JACOB’S BLESSINGS AND GOD OF JOSEPH
Key Verse: 50:20
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Thank God for blessing our Genesis Bible study with the presence of the Holy Spirit. God has touched the hearts of many listeners. During Genesis Bible study, so many things have happened among us and through us, especially helping each one of us to see our life in God’s sovereign plan. May God bless us to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit inside and out as Joseph did. May God continue to bless us with his abundant words as we study the books of Philippians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Amen!
Today’s passage is the epilogue of Genesis. Jacob is blessing Joseph’s children and his own sons. Joseph is helping his fearful brothers to know who God is and what hope they should have. Truly God raised Joseph, the fruit of three ancestors of faith, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. May God grant us the word of God through this passage. Amen!
I. Jacob Blesses Joseph’s Sons, Ephraim and Manasseh (48:1-22).
Look at 48:1, “Some time later Joseph was told, ‘your father is ill.’ So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him.” Joseph visited his father who was ill with his two sons, probably thinking that his father would pass away. Jacob sat up and saw his grandchildren and remembered the promise of God, who told him, “I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.” Based on this promise, Jacob believed that Joseph’s two sons should be reckoned as his own sons. This meant that Joseph would be blessed twice as much as his brothers. Just as Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, they received an inheritance together with their uncles; you can read it in Joshua 16.
What a blessing! What a happy father Joseph was! And Joseph expected Jacob to bless his firstborn, Manasseh, more than his second son, so he placed Manasseh on Jacob’s right and Ephraim on his left. But Jacob crossed his hands as he was blessing, putting Ephraim ahead of the firstborn, Manasseh. Joseph tried to move his father’s hands, but Jacob refused to do so. Here we learn that God’s work of blessing does not work according to human ways; God’s plan will be fulfilled according to God’s sovereignty beyond human understanding.
How did Jacob bless Ephraim and Manasseh? Look at verses 15-16. In his blessing, Jacob remembered the God of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, who was his God as well. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. The God of Abraham and Isaac is the same God who had been with Jacob and would be with Joseph’s children. As God was his shepherd, Jacob prayed that God would be their shepherd as well. As God sent an angel and delivered him, Jacob prayed that God would deliver them from all harm, bless them, that they would be called by his name, and that they would increase greatly.
Here we learn the importance of remembering the God of UBF history. As we pray for the World Mission Report, I remembered the God of UBF ministry. God has blessed UBF ministry through deep Bible study and raising disciples of Jesus through 1:1 Bible study, accompanied by sacrificial lives for Jesus’ world mission command. May God help us to keep the God of UBF and hand this heritage down to our next generation. Amen!
Here we also learn from the life of Joseph. Joseph was such a great man of God. We cannot find any fault except when he was young, he was immature and naïve. He resembles Christ the most as a human being. Joseph became a single seed that fell to the ground and sprouted two seeds, Ephraim and Manasseh. In fact, he bore the fruit of all his brothers, their spiritual change. He planted the seed of God in Egypt. (John 12:24) He produced much fruit inside and outside as well, many seeds. This was the life of Jesus. Jesus was a single seed who died and produced many disciples. This was life of Mother Barry, who came to Korea and gave her life to raise disciples among Koreans, beginning from Dr. Samuel Lee, and bore many fruits, including you and me. I pray to follow the way of Jesus, the way of the single seed, raising American leaders. Amen!
II. Jacob Blesses His Sons and Makes a Pilgrimage (49:1-50:14).
Jacob knew that his time on earth is up soon and gathered all his sons and blessed them. Hebrews 11:21 says, “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.” Through the history of Israel, we know that Jacob had prophetic insight through the help of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, however, Jacob’s blessings for his sons are related what kind of life they had lived before. There are basically three different categories; the cursed, the blessed and the natural. The first three sons were cursed. Reuben was a good man. At the beginning, Jacob blessed Reuben that he will excel in honor and in power as a first born son, but no longer because he defiled his father’s bed, destroying the order of the family. He lived according to his personal feelings and made his father shameful. Simeon and Levi are weapons of violence. They will be cursed due to their violence and thus will be scattered and dispersed. What Jacob said was a curse instead of blessing according to what they had done before.
