Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"The end of a life ... the beginning of a nation!"

January 13th

Scripture Reading:  Genesis 48 - 50 …

It must have seemed to Jacob, Joseph and his brothers like a long time had passed since God had made His promises to Abraham that He would be the God of Abraham and his descendants, that He would multiply Abraham's descendants and give them the land of Canaan as their inheritance, and that through the "Seed" of Abraham, all nations on the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12, 15 and 17).  Abraham was dead, as was his son, Isaac.  Jacob, Isaac’s son, had 12 sons, and we have read how the brothers of Joseph sold him into slavery in Egypt and how God was with Joseph and exalted him to be second-in-command to Pharaoh in order to accomplish God's purpose in keeping the descendants of Abraham and Isaac alive during the seven-year famine.

While in Egypt, God would keep His promise to make of them a great nation and then He would lead them out by a mighty hand, giving pictures that point to the deliverance that God would later provide in His own Son, Jesus Christ.  But now, Jacob's death is near, so he makes Joseph promise not to bury him in Egypt, but to take his bones back to the promised land, displaying his faith in God's promises.  He blesses Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh (Chapter 48), and then passes on a word from God:  "I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers" (48:21).  Faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not only for today or tomorrow; it is for the future.  God will always keep His promises and part of living as a follower of Jesus in this world is believing all of God’s promises to US in His Word!!

As Jacob blesses Joseph and his sons, he also gathers the rest of his sons together and gives a prophecy of their futures:  "Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come" (49:1).  There are a number of significant prophecies given in Chapter 49, but without question the most important is that given to Judah:  "The scepter will not depart from Judah nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs, and the obedience of the nations is His!"  (49:10).  Clearly, God gave Jacob wisdom and used him to point to ONE who would come from the line of Judah in a future time, who would rule over God’s people AND over all the nations of the world.  That’s quite a prophecy!!

This promise will eventually become the focus of the very existence of the people of Judah, those called "Jews" to this day.  It is important to remember that God has not forgotten the rest of the tribes of Israel either.  They are not mentioned often in Scripture, but in the prophets there is always the underlying current of hope offered to Israel that there will be a future glory for all of Israel.  There will be a reunion in the last days as God gathers His people from the corners of the earth prior to the Church being raptured (see Revelation 7:1-8).  God does not forget His promises!  And He has not forgotten His chosen people (Romans 11:28-32).

David, the second king of Israel, was from the tribe of Judah, and the line of David would continue right up to the birth of Jesus Christ, a descendant of Judah (Matthew 1:2-3).  This tiny tribe, amidst a tiny, insignificant nation in the eyes of the world, would give birth to the Messiah, the Anointed One, the King, the Christ!  Genesis 49:10 would be fulfilled in JESUS!!

When Jacob died, Joseph kept his promise and led a procession to the land of Canaan.  What a sight that must have been!  This was not like taking someone's body to the place of their birth today.  This was a major journey and others were watching, and perhaps wondering, why all of the mourning, and why were the Egyptians bringing this man's body all the way from Egypt?  God's purposes are hidden from the world and revealed only to those who know Him.

Now Joseph's brothers were concerned that with their father gone, Joseph might hold a grudge against them.  They asked for Joseph's forgiveness and told Joseph that their father wanted him to forgive them.  Out of fear they offered to become Joseph's slaves, but once again, Joseph understood the sovereignty of God over all the events of his life and said to them, "Don't be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (50:20).  Some have said that Joseph had "50/20 vision."  It's a good way of remembering that God uses even the evil of men to accomplish His purposes.

It reminds me of what Peter said of Jesus in Acts 2:23-24:  "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.  But God raised him from the dead!"  God's plan cannot be thwarted by the wickedness and evil of sinful men.  He kept His promises to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, and through faith in Jesus Christ, the promised "Seed" of Abraham, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, you and I who believe are included in God's promises for the future!

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Patriarchs ("fathers") of the nation of Israel, were now gone, but God's promises remained. As Jacob died, the history of the nation of Israel began, as his twelve sons would head the twelve tribes of Israel.   Before he died Joseph said to his brothers, "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" (50:24). As Jacob had done, Joseph made them promise to carry his bones back to Canaan … a promise they would later keep.

As Joseph trusted God to keep His promises, so must you and I.  We know who the "Seed" of Abraham is and how God determined to accomplish our forgiveness, our salvation and our deliverance from the just reward of our sin.  Trust in the Lord our God and rest in His promises and you will enter into the promised land, the new heaven and the new earth that He has promised for all who come to Him through Jesus Christ!

"Heavenly Father, more than 4,000 years ago You entered into a covenant with Abraham, and all who have faith in Jesus Christ today are the children of Abraham, grafted into the 'root of Jesse,' the father of King David, from whose line the Messiah came.  Help me to remember who I am and whose I am as I live in this world by faith, longing for that day when I will live by sight!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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