"Seeing the Wagons"
Genesis 45:26-28, "And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not. And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived: And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die."
This morning, it is common to say that we live in the "information age." With social media, internet libraries, etc. there is more information at people's fingertips than perhaps ever before. However, as I observe the state of interaction between people and listen to what they regurgitate from their reading, it makes me think we live in the "misinformation age." The gossip reported about people and erroneous factoids that are spoken by people show that much of what is available to us is not completely accurate. One of the most egregious problems with misinformation is that - once swallowed - it can be difficult or almost impossible to remove. For example, there have been verses that I have heard misquoted (or been guilty of misquoting myself) often enough that when I read the actual language, my first impulse is, "What? It says what?" When it comes to what we believe about concepts or think about other people, misinformation can be crippling to our knowledge base or relationship levels. This is why critical thinking and astute observation are important traits for a disciple of the King to have, praying always that He bless us in our lives to "deal prudently."
The verses before us mark the beginning of one of Jacob's highest joys that overturned one of his greatest sorrows in life. For many, many years, Jacob had lived with the false knowledge that his well-beloved son Joseph was dead. Misinformation had robbed him of many years of joy. At the end of Genesis 37, Jacob's other sons brought him news that Joseph was dead. To effect this, they had presented Joseph's coat of many colors that Jacob had given him. The coat was ripped and dipped in goat's blood. The ploy was successful as Jacob believed it and mourned over it. Notice at the end of Genesis 37 how Joseph's brethren made their play. They asked their father a question, "Is this your son's coat?" The answer to that question was "yes" making Jacob think that Joseph was dead. The more pertinent question would have been, "Is this your son's blood?" The answer to that question would have kept Jacob from much grief. As the old saying goes, "If you ask the wrong question, you will get the wrong answer."
So today, many people suffer crippling situations in their lives due to the wrong question being asked and the wrong answer believed. Because Jacob had believed a lie for so long, the truth seemed like a lie to him when it came. In our verses, Jacob refused to believe the report that the same sons gave him. Before, they told Jacob that Joseph was dead, now they tell him that Joseph is alive. Why would Jacob believe the lie and not believe the truth? Bad evidence and misinformation allowed him to swallow the lie, but a true report was not enough to overturn it. Again, today vast multitudes of God's children believe lies from misinformation and bad evidence to the point that a true report is not believed. As Jacob did, they faint in their heart and believe it not.
What did it take to make a believer out of Jacob? His refusal to believe the truth did not change until he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent from Egypt to ease Jacob's journey to this strange new land. That display proved sufficient to move Jacob from sorrow of heart and grief of spirit to belief, relief, and joy. The expression "it is enough" shows that Jacob was sufficiently convinced now of the truth to displace the dreadful lie that had been believed for so long. Let us consider how this lesson should profoundly affect and move the disciple of Christ today.
As previously mentioned, hordes of God's children are wandering in the wilderness of ignorance and travelling through the valley of sorrow and grief. In a theological way, they have lost hope and had their love wax cold due to the increase and abundance of iniquity in the world. Recent immoral acts, decisions, and edicts have robbed many of God's dear ones from the lively hope that should be enjoined to our lives. Either bitterness has set in or sorrow has filled their hearts. Others wander in the ignorance that stems from believing that some form of obedience or human display/instrumentality is necessary for their deliverance to heaven. In both cases, hearing the report of God's unchanging love and free grace causes them to faint in their heart and believe it not. The report is not enough to overturn the years spent in believing lies and sorrowing to despair.
People have asked me over the years why more people do not rejoice and hold fast to the good news of God's salvation of sinners through the free grace and shed blood of Christ alone. In the past I have answered that question by saying, "Our gospel has no appeal to the flesh, whereas false theology makes the flesh feel better as it has done something to get there." Though that is still true, I feel now that an addendum should be added as well. People have believed lies for so long and misinformation has been so prevalent that hearing the truth sounds wrong as the lie has sounded right for so long. There have been many times at work when a religious discussion comes up and someone will say, "Well, everyone knows you just have to accept Christ. That's the only way." This bald, unproven statement is met with approval and assertion by other parties in the discussion. When you mention the truth as it is in Jesus that He finished it all with no effort of man, they say, "I've never heard that. That can't be right." Why is there an automatic rejection of the truth? The lie is so ingrained that the truth sounds wrong to them.
