Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Blessing - Genesis 48:15-16

And he blessed Joseph, and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; And may my name live on in them, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

Joseph was expecting his father, Jacob, to bless his two sons when he put his hands on their head, but instead, the text says, “he blessed Joseph”.  I like that.  I understand it.  The love and blessings that my aged father bestowed on my children were indeed a blessing to me.  And so it should be.  We are to view the continuum of family through adjacent generations and beyond as a gift from God.  This is reinforced when Jacob talks about his “fathers Abraham and Isaac” seemingly describing them as belonging to one and the same category, “my fathers”.

The joy of remembering one’s fathers or ancestors is multiplied when we can say like Jacob, that they walked before God.  And it is exponentially increased when we can honestly declare that this same God has been and still is the “shepherd of my life”.  Jacob was able to do just that.  I can only say this about my father; I do not know of my grandfather’s faith.  It is my desire that my son and daughters can say it about their “fathers”.  That would be a great delight for any man or woman.  Some are blessed with the knowledge of that assurance for even more generations.  Others will never share that joy.  Their only recourse at this point, is through their own faith, they see to it that their children get a chance to say that about their ‘father’.  Whatever your situation is, you can resolve to walk before God and cling to Him as your shepherd.

And Jacob’s blessing, interestingly enough, seems to suggest how we can do just that. It includes the fact that it was God who had “redeemed (him) from all evil.”  Even in the Old Testament, before the human birth of our Redeemer Jesus Christ, God Himself could redeem us.  Jacob had given his life to obeying God and God redeemed him.  It is the same for us today.  We obey God when we accept His Son as our Savior.  At that point we are saved. We then continue to serve Him throughout our lives.

And with that saving God as his Redeemer, Jacob blesses his son Joseph and Joseph’s sons.  The blessing that Jacob bestows on Ephraim and Manasseh is twofold.

First, it is his desire that the boys keep the memory of their grandfather (Jacob himself), their great-grandfather (Isaac) and their great-great-grandfather (Abraham) alive, as they live.  This is, first and foremost, a human attempt at what most of mankind pursues – the desire to be remembered after one is gone.  My dad would often respond to my question, “Dad, why are you doing that for the kids? They have enough; they don’t need it,” by simply saying, “Because I want them to remember me.”  Almost everything he did for his grandchildren was with that sole purpose in mind.  I see that same attitude popping up occasionally in my own dealings with my grandchildren.  It is natural.

In Jacob’s case, however, his desire to be remembered was also expressed on behalf of his own father and grandfather.  Thus, I am led to believe that it was more of the honorable desire to keep alive their memory with respect to how they “walked with God”.  Jacob believed that God’s promise to his grandfather was dependent on the children of Israel continuing their walk with God.  He wanted to do all he could to ensure that would happen.  That is a very normal desire.  As Christian parents and grandparents, we so much want our children and grandchildren to walk with God throughout their lives because we know from experience that the alternative leads to either emptiness or destruction, or both.

Before we leave this section, we would be amiss not to mention the great commentator Matthew Henry’s take on this verse.  He writes: “Though they were born in Egypt, and their father was then separated from his brethren, which might seem to have cut them off from the heritage of the Lord, yet Jacob takes them in, and owns them . . .” Henry continues, “It is as if he were saying ‘Let them not succeed their father in his power and grandeur here in Egypt, but let them succeed me in the inheritance of the promise made to Abraham.’” Henry believed that Jacob looked upon that promise as much more valuable and honorable, and would have his grandchildren to prize and covet it accordingly. Henry writes: “Thus the aged dying patriarch teaches these young persons, now that they were of age . . . not to look upon Egypt as their home, nor to incorporate themselves with the Egyptians, but to take their lot with the people of God . . . Jacob will have Ephraim and Manasseh to believe that it is better to be low and in the church than high and out of it, to be called by the name of poor Jacob than to be called by the name of rich Joseph.”  I will leave it up to you to settle for yourself as to how much of this Jacob actually thought out.  Personally, I do believe that as grandparents we often look at what our own children have aspired to and accomplished, sometimes without the help of God and sometimes allowed by God, and we feel that their priorities were, in our estimation, a little off.  And we pray that things won’t get even further off kilter with their children, our grandchildren.  We pray that they will arise above the seduction of the physical world and move even closer towards God.  My wife’s mother expressed that sentiment just this week as we were talking about success and one’s income.  She was right in suggesting that while we need funds to live, money is not the purpose of our living.  Jacob wanted his grandchildren to understand that.

The second thrust of his blessing on Joseph’s sons had to do with their growing and multiplying on the earth.  That was partly for them and partly for the part that they would play in the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.  What we do note is that although Israel went to the extra trouble of crossing his arms over so that Ephraim would get blessed with his right hand, the blessing to both of his grandchildren was identical.  What remains to be seen is how Joseph reacted to what had just taken place.  We discover that in the next few verses of this chapter.

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