Genesis 50:25-26 And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.
It is interesting, and helpful, to reflect on how many years the sons of Israel had to wait before the promise, ‘God will surely come to your aid’, was fulfilled.
The Hebrew language has a special way of emphasising something: the action (verb) that is being emphasised is written as a participle followed by the future tense. This construction is usually translated into English using the word ‘surely’. So what Joseph was promising his brothers was, literally: ‘[in] coming to your aid, God WILL come to your aid’. A similar construction occurs in the promise given to Abraham after he had shown willingness to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22:17: “Blessing I will bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore”.
So ‘surely’ in English conveys the same certainty being expressed in Hebrew. But, how long did the ‘sons of Israel’ have to wait? – More than four centuries (see Exodus 12:41)! And in the meantime they increased in number, from 72 to over 2,000,000 – showing the beginnings of the fulfilment of the promises given to Abraham.
Do we get impatient with God’s seeming ‘slowness’ in keeping his promises? Not only did Israel have to wait a long time, they also had to suffer much during the waiting. But their sovereign God was always in control, and knew what he was doing in fulfilling his ultimate purposes. God had given an undertaking to Adam-and-Eve in the Garden, addressing the serpent, Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15), and it would be over 6,000 years before Jesus came to crush Satan’s head! During these long years of six millennia, the descendants of Adam-and-Eve, would have to go through much suffering – Noah’s Flood, the 40 years in the Wilderness, the drawn out Conquest of Canaan, ever-failing Kingships, 70 years Exile in Babylon, Roman conquest, etc, included!
Jesus himself promised, before ascending to heaven, to return in power, and we have already been enduring two millennia of persecution in anticipation of the fulfilment of this promise. But, it is good to remember the words of the Apostle Peter: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)!
Lord, please help me to remember everything I have just written next time I become impatient about ‘unanswered’ prayer – in my heart I really do trust your promises.
– Bruce Christian