‘The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and do not equal the pilgrimage of my fathers’ ~ Genesis 47:9
Jacob speaks this statement when the king of Egypt, the Pharaoh, asks him his age. Having lived a longer lifespan than majority in this present time, Jacob still sees his years as few. Compared to his ancestors who lived for 900+ years, life spans are getting shorter. Now, ’the length of our days is seventy years-or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away’ (Psalms 90:10). No wonder our lives are likened as the grass which, ‘though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered’ (v6).
No one needs to be told twice that the life we live is difficult. Jacob did not need a reminder because even as he was born there was a bit of a tug with his twin brother about who would come out first. In fact, the name Jacob means he grasps the heel which figuratively means deception. Although his brother Esau eventually came out first, he acquires his elder brother’s birthright and proceeds to get his father’s blessing by disguising as his brother. He then flees to his uncle for fear of his brother, works for him for two decades and marries his two daughters and has children, he then flees from his uncle, and on the way wrestles with God, then meets and makes amend with his brother. His wife Rachael and his father die, and nothing much is mentioned of him until he meets his son Joseph in Egypt.
A whole 130 years of Jacob have been summarized in about five pages of the Bible and only the significant parts played like scenes. And our lives are exactly that; living to reach significant points that boomerang to other significant ones until we complete the purpose God ordained for us. Once we step out of the purpose God has prescribed for us, what we do remains inconsequential, nothing worth mentioning. Jacob walked in awareness of the will of God after the Lord appeared to him in a dream prompting Jacob to say, ‘then the Lord will be my God’ (Genesis 28:21). When he encountered God personally, then his life truly began because the Lord started instructing him how to live out the rest of his difficult life. For twenty years, Jacob worked for his uncle turned father-in-law who ill-treated him that Jacob said, ‘This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes’ (Genesis 31:40).
In a bitter-sweet revelation, the larger portion of his difficult life was ironically his sole purpose. In those difficult years, Jacob was fulfilling his specific mission on earth. It is in those years that he met Rachael whom he loved, married her as well as Leah and gave birth to 12 sons- the 12 tribes of Israel. In summary, Jacob’s pilgrimage could be summed as being the seed carrier of the nation of Israel. The struggle between his two wives occurred to bring forth the 12 sons. His love for Rachael made their son, Joseph, special as he brought his 11 brothers to Egypt, in fulfilment of God’s redemption plan for mankind through the promise first given to Abraham. In hindsight, Jacob saw that all the years of his life could be reduced to critical yet difficult events. He saw that his life was a brief and crucial role he played, with God being the director.
Like Jacob, we truly start living once we meet God who can then instruct and direct us. Although our years may be few and difficult, our legacy lives on. We leave extensions of ourselves on generations and generations to come, which ultimately redirects to God’s master plan because, ‘before I formed you in the womb I chose you, before you were born I set you apart; appointed you as . . .’ (Jeremiah 1:5). Whatever God has appointed each one can only be revealed to us if we know Jesus as Lord and Saviour- if we know God. Otherwise our years will be few and difficult for nothing.
‘So teach us how to number our days aright, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom’ ~ Psalm 90:12