Sermon: Genesis 46:1-4: Do Not Be Afraid, I Myself Will Go Down With You


Old Testament Reading: Genesis 46:1-4

“So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

New Testament Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-12

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:3–12, ESV)


[Please excuse any and all typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church, but without the benefit of proofreading.] 


As you can see, we are rapidly approaching the end of our study of the book of Genesis. But as we near the end I wish to remind you that this book, from beginning to end, is a book about the beginning of things. That is what the name “Genesis” means — origin or beginning. 

In this book we were told about the beginning of God’s creation, the beginning of God’s covenantal dealings with man with the establishment of the covenant of works in the garden. The beginning of sin and death was also described to us, along with the beginning of God’s surprisingly gracious responce to it. Shortly after mans fall into sin God promised to provide a savior. This was the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ. 

But very early in Genesis we began to see that God would bring this savior into the world through a particular people. Distinctions were made between people. Righteous and unrighteous lines were identified. And all of this grew in clarity with the call of Abram. Promises were made to him. A covenant was cut with him. And so Genesis reveals to us the beginning of God’s covenantal dealings with Abraham and his offspring. 

We should remember that there were two covenants incubating within the Abrahamic Covenant. On the one hand, God made promises to Abraham that he would have many offspring, and that through his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed. We know (for the scriptures plainly teach this) that these promises find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus the Christ and the New Covenant that would be ratified in his blood. The Covenant of Grace was embedded, therefore, within the Abrahamic Covenant, in the form of promise. And so in the book of Genesis we see the beginning of the Covenant of Grace ratified in Christ’s blood. But other promises were made to Abraham which had reference, not only to the Christ who would come from his lions and to all the spiritual blessing found in him, but to his more immediate offspring. He was promised a child, and many descendents through him. He was promised a land — the land of Canaan. He would not possess it in his lifetime, but he would he lay ahold of it through his offspring and in the resurrection. To Abraham it was even said that nations and kings would come from him. So in Abraham we see, not only the beginning the Covenant of Grace that would be ratified in Christ’s blood, but also the beginning of the Old Covenant which, in the process of time, would be mediated through Moses. Promises were made to  the patriarchs, Abraham, Issac and Jacob.  A covenant was cut with them. And in due time that covenant would give birth to Old Mosaic Covenant and to the New Covenant of Grace with Christ as its mediator. 

As I have said, the book of Genesis is a book about the beginning of things — lots of things. And as we move closer to the end of it we are seeing more clearly that this book is concerned to describe to us the beginning of the nation of Israel. This was the nation promised to Abraham. This was the nation that would come from him. And in Genesis we find an account of its origin. 

Genesis chapters 46 and 47 we read about the third and final journey taken by Joseph’s brothers down into Egypt. In Genesis 42 the brothers of Joseph went down into Egypt to buy grain leaving their youngest brothers and father at home in the land of promise. All but Simeon returned home again — he was held captive. In Genesis chapters 43 through 45 the brothers of Joseph went down into Egypt again. This time they took their brother Benjamin with them. Again, they left their father at home in the land ofCanaan. They hoped to return to him with grain, for the famine was severe in the land. They also hoped to return with every one of their siblings, including Simeon. This they did. But they also returned with good news! In 45:25 we read, “They went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. And they told him, ‘Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.’ And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, ‘It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die’” (Genesis 45:25–28, ESV). As I have said, Genesis chapters 46 and 47, which we are beginning to consider today, tell us of the about the third and final journey taken by Joseph’s family down into Egypt. 

If we loose sight of the overall story being told in Genesis — if we forget the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Israel concerning the eventual possession of the land of Canaan, and the great nation that was to come from them — then we might miss the real drama of this narrative. The thing that gets us — the things that tugs on our heart strings — is the thought of Jacob (who is called Israel) seeing Joseph again. For all those years Jacob thought that his beloved son Joseph was dead. He lived perpetually with that lingering sadness. But in his old age he learned that he was alive! It was almost as if his beloved son had been raised from the dead. And not only was he raised from the dead, but he was exulted to the highest position of power with Egypt, with the exception of Pharaoh himself. There is a real personal and human element to this drama. Jacob must have been overjoyed. He must have been so eager to make that journey down into Egypt to see his beloved son alive and in glory. 

