Genesis ends with Jacob’s family settled in Egypt. Yet the passing of the patriarchs marks the beginning, not the end, of what God will do in the lives of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
I'm encouraged that the passing of one generation is not the end. As I trust God, I can say to our children, “God will be with you” and rely on Him to work out His purpose in their lives, a good thought as grow older.
When Joseph's family arrived in Egypt, he settled them on prime Egyptian land. Jacob counted Joseph’s 2 sons as his own, and blessed all 13 before he died. Then Joseph buried his father, reaffirmed his forgiveness of his brothers, and obtained a promise that when God brought their offspring back to Canaan, Joseph’s bones would be returned to his homeland.
Two things stand out in my mind. First is that the patriarchal culture put an emphasis on the birthright and special privileges of the firstborn. Also important was the blessing, usually given to the oldest son, but also to the entire family. As Jacob neared the end of his life, he called his sons around him and blessed them. Here are two examples:
“Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.
“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. . . ." (Genesis 49:5-10).
A few contemporary theologians and authors have picked up on this custom and exhorted Christian parents on the necessity of "blessing" our children. While encouraging them is vital, it is easy to miss how closely Jacob's words were to prophecy. He wasn’t merely telling them what he desired for their lives, but looking ahead with prophetic vision to what their lives would actually become based somewhat on their current character.
Simeon and Levi's 'blessing' didn't seem like one. In Judah's case, it was very positive, even looking ahead to what the life of his descendant would be, pointing to Jesus Christ.
Would I bless my children the same way? If God give me a clear view of the future and it didn't look too good, would I be able to tell them, or even believe God. If their future was to be bleak instead of prosperous, could I call it a 'blessing'? My affection and my bias could not give an objective blessing. I could only offer my deepest desires, all positive of course.
The other part of these four chapters that touches my heart and boosts my faith is when the brothers came to Joseph after Jacob died. They were fearful that now he would take revenge for what they had done to him many years before. But Joseph wept when they spoke to him. He said, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them." (Genesis 50:17-21)
Joseph was a man of integrity and a good example of how to respond to my God. He is a God of ultimate kindness and grace. He does work all things together for the good of His people. He assures me when I am fearful, and takes care of all my needs.