Do you remember the story of Joseph’s brothers when they went down to Egypt to buy corn because there was famine in the land of Canaan? Joseph, knowing who they were, tested them by accusing them of being spies. To prove they weren’t spies, the brothers had to go back to Canaan and bring their youngest brother Benjamin with them. Oh, and to keep them honest, Joseph held Simeon in Egypt. If they brought Benjamin back, it would prove to Joseph they weren’t spies.
When the nine brothers returned to Canaan and told Jacob what had happened and that they were now supposed to take Benjamin back to Egypt, Jacob cried out, “All these things are against me!” (Gen. 42:36)
It really is no wonder why Jacob would cry out like this. He was experiencing intense pain at that moment. He certainly hadn’t lived the easiest life, either. He had a father who favored his older brother more than him. His employer cheated him out of what was rightfully his by making him work seven additional years to earn the marriage of his Rachel. If that wasn’t upsetting enough, he was tricked into marrying the wrong woman, too! His children didn’t get along.
They lied to him about Joseph being eaten by a wild beast, but they had secretly sold him to a band of marauding tribesmen. Finally, a famine had hit the land and while his sons were away getting food, the prince of Egypt had restrained another one of his sons and was now demanding that they bring his youngest son back with them! Jacob didn’t have an easy life. So therefore Jacob cried out, “All these things are against me!”
How often do we cry out with the same words? It is so easy, isn’t it, to see the trials in our life as events that are against us. How can trouble in our family be for us? How can the death of a child be for us? How can chronic illness be for us? How can it be good when I find out my child was the target of someone else’s sinful actions? How can it be good when I have to sit down with my spouse and conclude that that old car in the driveway has to get us through just one more year? Or that extra job I must take on or those longer hours I must work must continue?
But, Christian, these events are not against us. Jacob was wrong. Jacob was wrong when he thought all these things were against him. We are wrong, too, if we think the same. Like a beam of light that pierces the late afternoon storm clouds, God’s Word gives us hope. In Romans 8:31, Paul says “If God be for us, who can be against us?” What a hope that is! All these things are NOT against us. God is for us. Let’s be assured of this every day. This is a foundational doctrine of our faith. The Canon’s Fifth Head of Doctrine expresses this truth clearly and comfortingly. The whole Fifth Head is worth reading again, but I quote one section: “But God is faithful, who, having conferred grace, mercifully confirms and powerfully preserves them therein, even to the end.”
God is for us every second of the day… “even to the end.” Nothing that happens to us is against us; it is always for us. Christian, does that give you hope? Then let us cling to that truth.
This post was written by Rick Mingerink, a member of the Grandville Protestant Reformed Church in Michigan. Rick is also a principal at a Christian school in West Michigan. If you have a question or comment for Rick, please do so in the comment section.