Elijah: A Man of Courage (Part One)

1 Kings 17:1

Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word” (NIV).

The situation in Israel was desperate. In little more than a half century, the visible people of God had turned from the living to idols. Ahab had led the way into deeper spiritual darkness. This was a “reverse conversion”, in contrast to what had happened to the Thessalonians: For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God… (1 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV). Baal worship was substituted for the worship of the Lord, and it looked like no one was living for the glory of God. Years of isolation strengthened that impression in Elijah’s soul.

How did God respond to this challenge to his authority? Did he destroy those people? He could have, as he put to death an entire generation of their forefathers. Did he turn away from them forever? No, because his relationship wasn’t based on the nations faithfulness to him but on his to his promise and oath. Did he send them into exile? That was a real possibility, but God first sent a prophet to testify to his reality. He sent Elijah to speak for him, and the Lord acted powerfully through him. In a new time of spiritual declension in the western world, we need this account of Elijah to arouse us to live for the Lord our God, and to rekindle our faith in his all-ability.

Elijah was convinced of God’s existence. The Lord was the foundation of his world and life view. He confessed that the Lord is alive and able to act in this world. “God” is not merely an idea for troubled and confused people. Nor is the living God and the story of his glory in Christ intended to be a manipulative metanarrative. (We do not deny that evil people abuse and misuse others with their perverted version of the Bible’s message. But that is not God’s intent.) God is the Almighty, the Creator and Controller of all things. The existence of our Sovereign God has been vigorously denied for generations in western thought. We, his people, need to vigorously assert his sovereignty.

  • Our God is in heaven and does whatever he pleases (Psalm 115:3 CSB).
  • The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths (Psalm 135:6 NIV).

Elijah confessed that the Lord is the God of Israel. As an Israelite, he called his fellow Israelites to agree to this fact. They may have walked away from the Lord, but he was faithful to the covenant. We can be confident, because the Lord Christ is faithful to his people. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 ESV). God was shortly to lead Elijah down a most unusual path teach him contentment and the greatness of his love for his people Israel.

Elijah lived a way of life separate from the viewpoints and practices of others. He was faithful to the Lord, though many others had fallen away. Elijah would come into repeated conflicts with idolatrous Ahab and his followers. This was no easier for Elijah than it is for us. As James wrote, Elijah was as human as we are… (James 5:17a NLT). We too often act on the false assumption that people in the Bible were persons of “super-faith” and suppose that it was rather easy for them to do their exploits. I have called Elijah “a man of courage”, but courage is something that you’re forced into when you lack other alternatives. He will act courageously, because of his obedient faith in the Lord. Elijah remained godly in his lifestyle, in spite of the growing wickedness of the nation. This would lead him on a spiritual adventure.

Grace and peace, David

Ahab: A Man of Wickedness (Part Two)

1 Kings 16:29-34

And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him (16:31-33 ESV)

As leader of God’s people, Ahab, king of Israel, was in a position to lead the people away from God. The Holy Spirit in this section explains the evil spiritual situation that Israel fell deeper into. Previously, we observed that Ahab, surpassed all his predecessors in wickedness, and he broke through barriers in his pursuit of sin. What else did Ahab do to wreak spiritual havoc in God’s nation?

Ahab married an evil woman (16:31). We must recall the Lord’s concern for Israel’s purity in the marriage covenant. During the time of the law covenant, God had forbidden intermarriage with any of the Canaanite people (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). He had good reasons for this prohibition. He wanted his people to be separate from the nations, and avoiding close relationships, like marriage, would promote their devotion to the Lord. This same principle is true for the new covenant believer, though the intermarriage forbidden is different under the new covenant (1 Cor 7:39; 9:5; 2 Cor 6:14-16). People in God’s new holy nation are only to marry people who are also part of that group, meaning followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first question to ask before beginning any romantic involvement is this: “Is this person I am interested in a true follower of Jesus Christ?” If not, avoid romantic entanglements.

Jezebel was from Sidon, a Canaanite city (Judges 1:30-32). Therefore, Ahab had no right to marry her. Did Ahab care what God’s said in the Torah? Not at all! He had contempt for God, but his refusal to obey God did not grant him immunity from judgment.

This woman, Jezebel, became notorious for her wickedness. She became so infamous, that her name became a prophetic symbol for wickedness (Revelation 2:20-22). Notice her way of life:

  • Her cruelty. 18:4. We have enough sorrow from the murders committed by those involved in drugs and gangs. How much worse when the government persecutes the righteous?
  • Her idolatry. 18:19; 2 Kings 9:22.
  • Her involvement with witchcraft. 2 Kings 9:22.

With a queen like this at wicked Ahab’s side, Israel was in for trouble.