But what about the promises of God made to the patriarchs? What about the land? What about the nation that was to come from them? What about all of that? You see, it is in these questions that the real drama is found. Israel was eager to go down into Egypt to see his beloved son Joseph alive and in glory, but should he? That is the question. 

And certainly this would have been the question on the minds of the people to whom Moses originally delivered this book. Remember that it was Moses who wrote this book. And he delivered it to the nation of Israel after they were redeemed from Egypt and wandering in the wilderness, that is to say, prior to their conquest of Canaan. What do you think was on their minds? I’m sure that some of them wondered about their history. I’m sure that some of them wondered about their time in bondage to the Egyptians. Was it a mistake for Jacob to take his family there? Did he have a laps in faith when he made that journey? Was this “bondage in Egypt thing” a bump in the road in God plan of redemption? Did God abandon his people for a time?

The narrative that is before us today answers these questions. It is a very significant portion of scripture theologically speaking, especially as it pertains to the history of Israel.  

Genesis chapters 46 through 47 forms one unit which describes the third journey of the family of Jacob down into Egypt, but it is divided into seven scenes. I would like to consider only the first of the seven scenes this morning, leaving the rest for another time. 

Notice that in verses 1 – 4 God appeared to Jacob in a night vision. This is the last record that we have of God speaking to the patriarchs. The next time that God reveals himself to his people will be to Moses in the burning bush. Hundreds of years would pass between this moment and that one.

Notice three things about this first scene of Genesis 46. 


Jacob Journeyed To Beersheba To Worship

One, notice that before Jacob departed for Egypt he journeyed to Beersheba to worship. 

The text doesn’t not say it explicitly, but it implies that Jacob was agonizing over the question, is it right to leave Canaan, the land of promise, and to go down into Egypt? 

Beersheba was a very important location. It was there that Abraham worshipped (Genesis 21:33). It was there that the LORD appeared to Isaac, saying, “‘I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.’ So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the LORD…” (Genesis 26:24–25, ESV). And it was from Beersheba that Jacob departed for Haran when he was a young man fleeing from the wrath of his twin brother, Esau. 

We must remember that as a young man Jacob spent many years in bondage to his father-in-law Laban in Haran. He knew how painful it could be, therefore, to leave the land of Canaan! I’m sure that he was in this moment concerned about going into bondage again, but this time with his whole family in Egypt. Perhaps Jacob went to Beersheba because it was near there that the Lord appeared to him all those years ago as he was preparing to leave the land of promise for Haran. It was there that the LORD spoke to him in that vision with the lader going up to heaven. And we we should remember what the Lord said to him then. He said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:10–15, ESV). 

Friends, we must not forget the things that Jacob experienced in his younger years. He knew the pain of leaving Canaan to go into bondage. He experienced it personally in Haran under Laban. But in that experience he also learned that his God was no tribal diety. His God was not the God of one nation, or of a particular land, as if he were confined to that place. His God was God Most High, the Lord of all creation. Jacob spent time in exile in Harah, but God was with him, just as he promised in that vision. And God was faithful to bring him home again, just as he promised in that vision. All of that must have been on Jacob’s mind as he prepared to lead his family to Egypt. It is no wonder that he went to Beersheba to worship. I’m sure that he was eager to hear from the Lord again to know for certain if he should stay or go.


God Appeared To Jacob

Two, notice that God did appeared to Jacob there. Verse 2 says, “God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’” 

It is worth noting that although God called Jacob, “Jacob”, Moses as author and narrator of Genesis refers to him as “Israel” in this passage. It’s as if Moses wants us to see most clearly that when Jacob took his family to Egypt, he was also taking the nation of Israel there to grow and develop. 

