ATTAINING a ‘TRUE’ PERSPECTIVE of LIFE: Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob and set him before Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Jacob, "How old are you?" And Jacob said to Pharaoh, "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my father’s in the days of their pilgrimage." So Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh. (Gen 47:7-10)
When Joseph brought his aged father Jacob before Pharaoh to introduce him, as in the normal custom those days, Pharaoh asked Jacob how old he was. Jacob could have simply answered that he was one hundred thirty years old, and would have been accurate in his answer. However, when we examine the answer that Jacob gave to Pharaoh we can see that Jacob had truly gained a better perspective of his own life. It will be helpful for us to analyze Jacob’s answer in order to get a better perspective of our own lives, and here are four key points for us to note:
- Our life is a pilgrimage (“The days of the years of my pilgrimage”). This observation is a key insight that should channel our priorities every day. Psalms 84:5 tells us that we are blessed when we set our hearts and lifestyle as though on a pilgrimage. The writer of Hebrews observed that the Old Testament Patriarchs “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13b), and this should be our daily confession as well.
- We are growing old (“one hundred and thirty years”). Jacob was one hundred thirty years old when he appeared before Pharaoh, and he would live in Egypt for only seventeen more years before his death (Gen. 47:28). We know that Moses has made the following observation: "the days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years" (Psalms 90:10). When we realize that we are growing old, this will be our prayer to God: "so teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalms 90:12)
- Our days are few and evil (“few and evil have been the days of the years of my life”). Though he was one hundred thirty years old, Jacob presents his lifespan by days (compare Psalms 90:12), which he calls few, as they appeared in retrospect and evil, because his life had been one almost unbroken series of trouble. Let us remember the words of Jesus before His death that in this world we will have tribulation, but we can rejoice through it all for He has overcome the world (John 16:33b).
- We are no better off than our parents (“they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my father’s in the days of their pilgrimage”). All his life Jacob had schemed and struggled to achieve something more in his life, starting from his birth (Gen. 25:26a), for Esau’s firstborn birthright (Gen. 25:29-34), for his father’s ancestral blessings (Gen. 27; 28:1-5), and for God's blessing (Gen. 32:22-29). However, now when Jacob looks back at his life achievements, he realized that he was not better off than his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac.