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Genesis Chapter 48:1-22. - "Last Will and Testament" - Part 1
There's a reason why people record the last words of those who are dying. Sometimes though, those last words aren’t very profound, like when Humphrey Bogart ended his life with the words: “I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.”
Yet many times the process of dying concentrates our minds on the things that are most important, especially when that dying process is lengthy. Dying often strips away pretense and hypocrisy and lays bare the truth about a person’s soul.
I found it interesting to read the atheist Christopher Hitchens final article before he died after his long bout with cancer. In that article he explored the foolishness of Nietzche’s saying: “Whatever does not kill me only makes me stronger.”
Instead he wrote that there is much in this world that may not kill us, but certainly makes us weaker than it found us, including many modern cancer treatments.”
In Genesis 48-49 we have Jacob’s last words. In contrast to Hitchens firm belief to the end that this life is all there is, Jacob’s final testament is full of faith and hope in the God who had a purpose for his life before he was born and was not finished with his life when he died.
The contrast between the two beliefs is stark; one believed that there was no God, but that you should go ahead and enjoy your life anyway. While the other saw his whole life defined by his relationship with God - whether pursuing Him, running away from Him, or wrestling with Him.
Hitchens believed that life had no meaning beyond what we invest it with; that death is the end, and there is nothing beyond. Jacob looked forward to God fulfilling His promises to him and to his offspring after him for generations to come.
This passage should challenge each of us also to ponder what we believe about life - and about the way in which we will think about our own mortality when death inevitably comes.
So, Genesis 48 opens with Joseph bringing his 2 sons to the old and nearly blind Jacob to be blessed. This scene reminds us of the time when Jacob came to receive a blessing from his own elderly, nearly blind father in Gen. 27.
Remember that, when Issac tried to keep the whole deal a secret in order to bless his favorite son, Esau, instead of Jacob in spite of the fact that God told him to bless Jacob even before he was born?
This time, even though there’s gonna be another switcheroo, both sons were brought to be blessed openly, without deception or trickery. While Esau was excluded, BOTH of Joseph’s sons received a blessing, as would the rest of Joseph’s brothers as we will see in Ch. 49.
So, let’s dig into the text...
Vs. 1-6 - “Some time later Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. When Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed.
Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, ‘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.’
“Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers.”
So Jacob is adopting these 2 boys of Joseph, and I would imagine these guys were probably Princes. I mean their dad’s Joseph! I’m sure they were popular guys, and no doubt they were very well provided for materially.
But here Joseph has an interest in them partaking in their share of the spiritual heritage and the spiritual covenant that was theirs through father Abraham. And it goes without saying that God has designs on these 2 boys being a very big part of the Israeli landscape.
So here God is having Jacob adopt these 2 boys that they might share in the inheritance, in order that Joseph would receive a double blessing for his faithfulness in preserving the family line.
What is interesting here, as I pointed out last week, is that the writer of Hebrews tells us that - as he is blessing these 2 boys, that he is actually WORSHIPING God. (Heb. 11:21). “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.”
As you go down through this, you don’t see singing, music playing, no lights dimming and fog machines. There’s nothing that we would call a worship service here, and yet the writer of Hebrews tells us that: it is in this act of blessing these 2 boys that Jacob was in fact worshipping.
We have within our minds this tendency to think of worship, in the sense of giving God thanks and praise and song and so forth, and that’s absolutely part of it. But the real heart of worship, the real act of worship that the word of God would put forth for us this morning: is simply BELIEVING God! Believing the promises of God.
So here’s a man, as we’re about to discover further, who is believing in God the ACTING upon that belief. And the Bible calls that ‘worship.’
Join us next week as we continue in chapter 48. Blessings to you all.