In a more practical sense, consider one of the most crippling behaviors to the life of a disciple: gossip. Have you ever noticed that gossip is rarely true? There may be kernels of truth that start the gossip chain, but by the time it reaches us as 4th hand or worse, it has morphed into a monster of a lie. What happens when the truth is actually mentioned? Is it believed? Why not? The monster of a lie has taken root and entwined into the thought processes of those that swallowed it and perhaps helped propagate it. Again, the truth sounds like a lie because the lie has been held to and festered for so long. Looking at a dreadful theological state or crippled practical state, what is the hope and answer to these things? Words probably are not enough to suffice, so what does it take?
Jacob "changed his tune" when the wagons convinced him. There was no doubt that Joseph was alive, for no other answer was feasible. Years ago, I heard a dear man of God preach a wonderful sermon where towards the close, he said something to this effect, "When someone is steeped in error, what can you do? If you have talked to them till you're blue in the face to no avail, what can you do? If you have tried to root out gossip that they fiercely hold on to with no progress, what can you do? Friends, get down on your knees and beg God, 'Show them the wagons Lord.'" Amen dear brother! Friends there are wagons everywhere that show the great display of "our Joseph" that is alive and loves us still.
When someone is steeped in theological error and robbed of hope and joy in this world, beg God to show them the wagons that he has given us. His written word is a wagon loaded with good and fat things that are a delight to the soul. I am a big believer that the Scriptures - if read honestly - will provide clear answer to the question, "How is man brought into favor with God?" The blood of Christ and that alone is the only answer. This wagon gives us hope (Romans 15:4). Another wagon is the gracious outpouring of His Spirit. Now, some do not see it when it happens, but our prayer should be that they do see it. Have you ever been in church and seen such a gracious display only to mourn over those that seemed unaffected by it? Probably every preacher has had that experience, but our prayer should be that they see the wagons when the Spirit comes and fills the house with comfort and joy. Another wagon that He has sent unto us is His protecting providence upon us. When Elisha's servant thought they were goners in II Kings 6 while surrounded by the enemy army, Elisha prayed, "Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes..." (II Kings 6:17a) The servant then saw that there were more with them than the enemy. Today, God's angels still encamp round about us and protect us from many evils in this world and will accompany our departing spirits to heaven when our travels here are over.
These wagons sent by God in our lives should convince us that He is real, He loves, and He lives! When the gospel comes in power, there is evidence that our Jesus is alive! When the Spirit comes to comfort us and testify to us, there is evidence that our Jesus is alive! When His word jumps up to us and seems to come alive, there is evidence that our Jesus is alive! Rejoice dear children, for our Saviour is alive, loves us still, and done all to secure our home with Him. It is a certainty because He made it so.
On a practical side, how do we avoid the crippling nature of gossip? Maybe worse, how do we overcome misinformation and gossip that has been said about us? I have learned by experience that when you hear that bad information has gone around on you, words may not suffice to overcome the evil report. So how is it overcome? Wagons need to be seen. Has your integrity been impugned? Keep your feet on the right path walking a walk that speaks louder than words do. Has your compassion been charged and accusations of hard-heartedness been hurled at you? Walk circumspectly with grace and wisdom so that others will see that those things being said are false. Most of all, in all these situations, beg God to show some wagons and try to load up as many as you can in your life to be a blessing to others. Joseph was gracious and kind to his brethren though he was in a position to do with them as he would. If we are in a position to put someone under our thumb but we rather embrace them in love and compassion, what a powerful display that is!
When I look at the world today, I see such marred existences. We are handicapped by the sin in the world, and we self-inflict so many extra wounds upon ourselves and others. But there are still wagons here friends. God has given us life, breath, and being. He has poured out spiritual mercies unto us. He has given us fellow pilgrims to encourage and strengthen us. Do you see your brethren as wagons in your lives? Do you see the church, the Bible, and His guidance as wagons in your lives? Too many times, I believe evil reports and fail to rejoice in the truth, even when I hear it. Oh how blessed is the sight to see multitudes of blessings in my life and have been loaded down by the hand of God and delivered through the vehicles of wonderful examples of others. May we seize upon His blessings and load our lives up like wagons to be blessings to others. "Lord, open their eyes that they may see. There are more with us than with them. Open my eyes. Open their eyes. Bless us to see Thy wagons." Do we see them today?