The Power of Submission
Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.
Twice over we are told that Jacob blessed Pharaoh. How could this crippled old refugee dare to bestow a blessing on the greatest world monarch of his time? For Jacob,such an ambition was a thing of the past. In his own eyes now he was nothing.
Yes, but God was with him! Before entering Egypt he had made sure of that. Abraham, a much greater man than he, had come down to Egypt and had sinned. So even though his own son Joseph was here, Jacob had paused at Beersheba to offer sacrifices to his father’s God, thus putting the decision back in God’s hands. And the divine assurance had come: “I will go down with thee.” And so here he was, broken in old strength that had grasped at blessings for himself, but mighty enough in spiritual power to bless a monarch.
The Christian life is often polar opposite to the social and cultural norms of the world. This is one of those. The world’s model to gain power and influence is to make sure we have attained status. Status is attained by carefully staging our rise, placing our interests and self first. Often those who attain such positions do so at the expense of others. A betrayed trust, a pilfering of an idea, a credit taken that wasn’t really theirs to take- each one designed to elevate the status of the individual. The outcome of such conduct, however, results in suspicion, jealousy, envy, or power struggles. The child game of “king of the hill” remains the adult game and each contestant is willing to push down their competitors to gain the top. While these may attain position and power, they fail to have authority for authority is given and not gained by power play. They may hold on to their place by might but eventually it slips through their fingers.
King Saul was one of those who attempted to grasp power. Although he was nothing before God chose him as king, it wasn’t long before the drug of status gripped his heart and the ensuing fear of losing it plagued his mind. Unable or unwilling to face the nation’s crisis-Goliath- he gave permission for a young man named David to confront the giant. I’m sure he didn’t expect the outcome. When David slew Goliath, the people began to sing his praises. Saul, wishing to rid himself of David, continually put him in harms way and each time David gained victory. The people’s response further enhanced Saul’s fear of losing place. The harder he tried to hold on to power and status, the less he kept until finally he lost not only power and status but himself as well.
Our text today tells of another way. Jacob had not started well. He began by grasping and conniving to gain status. Catching his brother at a weak moment, he cheated him out of his birthright. Not long after that, Jacob and his mother plotted to have him receive Isaac, his father’s blessing. Preparing a sheep so it would taste like venison and covering his arms with sheep wool, Jacob deceived his own dad. Fleeing for his life he ended up at his uncle’s home. And once again Jacob resorted to his old ways and before long he was scheming to take the advantage of his uncle. Finally neither could stand each other so they parted company and Jacob and his wife purloined the uncle’s idols. There’s no doubt that Jacob would have continued in this pattern except that he had an encounter with God that changed his character. In the wrestling match with God, his thigh was touched and he became a cripple, having to lean on a staff for support. But the physical dependency was only the surface for Jacob learned that he must depend on God for everything. That night his stubborn, spoiled, selfish will was conquered and he learned submission to the power of God. He no longer had to vie for a position of status or power for God has established him as a prince-Israel-Prince with God. Rejoining his family, and meeting his brother, he presented another character. Gone was his arrogance, his ego, and his demand to be on top. Learning submission had created humility. When he spoke now it was with authority, authority gained by submitting himself to the directions and instructions of God. Now God was in control and Jacob was walking in submission. From that place he could now speak to Pharaoh and be heard because he spoke with humble authority.
To better understand “humble authority” we only need to see Christ. Scripture says that Christ would never “break a bruised reed or blow out a tiny spark.” Yet, we know that when He speaks it’s with authority- “even the winds and the sea obey.” May we too learn to submit to Christ and speak not from our status or place but from sitting at His feet and finding our authority as dispensed by Him. Perhaps, then, others will hear us when we speak.
Dr. John Thompson