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Genesis 49





Have you ever heard the story of George Müller who was a Christian evangelist and founder of orphanages in Bristol, England, during the 19th century. One night as Müller was working in his study in the orphanage, his wife Mary came in with some news that there was no milk for the oatmeal to feed the children in the morning. This was not the first time that this has happened. The Müllers took in their first group of thirty girls in 1836, and their orphanage now housed over a hundred. From the first George remained resolved never to ask for funds from people or to borrow money. He went to God alone for every need, trusting wholly in the Lord’s faithfulness and provision. He arose from his desk and turned to his wife and said “Mary, Let us Pray.” Joined by two other members of the staff, they prayed humbly for God to meet their needs. Suddenly there was a knock on the front door and Mary came back with an envelope with more than enough money for milk and within minutes two more envelopes came with money to support them. This will not be that last time Müller would be in need but you can bet your bottom dollar that every time he prayed, God answered.

          Personally, I don’t know if I could have done things the way Müller had done them. I am a person who likes to have a gameplan and making sure there are funds in the bank to cover things. The thing is a lot of us love to make plans for our lives but how many of us know that we can plan all we want but it takes one thing to throw the plan out of whack. If we look at Müller’s life, we see that God had led him to create these orphanages but he never told him how the children would have been provided for, only that he prays and have faith that God would provide. You see, God was the plan for Müller. For Jacob in Chapter 49 of Genesis we see that he is reaching the end of his life and has gathered his sons together to discuss the plan for his family in the days to come. I like to think that this like us when we are visiting a loved one who is about to enter eternity. The family is heartbroken but I never stop to think about the thoughts of the one who is about to go home. I can imagine that they are ready to receive their reward but wonder about the future of their family or the plan God has for them. I have personally seen some great patriarchs of families pass away and after the funeral, all the family can do is fight over who gets what inheritance. Eventually, leading to family separation and a crumbling of relationships all because that glue that held them together is gone. Jacob has a large family of 12 sons and has brought them together to bless them with an inheritance that was not from him, but from God through him.  

          Before we jump into the future of Jacob’s 12 sons, we must understand that Jacob is speaking prophetically through the power of the Holy Spirit, uttering the words and promises of God. We start with Reuben who as verse 3-4 says is Jacob’s “firstborn, my strength, the child of my vigorous youth… first in rank and first in power. But you are as unruly as a flood and you will be first no longer. For you went to bed with my wife; you defiled my marriage couch.” Right off the back we see that Reuben has lost his blessing as firstborn for his sin in chapter 35. Still, this is not the end for Reuben for he will still be blessed. We move on to Simeon and Levi who are described as violent and are cursed for their anger and are to be scattered among the descendants of Jacob. This violence is mentioned because of the slaughter at Shechem in chapter 34 when these two took revenge for the rape of their sister Dinah. Through Jacob, God says “I will disperse them throughout Israel.” This will become fulfilled once the Israelites enter the promise land where we see that the Levites become part of the priesthood of God and Simeon is absorbed into Judah’s land. It is interesting to see that this violence runs in the family when one of Levi’s descendants kills an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew slave but how great is God’s grace that this descendant named Moses will be used by God to lead his people home out of Egypt. We now move to Judah who’s next in the order of birth and receives the blessing of family leadership. It says in verse 8-10 “Judah, your brothers will praise you... All your relatives will bow before you…Judah, my son is a young lion…The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all the nations will honor.” Now, I hope you caught that Judah at this present time was not going to rule but a descendant of his to whom that scepter belongs. This is why it is so crucial to read those genealogies that seem so boring because this is talking about the future king and Savior of the world Jesus Christ who is a descendant of Judah. That first promise to Abraham that the whole world would be blessed through him is now going to Judah who will lead his brothers and provide the line through which will come great kings and eventually the greatest one of all. Judah’s people will get a large inheritance of the promise land and the capitol Jerusalem will be built there. In verses 11-12 we see that the kingly line of Judah will see earthly prosperity through kings like David and Soloman but ultimately to Jesus Christ whose kingdom will never end. Next, Zebulun is blessed with borders near the sea where trade will be conducted. Then Issachar is blessed to be a strong tribe and will live in a pleasant part of the land but work hard. Dan will govern or judge his people like the other tribes but will be like a snake who will bite a horse’s heel so the driver will fall off. This sounds odd but it reminds me of a descendant of Dan called Samson who judged his people and will attack their enemies the philistines. After this Jacob took a moment to pray to God saying “I trust in you for salvation, O Lord” because he knows that without God, they won’t make it. Gad will be attacked by bands of marauders but they will attack them in their retreat. Asher will live on rich foods. Naphtali will flourish in upper Galilee. Joseph’s descendants are given the Birthright blessing that make him the prince among his brothers and his descendants will be richly blessed. Benjamin is like a wolf who devours his enemies and divides the plunder. This will be a faithful tribe who will side with Judah when the nation is split and will have great leaders like Esther and Paul. In verse 29 Jacob presents them as the Twelve Tribes of Israel, as he said good-bye and then blessed each one with an appropriate message. I love that in the end despite the flaws the sons were blessed and taught them that if they were going to survive that they had to stick together with God as the glue and not their father.

The chapter ends with Jacob instructing them to bury him with his father and grandfather in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite who if you remember sold Abraham the land to bury Sarah. This way he could be with his family in death. In Verse 33 it says “when Jacob finished this charge to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and joined his ancestors in death. You see God had promised a great plan to Abraham then to Issac then to Jacob and now his sons. The thing is this plan did not belong to any of the patriarchs, it belonged to God. He is the only one that knows the future and his plans are always best. If you remember in verse 18 in the middle of the chapter Jacob called out to God telling him that he trusted in his salvation. Jacob knew that without God in the center all this could not be done. The fact is without God’s help we can do nothing in are natural selves. Church, we must not allow ourselves to get too caught up in planning our own lives and goals that we forget whose very breath lives in us and whom our live belong to. Like Müller we must be willing to let God provide for us. Now I’m not saying to not have a plan but let God be the leader in the decision. As you go about your day, remember that God’s plan is perfect and he has made it especially for you. So, let go and let God be the master planner of your life.

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