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JACOB’S PILGRIMAGE TO EGYPT

(SERMON #73 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, March 3, 2013


The sons of Jacob had gone down to Egypt to buy food, for there was a great famine in the Land of Canaan. While they were there, they discovered to their surprise that their younger brother Joseph had been made governor over all the land of Egypt. They had sold Joseph as a slave, but God was with him and raised him to great power. Now the brothers came back and told their father Jacob the good news that Joseph was yet alive. Jacob did not believe his sons at first, but soon they persuaded him that it was true, and Jacob said,

“It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die” (Genesis 45:28).

That takes us to our text this evening. Please stand and turn to Genesis 46:1-4.

“And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beer-sheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac. And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes” (Genesis 46:1-4).

You may be seated. Please keep your Bible open to that place.

When I was attending a very liberal seminary forty years ago, they told us that these verses switched the names of Jacob and Israel back and forth, because they were written by different authors, or “redactors.” The “E” author always called him “Jacob,” while the later redactor “R” inserted the name “Israel.” I asked them, “How do you know that?” They were never able to convince me of their theory. Dr. H. C. Leupold, the Lutheran commentator, rejected that liberal theory, and said, “By such critical devices almost anything can be proved” (H. C. Leupold, D.D., Exposition of Genesis, Baker Book House, 1985 edition, volume II, p. 1106; comment on Genesis 46:1-4).

Dr. Leupold suggested that the two names were used deliberately – Jacob referring to the person, and Israel referring to the nation in his loins. That may well be true, but it seems to me that Spurgeon’s explanation is the main reason for the change of the names back and forth. Spurgeon said that his old name of “Jacob” was used here when he was backslidden, and his new name of “Israel” was used when he was revived, as we see in Genesis 45:27 and 28: “...the spirit of Jacob their father revived: And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die” (Genesis 45:27, 28). I am convinced that is the way to explain the name change. “Jacob” means “tricky supplanter.” “Israel” means “prince of God.” All believers have an old nature, as well as a new nature. When he was influenced by his old nature, God called him “Jacob.” But when he was “revived” he was influenced by his new nature, and therefore called “Israel.” That explanation is true to the Scriptures, and it is true to life – as every Christian knows by experience. Spurgeon said, “‘Jacob’ was the name of his birth nature; ‘Israel’ was the name of his new and spiritual nature” (C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Number 2,116, p. 1). In his new nature, he was ready to obey God in faith, and go down to Egypt, to his son Joseph. But in his old nature he feared to go. Therefore God had to comfort him before he went. Thus we will see faith and fear in Jacob’s pilgrimage to Egypt. With this explanation, we go immediately into the text, where we learn two great truths to help us in our Christian lives.

I. First, we learn of Jacob’s faith.

As Jacob and his family began their journey to see Joseph, they stopped in Beersheba, while they were still in the land of Canaan. They stopped there while Jacob offered sacrifices. Please stand and read Genesis 46:1 aloud.

“And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beer-sheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac” (Genesis 46:1).

You may be seated.

Arthur W. Pink said, “Thus, the first thing recorded of Jacob after his long journey to Egypt had begun, was the offering of sacrifices to God. Long years of discipline in the school of experience had...taught him to put God first; [before] he goes forward to see Joseph he tarries to worship the God of his father Isaac!” (Gleanings in Genesis, Moody Press, 1981 edition, p. 313).

Early in my own Christian experience I heard people say that they were “led” by the Holy Spirit to do certain things, like changing their membership to another church. But I saw, again and again, that this usually had a bad result. Early on I decided that I would make no sudden change, and that I would put God first in any major decision of life. Even if I did not feel like staying where I was, I would make no change unless my pastor, and other senior Christians in my church, advised me regarding whatever change faced me. Even though this sometimes felt very hard to do, I would be very cautious not to follow my own feelings and desires, but would put God first; and would always be careful to think of Hebrews 13:17,

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves [Obey your leaders, and submit to them]: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17),

and I Thessalonians 5:12, 13,

“And we beseech you, brethren, to know [appreciate] them which labour among you, and are over you [have charge over you] in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves” (I Thessalonians 5:12, 13).

