Sunday, 6 September 2015

Bible Reading: Genesis 48

In the intervening chapters Moses is imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, forgotten and finally ends up as Prime Minister of Egypt.  There he meets his brothers and finally reveals himself to them before bringing the whole family to live in Goshen in Egypt, providing for them during the years of famine.

As chapter 48 opens Jacob is ill about to die, he is the head of the family, the one who 3 times has sent his sons to Egypt, the one to whom God has appeared and made the covenant promises. But he is about to die, so what does the future hold? The family has grown but it’s still only 70 or so and they are in Egypt not the promise land, the future seems very uncertain, how do they face it?

Jacob calls Joseph and begins preparing the family for the future by giving him a history lesson. In fact chapter 48 is Jacob’s testimony to the character and faithfulness of God in his life.

Jacob looks back to the incident in Gen 28 when God appeared to him after he had fled from Esau. (3)He describes God as “God Almighty” or ‘El Shaddai’, it means God the mighty one majestic and glorious. It pictures the sovereignty of God, and it is this God who promised Jacob (v4) “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.”

What follows as Jacob blesses Joseph’s sons is his testimony to God’s goodness. (11)"I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too." As he blesses them God’s character and faithfulness are the bedrock of the blessing. His blessing asks that they would know God(v15-16) and be partakers in the covenant with his family.

It’s a blessing which includes them, sons of Joseph and his Egyptian wife, in the covenant family and gives them the inheritance rights of full children and in which Jacob prays that they would know his God. The God who guided his fathers, who has been his shepherd, guide, provider and protector.

Jacob’s life hadn’t been easy, he described it to Pharaoh as “My years have been few and difficult.” He had fled Esau’s murderous rage, was tricked by Laban into marrying the wrong sister after 7 years of hard labour, then worked 7 more years for Rachel, then had to face Esau, live through the jealous manipulations of his wives, Rachel's death, his daughter's rape, his sons butchering a town in vengeful anger endangering the family.  Then he is told Joseph is dead, then there is the famine which forces him to send Benjamin to Egypt.  But now at the end of his life as he looks back and gives his testimony he can say “God has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm.” It does not mean he has not seen hardship but that God has fulfilled his purposes and plans, God has proven faithful and kept his promises.

As Jacob prepares to die he mediates God’s blessing to his sons because God is faithful and keeps his promises. His testimony is not to an easy life but to God’s faithfulness through life’s ups and downs, high and lows, joys and grief’s. What he wants his family to know above all is God’s presence with them(21) because he is almighty and sovereign, he protects his people and is faithful and keeps his promises.

Jacob trusts God for the future because God has been faithful and that is his character. God’s people must not judge God’s faithfulness by circumstances but by God’s character. We can trust God to bring us through hardship and trouble, through grief and joy. It is because of God’s faithfulness we see in scripture that we can face the future confidently. As you survey the future is it with God in mind, the God who is faithful and keeps his promises to his people?

Jacob’s prayer is that the next generation and the one after will be counted among the covenant people and that they will know God. Is that what we pray for our children? Is it the highest priority we have for them, is that what we are convinced will secure their future? Is it reflected in the time we spend praying, teaching the bible and talking about God with them? Or would they conclude from our living and the things we encourage them to do that being academic, sporty, popular, good looking, married, rich, or something else is the key to a secure future?

As Stephen preaches to the council he is calling them to see the faithfulness of God that ultimately leads to the promised coming of Jesus.  The ultimate expression of God's love and faithfulness and sovereignty in working all things for his purposes and to bring blessing for his people and the world by faith in him.

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