The Exit Strategy

As the storm of Coronavirus slowly passes by people are becoming anxious to know when an Exit Strategy will be declared! After 8-10 weeks of lockdown there is frustration and tension building for people to be released from the restrictions.

The leaders of the nations are under pressure to come up with a plan that will release the lockdown and at the same time keep people safe!

On the recent 75th anniversary of VE Day, we were reminded of the famous wartime song which was sung by Vera Lynn –

We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day!

Families long to be finished with separation and isolation and to be able to embrace one another and enjoy the closeness of loving relationships.

In the book of Genesis there is a fascinating story of one family. A great proportion of Genesis is given over to the unfolding circumstances of the story of Joseph and his father Jacob. There are emotional scenes recorded in Genesis 46:28-31 when the “lockdown” was over and they met up as a family after 20 years of separation.

In order to understand the whole picture we need to look back over a number of chapters (Genesis 42 – 45). During the years of famine and national crisis many factors affected the lives of Joseph’s brothers.

Under these simple headings let me retrace the steps that led to an Exit Strategy!

Step 1 The Journey of Repentance
Step 2 The Joy of Reunion
Step 3 Jesus and His Return

Step 1 The Journey of Repentance

The history of Joseph’s brothers is not easy reading. They were jealous of the special favour Joseph’s father, Jacob, gave him and as a result they hated him. Their hatred led to attempted murder then eventually they trafficked him to slavery in Egypt.

They had no conscience about returning home and spinning a set of lies to Jacob, telling him they had found a coat like Joseph’s covered in blood. For 20 years they lived a lie until they were confronted with the truth on a visit to Egypt and met Joseph face to face!

Remarkably, Joseph’s heart was full of compassion and forgiveness and he invited them to relocate from Canaan to Egypt for preservation from the crisis of famine.

By the time they were making their third journey to Egypt their hearts had been changed by an amazing process of God’s grace. When the brothers with their wives and children were heading to Egypt, in transport provided by Joseph, it was a JOURNEY OF REPENTANCE. They were now truly sorry for how they had treated Joseph over the years and were prepared to repent.

Each one of us needs to travel on the Journey of Repentance for how we have treated Jesus and we need to be sorry to God the Father for our sin and rejection of Christ, His Son.

Step 2 The Joy of Reunion

Genesis 46: 28 – 31 Jacob’s Family Arrives in Goshen

As they neared their destination, Jacob sent Judah ahead to meet Joseph and get directions to
the region of Goshen. And when they finally arrived there, Joseph prepared his chariot and travelled to Goshen to meet his father, Jacob. When Joseph arrived, he embraced his father and wept, holding him for a long time. Finally, Jacob said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen your face again and know you are still alive.”

And Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s entire family, “I will go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘My brothers and my father’s entire family have come to me from the land of Canaan.

These verses beautifully describe the moment of reunion between father (Jacob) and son (Joseph).
It was very emotional with a warm embrace and many tears!

They hadn’t seen each other for 20 years and Jacob had been grieving all these years, believing the lie of the brothers that Joseph had been tragically killed by an animal. Now Joseph has risen to become Prime Minister of Egypt with great power and authority behind him. Indeed he was regarded by the Egyptian people as someone of real importance but to Jacob he was his beloved son whose mother Rachel had died so suddenly giving birth to his brother Benjamin.

For so many people whose loved ones have been victims of Coronavirus, after weeks of isolation in hospital, on a ventilator and having survived, what an emotional and joyous moment to be reunited with those they love and to celebrate life!

Personally, I will never forget the moment many years ago of being reunited with my children after spending three months in hospital with TB and because of the risk of infection we had been separated for all these weeks.

Step 3 Jesus and His Return

In the Joseph narrative, as we have said, when Jacob and all the family were nearing their destination Joseph came to Goshen to meet his father and that was where the reunion took place. If this reunion was so wonderfully fulfilling in human terms, what will it be like when Jesus comes back and we meet our Lord and Saviour face to face! The one who loved us and died for us and with whom we are going to dwell for ever as part of the family of God. This exit strategy is described in the New Testament: 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 18.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.

We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.

First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.

The Bible is very clear that one day Jesus will return first to the air to engage in a glorious reunion
with the church worldwide.

What is the exit strategy?

Phase One The Lord will come down from heaven with a shout with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God (v16).
Phase Two The Christians who have died will rise from their graves (v16).
Phase Three Those Christians who are living will be changed and be caught up together with those raised from the graves (v17).
Phase Four We will all together be with the Lord forever (v17).

The promise of the sure and certain hope that He is returning brings great encouragement to our hearts in these days of uncertainty.

There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come
No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye.
All is peace forevermore on that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

There’ll be no sorrow there, no more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain, no more parting over there;
And forever I will be with the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

In John 14:3, Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”