ALL THINGS WORK FOR GOOD TO THEM
--JUNE 15.--GENESIS 46:28-34; 47:12,28-31.--
"To them that love God all things
work together for good."--Romans 8:28.
SO JACOB and all his family left the land of Canaan, the Land of Promise, Palestine; and, at the invitation of Pharaoh through Joseph, they located in the land of Goshen, suitable to their business which was that of herdsmen and shepherds. Joseph went in his chariot to Goshen, and there met his father Jacob, whom he had not seen for many years. After the custom of oriental countries, they kissed each other, and Joseph wept. Then came the official presentation of Jacob and his family to Pharaoh. Joseph was careful that they should make no mistake. He therefore let the king clearly know that their occupation was that of shepherds and herdsmen; for the Egyptians despised that business, and hence would keep themselves separate from the Hebrews. Thus the land of Goshen became almost like a separate country from Egypt.
Jacob at this time was one hundred thirty years old, and quite feeble. Brought into the presence of Pharaoh, Jacob blessed him--in the sense of asking the Divine blessing upon him, we may assume. Thus the family of Jacob, now called by their new name, Israel, became firmly established in the land of Egypt. Jacob lived seventeen years thereafter, during which Joseph and his people, the Israelites, were in favor with Pharaoh and the Egyptians.
Our lesson relates especially to God's willingness and ability to make all the experiences of His people to work out for their good. This naturally suggests that we inquire in what way Jacob's life experiences were to his welfare. The Scriptures declare, "Jacob have I loved; Esau have I hated [loved less]." God's Love should be distinctly seen manifested in some way in making matters work for good to Jacob and his family. The question is, How? Can we see the lines along which Divine favor operated for the welfare of Jacob and his family?
Only with the eye of faith, guided by the words of Jesus, His Apostles and the Prophets, can we see how God's blessing was with Israel and gave them blessings more than others. Many have not this eye of faith. Hence only the few can see, appreciate, understand, this matter. The majority both of professing Christians and of Jews fail to see what blessing came to Israel. Proportionately such are weak in faith, and quite ready to be turned aside by Higher Critics and Evolutionists into total unbelief in the Bible and the Divine Plan of the Ages which it sets forth.
Jacob, having become the heir of the great Promise made to Abraham (in thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed), straightway seems to have gotten into trouble. He fled from home, leaving everything to his brother. He served his uncle Laban for seven years, that he might have Rachel for his wife, but Divine Providence permitted him to be cheated, and he was obliged to serve seven years more for her. Time and again his uncle Laban changed his wages in an endeavor to get the best of him. Thus Jacob was thrown into competition with his uncle in the endeavor to protect his own interests.
Finally, with the fruit of many years' toil, he returned to Canaan, fearful, however, of his brother Esau, whom he placated with a rich present. Later, he lost his wife and was bereft of Joseph, his beloved son. Then came the famine, the recovery of Joseph and the incidents of our recent lesson. Later on, that very move into Egypt appeared to have been a disastrous one, for the Egyptians [R5241 : page 153] enslaved the Israelites. Finally, they were delivered, only to have trying experiences in the wilderness of Paran for forty years, before entering Canaan proper.
HOW DID GOD BLESS ISRAEL?
Then it was a gradual matter to get possession of the land. They had various trials and difficulties, captivities to the Philistines, the Syrians, etc. Later on, they had kings, and then a rebellion, or division of the Kingdom, followed by more wars, famines, pestilences, until they were all carried captive into Babylon. They went away numerous, they returned a comparatively small company. Then they had more trials, wars, etc.
By and by, Jesus came, and was repudiated by all except the few. Then the nation was repudiated by God. "Your house is left unto you desolate." Gradually trouble and anarchy came upon them, until as a nation they went to Hades--nationally they fell asleep. They have been asleep for more than eighteen centuries, while personally they have endured persecutions in many nations.
What we want to see is how God's blessing was identified with all those experiences of Israel. We want to know in what way God overruled for their good and blessing more than in the affairs of other nations. To understand this, we must take a glance at other nations and peoples and their experiences and then must look also into the future.
