By Russ Ramsey
My grandparents on my mother’s side met on the Staten Island Ferry. They both lived on Staten Island and worked similar shifts at different places in Manhattan. One day, George noticed Norma. Then another day, he noticed her again. Then he tried to make sure he was on the same ferry so the frequency of seeing one another would open a door for him to speak to her. Then one day he did.
The ripple effect of him noticing her all those years ago is hard to quantify, but fun to think about. Had he not said “hello,” my mom never would have met my dad because she wouldn’t exist. And neither would I, or any of my kids (except the awesome boy we adopted). My grandfather’s simple decision to say “hello” to a pretty girl set in motion so many beautiful outcomes—and many tragic ones too. That’s nothing compared to the decision Jacob makes in today’s passage.
The promised land is crumbling under the dry rot of a severe famine, and Jacob’s lost-and-found son Joseph has invited the family to move down to Egypt, where there would be food and a place for them to wait it out. The Lord told him, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you back” (Genesis 46:3–4). Talk about a loaded promise.
Picture Jacob sending word to his clan to gather up their things. Picture them rallying for departure—the first clip-clop of a hoof headed south to cross the Sinai Peninsula like a locomotive making that first lurch forward, pulling an entire nation behind. They had no idea what would come of that journey.
This is what would happen: they would settle in Goshen and become the enslaved nation Moses would lead out hundreds of years later. They would wander in the wilderness for forty years, following the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. They would see Moses coming down from the mountain, ablaze with the glory of God, carrying His law on stone tablets. They would cross the Jordan, take the promised land back, and from Jacob’s line, the Messiah would be born.
So much pivoted on the fulcrum of this decision to follow the Lord to an unknown land. So much would come of it. To the ordinary person living within the limits of this world, so many situations turn in a way that might seem hopeless. But, as Joseph would later say, what man intends for evil, the Lord uses for good (Genesis 50:20). Our God is never out of control.
Written by Russ Ramsey