Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:4

Preface:  This week, join me as we experience God’s love through His Word.  We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4 NIV – New International Version)

Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.
(Psalm 23:4 GNT – Good News Translation)

Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.
(Psalm 23:4 AMP – Amplified Bible)

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4 KJV – King James Version)

As we continue with Psalm 23, we see the progression of verse 4 building upon verses 2 and 3.  First comes rest (verse 2), then the work of the journey (verse 3).

Wouldn’t it be great if life were all sunny days with plenty to eat and drink, no concerns about safety or problems to be overcome?  The psalmist is realistic and knows that times of trial and tribulation are as much a part of life as the good times.

In verse 4, the psalmist points out that the Lord is with us even in the dark times of our lives.  God is not a fair-weather friend – he is the faithful friend who stays with us through everything.  If we sense we are far from God, it is us who have strayed, not God.

Notice how the psalmist portrays the impending doom – as a sunless valley, as darkness, as if death itself owns this spot we must journey through.  And yet, God loves us so much that he goes before us and shows us that while it looks foreboding and scary, we are safe in His care.  Shadows can be scary looking, but they are not a real threat.

Notice the tools the Shepherd carries to provide for us and protect us – His rod and His shepherd’s staff (also known as the shepherd’s crook).  And these tools are in the experienced hands of the Shepherd, powered by His mighty right hand and strong arms.

Knowing God loves us and provides for us and protects us and is right there with us brings great comfort through these hard times.

May you sense God’s presence when you go through trials and tribulations in life.

May you walk in faith, knowing that your Shepherd is with you, guiding you through hard times when the way forward is not clear.

May you find comfort in His Word, reminding you that He loves you and will never leave you or forsake you.

May you abide (live each day, moment by moment) in His care.

Blessings,
~kevin

Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:3

Preface:  This week, join me as we experience God’s love through His Word.  We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:3 NIV – New International Version)

He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:3 AMPC – Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)

That’s where he restores and revives my life. He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honor to his name.
(Psalm 23:3 TPT – The Passion Translation)

He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most.
(Psalm 23:3 TLB – The Living Bible)

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:3 KJV – King James Version)

As we meditate on verse 3 today, we must loop back and look at verse 2, for they are clearly bound together.

Verse 2 gives us the picture of rest and revitalization.  Verse 3 gives us the picture of the benefits of that rest – new strength of body and character to do the next right thing which honors God and blesses us.

In our modern culture, we often think that the day begins with work and ends with rest.

In ancient culture, the day began with rest and ended with work.

In fact, God designed it this way from the beginning:

God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
(Genesis 1:5 NIV)

Notice the order – evening (rest) first, then morning (work).

What difference would it make in our everyday lives if we adjusted our thinking to God’s design for each day?

First, we start work from a place of strength, not of weakness.

Second, we start from a place of wholeness – not only is our outward body refreshed, but our inward “heart” or “soul” (our emotions, our attitudes, our mind, our ability to focus, our outlook on life) is refreshed as well.  We can approach the day from a fresh perspective and full of joy.  The weariness, mental exhaustion, sadness, anxiety, and cares from the previous day are left with the previous day – we get a fresh start with rest.

Starting from a place of rest, God also provides purpose and meaning to each day.  The psalmist lets us know that there is a “path” that God guides us on.  We don’t have to “bushwhack” across the landscape of life – God leads us on the best way forward.  If we follow His leading, we don’t have to worry about going astray or getting lost.

And what is the meaning of our lives?  When we walk with Him, we bring honor and glory to His name.  Our lives have meaning when they are about Him, not about us.

May we experience God’s rest and strength and purpose and joy today, as we learn to live according to His design and calling.

He is holding out His hand, ready to lead us in His path, to walk with us along the way.

Blessings,
~kevin

Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:2

Preface:  This week, join me as we experience God’s love through His Word.  We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
(Psalm 23:2 NIV – New International Version)

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
(Psalm 23:2 NLT – New Living Translation)

He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.
(Psalm 23:2 TPT – The Passion Translation)

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
(Psalm 23:2 KJV – King James Version)

The psalmist continues his analogy of God as a loving shepherd and we being under his care.

In verse 1, we heard the psalmist testify that God was meeting all his needs.

In verse 2, we have the first specific example of God meeting all his needs – nourishment for both body and soul.

Green pastures signify abundant food supply; still waters signify drinkable water.  In a sheep’s view, this is meeting the physical needs for food and water.

But God’s provisions are not just for the body – this verse lets us know that God provides for our soul as well.

Laying down indicates rest.  If the sheep are being pursued, by a predator or driven by the shepherd, there would be no opportunity to rest – the sheep would be under constant stress.

Still waters imply a peaceful environment.  If the waters were flooding or the stream was running at a rapid rate, the sheep would not drink for fear of getting swept away in the water.

Likewise, if the water source were a pool of stagnant water, the sheep would not drink.  Instead, the Shepherd finds a fresh water source that gently flows as a stream, allowing the sheep to drink in peace and without fear.

While this is not a permanent place to live, it is an oasis of rest and revitalization that the sheep need for a long and productive life.  The shepherd knows this and makes sure to provide this place of refreshment for both the body and soul of those in his care.

What does your place of refreshment look like?  A quiet, sandy beach?  Or a high mountain meadow?

Maybe your place of refreshment is not a “destination” far away as much as it might be a state of mind – a favorite chair by the window with a book and a blanket and a warm cup of tea on a rainy day, or a quiet park bench among the trees on a sunny day with a glass of lemonade.

May you be intentional about finding times of rest and refreshment with the Lord – times to quiet your soul and enjoy His provision of rest.

There will be pressures and foes and hard times – but for now, may you find a few moments of rest for your body and soul.

Blessings,
~kevin

Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:1

Preface:  This week, I invite you to join with me as we experience God’s love through His Word.  We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
(Psalm 23:1 NIV – New International Version)

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
(Psalm 23:1 NLT – New Living Translation)

Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need!
(Psalm 23:1 TLB – The Living Bible)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
(Psalm 23:1 KJV – King James Version)

Before we begin today’s journey, let’s take a moment to consider a question:

Imagine God having thoughts about you.  What do you assume about God’s thoughts  when He thinks about you?

If you’re not a follower of Jesus, you might think that God has no thoughts about you, or that He is angry toward you.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you might think God is simply disappointed with you, or that you don’t measure up in some way to His standards.

All these above scenarios are flawed and wrong.

In fact, God is deeply and unconditionally in love with us.

Because God loves us, he does not force us to love Him in return – he allows us to choose whether we love Him or not.  It’s a big risk that God took – and not everyone takes God up on His offer of love.  Regardless of whether we accept God’s gracious gift of love or not, He still offers it to us at great cost to Him and no cost to us.

The psalmist tells us that because God loves us, we lack nothing.  He supplies everything we need.  The psalmist says we will not be destitute (in dire want or need).  In fact, the psalmist uses the image of a shepherd caring for his sheep as the image of God loving us in all ways.

I was a small child when I first read this psalm.  Like most children my age, we read the King James version of the Bible because that was what was available at the time.  As I read this first verse, I didn’t understand the phrase “I shall not want”.  I thought it meant that I had to forfeit any desire for good in my life.  Later on in life, thankfully, I discovered that this phrase was saying that God would supply my needs and that I can trust Him to provide what I need for a joyful and meaningful life.

So what do you imagine God thinks about you?

How has this first verse of Psalm 23 changed your thinking about God’s thoughts of you?

May you spend some time allowing God’s Word and His truth to wash over your heart and mind, to the very most inward part of your soul.

And may the reality of God’s love toward you form the very core of your identity, of who you are – beloved of God.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 50:1-26

50 Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him. Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel. So the physicians embalmed him, taking a full forty days, for that was the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days.

When the days of mourning had passed, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s court, “If I have found favor in your eyes, speak to Pharaoh for me. Tell him, ‘My father made me swear an oath and said, “I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’”

Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.”

