THE GOD WHICH SHEPHERDED ME ALL MY LIFE LONG [Genesis 48:15]
The old man’s voice faltered as he said, “The God which fed me all my life long.” The translation would be better if it ran, “The God which shepherded me all my life long.”
He spoke of the Lord as his Shepherd. Jacob had been a shepherd and, therefore, he knew what shepherding included—the figure is full of meaning. There had been a good deal of Jacob about Jacob and he had tried to shepherd himself. Poor sheep that he was, while under his own guidance he had been caught in many thorns and had wandered in many wildernesses. Because he would be so much a shepherd to himself, he had been hard put to it. But over all, despite his wilfulness, the shepherding of the Covenant God had been exercised towards him and he acknowledged it.
O dear saints of God, you to whom years are being multiplied, give praise to your God for having been your Shepherd! You delight in the 23rd Psalm—sing it sometimes with variations by using the past tense—”The Lord has been my Shepherd and I have known no need. He has made me to lie down in green pastures; He has led me beside the still waters. Yes, though I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death in times of great darkness, yet I have feared no evil: for He has been with me, His rod and His staff have comforted me.” Bear your witness to the shepherding of God, for this may lead others to become the sheep of His pasture.
This shepherding had been perfect. Our version rightly says that the Lord had fed Jacob all his life long. Take that sense of it and you who have a daily struggle for subsistence will see much beauty in it. Jacob had a large family and yet they were fed. Some of you say, “It is all very well of you to talk of Providence when you have few to provide for.” I answer, it is better, still, to talk of Providence where a large household requires large provision! Remember Jacob had 13 children, yet his God provided them bread to eat and clothes to put on. None of that large company were left to starve.
You think, perhaps, that Jacob was a man of large estate. He was not so when he began life. He was only a working man—a shepherd. When he left his father’s house he had no attendants with camels and tents. I suppose he carried his little bit of provision in a handkerchief and when he laid down that night to sleep, with a stone for his pillow, the hedges for curtains, the heavens for his canopy, and the earth for his bed, he had no fear of being robbed.
God was with him, but apart from that, he had nothing to begin life with but his own hands. Whatever he received from his father Isaac afterwards, he had at first to fight his own way—but he knew no lack either at the beginning or at the end, for he could speak of the great Elohim as, “the God which fed me all my life long.” Hundreds of us can say the same! I remember one who came to be wealthy who used to show me with great pleasure the tree axle of the truck in which he used to wheel his goods through the streets when he began in business—I liked to see him mindful of his original.
Mind you do not go and say, “See how I have got on by my own talents and industry!” Talk not so proudly, but say, “GOD HAS FED ME.” Mercies are all the sweeter when seen to come from the hand of God.
But besides being FED, Jacob had been LED, even as sheep are guided by the shepherd who goes before them. His journeys, for that period, had been unusually long, perilous and frequent. He had fled from home to Padanaram. After long years he had come back to Canaan and had met his brother, Esau. And after that, in his old age he had journeyed into Egypt. To go to California or New Zealand in these times is nothing at all compared to those journeys in Jacob’s day! But he says, “God has shepherded me all my life long” and he means that the great changes of his life had been wisely ordered. At home and in exile, in Canaan and in Goshen, God had been a shepherd to him. He sees the good hand of God upon him in all his wanderings, until he now finds himself sitting up on his bed and blessing Joseph through his sons.
Oh that the Holy Spirit may make you feel that you need God with you with wealth as much as your fathers needed God without wealth! You may yet come to beggary with all your inheritance if you cast off the fear of the Lord and fall into sin. You who begin life with nothing but your own brains and hands, trusting in your father’s God, shall yet have to sing as your fathers sang, “the God which fed me all my life long.”
Young men and young women beginning life, I charge you seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness! It is not life to live without God—you miss the kernel, the cream, the crown of life if you miss the Presence of God! Life is but a bubble blown up of toil and trouble without God! Life ends in blighted hope if you have not hope in God. But with God you are as a sheep with a Shepherd—cared for, guided, guarded, fed, led—and your end shall be peace without end!