Have you ever thought about the Generosity of God? Jacob said to Joseph in chapter 48, "I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children, too." It would have been enough for Jacob just to see his favorite son one more time. But, God gave him above all he could ever have hoped for. Isn't that just like God?!
Remember how unworthy Jacob had expressed he was at times. He may have felt like a failure thinking God had taken his favorite son away from him. Now, looking at his favorite son - exalted son - with children of his own - he realizes God has been graciously at work all along and that God was better to him than he had ever dared hope.
In the New Testament, Zaccheus just wanted to get a glimpse of Jesus. What did he get? Christ's attention, friendship and Salvation! All we ask for is a gentle glance and we get - His arm around us! We would be happy being Christ's servant - He makes us His friend. We come staggering home from the pig-pen with a broken heart and a well-rehearsed confession, and He gives us a robe, a ring, shoes and a royal welcome. God loves us beyond our comprehension.
We've seen poor people begging for money from the rich. How often do you see the rich following after the poor trying to stuff money into the poor's pocket? That's what God has done throughout the ages. Doesn't He amaze you?
Did you notice how the blessings pronounced on the sons of Jacob in chapter 49 bear a close relationship to their character? The blessing on Reuben acknowledges his being firstborn and that he had power and excelled in honor, and then it points out the incest he committed in his uncontrolled emotion. That one act of turbulence would prevent his further excelling. Customarily, firstborn Reuben should have received a three-fold blessing of birthright, priesthood and kingdom. Instead, the birthright was given to Joseph, the priesthood to Levi and the kingdom to Judah.
The blessings in chapter 49 don't always look like blessings, but that's what they're declared to be. In the course of blessing Simeon and Levi, Jacob curses their cruel anger and slaughtering of a village full of men, but he's speaking in a BLESSING to them.
In saying that they are brothers, Jacob is saying more than they have the same parents. He is saying they are like each other. If you have had any experience in raising children, you know the value of separating children who "egg each other on." Simeon and Levi bolstered one another's evil and so, because they NEEDED to be separated, for their good and the nation's, they are to be separated. In Exodus when the Israelites finally leave Egypt and return to claim their promised land, the tribe of Levi, the newly appointed priests, had no property given to them, but lived in towns scattered throughout Canaan. This means that Simeon was left without an "ally in crime." Later, the tribe of Simeon was virtually swallowed up in Judah (Joshua 19:1, 9). This was indeed an appropriate blessing for Simeon and Levi.
You call that a blessing? Only God knows what a real BLESSING is. Most of us know what it feels like to have a child pleading, begging, sobbing for some object they want or to get out of some unpleasant, but necessary discipline, but in spite of all their tears and the pain they are feeling, you gave them what you knew would be best for them. If Levi and Simeon had hearts like brother Joseph, they would understand that they were being BLESSED as Jacob spoke. In the final analysis, something is a Blessing if it enables its possessor to better serve God and IN THIS WAY find a richer, fuller life. A CURSE is anything that hinders our service to God and in this way narrows or hurts our life with God.
In the blessing of Joseph we're reminded that BLESSING is of God. The power to bless resides only with God. Although character is involved, it is not Joseph's brilliance or wisdom that brings about the blessing. In verses 24 and 25 it is stressed it is because of "the hand of the Mighty One," "because of the Shepherd," "Rock of Israel," "because of the Almighty," etc. It's God that made it all possible.
Did you see the jigsaw puzzle up here as you came in? When we're working on a big puzzle, at times we have real difficulty getting it to fall into place. If we persist, persevere, and piece together something we recognize, like a tree or -------, we're more relaxed at least for a little while. What we have figured out tells us, "There is a pattern." This must be a landscape, seascape or building, or whatever... Maybe we can't say what the whole of the picture will be, but we can't deny what we've already seen and that is enough to give us a clue to go on.
After Jacob dies, the brothers are still concerned that Joseph might seek revenge for their having sold him into captivity. But Joseph reassures them saying, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good."
It's comforting because it is broad enough to cover any event that may come our way. It's the Old Testament Romans 8:28. When we can't fit events into a loving pattern or a useful purpose, because we can't reason it out, we tremble, our weak hearts falter and we spend our energy wrestling doubts, instead of living.
When working a jigsaw puzzle or the puzzle of life, little people may throw up their hands in despair, but maturer people plug away despite the difficulties, persuaded beyond debate that there is a total picture. In life, God calls us to behave in the same way. Don't worry that the completed picture is unknown, that all the pieces aren't yet in place, only insist that you know what you know, and trust God for the rest.
After Joseph had been thrown into the pit by his brothers, and they are standing there looking down on him, do you suppose Joseph wondered, "What's this got to do with me being exalted and the brothers looking up to Me?"
Have you ever found yourself saying, "What's this event got to do with me being . . ." --whatever you have envisioned you should be.
The brothers meant death for Joseph and God used it for life.
They meant shame for Joseph and God used it for glory.
They meant slavery for him and God used it for power.
Not only to benefit Joseph! Joseph makes that very clear in chapters 45 and 50. God used their sin to bless many nations AND THEM. And the blessing of the brothers had a universal and timeless thrust as God promised Abraham it would in Genesis 26:4. That's when he repeated His three-fold promise to Abraham, including that all nations would be blessed through him. That promise was passed on to Isaac, on to Jacob and then to Judah as more and more of the puzzle pieces come together. We have Jacob, Joseph and Judah's whole puzzle right here in our Bibles. Joseph had Jacob move to Egypt around the year 1976 B.C.! They lived as far away from the time of Christ as we do. ++[Add center missing pieces of jigsaw puzzle--showing Eiffel Tower, in this case.]++ Yet, it was not even known what the picture on their puzzle was all about until Christ was resurrected and the Church was established, providing hope for you and me. There is real comfort here because it says that no enemy has power over the called of God.
The whole point is this, just as Jacob, Joseph and Judah didn't get to see the puzzle of their lives completed - or even see all the pieces - we don't get to see our full puzzles either. Our puzzles may not be completed for generations. There are many things, pieces, about tomorrow that we don't understand. But we must trust in the generosity and love of God and know that He holds the future in His hands. He is in control.
[play tape - I Know Who Holds Tomorrow, by Ira F. Stanphill, 1950]
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand."
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR