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JACOB DOUBTING – ISRAEL BELIEVING
(SERMON #72 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)
A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., Pastor Emeritus
The patriarch Jacob had twelve sons. Joseph was his son by Rachel, and he “loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age...And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him” (Genesis 37:3-4). They envied Joseph so much that they “conspired against him to slay him” (Genesis 37:18).
One day Joseph went out into the wilderness to find his brothers as they tended their sheep and goats. They took Joseph’s coat and cast him into a pit. They were about to kill him when Judah suggested that they sell him as a slave, which they did to a group of traveling merchants. Then they took his coat and dipped it in the blood of a goat. When they took the coat to their father, Jacob, he said, “It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces” (Genesis 37:33).
In the meantime Joseph was taken to Egypt and sold to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. Potiphar found that Joseph was a very able man, and he made him “overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand” (Genesis 39:4).
But Potiphar’s wife tried to get him to have sex with her while they were alone in the house. Joseph fled from her, but she lied to her husband Potiphar, and said that Joseph had tried to force himself on her. Potiphar was filled with anger and had Joseph put in prison.
But the Lord was with Joseph. Through a series of events he was made the keeper of the prison. Later, Pharaoh took him out of prison and made him the prime minister over all of Egypt.
As time went on there was a great famine in the land of Canaan and Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy corn. When they came to Joseph, they did not recognize him because his head and beard had been shaved, and he wore Egyptian clothing. His brothers bought corn from him and took it back to Jacob in Canaan.
After a time they were out of food again, and Jacob sent them back to Egypt to buy more. Joseph revealed himself to them, gave them more food, and sent them back to their father, Jacob. And that brings us to our text this afternoon. Please turn in your Bible to Genesis 45:25 to 46:1.
“And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father, And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not. And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, 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. And Israel took his journey...”
(Genesis 45:25-46:1; p. 64 Scofield).
The patriarch Jacob in his reaction here, if not a type, is surely an illustration. He exemplifies a person who hears the Gospel but is too faint-hearted to come to Christ.
As we saw last Sunday (“Joseph – A Type of Christ”), Joseph was very definitely a type of Jesus. We heard that Dr. I. M. Haldeman drew 101 parallels between Joseph and the Saviour. That may be slightly exaggerated, but Joseph is certainly a type of Jesus. That being true Jacob, in our text, is an illustration of someone who hears the Gospel but will not come to Christ. Now that is quite important because every preacher, who actually listens to people after they make a profession, will discover that there are always some who hold back, and are too faint-hearted to come to Christ.
That was the kind of man Jacob was. He was a man who often saw the negative side of things. He was always ready to believe bad news. Now, then, look at old Jacob in three verses of our text.
I. First, Jacob did not believe the witness of his sons.
They told him, “Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not” (Genesis 45:26). The evidence that Jacob heard was a personal testimony. They had been to Egypt. They had seen Joseph. And they told this to their father, Jacob. There have been many witnesses who have testified that Jesus is alive.
Many very credible witnesses attest to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.
“He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve...After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once... After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also...” said the Apostle Paul
(I Corinthians 15:5-8; p. 1225).
The Disciples bore witness to Christ’s bodily resurrection throughout their lives. They were so sure He had risen that they suffered torture and died painful deaths as martyrs rather than deny it. All of them but John died like that for confessing that they had been eyewitnesses of the risen Christ. They said they had eaten with Him, and some of them said they had touched Him. One of them who doubted at first put his fingers into the nail holes in His hands.
More than that, the Holy Spirit bore witness to Christ’s resurrection. After Christ ascended back to Heaven, the Holy Spirit descended upon them, and sent them throughout the world to preach the good news of the Gospel. And the Holy Spirit gave them power to work miracles, as a witness to the fact that Jesus still lived. To me, that ought to be enough evidence for anyone – the witness of faithful men, and the witness of the Holy Spirit.
Beside all that, there are many of us here today who have been pardoned by the living Christ. We have also passed from death unto life, and our hearts and lives bear witness to the fact that we have encountered the living Christ! Christ has given us a new nature, and a new life. We are living witnesses to the fact that Jesus is a living Saviour right now, today! If you will not believe all these witnesses, “neither will [you] be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” to bear witness that Christ is alive! (Luke 16:31). They “told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not” (Genesis 45:26).
Matthew Henry said, “Jacob had easily believed his sons formerly when they told him, ‘Joseph is dead,’ he can hardly believe them now that they tell him, ‘Joseph is alive.’ Weak and tender spirits are more influenced by fear than hope, and are more apt to receive impressions that are discouraging than those that are encouraging” (Matthew Henry’s commentary on Genesis 45:26).
I am not saying that Jacob was a lost man. Jacob was converted years earlier at Peniel, when he wrestled with the pre-incarnate Christ all night and said, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30). When he was converted that night, his name was changed from Jacob (the tricky supplanter) to Israel (a prince of God). But here, about 32 years later, the Spirit of God calls him “Jacob” again. “And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not” (Genesis 45:26). He backslid from being Israel, back into the old unbelief of Jacob. He backslid now, and as Dr. Leupold put it, “The old energy began to assert itself,” with its “customary gloom” (H. C. Leupold, D.D., Exposition of Genesis, volume II, Baker Book House, 1985 edition, p. 1101).
In this backslidden state he is once again called “Jacob.” He now refuses to believe, and by doing so he once again pictures an unbeliever. Does that describe you today? You have heard from many credible sources that Christ, our Joseph, is alive. Yet you hesitate. You refuse to believe the good news. And you refuse to come to Jesus. “And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not” (Genesis 45:26).
