involve? What does Jacob says about his life in verse 9? First of all, he says that the days of his earthly life have been ‘few and evil.’ The NIV translates evil… ‘difficult.’ The NASB translates it ‘unpleasant.’
First of all, this unpleasantness and difficulty can come into our lives due to the pain of our own making and our own sinful choices. Jacob’s name means supplanter. He was estranged from his brother and suffered Esau’s wrath because he deceived and swindled his brother out of his inheritance. His mother Rebekah died young after helping Jacob deceive his father. His own parental favoritism bred strife and dissension among his sons.
Secondly, this unpleasantness and difficulty can come into our lives due to pain inflicted by others and their sin against us… Jacob met his match in Laban, his father-in-law. He was deceived by him and suffered indentured slavery for 14 years at the hands of this greedy man. He endured difficult marriages to two jealous sisters. One of Jacob’s daughters, Dinah, was violated. His sons were disposed to deception, envy, and murder. They deceived Jacob and sold His beloved son, Joseph, into slavery.
Thirdly, unpleasantness and difficulty can come into our lives due to the pain of God’s making. Remember Genesis 32 when Jacob wrestled with the angel. Jacob was wounded ultimately by God. God gave Jacob a lasting, physical disability to free from his self-sufficiency and free him to worship dependently a merciful God who “pains us to bless us.” At the end of his pilgrimage, the old man Jacob is worshiping God while leaning on his staff (Hebrews 11:21). Jacob could easily have become embittered and resentful and walked away from his loyalty and faith in the Lord. Getting old doesn’t mean we have to become cynical, grumpy and hard to live with. Jacob’s life holds out a better way, but it does mean we will all carry scars with us to our heavenly home!
The inspiring words of Amy Carmichael serve as a most fitting way to end this blog post:
Hast thou no scar? No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star. Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound? Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned. Hast thou no wound?
No wound? No scar? Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me. But thine are whole; can he have followed far. Who hast no wound or scar? – Amy Carmichael, “Towards Jerusalem”
Consider Jesus… He endured the intense pain of man’s hostility even to the point of shedding blood. For the joy set before Him, He endured the pain knowing that pleasures forevermore awaited Him at His father’s right hand. They do for us as well!