To make matters much worse, Ahab established the worship of Baal in Israel (16:31b-33). What is meant by Baal? The word itself means “lord” or “master” or “husband”. It was used to refer to a number of false gods in ancient times, for example, Numbers 25:3; Joshua 2:11-13. Here it refers to the Baal of Tyre, Melkarth [Melqart], who “was the kind of god that required the burning of innocent children as oblations upon his altar” (Wycliffe Bible Commentary). He was considered to be sort of the “weather or fertility god” of the land. His worshipers would engage in various debauched practices to induce him to send good weather.

Ahab was devoted to his new god. He began to worship and serve Baal, and soon he was promoting his new faith. To do this he built a temple and an altar for Baal, and made an Asherah pole. Asherah, “the Lady who treads on the sea” was believed to be the mother of Baal and wife of El, the chief of the gods, and the goddess of the sea. In this way he again transgressed the instruction of the law covenant (Deuteronomy 7:5). Here is a recurring theme in pagan thought: the worship of a god and his mother. Does this sound familiar?

Ahab provoked the true and  living God to anger. Even though others before him, like Jeroboam, had sinned grievously, Ahab gave himself over to evil to a greater extent than anyone before him had. Listen to what the Spirit says. Still, there was no one like Ahab, who devoted himself to do what was evil in the Lord’s sight, because his wife Jezebel incited him (1 Kings 21:25 CSB). What happens next demonstrates that God was not indifferent to Ahab’s sin. He was provoked to anger by it. Consider Romans 1:18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (NASB). But how did God act? The stage is set for the appearance of Elijah. But we close with a couple lessons.

  • When people depart from the worship of the true God, they often get involved in the worship of what has been created (Romans 1:21-23). Humans have sought to fill the vacuum in our souls by polytheism, evolutionism or pantheism. It is amazing to see how modern, technologically advanced humanity has descended to worship the “forces” in nature.
  • God’s wrath is against all those who get involved in such pagan practices. The church must take its stand against the adoption of such things though they are called by different names.
  • The only way to approach the true and living God is through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT).

Grace and peace, David

Ahab: A Man of Wickedness

1 Kings 16:29-34

Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat… (16:30-31a NIV).

God’s word is always relevant to the human situation, because God and mankind are the same as when the Bible was written. Yes, our technology has changed, but the hearts of people are the same. The human race rejects God as God, refuses to love God first of all, and rebels against God and his laws. The text before us answers the question that everyone seems to ask in their time, “It can’t get any worse, can it?” Yes, it can get worse in any nation and all nations. Consider the example of Israel. Jeroboam I, the son of Nebat, invented a new religion for Israel, and the next five kings gladly walked in his ways. The warnings of God through his prophets were unheeded, and Israel provoked the Lord to anger by their worthless idols. But as bad as that was, let us see what happened when Ahab became the new ruler.

The rest of the book of 1 Kings is a contrast between Ahab, a man of wickedness, and Elijah, a man of faith. From a human perspective, Ahab should have had all the advantages in this comparison. He was the absolute ruler of his country, and Elijah had nothing. Ahab lived for self-satisfaction, and Elijah lived to deny himself pleasure for the glory of God. In this brief opening section (16:29-34), the Holy Spirit provides us with God’s evaluation of Ahab. After setting Ahab in history, the Spirit tells us about Ahab’s character and preferences.

Ahab surpassed all his predecessors in wickedness. At least three factors combined to produce Ahab as he was.

  • The wickedness of his own heart. In every person there is a foul spring of what the Bible calls sin; that is, rebellion against God, the transgression of his laws, the “bentness” of the inner person of the heart. Listen to God’s word: For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander (Matthew 15:19 NIV). The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV). Never underestimate the radical corruption (total depravity) of mankind. Being dead in sins, people are capable of the worst crimes against each other and the most obstinate rebellion against the true and living God.
  • The plots of Satan. Listen to the word again: The apostle wrote about the human situation this way. People are caught in the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26 NIV). Humanity has a tireless enemy that wants us all dead, and he is always alert for ways to bring this about. He had an “absolute ruler” under his thumb, and he found the perfect time to strike.
  • The religious decline in Israel. Where believers do not shine as lights, darkness increases (Matthew 5:14-16). If anyone doubts the power of true Christianity to transform a nation, consider England before and after the First Great Awakening. England was morally ruined, until the good news of justification by grace through faith in Christ was clearly proclaimed.

Ahab broke through barriers in his pursuit of sin. He disregarded the examples of God’s anger against his predecessors (15:30; 16:7,13 , 19). Instead of considering God’s judgment on them, he attempted to succeed where they failed. The fear of God had no place in his heart. What resides in the hearts of all people (There is no fear of God before their eyes, Romans 3:18 ESV), was life-dominating for Ahab. He considered all the sins of Jeroboam to be trivial. “Why only break the second command of the covenant? Let’s go all the way, and break the first one, too.” Let’s call this “an Ahab attitude.”

