Friday, December 3, 2010

Hall of Faith Series : Jacob

Good Friday everyone. Today I want to continue our our Hall of Faith series.  Today's subject is Jacob.
By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.  Hebrews 11:21 NKJV
Jacob actually blessed all his children, but today's focus will be on his blessings of Joseph's children (Jacob's grandchildren).  This account once again brings us back to Genesis.
Now it came to pass after these things that Joseph was told, "Indeed your father is sick"; and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And Jacob was told, "Look, your son Joseph is coming to you"; and Israel strengthened himself and sat up on the bed.  Genesis 48:1-2 NKJV
We fast forward from last week to now where all patriarchs are in Egypt and Jacob (renamed to Israel by God) was nearing his death.  He was ill and news got back to Joseph.  Joseph gathered his sons Manasseh and Ephraim and went to see him.  Jacob, who was apparently very old and ill, gathered enough strength to sit up in bed to greet his son and grandchildren.
Then Jacob said to Joseph: "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, 'Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession.'" Genesis 48:3-4 NKJV
Jacob tells of his story when God appeared to him in Luz.  Many years ago, God appeared to Jacob and commanded him to go to Luz (which later became Bethel) and build an alter.  Jacob did as God commanded and God appeared to him again at that place.  God renamed him Israel and made the same promise given to Abraham and Isaac.  God promised to make him a great nation and promised him the land given to Abraham and Isaac.  What is interesting is that it is Jacob who passes this promise on to his children.  There is no account in Scripture of God appearing to any of the children of Jacob to make that promise. 
"And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. Your offspring whom you beget after them shall be yours; they will be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance. But as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died beside me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)."  Genesis 48:5-7 NKJV
There are a few interesting things in this passage.  First of all, Jacob basically adopts Ephraim and Manasseh as his own children.  He is saying that the children Joseph had in Egypt before Jacob got there (Ephraim and Manasseh) were to be considered his sons, just as Reuben or Simeon or any of his other sons.  Any other children that Joseph has would be Joseph's.  What is also interesting is that while it is customary for the oldest son to receive a double portion as part of the inheritance, we see here that Jacob is giving that double portion to Joseph.  This double portion is given through his sons.  His two sons would each receive their fair share of the land of Israel and by that Joseph is getting 2 portions.  What is also interesting is that while there is a tribe of Joseph referenced in Scripture, there is no land inheritance specifically for the tribe of Joseph.  Jacob then reminisces on the death and burial of his beloved Rachel.
Then Israel saw Joseph's sons, and said, "Who are these?" And Joseph said to his father, "They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place." And he said, "Please bring them to me, and I will bless them." Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them.  Genesis 48:8-10 NKJV
Jacob, being nearly blind, knew that Joseph was with two others, but did not know who they were.  Joseph tells his father who they are and Jacob asks to be able to bless them.  I wonder what Ephraim and Manasseh were thinking when Jacob said they were each getting their own inheritance in the Promised Land and being considered his sons.  I wonder what Jacob thought when he now learned that he just gave those two young men the promise not realizing they were there to hear it.  Jacob seems to really have some issue with the whole order of fathers giving dying blessings to their sons.  First, he received his own blessing out of turn. Then he gave Joseph the double portion instead of the eldest son.  Now he wants to give blessings first to his two newly adopted sons before he blesses the rest of his sons.  He is still not done bucking the tend.
And Israel said to Joseph, "I had not thought to see your face; but in fact, God has also shown me your offspring!"  Genesis 48:11 NKJV
How amazing is our God.  Remember Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers who in turn told his father that he was killed.  As far as Jacob knew, Joseph was dead.  It was not until years later when Joseph had the fateful meeting with his brothers in Egypt when they came looking for food due to the famine in the land did Jacob learn Joseph was alive and well.  How amazing was God to reunite Jacob with the son he thought was dead and not only his son, but his son's offspring.  Jacob lost his son for some time, but in the end he had two additional sons (Ephraim and Manasseh).  How joyful this must have been for Jacob.  How amazing is our God to not only reunite Joseph with his father, but to provide him with two more to call his sons.  There is no such thing as "hopeless" when your hope is in the Lord.
So Joseph brought them from beside his knees, and he bowed down with his face to the earth. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near him. Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn. Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn. And he blessed Joseph, and said: "God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day, The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth."  Genesis 48:12-16 NKJV
Joseph takes his sons close to Jacob and arrays them so Joseph will give each son the appropriate blessing with the older son receiving the blessing from the right hand and the younger from the left.  God, however, had other plans.  Jacob (knowingly) switches hands so his left is on the older and right is on the younger and then proceeds to bless them.  What a blessing it was.  He glorifies God for all that He did in his life and conveys that same blessing and provision to be upon their lives.  In asking for his name to be named upon them, he is also asking for his nature and character who who God made him to be to be named upon them.  He also conveys the promise given to himself, Abraham, and Isaac upon them in that they become a great multitude. 
Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father's hand to remove it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. And Joseph said to his father, "Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head." But his father refused and said, "I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations."  Genesus 48:17-19 NKJV
Joseph thought his father had made a mistake.  Did not he realize that he was giving the older son the lesser blessing?  He corrected his father telling him he had his hands on the wrong heads and tried to move his hands to correct his "error."  Jacob corrects Joseph telling him that he knows exactly what he is doing.  God gave Jacob a vision of the future and while it may just seem like Jacob likes to buck tradition, he was really just doing right by God.  Jacob was more concerned with satisfying God in delivering His message to the appropriate sons than he was about satisfying man's tradition.  The fact is that God ordained for Ephraim the younger to be greater than Manasseh the older. 
So he blessed them that day, saying, "By you Israel will bless, saying, 'May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!'" And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh. Then Israel said to Joseph, "Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers. Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow."  Genesis 48:20-22 NKJV
And so it is done, Ephraim is put before Manasseh.  Jacob then told Joseph that God would be with them, that they would return to the promised land, and that Joseph (though Ephraim and Manasseh) would have a double portion of the inheritance.  Jacob made these statements hundreds of years before they came to be.  Sometimes God's promises are immediate, sometimes they are very far off, but they will always come to be. 

