Israel stopped the procession of carts, people and animals at the southern edge of his place of birth. “Bring the best male from each flock: a goat, ram and bull. We shall offer a sacrifice to the God of our fathers here in Beersheba before we continue.”
During his night’s sleep Israel heard a voice. “Jacob, Jacob.”
He answered without awakening. “Here I am.”
“Don’t be afraid to continue on to Egypt. I am the God of your father. I will be with you and make you a great nation there. You shall indeed return to this land. Joseph will greet you there.”
In the morning Israel gave instructions. “Judah, I need you to go ahead and bring someone from Egypt to show us where Joseph is planning for us to live.”
After the last tent was erected Israel looked across the now shallow Nile River and saw a lone chariot stopped. Soon, the man dressed in royal clothes swung his arm over his head. The chariot lurched forward as the horses splashed through the water.
Israel stood to his feet. His heart was beating so fast he was sure everybody could hear it. He kept reminding himself to breathe.
He didn’t recognize the man in royal garments until he got close enough to look in his eyes. “Jo…”
Joseph’s arms were so tight around Israel that breathing was, again, a problem. Joseph’s tears saturated Israel’s shoulder to the point of trickling down his back before Joseph finally released is grip and stepped back.
Israel posed a question. “Did you ever find your brothers?”
Joseph smiled. “Yes, but they’re not where you said they’d be.”
“Do you know where they are now?”
“It seems they’ve followed me to Egypt.”
“Smart boys, they must get that from their mothers.”
Laughter filled the air.
Israel lifted his hand high. “Bring out our best bull. It’s time for a feast.”
Joseph called a meeting of his dad and brothers after the meal. “I need to take some of you before Pharaoh to work out the details of you living here. When he asks you what your occupation is tell him you’re shepherds, always have been, always will be.”
Reuben leaned forward. “Why?”
Joseph looked at him, then his brothers. “Egyptians hate shepherds. They like the wool and meat from the sheep, but, they prefer to avoid the smelly people who take care of them. This way you can live your lives without needing to learn the language. It’s a bit tricky to get the nuances of certain sounds right.”
What a journey into the unknown for an old man to take. I’m glad he had the foresight to recognize God early in this excursion to Egypt. It’s a good precedent for all of us to follow.
I’m also glad the offering of animal sacrifices isn’t a requirement any longer. This ancient practice was a foreshadowing of the blood Jesus would one day shed to renew our broken relationship with God.
Because of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we merely talk to God in prayer to acknowledge His importance in our lives.
I hope you’re in the habit of keeping that line of communication open, especially at the beginning of an important change in your life. Give God the pre-eminent place of importance in all of your decisions and He’ll guide you, too.
What stands out to me about what God said to Israel at this juncture of his journey is what God didn’t say. He kept His promise to make these people into a great nation alright.
What God didn’t tell anybody was how long that would take and under what condition they’d have to endure during that time.
Looking back through the portal of history we now know that this nation would be in Egypt over four centuries and live most of that time in slavery. I wonder if anybody would have suggested trying another destination for their avoidance of famine if they’d been told that ahead of time.
God still operates that way today. He’ll open certain doors for you to walk through in His will, but, He won’t give you all the details of what you’ll endure during your time past that portal. Things may seem bleak and menacing at times during your life. Trust Him to be in the details of it all; even the messy ones.
He has a plan for all of it, even what looks like mistakes on your part. Do your best to do your best. Don’t sweat the seemingly imperfect parts. God knows He’s dealing with imperfect people. He’s got it all worked out.
What is it about shepherds that makes it so they don’t get no respect, anyway? Somebody has to watch the sheep. Why aren’t they ever cut any slack for their occupation?
Maybe it’s from anybody who ever tried to get a stupid lamb to roll over, or, fetch. Yeah, ain’t hap’nin.’
Sheep need constant care. They’re so dumb they’ll walk into briar covered bushes even though their wool coat is sure to get stuck in it. That’s why one end of a shepherd’s staff is bent into almost a loop. A shepherd will use that end of his staff to lift a sheep out of the briars without tearing the sheep’s skin by pulling them out backwards.
What kind of person would want to care for such an idiotic beast? Apparently not a very smart one. That’s for sure. Add to that the body odor emanating from someone who doesn’t spend much time near a shower and you have a recipe for unpopularity.
I see God’s plan in this part of the nation of Israel’s story at this point, too. The seclusion from the Egyptians guaranteed no mixing into that race of people. A unique nation was sure to come out of this 4oo-year isolation.
You see, God even has the dirty details covered in His plans.
Don’t worry about yours.
I’ll see you later. Wade