As the story of Genesis winds down, we are wondering about the outcome of the Abrahamic promise that God’s people would bring blessing to the nations. Ironically, the people of God are in exile from their promised land; yet while living as strangers in the midst of a powerful nation, they have opportunity to be the bearers of blessing.
Not only do they have opportunity while in exile to bless the nations, but here they receive the blessing of their father, who speaks to each of his sons a blessing that is suitable to them. Through the blessing of Jacob upon his sons, they are assured of the continuity of the Abrahamic promise and their ultimate return to the land of promise.
The Abrahamic promise has passed from Abraham to Isaac and then to Jacob. Jacob has seen his descendants multiply and in some slight measure, through Joseph, he has seen blessing come to the nation of Egypt. Jacob had only sojourned in the Promised Land and wants to be buried there permanently with Abraham and Isaac.
Now that the patriarchs are off the scene, we wait to see how the seed of Abraham will live out their responsibility to be faithful to God and to be a blessing to the nations.
The final chapter concludes with a promise of redemption, i.e. that the Lord will visit his people and deliver them from Egypt and bring them to ‘rest’ in the Promised Land. The ‘rest’ of the land anticipates the ‘rest’ that the Messiah would bring. Jesus inaugurates this rest in his first coming and consummates it in his second coming. We now enjoy rest to our souls but long for rest for our entire being.
The gospel assures us that the ultimate rest will come in God’s time. Meanwhile though believers live in exile from their heavenly home, they do so with a spirit of hope and expectation. They serve a God who is capable of preserving them in exile, blessing them in exile, and using them to bless others while in exile.
While serving God in the city we live with assurance that we are strategically located in the story of the progress of redemption. We are here to participate in the advancement of God’s purposes of ‘calling out of the nations a people for His name.”
In some sense, any place in this world is like “Egypt’ because all believers live as strangers and foreigners and do not enjoy the consummate rest. If we are here, we are not home. Perhaps even more so, urban centers with their density, diversity, and heightened depravity create a deeper awareness of exile and a longing for ‘home.’ However, like Jacob’s family, we accept that God in His sovereign wisdom leaves his people in Egypt, delays the consummate enjoyment of rest, and employs His people to carry out His purposes. Meanwhile, we pray, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.”