So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him—the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt— besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large company.

10 When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. 11 When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.” That is why that place near the Jordan is called Abel Mizraim.

12 So Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them: 13 They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 14 After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, together with his brothers and all the others who had gone with him to bury his father.

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

22 Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. He lived a hundred and ten years 23 and saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children. Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph’s knees.

24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 25 And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”

26 So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.
(Genesis 50:1-26 NIV)

At the end of Chapter 49, we saw Jacob prophesy about each of his twelve sons’ future, the last thing he did before he died.

As we begin Chapter 50, we see Joseph’s response to his father’s death.  Verse 1 in the NIV says Joseph threw himself on his father; other versions more accurately and specifically translate that Joseph fell upon his father’s face during his grief.

There are two significant details in verse 1 that link back to Genesis chapter 46.  The first is that God had promised Jacob that he would see Joseph before he died, and that Joseph would be with him when he died (46:4).  The phrase “Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes” in 46:4 refers to the ancient tradition that the family member closest to the deceased would be the one to close the eyes of the departed.  God indeed kept His promise to Jacob.

The second significant detail is that when Joseph met his father when they arrived in Egypt, Joseph had fallen on his father’s neck, weeping and hugging him for a long time (Genesis 46:29).  Now, at Jacob’s death, Joseph weeps on his father’s face.  There is no more reciprocal response of Jacob hugging his son Joseph; Jacob shows his love for his father by focusing on his face, the last remembrance of his father he will carry with him the rest of his days.

Joseph then ordered the physicians under him to embalm his father, as was the practice in Egypt.  The mourning period for Jacob was seventy days; of those seventy days, the embalming process took forty days.  Interestingly, historians tell us that the mourning period for the death of an Egyptian king was 72 days.  For Pharaoh to have set the mourning period for Jacob to nearly that of a king must have have been Pharaoh’s great respect for both Jacob and for Joseph.  Jacob’s one and only meeting with Pharaoh back in Genesis 47:7-10 must have been extremely impactful to Pharaoh.

After the days of mourning had passed, Joseph sent word to Pharaoh and asked permission to take his father’s remains back to Canaan and bury him there at the family grave site.  Joseph was careful not to offend Pharaoh or Egypt by demanding that Jacob be buried in Canaan rather than in Egypt.  Rather, Joseph appealed to Pharaoh’s sense of honor and integrity by letting Pharaoh know that he had promised to honor his father’s wish of being buried in his homeland.  Joseph also made a promise of his own – to return to Egypt after he had buried his father.  Pharaoh knew well of Joseph’s integrity and keeping of his word, so he granted his request.

Pharaoh not only granted Joseph’s request to return to Canaan to bury his father, he also sent many dignitaries and servants to accompany them (v. 7).  Pharaoh also sent a military escort (v. 9) to accompany Joseph and the men of Jacob’s family (v. 8).   The text does not say how many people were in the processional, only that it was a very great company of people.

When the processional party arrived somewhere in the trans-Jordan region, they stopped and had seven days of mourning for Jacob.  The processional then proceeded to the designated family burial plot and placed Jacob’s remains in the designated tomb.  Then all the members of the burial party returned to Egypt as promised.

In verses 15-21, fear arose in Joseph’s brothers when they took time to realize their vulnerability after their father’s death.  Joseph was number two in all of Egypt; they were at the bottom of the Egyptian societal rankings, as both shepherds and foreigners.  With their fears overpowering their reality, they crafted a message to be delivered to Joseph that supposedly came from their father, asking Joseph to forgive his brothers and to treat them kindly after his death.  This note sent ahead of them, and the brothers prostrating themselves on the ground upon meeting with Joseph (v. 18) was their way of begging for mercy.

Joseph made it clear that he was not out for revenge; instead, Joseph used the opportunity to teach his brothers an important point about God’s character of love.  Joseph first of all tells his brothers that he is not God.  Second of all, he informs his brothers that God is all-powerful, and in fact had redeemed what they intended for evil into good – both for Joseph’s good, as well as their own good – to preserve their families, literally, to save their lives and the lives of their families.

