I was spending some time in the book of Genesis tonight; just finished going through chapter 42. This is the part where Jacob’s sons have come back to him and reported that Simeon was left with Joseph (at that time still unknown to his brothers) while they made the trek to get Benjamin and bring him back to Egypt, ostensibly as proof that they were not spies. After this was reported to their father, they emptied their bags and found that the money they had taken to pay for the grain they brought home was still in their possession – implication being that they would be thought of as thieves and treated as such. At this point Jacob says:
You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.
You can almost hear the heartache! Clearly from the text, Jacob is feeling the world cave in around him. His statement, “all this has come against me”, is the words of someone beset by sorrow and hopelessness. They speak to profound self-pity, yet that not entirely misplaced.
But the marvelous irony is: everything that Jacob is mourning – the loss of Joseph, Simeon’s captivity, the fact that Benjamin must go to Egypt, and that his money has been returned – everything that “has come against [him]” is actually the very thing, the very thing, that is the avenue to securing life for him and his family. Upon reaching this point in the text I wanted to grab Jacob and laugh, saying, “Come on, Jacob! Enough with the self-pity and grieving heart! This is all for your good – for your happiness! Just bear up a little longer and you will see that what you mourn has been itself the very means to your deliverance!”
And surely no one could fail to see the parallel to this in the New Testament (especially as it has been pointed out for many centuries now). That is, could not the disciples on Holy Saturday say the same as Jacob above? The man they confessed to be the Anointed One of God, the Messiah Himself, was dead and buried! They believed that “all this has come against [us]”, yet it is that very fact of Jesus dead in the tomb that secures life for them – not to mention you and I!
All that said, and on a tiny tangent, let me wrap up with this:
God’s deliverance comes to us not as we would expect (obvious blessings falling into place one after another), but in Law and Gospel – to which there is a certain analogy with what I have noted above. The irony of this deliverance is that it comes first not to make you triumphant, but to make you hopeless. Only then, when all is fulfilled and you know how dead you really are, does it come to make you the victor and restore you to life.