Text: Genesis 49: 22-33
Proposition: As Jacob blessed Joseph he pictured not only Josephs past and eventual future, but also the way God worked through Joseph, the same way that Christ works through us.
Introduction: There’s this word that shows up again and again in the Bible, it’s there 302 times and it has this tremendous power embedded in it. The first time it’s used it addresses great whales and birds of every description. The second time it’s used it speaks to all humankind for all time and for every part of the earth. In fact we use this same word today in casual conversation, sometimes even just as a response to someone’s sneeze. The word that the Scriptures have used more than 500 times, in various forms from verbs to adjectives to nouns, is the word ‘Bless’. God was the first to use this term in Genesis chapters 1, 2, 5, 9, 12 and on. When God spoke a blessing it carried in it a code of sorts, a command that couldn’t be resisted, an empowering that would see the blessing through to its completion. In Genesis 12 God blessed Abraham saying in effect, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you." It was an irresistible blessing, how people treated this man and his family greatly affected how things went for them, even to the extent of all the families on the earth, which includes us here today. The thing is, God also used people to speak blessing over other people, Abraham blessed Isaac, Isaac blessed Jacob and Jacob in turn was used of God to speak a blessing over each of his twelve sons. We’ve already looked at what he spoke to ten of those sons, this morning we are going to look at Jacob’s blessing to the last two, the sons that Rachel gave birth to, Joseph and Benjamin. Turn with me to Genesis 49:22-31.
I. The Difference Between Joseph and Benjamin, God Made or Man Made. When you look at the difference in what Jacob said in blessing Joseph and what he said in blessing Benjamin there is a stark contrast. In content and volume it`s a five to one ratio, five verses depict the blessing to Joseph and just one verse is addressed to Benjamin. There are five different names or references to God in the blessing of Joseph, none in that of Benjamin. Look at what is said to him in verse 27, “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey and at night he shall divide the spoil.” That’s it, that’s Benjamin’s blessing. Certainly these words of Jacob are unusual to what you would expect him to say to this his youngest and well loved son. That’s because they are God `s words spoken through Jacob and they picture a difficult future for this tribe. The men of Benjamin were fierce, they had a reputation for being warriors. In the earlier part of their history, perhaps what Jacob sees as the morning, they find themselves at war against all the other tribes of Israel (Judges 19:1- 20:48) and at first triumph over the other tribes killing 40,000 of their fellow Israelites. Then Benjamin is defeated, of the 26,000 fighting men of the tribe of Benjamin, 25,000 are killed. The tribe is almost wiped out and yet by grace it’s restored and from it come King Saul, from it come Queen Esther and Mordecai, from it comes the apostle Paul. In “the evening” it brings great benefit to Israel. But what is most evident is that Benjamin was a self made tribe, their strength was what they depended on, their reputation was their wall. That self made man approach came from and contributed to Benjamin being a ravenous wolf, it could never get enough, never be satisfied and rarely had need of anyone including God. That is what contrasted Benjamin the most when compared with Joseph. When there is no need of God, no dependence on God, no thirsting after him there is also no room to receive blessing. Let`s contrast that with Joseph.
Listen to how Jacob describes Joseph’s life:
1. A fruitful bough - ‘bough’ is the Hebrew word ‘ben’, which is usually a reference to a male child or son but in this use it pictures an entire people. Jacob is likely referring to how the entire nation of Israel is made fruitful by God through this man Joseph.
2. A fruitful bough by a well – again the Hebrew language is instructive, the term ‘well’, is ‘ayin’, usually meaning ‘eye’ or ‘face’ and can refer to a spring or fountain. Perhaps what Jacob sees is a branch whose roots have tapped into a presence, a face, of living water. It is why the bough, the ‘ben’ is so fruitful.