Where is Egypt--where is the government of the Pharaohs today? Where is Assyria--where are their peoples today? Where are the Philistines? Where are any and all of the nations who flourished in the days of Israel? The answer is that they are no more. They have merged with other peoples or have been blotted out by natural processes. They could not be restored today, because none of those peoples remain anywhere. We are not discussing the numerous tribes of India, nor the consolidated bands of China and Japan, nor the barbarous tribes of Africa. These all have been outside the line of our history, because not closely identified with the nation of Israel, Natural or Spiritual.
But Israel exists today, even though the nation is asleep in Hades, Sheol, waiting for a national awakening and resurrection. That awakening is already arousing "dry bones" from despair, and pointing forward to a future day of blessing and prosperity. One result of God's providential care over Israel has been that as a people they have been maintained in existence. It is this hope of future blessings, based upon God's promise to Abraham, which continues to vitalize that people. It is this hope which by and by, according to prophecy, will re-vitalize Israel, and again bring her forward and identify her with the great Messianic Kingdom, which will bless the world.
But some one may say, Tell us not about national blessings, for we shall have to think of the whole world from the standpoint of one human brotherhood. If Israel has been blessed of God, there should be some personal blessing manifest and not merely a national prolongation of grace, in their life as a people.
Very true, we answer. There are both personal and national blessings of the past and for the future. God's dealings with Israel in the past did not indeed prove all of that nation to be holy, saintly, and worthy of the highest honor and stations in the Divine Program. But those providences served to select in that nation a peculiar people, of similar characteristics to those possessed by Abraham; viz., faith and obedience. Following Abraham came Isaac; following Isaac came Jacob; and following Jacob came the nation of Israel amongst whom there were a few, from time to time, worthy of being ranked with their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The trying experiences of centuries of national life
tended to develop noble characters, strong in faith and
loyal to the core. St. Paul enumerates some of these
besides Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Prophets. He
includes with them all those "Israelites indeed" who were
loyal to God to the extent of suffering persecutions for
righteousness' sake and for the sake of the hopes which
they received through that Abrahamic Promise. Some of
these, he says, were "stoned to death, some were sawn
asunder....of whom the world was not worthy."
This selecting process continued down to the time of Jesus, and found a glorious company, even if it were not a numerous one. God was seeking such people, and He found the ones whom He sought. True, they have not yet received their reward. True, their reward is not be a Heavenly one, but an earthly one as was promised them. "All the land that thou seest will I give to thee, and to thy seed after thee."
These faithful ones of Israel are the ones for whom all things have been working together favorably--because they loved God, because they were responsive to the righteousness which He set before them and to the great Promise which He gave them. The time is near at hand, we believe, when these will constitute Messiah's earthly representatives in the ruling and blessing of the world of mankind.
What was prophesied of them before will be fulfilled. Instead of being the fathers, they will be Messiah's children, receiving everlasting life from Him as a Father. He will make them princes in all the earth, in subordinate co-operation with His Heavenly Empire. (Psalm 45:16.) Thus we see that all the trials and difficulties of Israel were, under Divine Providence, working together for good to that special class, "Israelites indeed, in whom was no guile," and who loved God supremely. And their reward is nigh at hand. Through them, the blessing will extend to every nation of earth.
SPIRITUAL ISRAEL'S EXPERIENCES
When God's time came, at the First Advent, to call out from the world a special class of Spiritual Israelites, He gave the first opportunity to the children of Jacob. As many of them at that time as were "Israelites indeed, in whom was no guile," were privileged to have special opportunities and instructions from Jesus. All of that true, loyal class were enabled by special providential guidance and instruction, to recognize Him as the Messiah, while all others were blinded by prejudice, superstition and obscure statements.
This was another advantage that came to the natural seed of Abraham--that they should have the first opportunity of becoming members of Spiritual Israel, of which they had previously had no information whatever. Nor have they yet learned that The Messiah for whom they were waiting is to be a Spiritual Messiah, instead of a fleshly one, and that He is to be a composite Messiah, instead of a single person--that He is to be composed of many members.
Thus the natural children of Abraham had "much advantage every way, chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God," and because having those oracles, those prophecies, they had the best opportunity of all people of knowing respecting Messiah and of coming into harmony with Him, becoming His disciples.