I always consulted my pastor Dr. Timothy Lin, and my advisor and mentor Dr. Murphy Lum, when faced with major life-decisions. I determined that I would follow their advice even if it did not seem right to me at the time. This repeatedly turned out to be the right thing to do. The Bible says,

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones... My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-8, 11-13).

Jacob’s faith led him to stop and sacrifice to God at Beersheba, and as he did, God made His perfect will clear to him, though at first Jacob was afraid to obey Him.

Strangely, as I was writing this, I happened to pick up a little book on my desk that I didn’t think had anything to do with this sermon. It fell open to page 17 and I read the advice of an old Southern Baptist pastor, written years ago – before he died. Dr. W. Herschel Ford said,

      Proverbs 3:6 describes that guidance, “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” I personally know that when I have followed His leadership I have found peace and victory. When I refused to follow Him I have found sorrow and defeat.
      There are many decisions to be made today. Suppose you were offered a job in another city with a fine increase in salary. Would you rush ahead and accept the new job or would you wait upon the Lord? There are decisions to be made about your education or that of your children. Which school is best for you or them? There are decisions about the children. How much freedom should you give them, how much should you restrain them? There are decisions to make about a new house or a new car. Well, the great clarifier comes in waiting…We run ahead of the Lord, we seek our own glory and gain, we go our own way. And quite often we wind up brokenhearted (W. Herschel Ford, D.D., Simple Sermons on Life and Living, Zondervan Publishing House, 1971 edition, pp. 17, 18).

I said that it was “strange” that I picked up that book and had it fall open to that page, just as I was writing this. I am not much of a believer in that sort of thing, but I do think that God brought those pages to my attention so you would hear Dr. Ford’s advice. The main thing he said was to wait, not to rush ahead into a life-decision. He said, “The great clarifier comes in waiting.” And I would add to that the wisdom of seeking the advice of your pastor, and seasoned Christian leaders in your church. I would not go to any leaders outside your local church. Some preachers will use your confusion to try to get you to come to their church, which is highly unethical. Beside that, only leaders in your own church know the full details of your needs. Jacob stopped at Beersheba, offered sacrifices to the Lord, and waited for His guidance. That was the faith of Jacob!

II. Second, we learn of Jacob’s fear.

Now we discover the reason that Jacob stopped on his pilgrimage to Egypt. He hesitated at Beersheba because he was afraid. In verse three we read that God said to him, “fear not to go down into Egypt” (Genesis 46:3). He paused to offer sacrifices at Beersheba because he was afraid to go into Egypt, and he waited for God to make His will clear to him.

Spurgeon said that Jacob stopped and offered sacrifices to God at Beersheba to enquire of the Lord whether he should indeed go down to Egypt. I know that headstrong people look down on anyone who hesitates and has a fear of going wrong. That is why so many professing Christians stumble into errors from which they never recover. It is best not to be like them. Spurgeon said, “The Lord loves to see his children anxious to be right; for that anxiety is a great point in their right guidance...We are made careful: we are helped to weigh the matter in the balances of the sanctuary, and then our cool, calm judgment makes its decisions, and we choose the way which is most for God’s glory” (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 35, sermon number 2,116, p. 639).

Jacob’s fear was natural because he was an old man. Older people don’t like to make changes. That’s one of the reasons more mature people make fewer mistakes than those who are still young. And that is one of the main reasons for young people to consult those in their local church who are older Christians. You are far less apt to make a mistake when you consult the elders in your church, and heed their advice.

Then, too, Jacob was undoubtedly afraid to go to Egypt because he remembered what God had said to his grandfather, Abraham. Jacob began to think that Egypt might be the land that caused Abraham to experience a “horror of great darkness,” one hundred years before (Genesis 15:12). So he hesitated to go down into Egypt because he feared that his offspring would be afflicted there for four hundred years.

