“11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. 14 And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”NIV
‘As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved” (14b).
The above comment may reflect submission to God’s will, but it sounds very much like fatalism to me. However, it’s not quite as straightforward as that. Like all of us, Jacob was a mixture. The flesh and the Spirit see-sawed fiercely inside his heart.
A number of things come to mind as I read this:
- Although they were out of “grain” (2), they clearly could lay their hands on other bits of produce (11). Apparently the custom was, generally-speaking, that if you were going to approach a ruler, you took a gift with you. However, seeing Joseph as a ‘type’ of Christ, I think about the human inclination to want to gain acceptance with God by good deeds, charitable acts, church attendance, and the like. It’s all unnecessary, and it won’t work. He can’t be ‘bought’ that way;
- Mention of “God Almighty” (14) takes us back to chapter 17, and the great promises God made to this family: promises Jacob was now carrying. Faith seems to soar at this point, as Abraham prays to the covenant-keeping God;
- But then, it would appear, it almost immediately plummets into what sounds like fatalism. As I listen to Jacob cry, “If I am bereaved, I am bereaved”, I hear echoes of Esther’s words from much later years: “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” How different was her attitude. It was not so much fatalism as sanctified courage, and with it a willingness to pay the ultimate price, if necessary.
I suppose we are all Jacob-like in that we are a mixture. We can be full of prayerful faith one minute, and then in the next moment be drowning in unbelief. It’s enough to make you want to cry out with Paul:
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24, 25a).
Paul knew the reality of the struggle; but He also revelled in the power of the Saviour.
So can we.