God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath.
G. K. Chesterton’s most famous character was Father Brown, a priest who solves mysteries. He looked at men’s hearts as well as bits of cigar ash, and in “The Flying Stars,” Brown comments, “It is not generous to make even God’s patience with us a point against Him.”
Many of the stories in Genesis seem to point to God’s absence. The pain, mistrust, and violence that begins in Genesis 3 has multiplied, with Jacob and his family even guiltier than most. We want God to act! But perhaps something else has been going on all along.
Jacob had run from problems his whole life, but now with death facing him he was a man at peace, a man of faith. Through three generations, Abraham’s seed seemed no closer to inheriting Canaan, but Jacob knew that his home was the one piece of land Abraham did own—a tomb (49:31). Perhaps it has been God’s patience at work all along (Gen. 15:16), not His absence.
With Jacob’s death, Joseph’s brothers worried about the cycle of revenge and retribution beginning again. They likely invented the story in verses 16 and 17. But with the cycle broken, they have a new beginning. Joseph’s declaration (vv. 20–21) shows that this healing has roots in God’s actions, not His absence.
Genesis does not end on a fully triumphal note. Years after Jacob’s death, the Israelites are still in Egypt, and they don’t appear any closer to their goal. Joseph doesn’t even get carried “home” as Jacob did. God’s people still need to be rescued, but perhaps that’s the point. This story is not ultimately about Abraham, or Lot, or Jacob. The story doesn’t end in Genesis because God’s work doesn’t end in Genesis. The story is about His ongoing relationship with His people.
Apply the Word
As we reflect on the drama that unfolded before us this month, we should not forget the main point. The characters we’ve seen reveal a larger truth. Chesterton knew this when he wrote in his Introduction to the Book of Job, that “God is not only the chief character of the Old Testament; God is properly the only character in the Old Testament.”