When a ruler desires to surpass all their predecessors in evil and chooses to break through any barriers to do that, you know that trouble is sure to come! Ahab chose to lead his kingdom on the path to hell, and he quickly learned the bitterness of that choice. Let’s avoid his high-handed sins.

Grace and peace, David

By Faith Joseph (Part Two)

Genesis 50:22-26

In our previous post, we saw how Joseph completed his earthly pilgrimage with joy. We conclude this series on his life with this: By faith Joseph spoke about the future. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones (Hebrews 11:22 NASV).

For their immediate future, he encouraged them to rely on the Lord. He comforted them with the same comfort that he had received from his father (48:21). This is a pattern for our lives. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV). They who believe God’s promises are desirous of persuading others to believe also. That which had sustained him for over ninety years, he now leaves as a heritage of faith to his family.

Joseph had been the means of God’s support and protection for the family. Now that the means was passing away, what would become of the family? He directed them to the actual source of their security: The God who had made covenant promises to his people (50:24). “God’s gracious visits will serve to make up the loss of our best friends. They die; but we may live, and live comfortably, if we have the favor and presence of God with us” (Henry).

For the more distant future, he encouraged them to hope in God. God’s people must journey through this world with their hope (confident expectation) on what God has promised. We don’t look for satisfaction in this present world but in the world to come. Joseph’s family, which would become God’s covenant nation at Sinai, was not to look for satisfaction in Egypt. God had a better place for them, a place where they could flourish as his people. But they would not reach that land for many years. Until then, by faith Joseph spoke two messages of hope.

First, Joseph told them that God would come to their aid. Their way would eventually turn out to be bitter slavery. The people themselves would even turn to idols (Joshua 24:14). But God’s grace is greater than his people’s sins and sorrows. Hear the word of the Lord, “But God will surely come to your aid.”

Second, Joseph prophesied that God will surely take them to the land of promise. Egypt was not to be their home, and as a testimony to them, Joseph ordered that they take his bones out with them in the Exodus. Famous men often want to build monuments to their own honor in this world. Joseph was of a different spirit. Let Egypt do as it wished for the present; he had his sights set on a better country.

God’s people in all ages must keep their eyes on God’s promised rest for them. Let us remember where our home is. We are only strangers and pilgrims here. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth (Hebrews 11:13 NIV). We are looking for a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13).

Let’s focus on some lessons we can learn from Joseph’s life.

  • What made Joseph tick? He had surely seen God do great things for him and through him! But was his experience his consolation in the end? No, it was the word of God. His hope was in what God had “promised on oath” (50:24). Two unchangeable things sustained him at the end, God’s promise and oath (cf. Hebrews 6:18). We will do well to pay attention to the word of the prophets made more certain, for it is the word of God (2 Peter 1:19-21).
  • Let us not be weary of repetition. Joseph repeated that God would surely come to their aid. Weak minds continually lust after new, exotic, spicy spiritual and intellectual dishes. Strong minds are content to feed on meat and potatoes. Make God’s word your delight and rely on it; beware the opinions of people.
  • Joseph endured thirteen years of suffering, but he also enjoyed eighty years of honor. Let us not lose heart concerning any present suffering for Christ. He can abundantly reward us. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV).
  • A godly man may die in the Egypts of this world. That matters not. All the godly will share perfection together someday (Hebrews 11:40). O that it was today!

Grace and peace, David

By Faith Joseph (Part One)

Genesis 50:22-26

We come now to our final posts about the life of Joseph. He could say that God intended his sufferings for good. Our own souls can benefit as we meditate on what God did for him, leading him through the lowest depths to the highest honors. Trials may come to the child of God, but the Lord is with him through the trials.

While it is God’s purpose always to work for the ultimate good of his people (Romans 8:28), it is our responsibility to trust him as he works toward that end. Suppose you have car with engine problems, and you take it to a good mechanic for repairs. How does he fix the car? By taking the engine apart. You must rely on his wisdom and good intentions.

By faith Joseph completed his earthly pilgrimage. God blessed him with a long life. In the old covenant, the first command with a promise (Deuteronomy 5:16; Ephesians 6:3) promised a long life. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation (Psalm 91:16 ESV). My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity (Proverbs 3:2 NIV). We must read verses within, not only their context, but also the context of the progress of redemptive history. Prior to the old covenant, we find that several of the godly (no record of the ages of the ungodly) attained very great years: Abraham, 175; Isaac, 180; Jacob, 147; and Job, 140+. Yet though they were loved by the Lord, sin’s partner, death, at last laid hold of them. We should daily thank the Lord for the gift of life and all that is necessary to sustain it and make it enjoyable. Now is the time to remember him. Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7 NIV).