In verses 19-21, notice Joseph’s tone and demeanor toward his brothers.  Using your biblically informed imagination, can you see Joseph’s face being soft and kind toward his brothers, his voice tone being gentle and reassuring?  This was not the face and voice of vengeance and justice – this was the essence and embodiment of the forgiveness and love of God reflected in Joseph’s words and body.

At the end of Joseph’s life, he reassured his brothers that God would come to their aid and lead them back to the promised land, the land that God had promised to their ancestors and their father.  Jacob had reassured his sons of God’s promise to return them to the Promised Land; now Joseph carried forth that same belief in God’s goodness and ability to span multiple generations and carry out His promise.

As part of that reassurance, Joseph made his brothers promise that when they left Egypt, that they would carry his bones out of Egypt and bring him back to Canaan as well.  As a spoiler alert, roughly four hundred years later, Moses did in fact bring Joseph’s bones with them when they left Egypt (Exodus 13:19).

As we look over Joseph’s life, may we always remember that we serve a powerful God, who is able to redeem evil and transform it into good.  The process will often be painful, and will never be as fast as we would wish, but God is faithful and sovereign and will bring it to pass.

May we remember that our role is not that of God.  We are not to redeem ourselves or to hand out justice, or to transform the situation by our own power.  Rather, we are to focus on God, cry out to Him in our distress, and focus on being obedient and faithful to Him and trust Him to redeem and transform the evil into good, for His glory and our benefit.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 49:1-33

49 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.

“Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;
listen to your father Israel.

“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, the first sign of my strength,
excelling in honor, excelling in power.
Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel,
for you went up onto your father’s bed,
onto my couch and defiled it.

“Simeon and Levi are brothers—
their swords are weapons of violence.
Let me not enter their council,
let me not join their assembly,
for they have killed men in their anger
and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.
Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
and their fury, so cruel!
I will scatter them in Jacob
and disperse them in Israel.

“Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
his teeth whiter than milk.

13 “Zebulun will live by the seashore
and become a haven for ships;
his border will extend toward Sidon.

14 “Issachar is a rawboned donkey
lying down among the sheep pens.
15 When he sees how good is his resting place
and how pleasant is his land,
he will bend his shoulder to the burden
and submit to forced labor.

16 “Dan will provide justice for his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan will be a snake by the roadside,
a viper along the path,
that bites the horse’s heels
so that its rider tumbles backward.

18 “I look for your deliverance, Lord.

19 “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders,
but he will attack them at their heels.

20 “Asher’s food will be rich;
he will provide delicacies fit for a king.

21 “Naphtali is a doe set free
that bears beautiful fawns.

22 “Joseph is a fruitful vine,
a fruitful vine near a spring,
whose branches climb over a wall.
23 With bitterness archers attacked him;
they shot at him with hostility.
24 But his bow remained steady,
his strong arms stayed limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25 because of your father’s God, who helps you,
because of the Almighty, who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
blessings of the deep springs below,
blessings of the breast and womb.
26 Your father’s blessings are greater
than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
than the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of the prince among his brothers.

27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
in the morning he devours the prey,
in the evening he divides the plunder.”

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

29 Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 31 There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.”

33 When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
(Genesis 49:1-33 NIV)

As we finished up Chapter 48 in our last time together, we saw Israel bless Joseph’s sons and give Joseph a double blessing by making Joseph’s sons equal inheritants with their uncles (Joseph’s brothers) when they eventually returned to the Promised Land.

In today’s text, we see Jacob speak to each of his sons before he died.  While some scholars call this Jacob’s final blessing, it’s actually more of  Joseph’s final prophecy about each son’s future generations.

I have debated for some time on how to handle this chapter.  There is so much here – it would be easy to dissect this text and spend a blog post on each son, looking at Joseph’s comments and why Joseph said what he said.  It would be equally easy to summarize everything and move on.