So what can we learn from Jacob blessing Ephraim and Manasseh?  We can learn a lot.  First of all, despite being practically blind and that he was going against tradition, Jacob knew which hand belonged on which head regardless of Joseph arranged his sons.  He knew because of faith.  Jacob had faith in God and in that faith, he followed God as to which hand to put on which head no matter how it clashed with Joseph's expectations or man's traditions.  Jacob's faith was also expressed in that he had the boldness to proclaim a prophesy, even one that would be hundreds of years before it happens. 

We also see a great picture of how God chooses the lesser things of the world to confound the greater.  First God chose Jacob, who was younger and called a "mild" man and basically a momma's boy over Esau who was older and described as a strong hunter and a man's man.  God then chose Joseph (the younger brother sold into slavery by his own older brothers) to receive the double portion usually reserved for the firstborn son over all his older brothers and to rule over them.  Then God chose Ephraim and Manasseh (moments after adopting them) to receive their blessing before all their older brothers.  And finally, God chose Ephraim who was the younger brother over Manasseh, the older brother.  Good chooses the weaker over the stronger so that He may be glorified.  Take comfort in that. If you are the younger brother who always gets picked on, if you are the lowest employee who always gets dumped on, if you are the lesser athlete who always gets taunted, if you are slowest student always feeling like you are so far behind the rest of your class, if you are any of those things or anywhere where you feel like you are the lowest of the low, then take heart.  You are right where God wants you to be.  You are right where God can be glorified through you.  You are in a position that you have no choice but to trust God and that is the best place in the world you can be.  I will say it again: There is no such thing as hopeless when you hope is in the Lord.  Don't despair, but rather rejoice in that God can be glorified through you, rejoice in that God will show His strength through your weakness. 
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD."  1 Corinthians 1:27-31 NKJV

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