II. Second, Jacob’s spirit revived when he heard the words of Joseph, and saw the wagons Joseph had sent to carry him.
“And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived”
(Genesis 45:27; p. 64).
Jacob had heard “the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them” (Genesis 45:27). When they told him that Joseph was alive his “heart fainted, for he believed them not.” Unbelief always brings on faintness of spirit. But as soon as he heard “the words of Joseph” his heart began to revive. Unbelief makes us sad and gloomy. Some of you have learned to live that way – in a sad and hopeless state. As long as you do not believe you will always be faint of heart. But why go on living like that? “And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them.” I pray that you will hear the words of our Joseph, which is Jesus, who said,
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28; p. 1011).
Hear the words of Jesus, our Joseph! Jesus said,
“He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24; p. 1121).
When Jacob heard “the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them... the spirit of Jacob their father revived” (Genesis 45:27). Hear the words of Jesus. Believe Him, and you will have life!
Then, too, Jacob “saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him.” It may not have been enough to hear the words of Joseph, but when he saw those wagons, his spirit is revived and he said, “It is enough...I will go and see him” (Genesis 45:28). I think those wagons are like the sermons you hear. The wagons were a means of grace to carry Jacob to Joseph. The evangelistic sermons that you hear are a means of grace to carry you to Jesus. That’s why we have got to have evangelistic sermons, and lots of them, not just Bible studies. Bible studies don’t convert people. Evangelistic sermons are like wagons to carry you to Christ, who is our Joseph.
I am not preaching Spurgeon’s sermon on this passage as such, but I will lift out one of his points here. Spurgeon said,
What is the use of my talking, and talking, and talking, unless there is a living Christ and unless that living Christ is able to save? He has sent to you a minister who, with all his faults, loves your souls, and who would do anything within [reason] to bring you to Christ if only he knew how to do it. Surely, God did not send us to speak in his name, and move us to an agony about your souls, if he did not mean to bless you. So, the Christian ministry itself is like a “wagon” in which to bring men to Christ...trifle not with your souls, and with God, and heaven and hell! If I have lied to you about these matters, condemn me, for I deserve it; but if I have spoken the truth to you, hear me, or if you hear not me, hear the still small voice of your own conscience, or rather, hear the voice of God which has been speaking to you through me. Believe in Jesus now that you are under the influence of a [sermon] which may be to you what Joseph’s wagons were to old Jacob (C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume XLII, Pilgrim Publications, 1976 reprint, p. 294).
Why is the Bible so full of invitations unless God means for them to be “wagons” to bring you to your Joseph, even to Jesus? When you see God doing so much to help you find salvation, surely you should say, “It is enough; Jesus is yet alive. He can save me, and He will save me.”
III. Third, Jacob, now called Israel, said “It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.”
“And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die” (Genesis 45:28; p. 64).
It has often surprised me to find people who say, “Yes, I believe Christ is alive,” and yet they are not saved. Some of you have sung, many times,
There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
(“There Is a Fountain” by William Cowper, 1731-1800).
You have sung those words. Do you believe them? Do you believe those words? Then why haven’t you lost your guilty stains? Jesus said, “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47). Do you believe what Jesus said? Someone says, “Yes, I do believe what He said.” Then listen again to His words, “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” You say you believe that verse, and yet you have not believed in Jesus! I can understand someone who rejects the Bible. But I cannot understand a person who believes the Bible and yet refuses to believe in Jesus. If the Gospel is true, why don’t you believe in Jesus? You say that all a person needs to do is believe in Jesus – and yet you will not believe in Him! That doesn’t make any sense to me at all. It is as though Jacob had said, “Joseph my son is yet alive, but I will not go and see him.” Oh, no! Jacob does not talk like that. He says, “Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.” And right away the poor old man started to go down to Egypt, because the very next verse says, “And Israel took his journey” (Genesis 46:1).
One reason Jacob hurried to go to Egypt was because he really wanted to see his son.
Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by!
(“Face to Face” by Carrie E. Breck, 1855-1934).
You agreed with that chorus. You said in your heart, “Yes, I would love to see Jesus face to face by and by.” But Jacob didn’t say that. He didn’t say, “I’ll see him someday, I’ll see him by and by.” No! Jacob said, “I will go and see him before I die.” That’s what I want you to say today, “I will go and see Him before I die.” Do not wait until you are dead! If you do, you will see Him, but it will be too late, for you will see Him right before you are sent to the Lake of Fire, at the Last Judgment! Oh, how I pray that you will say, “It is enough; my Saviour is yet alive: I will go and see Him before I die.”
I remember thinking, “I would like to see England, the place where my grandfather was born.” And I did go to see it, twice. I remember thinking, “I would like to see Egypt, and the great pyramid my mother spoke of so often.” And I did go to see it, and I even climbed that pyramid through a tunnel! I remember thinking, “I would like to see the Sea of Galilee, and Peter’s house, where Jesus stayed.” And I did go and see them. I would like to go and see the Great Wall of China, and maybe someday I will go to see it. There may be many things in this world you would like to see. But even if you miss seeing all the things man in this world would like to see, I tell you – don’t miss out on seeing Jesus by the eye of faith. There is no life in seeing anyt//hing else than Jesus, who said, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 45:22). I pray that you will say with old Jacob today, “It is enough; Jesus my Saviour is alive: I will go and see Him before I die; I will go and believe in Him today! I have waited long enough!”