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Genesis 48 : Spiritual highlight

It is noticeable that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews in chapter 11:21 took as example from all the things that Jacob experienced during his life, this specific example of the high light of Jacob’s faith-trust: “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff”.

Surely, there were many other more dynamic moments in Jacob’s life that could have been mentioned in Hebrews 11? What about for example when he had the dream about the ladder that reached right up to heaven and the angels who moved up and down upon it. Or the night when he wrestled in the Jabbok with the Angel of the Lord who dislocated his hip.

What can be so special about Jacob’s dying moments and the blessing that he spoke over Joseph’s sons, which best portrayed his faith-confidence? Hebrews 11 passes over all the other great events and pause at Genesis 48: A man who is dying well. While his life was not always in agreement with his confession of faith, Jacob’s last days were an expression of being anchored to God’s words of promise. His faith-trust during his last days was not defiled by self-pity and doubt. He was robust in his hope in God’s faithfulness and that the Lord would bring about what he had promised. Here is Jacob at his best. His faith-trust was not dying with him, but he was passing it on to others so that – after his death – it could continue with his descendants in the channel of God’s covenant. Descendants out of whom the Messiah would come.

VERSES 1-12 > When Joseph and his two sons – Ephraim and Manasseh – visit Jacob on his sickbed, Jacob recalls the past and the promises he received from the Lord at Bethel. Here Jacob is busy adopting Joseph’s sons (his grand children) as his own children. That is something that was possible to perform in the Ancient Near East. Jacob adopts his grandsons and put them on the same level with his own sons – as heirs – so that he could bless them together with his other sons. And while he is doing that, he is looking back on the glorious promises that the Lord gave him at Bethel.

It is very clear what his mind is filled with while he is lying on his sickbed: His mind is full of the living God and His covenant-promises and how faithful the Lord was and still is. There is a future ahead! Jacob has only one passion and that is to pronounce the Lord’s blessing on his sons. In chapter 49 he does that. But first he adopts Ephraim and Manasseh and speaks a blessing over them. Because he is the head of the covenant and out of his descendants shall come the Messiah. Now Rachel’s two sons – Joseph and Benjamin – will receive THREE tribal areas in the promised land! Because Manasseh and Ephraim replace Joseph!

To feel the full impact of what is happening here, we must remember that we see Jacob on his deathbed. In one’s last moments one talks only about essentials. It is so moving to see what the essentials were in Jacob’s life.

I read about a nurse who tells about how many times she stood alongside a deathbed, and about what she heard there – dying people’s last words. She mentions things such as: “I wish I had the courage to be myself and not what other people expected me to be.” And: “I wish I did not work so hard.” And: “I wish I stayed in contact with my friends.” Also: “I wish I could have been more happy.”

So absolutely self-centered and depressing, not so?

Jacob’s deathbed-witness begins and ends with the living God! He does not dwell in the mire of the sins of the past. He does not need to make peace with any of his sons. Oh no: He is a man who is PASSING ON the baton of the Lord’s promises. He is PASSING ON the Lord’s blessing. He is busy with the one single thing that really matters!

The person in whom the Spirit does NOT abide, is focussed on self – to the very last moment. The post-modern unsaved person does not ask things like: “Do you have a testimony of deliverance and salvation” or “In what lies your hope?” Or: “What is your joy and comfort?” No such questions. No, that is not what the unsaved person is interested in.

Instead of glorifying the Lord in his death, the lost person rather asks something like: “What is the secret of self-satisfaction?“ When the lost person is staring death and eternity in the face, the only thing that matters is MAN and temporal matters.

But, the instant when one’s body and soul are to be separated at the moment of death, the ONLY thing that should have mattered will be: the honour of the living God. But one has then absolutely missed the purpose. There is no change of getting saved after death (see Proverbs 1:28). So tragic. Well, Jacob is showing us the true way of the Holy Spirit.

The most important thing that you and I can leave with our children is a true knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Success in business and a healthy lifestyle and a good upbringing are of secondary importance.

Jacob is practically blind – he wants to bless Ephraim and Manasseh, but cannot see who is who. They first have to be identified. Perhaps he is reminded of how his own blind father, Isaac, blessed him and Esau and how he had deceived his father so that he – as the youngest – could receive the blessing Esau (as the eldest) should have received.

What should have happened is that Jacob’s right-hand had to rest on Manasseh’s head and his left-hand on the head of Ephraim. Because Manasseh was the firstborn.

VERSES 13-20 > However Jacob crossed his arms and put his left-hand on Manasseh’s head and his right-hand on Ephraim’s head. Joseph saw that and wanted to correct his father, but no, Jacob knew exactly what he was doing. The Holy Spirit was LEADING him to do that, because this blessing was meant to be a prophetic word.