But as was said of Natural Israel, so with still greater emphasis it might be said of Spiritual Israel, that their privileges brought to them special sufferings and persecutions. Jesus was buffeted, all manner of evil was said against Him falsely, and He was finally crucified as a criminal, because He averred that He was the Son of [R5241 : page 154] God, and did not deny that He was the One who ultimately would be the King of Glory.
Then for centuries the faithful followers of Jesus had bitter experiences. Sometimes they were literally tortured, literally persecuted, literally flayed alive. At other times they suffered symbolical persecution, symbolical flaying alive, and had all manner of evil spoken against them falsely for Christ's sake. Deceptions, false doctrines, and antitypical carrying into symbolical Babylon--all these have been experiences of the people of God. Nor does this close the list; for St. Paul declared, "Whosoever will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." So whoever today belongs to the Lord has the assurance that if he is faithful to his Master, he will have the opposition of Satan, of the world and of his own flesh.
The questions arise, How are these things working
better for us than for the world? Do not Christians die
the same as unbelievers, the same as Jews, the same as Mohammedans,
the same as the heathen? Do they not have
their share of sickness, sorrow, and pain in connection
with their dying experiences? Surely none can dispute
the truthfulness of this suggestion! Wherein then, shall
we say, is there an advantage in being a Spiritual
Israelite? If all the world is redeemed by the precious
blood of Christ, if all the world is to have a blessing
under Messiah's glorious reign of a thousand years, and
if the Ancient Worthies are to have the first place in the
Kingdom that will then be established under the whole
heavens, what will be the advantage, if any, to those who
have been faithful and loyal Spiritual Israelites--to those
who have endured hardness as good soldiers and have
sought to lay down their lives in the Master's service,
in the service of the brethren, in the service of the Truth,
in the service of God?
[R5242 : page 154]
MUCH ADVANTAGE EVERY WAY IS OURS
The advantages of this class are numerous, and lay hold upon the present life, as well as that which is to come. In the present time, it is the privilege of these to enjoy the peace of God, which passeth all human understanding. It is their privilege to know by faith that all things are working together for good to them because they love God. It is their privilege to realize that whatever may happen to others in the world, nothing can happen, so far as they are concerned. Their affairs and interests are all subject to a Divine supervision. No wonder they can have peace in every storm! No wonder they are able to rejoice even in tribulation!
Theirs is a joy of spirit, of which no earthly experience can rob them, and their joys increase daily, yearly, as they ripen in Christian experience, and as they grow in knowledge and in grace. Theirs is a privilege of access to the Throne of Heavenly Grace, and a privilege of communion with the Heavenly Father and with their Lord Jesus Christ. They may count themselves, as St. Peter declares, members of the Royal Priesthood, the Holy Nation of Israel, the Peculiar People of God. They may rejoice in the privilege of being God's ambassadors, and of telling the Good Tidings to others, thus to "show forth the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light." Oh, great are the privileges and mercies and blessing of these Spiritual Israelites, far more than compensating for their disciplines, tribulations and oppositions!
JOYS OF THE LIFE TO COME
But beyond all these experiences of the present life lie the riches of God's grace for the future, which these possess and hold with the power of faith. As St. Paul declares, they have the "promise of the life which now is and also of that which is to come." And that life to come is such a wonderful life that the study of it is an endless matter. Every step of obedience brings them rights and privileges with God, brings them a step forward also in knowledge of Himself and of His glorious Plan. Thus the more saintly and self-sacrificing the character, the deeper may be his knowledge, the richer his experiences, the more precious his hopes and anticipations.
Are we asked, What are the anticipations of this class? The answer is, They anticipate the things which God has promised; they anticipate that as they are now children of God, so their promised resurrection from the dead to full spiritual perfection will make them sons of God on the highest plane. And if children, then they will be "heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, their Lord." Besides, these Spiritual Israelites are heirs of a Spiritual Canaan, a Spiritual Kingdom. To enter upon their Kingdom they must needs experience the powers of a better resurrection than others. And this will mean, the Apostle assures us, that they will "be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God." Is it not true then, in the fullest and most absolute sense, that all things are working together for good to those who love God, to the called ones according to His purpose, not only to those who were called during the Jewish Age, but also to those who have been called and who have accepted the call during this Gospel Age!