After much study and mental debate, I came upon a viewpoint that I had not considered – how the good that Jacob predicted for each son ultimately found its realization in Jesus.  Bible scholar Arthur W. Pink has this to say about each of Jacob’s sons:

  1. Reuben reminds us of the excellency and dignity of Christ’s person.
  2. Simeon and Levi may well speak to us of Christ on the cross:  that ‘instruments of cruelty’ were used against Him.
  3. Simeon and Levi (through Levi) anticipated our Lord’s priesthood, for Levi became the priestly tribe.
  4. Judah pictures our Lord’s kingship.
  5. Zebulun looks at Christ as the great Refuge and Haven of Rest.
  6. Isaachar prefigures His (Christ’s) lowly service.
  7. Dan views Him (Jesus) as the Judge.
  8. Gad announces His (Christ’s) triumphant resurrection.
  9. Asher looks at Him (Jesus) as the Bread of Life, the One who satisfies the hearts of His own.
  10. Napthali regards His (Jesus’) as God’s perfect prophet, giving good words
  11. Joseph forecasts His (Jesus’) Millennial reign.
  12. Benjamin depicts Him (Jesus) as the terrible Warrior.

(summarized from “Gleanings in Genesis”, by Arthur W. Pink. Chicago:Moody Press, 1974, pp. 339-340.)

May we see the rich heritage God began centuries before He sent His Son to earth.

May we see Jesus in all His glory – past, present, and future.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 48:8-22

When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?”

“They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father.

Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”

10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.

11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

12 Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. 13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.

15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,

“May the God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life to this day,
16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
—may he bless these boys.
May they be called by my name
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly
on the earth.”

17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”

19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” 20 He blessed them that day and said,

“In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing:
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”

So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.

21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers. 22 And to you I give one more ridge of land than to your brothers, the ridge I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.”
(Genesis 48:8-22 NIV)

In our last look at Genesis Chapter 48, we saw Joseph take his two sons and visit his ailing father Jacob.  Jacob then blessed Joseph by giving him a double blessing, making his two sons equal with their uncles for inheritance.

In today’s passage, we see Jacob meeting and blessing Joseph’s sons.  While Joseph’s physical eyesight may have been failing (v. 10), his spiritual insight and discernment was as sharp as ever.

Notice the shift of names between verses 1-7 and 8-22.  In verses 1-7, Jacob is referred to by his old name – Jacob.  In verses 8-22, Jacob is referred to by his new God-given name, Israel.

The old-named man in verse 1-7 spent most of the dialogue by looking back at his life – God’s original blessing, his life with his beloved wife Rachel (Joseph’s mother), and Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh who were born in Egypt before Jacob arrived.

In verses 8-22, Jacob is known by his new name – Israel.  Here, he looks forward to God’s blessing that he will not see – the move of his family back to the Promised Land (verse 21).  Israel had already made Joseph promise to take his bones back to the Promised Land – to not leave him behind in Egypt whenever the Lord called his descendants back to the geographic home God had promised here on earth.

Israel also blessed Joseph’s sons, though not as Joseph had hoped.  Israel switched hands and  gave the first-born blessing to Ephraim (the younger brother) rather than to Manasseh (the first-born).  We see this intentionality when Joseph tried to correct his father and switch his hands.  This was not a failure due to lack of physical eyesight on Israel’s part, but rather a fulfillment of spiritual insight and discernment from the Lord.

Israel knew that Joseph would never return to the Promised Land alive due to his position in Egypt, but Joseph’s sons would return to the Promised Land.  Israel then repeated his double-blessing on Joseph by giving both Manasseh and Ephraim equal shares of land in the Promised Land.  The boys were on equal ground with their uncles, Joseph’s brothers.

As we progress through our years of life, may we be intentional about living our lives for others and not just for ourselves.  Jacob’s early years were all about Jacob, but after his encounter with Almighty God and a name change, Israel’s life was about others and seeing God’s fulfillment of His promises in future generations.

May our faith increase!

Blessings,
~kevin