What can the history of the patriarchs tell us about how to prepare for the end-times?
God has always sought to deliver His people on a greater scale than securing lands on Earth. We will be able to see that in His dealings with His people throughout the era of the patriarchs.
God’s plan for His people to enter the Promised Land was set from the beginning. Even at the beginning of Abram’s life, God was preparing the way for him. His father, Terah, moved his family to Haran, near the land God would later give his descendants. Sometime after He brought Abram out of Haran, the Lord told him early on that his descendants would not claim this land in worldly splendor, but after a time of affliction.
For 400 years, the children of Abram would suffer bitter servitude at the hands of the nation of Egypt. But in the end, the Lord would judge that nation and bring the descendants of Abraham into Canaan. This covenant did not die with Abraham, but it was passed down to his descendants, Isaac and Jacob.
The one moment in Jacob’s life that testifies of the coming trial of God’s people was his night of wrestling with the angel of God. He understood his own weaknesses that fateful night. He knew that only God stood between him and his vengeful twin, Esau. It was for the blessing of deliverance from his brother that Jacob wrestled for, and he received it.
The name change to Israel (“prince with God”) from Jacob (“supplanter”) symbolizes a great struggle that all God’s people must face. They must understand their own weakness and their complete inability to deliver themselves from the perils surrounding them. Like Jacob before them, God’s people must cleave to the One who struggles with man to help them overcome their sins. They must beg for the blessing to overcome, in full understanding of what will befall them if they do not put away their sins. It was only after this state of utter humiliation that the Abrahamic covenant was confirmed to Israel. Through struggling, the Lord delivered him from the wrath of Esau.
Though he later separated from Israel, Esau’s descendants never forgave Jacob for his transgression against their father. Consequently, they warred against the Israelites from generation to generation, especially the Amalekites. Esau’s sons, like their father, did not understand the need for the spiritual things, the blessings that imparted life to those who have them. Nor did they understand the need for forgiveness. Rather than seeking to overcome the things which drove them apart from Israel, they chose to embrace it and they warred against their brethren. As a result, the blessings they could have enjoyed were kept from them.
In the days of the coming crisis, the error of Esau will be repeated a million fold. Many will forsake the blessings of faith for the blessings of worldly gain, a course that will only move them to war against God’s people. These modern-day Edomites will see God’s people as a threat to their blessings and will war against them to preserve the blessings of the earth. They will not receive the value of the blessings to come, just as Esau failed to perceive the value of the blessing he traded for a pot of stew. “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall; but the righteous shall flourish as a branch” (Prov. 11:28)
Job, who dwelt in the land of Uz (a descendant of Esau), was greatly blessed with material wealth. But it was all worthless in comparison to the testimony that was given of him. “And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (Job 1:8)
Job did not allow his material blessings to affect or come between him and the Lord. He understood that these blessings come from Him and He blessed the work of His hands. He did not allow them to lead him to trust in his own power.
“And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day” (Deut. 8:17, 18).
It is this understanding of our relationship to the blessings of the Lord that is needed now among God’s people more than ever.
Joseph’s trials proved that a significant challenge to our work will be the members of our own family. Joseph had been spoiled by his father, Israel. He favored him above all his twelve sons and Joseph’s brethren were made to feel inferior to him. This coddling provoked the jealousy of his eleven brothers. They grew so frustrated with him, they cast him into a pit and eventually sold him into slavery.
God’s people must understand that they are indeed members of the family, but they are not to use their position as a means to elevate themselves above others. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, for the people of the world, frustrated with this prideful attitude among us, will soon seek to humble us as Joseph’s brothers humbled him.
The work God has for His people to do in the last days must be done in humility. We must humbly approach all who we warn of Jesus’ Second Coming, trusting in God alone to bless our labors. We must also remember that these are our brethren. They are not to be looked at as anything less than that, lest we taint the work by the defects of our own character.
By our own actions, we have hindered the return of Christ. Judah, because of his own misgivings, delayed the messianic line from passing down. But God did not suffer Judah to continue his course, for Tamar deceived him to fulfill his duty to her and to the world by hastening the coming of the Messiah. Judah, upon discovering this, acknowledged her righteousness in her actions. He understood that our duty must not be forsaken for one’s own concerns, a lesson that God’s people must also understand.
Our misgivings of the work must not be allowed to hinder its progress. Diligent study of the events to come and prayer will provide relief to all who hesitate in moving the work forward. We must no longer allow our ignorance of the times ahead to affect our preparation for them. Like Tamar, we must move the work forward, lest the opportunity to reach others be lost.
God’s people are not immune from temptation. Even at the height of his servitude, Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife to forsake his duty. She herself had no regard for this. All she could behold was the opportunity to gratify her sensual desires. Had Joseph given way to temptation, his work for the saving of the house of Israel would have been destroyed. God had humbled Joseph in his slavery so that one day, he would be exalted among the Egyptians, which would lead the action of Israel’s coming to Egypt. In one moment, this could have been destroyed. But the home training of Joseph prepared him to deal with such an encounter.
“…how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9)
Joseph knew that God would be displeased with such an action and took every step to avoid temptation. He did not speak to her or look at her, and when she cornered him, he fled from her as all who face this temptation should. Temptation should not be given the slightest opportunity to affect the work, no matter how small. By entertaining it, it grows stronger. When it reaches the height of its power, it strikes as an adder. Those who have fostered its growth to this point will find it impossible to resist. It is at this time that we should cry out to the Lord, who will make an escape for His people. For the sake of the work and their own souls, they must not hesitate to take it.
When Potiphar’s wife saw that Joseph would not give in to her advances, she became a staunch opponent and set out to destroy him. She determined to avenge herself upon the one who refused her. She, like all the enemies of God, could not stand it when God’s people choose to go about our Father’s business. Rather than pursue godly character as Joseph, they choose to live life like God has no bearing upon it as Potiphar’s wife. This is what will lead people today into a similar fate should they choose to follow their sensual desires.
Joseph, now a man, put away childish things. Through God’s providence, he became the prime minister of Egypt. It was in this position that Joseph sought to determine if his brothers had done likewise. By imprisoning his brother Simeon, the brother most responsible for his captivity, Joseph sought to determine if brothers had the same spirit that provoked them to jealousy.
But what he didn’t know was that 20 years of reflecting on their cruelty towards Joseph had done its work upon the brothers. No longer did they cherish the jealousies of their former life. They had humbled themselves to the point where they were willing to accept the very fate they brought upon Joseph. This humbling experience must repeat itself today. The sins once prevalent among God’s people must not be remembered by them. There is no honor in bringing shame upon ourselves, for it will only testify against us before the Lord’s coming.
It will hinder those who seek the kingdom of God and as such, we must no longer be tolerate it. They must pray for the power to see the evil of their deeds. Jealousy had blinded Joseph’s brothers into selling him into slavery and shame had led them to deny their actions to Israel, their father. It was only through their humility that Jacob and his family were brought to Egypt and set apart in Goshen. It was by humility that the brothers cast themselves before Joseph after they buried their father. They would not have had the blessings of their late father had they cherished their sins to this point, for their households would have surely fallen in the wilderness. But now a way was open, a way to receive the promise of the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joseph understood and believed in this promise. He charged his family to carry his bones to the land of Canaan when his people left Egypt. When, not if. God’s promises are sure and we must place out faith in them as Joseph did, even at his death.
To Be Continued…Read Part II to learn more!!