A New Year in Experience

Gen. 46. 1-4 (Jacob); Ex. 3. 10-12 (Moses)

Here are two men- both at the parting of the ways, – both at the end of a chapter in their experience, both conscious that a new year was in front of them and both dreading it. Both are old, both have long been in their present place, and both are now suddenly called to leave it. Both are required to remove to a place of unknown difficulties and dangers, and both have no source of help and comfort in such circumstances, but Him to whom, not just this one dying year but even a thousand years, are but as yesterday (Psalm 90. 4), and whose future can be summed up in the words “ Thy years shall have no end “ (Psalm 102. 27).

Jacob is directed to go down to Egypt. He has not passed that way before, it is foreign to him, it is not the land of promise. But the latter at present only offers starvation, and if he would live and again see long lost Joseph he must make the venture. Previously, faith had been tried in having to let Benjamin go, but now it is tried still more–Jacob has to go himself! He commences the journey, but ere he passes the boundary of the Canaan which, despite present appearances, he could not forget was his inheritance by promise of God to his ancestors, he does what seems to him the only, the right thing to do – he seeks the face of God. At Beersheba, place of memories and promises, he turns to the God of past years and offers sacrifices. How full of instruction this is to all the sons of faith when suddenly called to venture out on a new year of unknown change! “What time I am afraid! will trust in Thee” (Psalm 56. 3), “But it is good for me to draw near to God” (Psalm 73. 28), “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” (James 4. 5). When circumstances are all pointing to an unknown path, which seems the very opposite to what we had imagined was our proper course, how blessed then to turn aside before taking the decisive step and seek the mind of our heavenly Father about it ! “ He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11. 6}. Jacob did this. Looking past the present famine, Jacob believed that God still lived, and honoured Him by going to Him in simple faith. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit “ (Psalm 51. 17). Jacob offered this sacrifice, and was abundantly rewarded. In visions of the night, God comes to him in reassuring promise - “ I am God, the God of thy father : fear not to go down into Egypt ; for I will there make of thee a great nation, I will go down with thee: into Egypt ; and I will also surely bring thee up again.” This, surely, was enough ! The famine might be sore in all lands, but the One who had cared for Jacob and his fathers was still going to care for him, and Jacob was to prove His ability to do so even in a strange place.

Moses, too, is told to go down to Egypt, and he, likewise, shrinks from it. lie had good cause to ! Unlike Jacob, he had been there before, and had to flee for his life. His warm-hearted endeavours to right wrongs in Egypt had utterly failed, and he only escaped a crushed man. But he was now to prove that what, undertaken in the energy of the flesh, comes to nought, in the strength of the Spirit of God achieves success. Where the natural, the first man, fails, the spiritual, the second man, conquers ! The means to do this are, again, simply the promises of God. God’s promises are His enabling; His call to service is His guarantee of the ability to do it, “Certainly I will be with thee “ – that was the pledge, and in the strength of the same promise both men move forward in the path of God’s will.

Now what do these two men of like passions as ourselves, trembling but made strong by the mighty word of God teach us as they thus see out an old year in their experience and step forward into the new? Both were directed to go to Egypt – Jacob for sustenance, Moses to work. Jacob was going to prove that God is not confined to either persons or places. The cattle on a thousand hills are His (Psalm 50. 10), and when He shuts one door it is to open another. Moses, on the other hand, was going to prove that God could use him even in the scene of his defeat and flight: that unbelieving brethren and an imperious monarch were, alike, no obstacle to the accomplishment of God’s purposes, and that it is precisely the men who have failed (and know it), the broken and empty vessels, that He uses for great purposes. In short, both Jacob and Moses were going to know God where, to all appearances, He was unknown. In the strange place, both were to discover that He truly “moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform," and both would be taught by their experiences to exclaim “ Whither shall I flee from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?” (Psalm 139. 7). Nowhere, not even in Egypt !

Jacob, then, stands for what God can do for me, Moses for what God can do with me - providence for me, and service for Him. Now surely this is a beautiful object-lesson for the Jacobs and Moses of today. Like the characters in our study we have come to another milestone in experience, and it points to Egypt ! Like them we doubt future days and strange scenes, and despair of being able to accomplish for Him the service to which we are assuredly called. But let us take heart. “ What-soever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope “ (Romans 15. 4) ; the experiences of Jacob and Moses can become ours; we, too, can learn that God is almighty, all sufficient, able both to sustain and use us. His word to us, as to the weaklings who became the giants of old, is “Certainly I will be with thee.” In the strength of that promise we can surely write across the new calendar “ God is able," and learn from our very experiences that “ All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies “ (Psalm 25. 10).


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