God spoke to Jacob, saying, “‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am’”. This terminology is to remind us of that time when Abraham was tested when he was called by God to slay his son. Remember that when Abraham lifted the knife “the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am’” (Genesis 22:11, ESV). The terminology is the same here. And this is to show that both Abraham and Jacob had their faith tested. Abraham proved that his faith was sincere, believing that God would indeed keep his promises regarding offspring, land and a nation. He believed that God could even raise the boy from the dead if necessary  — that is the interpretation that Hebrews 11:19 gives. And here in this episode Jacob’s faith was also being tested. Would he go to Egypt knowing that God could raise Israel from the dead, as it were? God called to Jacob in his moment of trial, saying, “Jacob, Jacob”. Both Abraham and Jacob replied as every faithful servant should, with the simple words, “here I am”. It’s as if he said, Here I am Lord! I stand ready and eager to hear your word and to trust and obey.

[APPLICATION:  Child of God, I ask you, is this your daily disposition before the Lord? Do you, like Abraham and Israel stand before God with the heart of a servant, saying, here I am, Lord. Teach me your word so that I might obey you?]


God Spoke To Jacob

Three, notice that God spoke to Jacob in this night vision, and pay special attention to what God said, for it is very significant. Verse 3: “Then he said, ‘I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes’” (Genesis 46:3–4, ESV).

God revealed himself to Jacob as “God, the God of your father.” Now, God was certainly Jacob’s God too! But when God referred to himself as, “God, the God of your father” it was to remind Jacob of the promises made to Abraham and Isaac in past generations and of his constant faithfulness.

[APPLICATION: Brothers and sisters, it is good for the Christian to be reminded of God’s very great promises made to the fathers in ages past, and of God’s faithfulness. It helps us to rest assured that our God will be faithful to us today, for he does not change.]

God then directly addressed Jacob’s fears, saying “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt…” Though God was doing something that far transcended Jacob-the-individual, he none the less cared for Jacob-the-individual, and met his needs. Jacob was afraid, and God spoke to him saying, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt…”

[APPLICATION: Friends, God does the same for you and me. He calls us to follow after him, and he also meets all our needs. This is what Paul the Apostle was referring to when he said, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31–32, ESV). This does not mean that following after Christ will always be easy. But it does mean that God is faithful to provide for his people, for he cares for us. 

To those who fear Jesus says, “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. ‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’” (Luke 12:22–32, ESV)] 

God addressed Jacob’s fears, saying “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt…” After this God clarified that it would be in Egypt that he would bring his promises concerning a nation to fulfillment, saying, “for there I will make you into a great nation.” 

In fact, this was not the first time that God revealed this to the patriarchs. To Abraham (when he was still Abram) God said, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age” (Genesis 15:13–15, ESV). So God revealed even to Abraham that the pathway to his people becoming a great nation would involve slavery in a foreign land. To Jacob it was revealed more  specifically that the foreign land would be Egypt. 

[APPLICATION: It is always puzzling to me when Christians are surprised by suffering. It is even more puzzling to me when Christians buy into teaching which says that God’s will for us is that we not suffer. In fact, the scriptures have this theme from beginning to end — those who belong to God are not immune from suffering. In fact, often times it seems the righteous suffer the most! For Israel, the road to the attainment of the promised land was marked by difficulty, trial and tribulation. And the same is true for the Israel of God  today. Our journey to the heavenly promised land will be marked by trial and tribulation, for the Lord strengthens and refines his people through it, and in our weakness he shows himself to be strong. Friends, God says to you what he said to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And may we have the mind of Paul, saying in reply, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10, ESV). Oh Lord, give us this humble and faithful disposition.]

After revealing that he would make Israel into a great nation in Egypt, God said, “I myself will go down with you to Egypt…”  These words certainly sounded familiar to Jacob, for as he journeyed towards Haran those many years earlier the Lord comforted him in a similar way, saying, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.” In both situations the Lord comforted Jacob by promising to always be with him. 

