We arrived at a poignant moment Sunday toward the end of our study about the life of Joseph when his father Jacob was about to die.
As we saw in the beginning of chapter 48, Joseph got the message that “your father is ill,” after which he took his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to be with Jacob.
And from this moment until his death, Jacob indeed offered his loved ones “words to live by.”
First off, Jacob — who was energized by the encounter and suddenly sat his withering body up in bed — said “God Almighty” (the powerful reference to the Lord as “el Shaddai”) appeared to him, blessed him, and said the Lord would make his descendants fruitful and give them land as an “everlasting possession.” Then Jacob adopted Ephraim and Manasseh as his own sons.
It was quite a moment, as Pastor Scott explained, noting that Joseph was the eleventh out of a dozen sons of Jacob — and now Jacob is moving Joseph to the number 1 position and giving him a “double portion” of blessings.
What’s more, when Joseph brought his sons to Jacob so he could bless them, Jacob crossed his hands and gave the first blessing not to Manasseh, the older son, but to Ephraim, the younger son! Indeed, Joseph was upset by this outside-the-box breach of protocol, but Jacob knew what he was doing, saying that Manasseh “also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother [Ephraim] shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.”
As Pastor Scott emphasized, Jacob’s nontraditional action reflects how God deals with us in sometimes nontraditional ways as well. Outside the box. Not what we — or anyone else — expects. And because of that, we can rejoice. In fact, we’re all the “Ephraim” and are blessed by the Lord who leapfrogs over men’s rules and traditions to give us what we don’t deserve (grace) that astounds us and everyone around us. All of which ultimately brings God more glory.
Jacob also saw the big picture as the breadth of his expiring life lay before him. Because as it happens, Jacob also was the younger son, as well as his father Isaac. God’s sovereignty and powerful, el Shaddai movement in the lives of people just like us was coming to fruition.
Another important moment happened when Jacob gathered his sons around him and gave them prophetic words of blessing — but also it was instructive because we saw that not every son would be living so well in the end. Case in point was Reuben, who — as we saw previously in Genesis — was guilty of sexual immorality. And because of it, Reuben would be hindered in receiving Jacob’s blessing. In the same way, Simeon and Levi — who slaughtered innocent people earlier in Genesis due to angry and vengeful spirits — also were hindered in receiving Jacob’s blessings.
But Judah, another brother who also behaved immorally earlier in Genesis — including coming up with the idea of selling Joseph into slavery — managed to receive Jacob’s blessing because Judah later demonstrated a broken and contrite heart in the face of his sins. And it’s all a big hint for us: Because if we, too, are to receive God’s blessings, we must not let our sin get in the way. So, let us confess and be forgiven so we can move forward with the Lord!
Lastly, Jacob spoke to Joseph before he breathed his last and said, even though he would be dying soon “God will be with you.” As Pastor Scott noted, that had been the motto — the central theme, in fact — of Jacob’s life. And we certainly would benefit greatly if it became a central motto in our own lives!
Jesus already promised that he’s with us always, until the end of time. So, let us live like we know he is with us always. Let us lay hold of the abundant life God promised us. And not based on material things the Lord may give to us, but abundance in the sense of deep meaning and love and generosity toward others. Let’s let the Lord lead us like he is Our Shepherd, and we are his sheep. Let us trust God in such a way, knowing that whatever happens in our lives, it ultimately is well with our souls.