December 17: You Are Only a Pilgrim Passing Through

Scripture Reading: Genesis 47:7-10

“And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh, And Jacob blessed Pharaoh,

“And Pharaoh said unto Jacob: ‘How many are the days of the years of thy life?’

“And Jacob said unto Pharaoh: ‘The days of the years of my sojournings are a hundred and thirty years; few and evil (sad and unhappy) have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojournings.’ And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh.” (Genesis 47:7-10)

Some time later, after they had settled in Goshen, Pharaoh asked Joseph to bring his father to visit him. He wanted to meet with this grand old man who was the father of his viceroy, to whom he owed so much.

Pharaoh was amazed as he saw Jacob. The average age of an Egyptian at that time was very short in comparison with those of the family of Abraham.

Pharaoh asked Jacob, “How many are the day of the years of thy life?” It was a polite way of asking the age of an older person. In China you would never ask the age of an older person in the same way you would ask a child.

To a child you would ask: “Ni chi sui?” (“You, how many years?”)

To an older person you would ask: “Ni-te sui-shu to ta?” (“Your years are reckoned to what greatness?”)

People in Asia are very proud of the years of their life. Every year is added honour.

Jacob answered Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojournings are a hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life,” (Genesis 47:9a).

Jacob’s answer to Pharaoh is very interesting. It reveals a great deal about the character of Jacob.

The Haftorah says, “Jacob does not say, ‘The days of my life are one hundred and thirty’, but rather, ‘all the days of my sojournings have been one hundred and thirty years.’ ” To the Patriarch, his life is but a pilgrimage, his real life is beyond.

There is a beautiful old hymn that we used to sing in our German Mennonite Church when I was a girl in Canada; translated it would sound like this:

“I am a pilgrim, I’m a stranger,
I can tarry, I can tarry but so long.”

“…and they have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojournings'” (Genesis 47:9b).

Jacob was exactly one hundred years older than Joseph had been when he had first stood before Pharaoh after his release from prison.

As Jacob compared his life with the lives of his father, Isaac, and his grandfather, Abraham, let us take another look at their ages.

Jacob was 130 years old at that time. He lived another 17 years, and died at the age of 147.

His father, Isaac, died at the age of 180.

His grandfather, Abraham, died at the age of 175.

His great grandfather, Terah, died at the age of 205.

His son, Joseph, died at the age of 110.

We must always remember that we are only pilgrims. Everything we think we possess of this world’s property is only loaned to us for awhile. Even a whole lifetime is but a vapour when compared with eternity. All of us spend our lives as a “tale that is told.” Never hang on to the things of this world; they will only last a few short years. Always live in a way that you can say good-bye to it all today.

Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:” (Matthew 6:19-20).

When Jacob referred to the sorrows of his life, he was revealing family secrets. He knew that Pharaoh knew how he had been parted from his Joseph for the last twenty-two years — twenty-two years of suffering will affect a man’s life. Jacob had suffered greatly through most of his life.

— He had to flee from home, from the wrath of his brother, Esau, and he never saw his beloved mother again.

— He was tricked into marriage with the wrong woman by her father.

— He lived amidst the fighting and arguing of his four wives.

— He had to flee from Laban, then face him.

— He wrestled for his life with the angel of the Lord.

— He had to face the wrath of Esau, his brother.

— His sons killed off the men of Shechem, bringing great reproach on him.

— He lost his beloved Rachel in childbirth.

— His son Reuben had committed a great sin with his wife Bilhah.

— And then, he had suffered what he thought was the death of Joseph.

Yes, Jacob had suffered, but God had given him joy in his old age. He still had seventeen years to live. They would be years of peace which would include many blessings and honours.

Before Jacob left Pharaoh’s presence, he blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s life would never be the same after that blessing!

A shepherd can still bless a king! Even a shepherd who is an abomination to his own people! The Great Shepherd of the sheep has been blessing those who have rejected Him for thousands of years. Ask Him to bless you today!



In the Beginning by Gwen Shaw
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