Genesis 47:28-31 Maintaining contentment towards earthly things, and holy discontentment towards the heavenly
28 Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the length of Jacob’s life was one hundred and forty-seven years. 29 When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.” And he said, “I will do as you have said.” 31 He said, “Swear to me.” So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed.
Jacob’s wish to be buried in his homeland serves as an enduring epitaph to God’s faithfulness towards Israel through which humanity may be saved. Today’s devotion teaches us to be content towards earthly things and to be discontent while pursuing the things of heaven.
Please do not bury me in Egypt,… you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.
After reuniting with his favourite son, Jacob lived another 17 years in the land of Egypt. When the end of his days drew near, he called Joseph and sought to be buried in his homeland, the Promised Land. And Jacob’s insistence on an oath communicates the seriousness of it. The question: what motivated Jacob’s decision to be buried in Canaan, (not only for him, but also for the patriarchs that went before)?
- Familial sentimentalism: There is no place like home. Thus, he sought to be buried in his homeland.
- Personal honour: By being buried with the founding fathers, he would be honoured as patriarch of Israel.
- Faith: To erect a lasting monument so as to inspire faith in future generations towards God’s promises.
By observation, Jacob was sentimental, not towards his homeland but Rachel and her sons, particularly, Joseph. At Joseph’s invitation to migrate to Egypt, Jacob appeared hesitant not because of his preoccupation with Canaan per se, but with seeing Joseph and God’s covenantal presence. Not until when God appeared and gave His expressed permission did his trepidation ease. Throughout his life, he has also not shown himself to be obsessed with his personal honour as well. Thus, by insisting to be buried in Canaan, Jacob intends to erect a perpetual epitaph pointing to the Abrahamic covenant through which all the families of the earth will be blessed.
Maintaining contentment towards earthly things, and holy discontentment towards the heavenly.
Throughout Jacob’s life, he encountered a myriad of trials: his flight to Mesopotamia, an unintended marriage, the rape of his daughter, untimely death of his wife and strife among his sons that led to the estrangement of his favourite son. He also faced temptations, having prospered exceedingly (see Genesis 30:43). Through it all, Jacob was not bitter towards God nor was he drawn to the world. For he maintained a contentment towards earthly things and a holy discontentment in pursuing the Abrahamic vision (see Genesis 12:1-3, 35:9-12). This is evident by his longing to return to the Promised Land to be buried there.
Faith must be refined and proven through a myriad of trials and temptations. Trials and temptations subject the believer to a tension of things: transcient and eternal, earthly and heavenly, fleshly and spiritual, self-centredness and love. It is under this tension that the believer undergoes the test of faith. As he progresses in his journey, the dichotomy of things (transcient and eternal) become increasingly acute while the stakes appear higher. Jacob had to choose for his family to remain in prosperous and earthly Egypt or to return to the spartan Canaan (which is a type of God’s kingdom). And Jacob made that choice by way of his burial decision.
Many churchgoers appear to be kingdom minded, but their hearts are secretly longing for the riches of Egypt (which is a type of the world). Hence, they suppose that godliness is a means of gain (see 1 Timothy 6:5). Such carry a form of godliness but devoid of the truth and essence of Christ. Paul taught about being content, “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” 1 Timothy 6:7-8. Therefore, whether rich or poor, believers must learn to be content.
That said, concerning earthly wealth, we must be content. But concerning the virtues and abilities of Christ, we must maintain a holy discontent and pursue them relentlessly. Paul spoke about a constant hunger for the perfection of Christ that became the source of his motivations,
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12
Therefore, the believer must guard the posture of his heart until his very last breath. One who shifts his heart towards the world will inevitably pierce himself with many sorrows (see 1 Timothy 6:10). Not only that, he will lose the anointing and his place in the kingdom. The apostle John posts an explicit warning concerning the removal of the believer’s standing in the kingdom,
But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Revelation 2:4-5
That said, what should believers do? Paul encourages believers to pursue divine love and supernatural abilities. Christ’s love and abilities which is found in His blood are shed into the believer’s life through the Holy Spirit. The fruit of Jesus’s death and resurrection is evident in the believer’s ability to love and to exhibit His supernatural power. Paul said concerning the believer’s pursuit and desire,
“Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts.” 1 Corinthians 14:1a
Whatever our circumstances may be, whether in lack or in abundance, in health or sickness, let us be godly and content. In so doing, we may be blessed to become living epitaphs that point many to the eternal kingdom.
Dear Lord, I return my focus to the divine within me; Christ’s love and abilities. I endeavour not to allow my current circumstances, favourable or unfavourable to derail my pursuit of divine love and abilities, but to allow these circumstances to refine me. Hence, in every situation, I shall give thanks. Use my life as a pointer and inspiration for many to the way of the kingdom. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.