In the future it would turn out that Ephraim would indeed be the more prominent and dominant tribe. The eventual 10 northern tribes of Israel would even be known by the name “Ephraim“.

The beauty of this blessing is that Jacob is overflowing with who/what the LORD is, and that he is literally transferring his own hope in the Lord over onto these boys. He is passing on the baton. The baton of: “HE must be more and you/me less”. Therefore Jacob is busy making a confession of faith-trust in the Lord. THAT is the essence of what he is passing on to the next generation. No wonder then that Hebrews 11 could refer to this very moment in Jacob’s life to be the high light of his walk of faith.

In his last moments therefore Jacob is free of self-centeredness – he is full of who/what the Lord is, and – as is fitting in God’s covenant – he is passing on that faith-trust to his children. He leaves them with the Lord’s blessing – that actually contains a prophetic word.

Not only does the blessing deal with Ephraim’s eventual status, but also deals with something that weighs heavily on the heart of God, namely the fact that the covenant people must not settle down in Egypt, must not intermix with Egypt, but be holy – meaning to be set apart for the Lord and as individuals be united with God’s nation – even if it means abuse and poverty.

This aspect is emphasized throughout the Scriptures. Therefore we know that it weighs heavily on the Lord’s heart. The fact that God’s children must not be of the world. Holiness and a holy lifestyle are very precious to God. Meaning: to be set aside for God, for His Name, for His church, for His kingdom, for His affairs, for His work. Even though it could mean abuse and persecution and tears. Let us embrace that – wholeheartedly and seriously!

VERSES 21-22 > Jacob reminds Joseph that there is hope and a future. Even though they are still sitting in Egypt. The living God shall protect, lead and provide. Most importantly though: The Lord’s PRESENCE will be their inheritance. In addition Jacob gives Joseph the land he took from the Amorites with sword and bow – the land Shechem.

It is of utmost importance that – after Jacob’s death – the covenant nation should not settle down and remain in Egypt but that they should remain true to God’s promise and cling to THAT and always be reminded that He has promised them a land. Their faith-expectation has to stay alive and burn high. The profound reason behind it all is the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ – the promised Messiah – must eventually be born in that promised land and die on the cross in Jerusalem – not in Egypt. Everything in the OT points to that and builds up to that crescendo. The fact that Jacob promises Shechem to Joseph, indicates his Holy Spirit-worked assurance THAT God shall give that land to His nation.

It is almost impossible to look at Jacob – here where he is at the end of his earthly life – and not to observe what a good covenant-father he is, and not to understand HOW important it is for covenant-parents in 2019 to be in earnest about passing the baton on to their children and grandchildren!

It is irrefutably true that the Lord’s covenant uses the family structure as infrastructure. It was true in the OT, and it is true in the New Covenant. In Acts 2:38-39 the Lord literally says that the promise of thre Spirit is meant for believers and for their children. And from Galatians 3:14 we know that the promise of the Spirit is nothing but the full blessing that God already promised to Abraham. The blessing of Abraham is still meant for believers and their children.

It is too wonderful for words to see this:
In Genesis 48 Jacob is passing on the blessings of God’s promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob to Joseph’s sons – after he first had adopted them as his own sons.

Galatians 3:14 says that THAT blessing was pointed in essence towards the gift of the Holy Spirit. And Acts 2:38 says that exactly THAT is also due for the children of believers in the New Covenant.

Therefore, what we should notice, is how important it is on the Lord’s heart that Christian parents should be in earnest with covenant-education – to not only personally be in a living relationship with the Lord, but also to communicate it with their children and grandchildren. To pass on the baton. The Bible must be read in the home, it must be spoken about, it must be prayed about, etc. Especially daily intercession for children and grandchildren. Whether Christians accept the baptism of the children of believers or not – what is true is that ALL true Christians must educate and raise their children as covenant-children. They are not to be treated as pagans. In the Lord’s eyes this is of fundamental importance.

Just a final truth from the last words Jacob addressed to Joseph: “I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers”.

These words are a great comfort to true believers – particularly concerning the death and dying of loved ones or friends who also know and love the Lord and serve and follow Him.

The comforting promise is this: EVEN THOUGH they die, the Lord SHALL take us – who remain behind – to the land of our fathers, that is the heavenly Canaan, that is the final promised Land. Some go ahead, yes, but the Lord’s promise is: the rest will most certainly follow. And until then, the Lord SHALL be WITH those who stay behind.

Look carefully what Jacob is doing:

He is giving two promises: 1 > The Lord will be WITH you after I am gone, and 2 > The Lord WILL take you back to the promised land. Your home is not to be found here in Egypt but in the land the Lord has promised.

Translated by Marthie Wilson

Category Genesis Series

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