[APPLICATION: Brothers and sisters, God is omnipresent. There is no limit at all to his presence, but he is everywhere — this we know. But here God promised to be with Jacob and with his offspring in a special way, to sustain them and to bless them while in Egypt. This is what he meant when he said, “I myself will go down with you to Egypt…” Cleary this is language that is proper to humans being applied to God. Truly, God cannot “go” anywhere, for he is everywhere present, fully and perfectly so. But we understand what is meant by the phrase. God condescended to Jacob’s capacity, he used human language, and communicated to him in a most tender way, saying, I will personally be with with you on this journey to bless you and to sustain you. And this is the greatest of all blessings — God’s loving presence. Truly, it is God’s loving presence which will make heaven, heavenly, and it is the lack it which will make hell such a miserable place. Truly, it is God’s loving presence with his people that enables them to thrive and rejoice even in the most trying of circumstances. Friends, if we have God, then we have all that we need. I want for you to see that Jacob learned this from experience. His faith grew while in Haran as he saw God fulfill his promise to be with him in that place. And now in his old age he knows that it is true when God says, “I myself will go down with you to Egypt…” I wonder, Christian, have you learned this? Have you learned that the greatest of all blessings is God’s presence? And have you come to truly believe God when he says to you who are in Christ Jesus, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV)?]

God spoke to Jacob, saying, “I myself will go down with you to Egypt…”, and then he said, “I will also bring you up again.” Clearly, this promise was in reference, not primarily to Jacob as an individual, but to his descendents and to the nation that would come from him.” Jacob (as Israel) would go down into Egypt. And God would being Jacob (as Israel) back up again through the exodus. 

This promise, though primarily about the nation of Israel, pertained also to Jacob in the sense that he would be buried in Canaan, and he will also enjoy Canaan in the resurrection. 

And then lastly we have this remark, which was clearly for Jacob the individual: “Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” We are to remember what Jacob said when he was told that his son was dead those many years before. “All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, ‘No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.’ Thus his father wept for him” (Genesis 37:35, ESV). Now he hears that he will die a peaceful death, and “Joseph’s hand [will] close [his] eyes.” 

[APPLICATION: This vision and the words of God delivered to Jacob therein must have men a great help and comfort to him. It must have also been very comforting to his children nd grandchildren as they too prepared to go down into Egypt. 

These were perplexing times for Israel and his family. The famine was severe. It threatened their very lives, and in so doing, it threatened the fulfillment of the promises of God that were given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They must have agonized over the question of what to do as they stood perplexed.

But when God gave his word to them — when God spoke — it was like a ray of light cutting through the darkness. Israel could then go forward with confidence, for something of God’s plans and purposes had been revealed to them. They could then walk in that light. 

I say this to you hoping that you will grow in your appreciation for God’s word. Truly, God’s word  is a “lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path”, as Psalm 119:105 says. When God reveals himself to us — when he speaks and discloses to us something of his plans and purposes — it enables us to walk confidently according to that truth. 

I’m sure that you have all had the experience of walking in an unfamiliar place in total darkness. It’s unnerving. Every step is unsure. But when we walk in the light — even if the place is unfamiliar — we walk in a resolute way and with confidence.

Friends, God has spoken. He has given us his word. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Hebrews 1:1–2, ESV). We are wise to listen to God’s word, and to walk in the light of it. 

I understand that God has not revealed to us everything we might like to know concerning his plans and purposes, but he has revealed enough so that we might confidently walk by faith. In other words, though many things pertaining to the plans and purposes of God remain a mystery to us, he has not left us in the dark entirely. He has reveled to us what it is that he is doing in the world, generally speaking, so that we might order our lives and plan our steps according to truth.

In this narrative you can almost hear Jacob thinking to himself, “God, why this famine? Why was Joseph taken from me for all those years? Why must we leave this land of promise and go down into Egypt?, etc. And what did God do for Jacob? He revealed something of his plans and purposes so that Jacob could go with confidence. 

Friends, he has done the same for you and me. We might ask, “Lord, why has this or that thing happened? Why this suffering, etc?” Many things remain mysterious to us. But we have not been left in the dark. We know what God is up to, generally speaking. We understand that he is drawing his elect, growing his kingdom, sanctifying his people, and will, at the right time, bring all things to completion in the new heavens and new earth. We have his word. Let us live according to what he has revealed, and not neglect it.]



God’s revelation of himself and of his plans and purposes enables us to sojourn confidently in this world by faith. And so it was for Jacob. Verse 5: “Then Jacob set out from Beersheba. The sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They also took their livestock and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him…” (Genesis 46:5–6, ESV). It is here at this point that we will resume next Sunday, Lord willing. 


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