3. His branches run over the wall – ‘branches’, that’s the word ‘bath’, a feminine noun usually referring to young women. The strength of their women would be one the reasons Pharaoh persecuted the Hebrews, not only for their fertility but for their resourcefulness and integrity. These branches would run over the wall, the barriers that stood before Israel.
4. The archers have bitterly grieved him – the word ‘archers’ is the term “ba’al”, meaning “lord” or “master”, it was the name given to the Phonecian and Canaanite god Baal. In this instance it refers to the masters in Josephs life, to his older brothers, to Potiphar, especially Potiphar’s wife, to his jailers. These ones were a source of grief or deep sadness to Joseph. They took their shots at him, it even says they hated him, the word means they cherished their animosity towards him.
5. But his bow remained in strength – what do you think was the chief strength of Joseph, what was it that he returned to again and again when he ran into captivity, injustice, persecution? Was faith in God Joseph’s bow, was dependence on God Joseph’s bow? Look what it says next, “and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob.”
Let’s recap these five descriptions as they point us to what the difference is between a self made man and a man that trusts in God, for whatever that difference is, it enabled Joseph to be empty enough to receive blessing. The person who trusts in God will evidence fruit, goodness shows up in their lives, goodness that refreshes others, the essence of what fruit does. The fruitfulness comes from being close to the well, the eye or face of God, the walls can’t contain the beauty of what God pours in. Even when we are grieved or made sad, even when there are those who oppose, my bow remains in strength, faith is that bow, hope is that bow, love is that bow and God puts His hands over my hands, He pulls back the bowstring, He steadies my aim, He blesses me to be used of Him.
We are pulled by this world, by our own sin and by the tempter of souls Satan, to be self made people. The problem is that such people are already full, they don’t pour out they only take in, they become like stagnant cups of water. It’s what the term “full of themselves” points to and smells like. To resist that takes surrender, pouring it out, giving yourself, first to God and then to the people about you. It will call for your roots to be close to Him, to invite His hands upon yours, emptied of yourself so that shot your bow takes is in reality, His shot. That is what blessing is.
II. The Extent of God’s Blessing is Farther, Purer, Richer Than We Know.
Look at names for God that Jacob uses in blessing Joseph…Mighty God of Jacob, the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel, the God of your father, the Almighty. Do these names point to the times when Jacob met God, the stone at Bethel where he had that dream, the way God prospered him in Labans camp, the time that he wrestled with God at the River Jabbok or the way Joseph was restored to him or the deliverance from death by famine in the womb of Egypt. We meet God in many ways over the course of our lives, sometimes we are the ones fighting against him, sometimes we are the ones being rescued by Him. God doesn’t change, it’s we who change. Remember how we once said that there was too much of Jacob in Jacob, he was a deceiver, a man whose faith was a mile wide but only an inch deep. All that God did in his life was to empty Jacob of Jacob and draw him to a place of surrender and trust in this God who would only pour out blessing into lives that were emptied to receive it. The blessing…look at how it’s described: the blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. He even says that the way God has blessed Jacob has been greater than the way he blessed Abraham and Isaac, why, because God forgave the foolish and stubborn heart, the deceiving heart of Jacob which was worse than Abrahams or Isaacs. God’s great blessing of forgiveness, His grace that was undeserved, this is what Jacob says he received more of than those before him. The extent of this grace Jacob says is, “up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills”… it’s eternal forgiveness, eternal in its effect upon us. All this blessing shall rest upon Joseph’s head like a crown, the man who was set apart from his brothers, the man who would be a type of Jesus Christ. All that is said of Joseph is but a hint at all that God will do through the Great Redeemer, Jesus Christ, the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel. He will be set apart from His brothers, meaning mankind, rejected by all as He bears our sin upon Himself. The crown of Jesus is the blessing of God.
We used to sing a song we called Precious Jewels to our girls when we put them to bed, the lyrics went:
When He cometh, when He cometh
To make up His jewels,
All His jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own.
Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.
This is the crown that Jesus Christ invites you to this morning, the great blessing of God.