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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

January 4, 2017

Genesis 48:21-49:12

  1. Chapter 48:21-22. Let us conclude chapter 48 by looking at the last two verses and seeing what Jacob tells Joseph. Jacob/Israel tells Joseph that he will die soon and that his son will enjoy the presence of God in his life, and when Joseph dies, his descendants will bring him back to the land of his ancestors. This is a reminder of what was told to Abraham in chapter 15:12-16 about the fact that the children of Israel would live in a strange land and be enslaved in that land only to return one day to what we call the promise land. Jacob even promised a certain portion of the land to the descendants of Joseph. Jacob/Israel wants his sons to know that Egypt is not their home. It is only a temporary place that God has them. At the time Egypt was very nice and Pharaoh had been good to them, but it would not always be that way. It is important to know that a temporary situation might seem great at first, but that does not mean it will always be that way. We have to know when some places are just temporary and not permanent. Our tendency is to stay in a place forever, when that place is just temporary.

  2. Chapter 49:1-2. In Genesis 49:1-7, we encounter three men whose personal and family lives suffered because of uncontrolled lust and anger: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. The dying patriarch Jacob calls his twelve sons to his bedside to give them a final blessing (49:28), which is also a prophecy of things to come. I believe that Jacob was speaking under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit as he predicted what would happen, not only to his sons, but to the tribes which issued from them. At first glance you might think that these first three blessings sound more like a curse. Jacob strongly rebukes his sons for past sins and predicts that those sins will have far reaching consequences in the future of the tribes. And yet, properly understood, corrections and warnings are blessings. While these are prophecies, they are based upon Jacob’s long, careful observation of his sons’ character and personalities. Jacob’s words served to warn his sons and their descendants of the areas of weakness where they especially needed to be on guard. And, as we’1l see, the tribe of Levi, while fulfilling the prophecy concerning them, actually turned what sounds like a curse into a blessing as they turned to the Lord.

  3. Verses 3-4. These verses show us that passion of uncontrolled lust leads to ruin. GREAT POTENTIAL CAN BE RUINED BY UNCONTROLLED PASSION. Jacob begins by building up the great potential which Reuben enjoyed as the firstborn, only to yank the rug out from under him by bringing up an incident from over 40 years before, the time when Reuben had laid with Jacob’s concubine, Bilhah (35:22). Reuben, the firstborn, should have received a double portion of the inheritance. He should have been the leader among his brothers. He, above all his brothers, should have been the one to defend his father’s honor, not defile it. But his one act of indulgence robbed him of his privileges as the firstborn. Like King David after him, he paid a terrible price for a night of pleasure. All the potential in the world won’t benefit you if you don’t develop self-control, especially in the area of sexual temptation. Satan has plenty of time to wait for you to fall. He just sets his traps and bides his time. Some of us have tremendous potential in the Lord. But you’ve got a habit of flowing downstream with lustful thoughts. It’s all in your head at this point. No one else knows and no one has gotten hurt--yet. But, great gifts are worthless without godly character. I know many gifted pastors who are out of the ministry because they did not judge their lust. If you aren’t learning to take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ, it’s only a matter of time before your great potential is ruined by reckless lust. Jacob now makes it clear that this sin, though committed years before, would deprive Reuben and his descendants of their rights as the firstborn. His one sin affected thousands of his descendants for hundreds of years after. Also Reuben’s lust was sexual as much as it was political—it was a lust for power. Reuben, like Satan, was not content with his exalted position and wanted more power, more pre-eminence (cf. Isaiah l4: l2ff.; Ezekiel 28:12ff.). He therefore took Bilhah, his father’s concubine, not because of her sexual desirability, but because she was symbolic of the right to rule over the family. To possess the harem of the ruler was to usurp the authority of the ruler (cf. I Kings 2:13f.). Since “the last shall be first” (Mark 10:31) and those who serve shall rule in the kingdom of God (Mark 9:35), Reuben had to be rejected from his position of power and pre-eminence. He who would rule must surely first rule himself.

  4. Verses 5-7. Simeon and Levi teach us that uncontrolled anger leads to ruin. When Jacob says that these men are brothers, he doesn’t mean just biological brothers. He means that they are two of a kind. Brothers and sisters can either encourage one another to righteous living or to sin. These brothers plotted how they would get even with the Shechemites because the prince of Shechem had raped their sister. They used God’s covenant of circumcision, which should have been a channel of blessing, as the means of deceiving and slaughtering all the men in the town. Instead of seeking justice against the one perpetrator, they slaughtered an entire town and used God’s rituals to kill the innocent with the guilty. They were right to be mad, but evil to kill more innocent people than guilty people. The hamstringing of the oxen was a further evidence of their uncontrolled anger, a detail not mentioned in the account of Genesis 34:25-30. Horses were hamstrung because of their military use, pulling chariots (cf. Joshua l1:6), but oxen were used for peaceful purposes. The hamstringing of these oxen evidenced wanton violence and senseless destruction. Here Jacob distances himself from their treachery and pronounces a curse upon their anger. Jacob predicted that Simeon and Levi would be scattered in Israel because of their anger, and they were. But the tribe of Levi turned to the Lord, and their scattering was a great blessing to them and to others, as they became the priestly tribe, who taught God’s ways to the others. Moses and Aaron were Levites, the sons of godly parents. Many other Levites down through Israel’s history were greatly used of God: Phinehas, whose godly zeal stemmed a plague (Num. 25:1l-13); Ezra, who helped restore the nation after the captivity; John the Baptist, who prepared the way of the Lord. Because the Levites turned to the Lord, this seeming curse was turned into a blessing.

  5. Verses 8-l2. Reuben is deprived of his right as the firstborn because of his sin. Simeon and Levi are denounced for their violence and anger. Reuben, Simeon, and Levi were probably thinking, “We got what we deserved. Now Judah’s going to get his!” And Judah was probably thinking, “Oh, no! Here it comes!” But what happened? Jacob pronounced the greatest blessing of all on Judah! Only Joseph’s blessing was of equal length, but even it didn’t rival the extent of Judah’s blessing. This blessing showed that when a man turns to the Lord in repentance, the Lord will bless him. Judah had truly repented of his sin. He confessed before Joseph, “What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants” (44:16). His eloquent, heartfelt appeal to Joseph, asking that he be substituted for Benjamin, had revealed the depth of Judah’s repentance. Moses wanted his readers to know that no matter how great their past sin, if they would now turn to the Lord in repentance, the Lord would bless them greatly by His grace. Moses sharing these prophecies with his readers was to instill in them the hope of God’s salvation through the Messiah. One would rise up from the tribe of Judah, and to Him would be the obedience of the people. Even though some great men would come from some of the tribes and do great exploits, true deliverance would come only from the Lord.

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