Take the Long View (Genesis 49:1-2, 8-13, 21-26)

Jacob blesses his sons on his deathbed by Yoram Raanan

Jacob called his sons together and said:

My sons, I am Jacob,
    your father Israel.
Come, gather around,
    as I tell your future….

Judah, you will be praised
    by your brothers;
they will bow down to you,
    as you defeat your enemies.
My son, you are a lion
    ready to eat your victim!
You are terribly fierce;
    no one will bother you.
You will have power and rule
until nations obey you
    and come bringing gifts.
You will tie your donkey
    to a choice grapevine
and wash your clothes
    in wine from those grapes.
Your eyes are darker than wine,
    your teeth whiter than milk.

Zebulun, you will settle
    along the seashore
and provide safe harbors
    as far north as Sidon….

Naphtali, you are a wild deer
    with lovely fawns.

Joseph, you are a fruitful vine
growing near a stream
    and climbing a wall.
Enemies attacked with arrows,
    refusing to show mercy.
But you stood your ground,
    swiftly shooting back
with the help of Jacob’s God,
    the All-Powerful One—
his name is the Shepherd,
    Israel’s mighty rock.
25 Your help came from the God
your father worshiped,
    from God All-Powerful.
God will bless you with rain
    and streams from the earth;
he will bless you
    with many descendants.
My son, the blessings I give
are better than the promise
    of ancient mountains
    or eternal hills.
Joseph, I pray these blessings
    will come to you,
because you are the leader
    of your brothers. (Contemporary English Version)

Where does confidence come from?

The theme of confidence works its way through the patriarch Jacob’s deathbed prophecies and blessings – a resolute conviction in the promises of God – that the Lord will accomplish exactly what was promised.

Jacob expressed the hope and sure belief that God would bring the Israelites out of Egypt and into the land of Canaan as their inheritance – and, ultimately to the City of God, the eternal inheritance.

The Christian will find much in the blessing of Judah concerning the promises surrounding the coming of Christ. Mentioning the implements of “staff” and “scepter” are symbols of authority. And the reference to a donkey communicated a ruler was coming, as donkeys were the preferred mounts of royalty in ancient times.

What’s more, the washing of garments in wine, and eyes darker than wine, are allusions to the future blessing and abundance that will occur through the tribe of Judah. In fact, the first miracle of Jesus was turning water into wine – a deliberate attempt by the Apostle John to connect Jesus with Old Testament messianic prophecies of abundance and blessing. (John 2:1-12)

It’s important to adopt a long view of life. We must keep in mind that it took eighteen centuries for Jacob’s prophecy of Judah to occur. This long view is what gives us our confidence in life and provides the patience and perseverance we need for the here and now.

Seeing the big picture of God’s work in this world is necessary, because if we do not, we will likely become discouraged with the circumstances we face right now.

The reason Jacob makes it into the great Hall of Faith in the New Testament book of Hebrews is not because he was squeaky clean and perfect in how he lived his life; it was because he took the long view, the big picture, and saw that God was going to fulfill divine promises to Israel:

By an act of faith, Jacob on his deathbed blessed each of Joseph’s sons in turn, blessing them with God’s blessing, not his own—as he bowed worshipfully upon his staff. (Hebrews 11:21, MSG)

Furthermore, when we string the following three verses together across both Old and New Testaments of the Bible, we see the long view of God’s purposes:

It is true that you planned to do something bad to me. But really, God was planning good things. God’s plan was to use me to save the lives of many people. And that is what happened. (Genesis 50:20, ERV)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)       

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, NKJV)

In the Christian faith tradition, all of God’s promises come together and are fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus.

Christ is our salvation, our inheritance, and our hope. To give our lives to following Jesus in complete trust of faith is both our challenge and our privilege.

May we live by faith, and not by fear. And may we have patience and persevere through the most challenging of situations because we have adopted the long view of understanding the God is bringing all divine promises to fruition, all in good time.

Our confidence comes from the Lord.

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through anxious times, so that we who are wearied by the changes of this life may rest in your eternal steadiness. Keep watch, dear God, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

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