However, Jacob blessed Judah and Joseph abundantly. Was Judah a man of God from the beginning? No, we know what a terrible life Judah lived in chapter 38. He was very selfish, heartless, pleasure seeking, and irresponsible. But he did not remain that way. Since Tamar’s faithfulness convicted him, he was changed to be sacrificial, compassionate and responsible. He became a trustworthy man to his father who asked him to go and get directions to Goshen for all his family members. Jacob blessed Judah to be like a lion King. The scepter will never depart from him, the ruler’s staff will never depart from his descendants, which is the prophecy of having kings among his descendants, especially sending the Messiah, King of kings. Jacob blessed him abundantly in every way, with health and wealth.
Jacob also blessed Joseph abundantly, that he will be a fruitful vine, bearing much fruit. Archers attacked and shot him with hostility, but his bow remained steady. He was attacked a lot by his brothers and by an evil woman, but he was never broken. He endured all trials and hardships by the help of the Shepherd and became a source of blessing to all people. He was like a deep spring gushing life-giving water to all the earth. God sent Joshua through the line of Joseph, leading the people of Israel to the Promised Land.
Here we learn that God will repay people according to what they have done, whether good or bad. God’s salvation is based on God’s mercy and grace to those who repent and accept Jesus as their savior, but God’s blessing is based on what they have done. Even though Lot was called a righteous man and saved from the destruction, what was the result of his life? What kind of life did he live? If we seek God’s blessing, we must live a life worthy of God’s blessing. Just as Judah was changed, our inner man must be changed and sanctified through the living word of God. If we want to receive the blessing Joseph received, we should imitate the life of Joseph who lived with his God-given dream, serving others whether he was a slave or prisoner.
What about the other sons? Jacob blessed Zebulun to become a haven of ships, living by the seashore on the border of Sidon; Issachar, like a donkey, submitting to forced labor; Dan, a snake by the road side, biting others. Jacob prayed for God’s deliverance for him. Jacob continued, saying that Gad will be always fighting with others, being attacked and attacking; Asher, a good cook, making delicacies worthy for a king; Naphtali, a doe with beautiful fawns. They were like the nameless disciples, whom we do not know what they had done, though they were used by God preciously for the kingdom of God.
Jacob blessed each of his sons in different ways. Likewise, God blesses people not all in the same way but in the way appropriate for them. It is the same way in the body of Christ. There are many different parts in one body. God has given each one a different talent to be used uniquely and preciously. Jesus is the head of our church body. An eye cannot despise a foot, and not everyone can be an eye either. If everyone wants to be an eye, who is going to be hands and feet? May God help each one of us to be thankful for what God has blessed each of us with and use it for the body of Christ preciously. Amen!
After blessing all of his sons, Jacob made a very important request. Look at 49:29, “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite.” Since Jacob was a father of the prime minister of Egypt, he could have been buried in one of the Pyramids. Instead, he wanted to buried in the cave Abraham bought in the land of Canaan. It was because he never forgot his identity, chosen by God. He wanted to remind his children of the promise of God. In order to do bury Jacob according to his request, they had to go back to the Promised Land. Though their lives were comfortable at this time, they needed to not only remember but also teach their children that they needed to come back to the land God promised to give them. It was a visual learning experience for the next generation. It was a short pilgrimage to the Promised Land.
How can we apply this to ourselves today? While on earth, God wants us to remember God’s promise. That means we need to remember the truth, not compromising with the value system of this world but holding on to the truth and living according to the word of God. What is our promised land? It is not an earthly land but a heavenly one. God does not want us to live in this world comfortably but to remember that our true land is not on earth but in heaven. Often troubles come into our lives so that we know the world is not our home. As Jacob saw his life as a pilgrimage, a Christian life is a pilgrimage to the true Promised Land, heavenly kingdom. As citizens of the kingdom of heaven, may God bless us to live in this world righteously, building right relationships with God and with others through the power of Jesus’ love. Amen!
III. God of Joseph and Joseph’s Hope (50:15-26).
Why did Joseph’s brothers become fearful after their father’s death? Look at 50:15. “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?’” They thought that Joseph was holding grudge against them. It had been their mentality while living under Joseph’s provision. It was because they did not accept Joseph’s words in 45:4-7. They did not accept Joseph’s forgiveness and fully forgive themselves either. They were still living under a guilty conscience and self-condemnation. Due to unforgiven and unforgiving hearts, they had been suffering all these years.
Even though Joseph had tried to be free them from their guilty conscience, it still remained in their hearts. It was revealed when their safe harbor, their father, died. They thought that Joseph was going to get revenge now. So they made a story up that their father left his will for Joseph to forgive his brothers. While making up their story, however, they were confessing their sins. How miserable they were! How happy they could have been if they had accepted Joseph’s words about God’s sovereignty in Joseph’s life and in their lives!
When Joseph heard about it, his heart was broken. When they came to him, he helped his brothers again. Look at verses 19-21. “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” There are several ways Joseph helped his brothers. First, “Don’t be afraid.” Their fear came when they did not depend on God but on their father. So when they lost their father, they had nothing to depend on. When they had nothing to depend on, fear came in to their hearts. In fear of losing their lives, they began to lie. Here, “don’t be afraid” means “do not live before people but before God.” Don’t fear Joseph, but fear God. When we fear God, there is nothing to fear.
Secondly, “Am I in the place of God?” Joseph was teaching that only God can judge and punish, not him. They should have repented their sins before God and received forgiveness from God. God is the ultimate judge who knows each man’s heart and life. When they did not repent their sins before God and constantly lived before Joseph, they were piling up sins against God by lying after lying, making use of father’s death as a scapegoat. They should have lived before the ultimate judge. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
Another good example is King David, who lived in the fear of God. Even though he had a chance to kill King Saul who was chasing after him due to jealousy, he did not. His conscience was stricken when he was just cutting the edge of his cloak. He left the judgment to God’s hand though he had to suffer for a long time.
Thirdly, God is good. He said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Since they did not live before God, they did not have any relationship with God. They did not know who God is. God is good. God has been good to Joseph in spite of trials and hardship. So God’s plan was good for Joseph, and it was for the saving of many lives, including theirs. They should have seen their lives in God’s good plan. If they accepted God’s good plan in their lives, they would be truly thankful and even participate in saving of many lives.
What is God’s good plan in your life? Did God save you from your sins in order to harm you? God gave his only and only Son to save each one of us while we were still sinners. There must be God’s good plan. Philippians 2:13 says, “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” How can we find God’s good and specific purpose for each one of us? That is a good question to ask God, who knows and able to tell each one of us. No matter what that specific plan may be, it is related to the saving of many lives through the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is God’s ultimate plan for world salvation work.
Fourthly, reassure the brothers. So he said, “So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” For the fearful brothers, Joseph patiently promised again to assure them of their provision, and he spoke kindly to them. Joseph’s action reminds me of Jesus who taught his death and resurrection to the fearful disciples again and again.
Finally, Joseph planted the hope of God. Look at verses 24-25, “Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones from this place.’” Joseph knew God’s plan given to Abraham that they would be enslaved and mistreated in Egypt but God would punish the nation and bring them back. (Ge 15:13-14) So he planted the hope of God in the hearts of his brothers and their descendants. It would not happen right now, but in the future, in God’s time. With this hope, his brothers could prepare by planting the hope in the hearts of their children for God’s time. When the time comes, they could be ready. After 430 years, however, only a few of them were ready. They were Moses, Joshua and Caleb.
This reminds me of the parable of ten virgins in Matthew 25. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. When the time for the bridegroom came, the five wise virgins could go with the bridegroom because they had oil to light the lamp, but the other five foolish ones could not because they did not have oil. Then, what is the oil we should prepare? Matthew 25:13 says, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” The oil is eyes that keep watching. It is the prepared heart ready to meet the bridegroom. It is the hearts of the people who lived their lives before the judge of the living and the dead so that they are ready to meet him anytime. In fact, we do not know when the time will come. Only God knows. Therefore, we must cleanse our hearts everyday and live before the judge who knows each one’s heart and life. Be ready with the hope!
Through today’s passage, we learned how Jacob blessed his grandson and sons. We also learned how Joseph helped his fearful brothers to the end. Joseph helped his brothers to know who God is. God is the ultimate judge, so they should live before God, not before people. God is good and his plan is good. God has a good plan for each one of us, the saving of many lives. Our true home is not on earth but in heaven. With the hope of the kingdom of God, may God help us to be ready everyday.