Also, Jacob undoubtedly feared that Egypt would confront his family with many new temptations. When people take their children from the country into a great city they often feel this fear, because any big city is a place of greater temptation. And yet I remember what the great missionary C. T. Studd said, “The only safe place to be, is to be in the will of God.” When God said to Jacob, “fear not to go down into Egypt” he went there by faith. And Egypt was the only safe place to be, because it was the will of God for Jacob and his family to be there.

I remember well how I left my home church in Los Angeles, and went up to San Francisco, to a very liberal seminary. I went with great fear, because I knew beforehand how liberal and unbelieving Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary was at that time. But I did not have enough money to go to a more conservative seminary. My pastor told me to go to San Francisco to that liberal seminary. He told me it would not hurt me. In a way he was right. It almost destroyed me, but it didn’t “hurt” me! I would not be the preacher that I am today if I had not gone there. I would not recommend that any other young man go to a liberal seminary. But it was exactly the right place for me to go!

God said to Jacob, “I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again” (Genesis 46:4). That is exactly what God did for me. He went with me to the liberal, godless seminary, and He surely brought me up again from it! That seminary was my Egypt and my Gethsemane. But the Lord brought me through it, and strengthened me by that experience. An old song says it well!

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
   I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all Hell should endeavor to shake,
   I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
   The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy trials to bless,
   And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
   My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
   Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”
(“How Firm a Foundation,” “K” in Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, 1787).

But there is one other application of this passage I want to give tonight. A few of you are afraid to come to Jesus. You have a fear of trusting the Saviour. Let me say to you in the strongest possible terms – that fear is from the Devil! It is not from God; it is a demonic fear, sent by Satan to keep you, and enslave you! God said to Jacob, “Fear not to go down into Egypt....” (Genesis 46:3). Fear not to go down into conviction of sin. Let your heart go down there, and see that the sin in your heart is a veritable Egypt of corruption.

And fear not to go to Jesus the Saviour. Remember that Joseph is a type of Jesus! God will go down with you into conviction. God will go with you to Jesus, our Joseph, and God will bring you up again from sin! Please stand and read verses three and four aloud.

“And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes” (Genesis 46:3, 4).

You may be seated. “I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes”! Joseph would put his hand upon Jacob’s eyes to close them in death. But Jesus, our Joseph, will put His hand upon your eyes and you will see by faith! “Fear not” – for Jesus will save you from your sins! God is saying to you tonight,

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
   I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all Hell should endeavor to shake,
   I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”

Come to Jesus by faith. There is nothing at all to fear – NOTHING to fear!

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”
       (I Timothy 1:15).

How we pray that you will trust Him now, this very night!

“I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes” (Genesis 46:4).

If you would like to speak to us about your salvation, please step to the back of the auditorium. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet place where we can speak with you about trusting Jesus as Mr. Griffith sings, “How Firm a Foundation.”

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
   I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all Hell should endeavor to shake,
   I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
   The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy trials to bless,
   And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
   My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
   Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”

Dr. Chan, please come and pray for those who have responded.

(END OF SERMON)
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at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

You may email Dr. Hymers at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net, (Click Here) – or you may
write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Genesis 45:25-46:4.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“How Firm a Foundation” (“K” in Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, 1787).


THE OUTLINE OF

JACOB’S PILGRIMAGE TO EGYPT

(SERMON #73 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beer-sheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac. And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes” (Genesis 46:1-4).

(Genesis 45:27, 28)

I.   First, we learn of Jacob’s faith, Genesis 46:1; Hebrews 13:17;
I Thessalonians 5:12, 13; Proverbs 3:5-8, 11-13.

II.  Second, we learn of Jacob’s fear, Genesis 46:3; 15:12; 46:4;
I Timothy 1:15.