“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” (Luke 12:16-20)
Why did God call this man a fool? Was he wrong to make plans? Was there a law somewhere about having barns that are just too big?
Jacob had received the message from Joseph to join him in Egypt. That must have been a difficult conversation for the brothers but the news that Joseph was not only alive but effectively ruling Egypt, had revived Jacob (45:27). Clearly, Jacob wanted to see his son again and the prospect of waiting out the terrible famine in a land where there was plenty must have seemed very attractive but there was a problem. As we have seen already, Jacob’s grandfather Abraham had left Canaan during a famine (12:10), spent time in Egypt and it had been a disaster. Sarah had almost ended up in Pharaoh’s harem (12:15), it’s highly likely that Hagar was acquired there (12:16) leading eventually to the birth of Ishmael and all of the trouble that followed and although Abraham was able to get Lot out of Egypt, he couldn’t get Egypt out of Lot (13:10). Add to that the fact that during another famine; Isaac, Abraham’s son and Jacob’s father was told directly by God;
“Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live.” (26:2)
Jacob had stayed where God had wanted him, in Canaan and had learned lessons from Abraham and Isaac. Where Jacob differed from the rich fool in Jesus’ parable was that he wanted to stay in God’s will. The trouble with the rich fool was that he was living his life with no reference to God at all and that can only go on for so long. Eventually all of us will stand before him. There is nothing wrong with having plans to expand your business if that’s God’s will but pressing on as if God isn’t there is – well, foolish. Jacob recognised this as a turning point in his life and it seems, he was afraid to go to Egypt (46:3), so before he did anything he sought God. He went to Beersheba, where Abraham had called on the name of the Lord (21:33) and Isaac had built an altar and had also called on the name of the Lord (26:23-25). There Jacob offered sacrifices to the Lord. It had taken a while but Jacob was learning.
Just as he had spoken to Jacob many years earlier when he had left Canaan for Haran (28:15), God once more revealed his plans to Jacob. God had a plan, this time it was right to go to Egypt and just as he had promised more than forty years before, the Lord repeated that he would be with him and would bring him back (46:4). There was another promise here too. After years of being lied to about Joseph’s whereabouts, God now reassures Jacob that Joseph is still alive and that he will take care of him for the rest of his life.
So far this had been the story of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons. Now God was about to begin another stage in his plans, to build a nation. Jacob’s family went to Egypt as a large family group but they would leave 400 years later as a nation. So it seems God knew what he was doing after all. Note to self – remember that!
There is strength within the sorrow, there is beauty in our tears.
And you meet us in our mourning, with a love that casts out fear.
You are working in our waiting, you’re sanctifying us.
When beyond our understanding, you’re teaching us to trust.
Your plans are still to prosper, you have not forgotten us.
You’re with us in the fire and the flood.
You’re faithful forever perfect in love.
You are sovereign over us.
(Sovereign Over Us – Aaron Keys, Bryan Brown and Jack Mooring)