God blessed Joseph with a growing family. The text can be interpreted as either grandchildren or great-grandchildren. In either case, he could bless God as he saw the promise to Abraham begin to be fulfilled. Genesis 12:2. The enjoyment of grandchildren is a blessing from God. May the Lord bless you from Zion, so that you will see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life and will see your children’s children! Peace be with Israel (Psalm 128:6 CSB; cf. Job 42:16). I was joking with another grandfather yesterday that grandchildren are new and improved versions of children. We laughed, but I think that perception lies more within the grandfathers than the grandchildren, since we can love them and hand them back to our children after we have “spoiled” the grandchildren with kindness.

Note well that Joseph could rejoice in the mercies of God to him. He did not embitter his own life by obsessing on the suffering that he had had to endure because of his brothers’ cruelty. Since he knew that God had intended everything for the good of his family, he accepted his place in the plan of the Sovereign God. This required faith. God’s people must always live by faith.

Grace and peace, David

Intended for Good (Part Two)

Genesis 50:15-21

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20 NIV).

To restore relationships, we must act according to God’s word. To approach situations in conformity with God’s word, we must understand it. We need to be convinced that the leading person in the God’s plan is God himself, and not ourselves or the other person. This God-focus is often alien to how we act. But observe Joseph’s good and godly reply.

First, Joseph brought God into their problem. He directed them to replace their fear of retaliation with a fear of God. It is like Joseph said, “Make your peace with God, and then you will find it an easy matter to make your peace with me” (Henry). I think you will find that most believers will have a responsive heart to requests for forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35), though granting forgiveness might not happen without an internal struggle. As a godly man, Joseph knew that vengeance belongs to the Lord, and he was content to leave that to God. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21 NIV). It is very tempting to want to even up the score a little, isn’t it? Even when you’re right, you must resist the desire for personal revenge.

Joseph had already forgiven them, but had they made things right with God? There is a scene from Chariots of Fire, which is almost certainly fictitious, and used by the script writer to express Eric’s inner struggles. Jenny said to Eric after he missed a service, “It’s not me you have offended.” God was in his thoughts. While it is good to seek a restoration of relationship with another human we have offended, we must seek God’s favor above all. Do not make an idol out of your relationship to another man.

Second, Joseph explained God’s providence to them. They had intended evil; they truly had sinned. Notice that Joseph didn’t minimize their sin. When you counsel someone, don’t minimize their sin, but maximize God’s grace. Yet, Joseph made it clear that God had intended good. He can use a bad situation to produce a good end. Remember Peter’s words. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross (Acts 2:23 NIV). God and people can intend two contrary purposes in the same incident, but God’s ultimate purpose will prevail (cf. Proverbs 16:1, 9). Joseph also reflected God’s character to them. He promised to provide for them (cf. Matthew 5:44-47).

We ought to imitate Joseph’s excellent attitude and actions. Learn to return good when you have received evil. And so, Joseph spoke words of assurance and kindness (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:8-10). When we speak this way, we keep the instruction of the Lord Christ. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).

Grace and peace, David

Intended for Good (Part One)

Genesis 50:15-21

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20 NIV).

We come to the climax of our study about God’s providence in the life of Joseph son of Jacob. Through many twists and turns, God planned the events of Joseph’s life for the Lord’s goals in the great story of his glory in Jesus Christ. It is this section that provides God’s viewpoint on all that has happened.

We should approach this with more than a casual interest. It is one thing to say that God intended good in the events of Joseph’s life. It is quite another to make that same affirmation about our own lives. The way to begin is not to hope for or to wait for some crisis in our lives, and then to hope that we will see that God is working for our good. Instead, we must see God involved in our lives today, and every day and night. Wise military commanders prepare their troops for battle before they ever enter into harm’s way. God’s instruction about his story prepares us to serve him in all circumstances of life.

The account begins with the brothers’ misinformed plan (50:15-18). People, especially men, have the tendency to approach problems as “the fixer”. We listen to someone’s difficult situation for a couple minutes, and then spout out solutions to fix the other person or their circumstances. We try this with ourselves constantly by seeking advice from supposed experts or reading self-help books or surfing the internet. This approach is a recipe for disaster, and it could have made things much worse between Joseph and his brothers. Let’s think through their proposed solution.

  • It arose from uncertainty in their hearts: “what if.” They were trapped in guilt producing fear sequence. Guilt so awakens fear that a person will not feel secure. Cain became ruled by guilt and fear after he murdered his brother (Genesis 4:13-14). Joseph’s brothers lacked insight about Joseph’s character. Godly people are often misunderstood. The Lord Jesus was misunderstood by his family, Paul by the Corinthians, and David by his wife Michal.
  • It showed a mixture of worldly-wisdom and spiritual wisdom. They hid behind their father’s coat tails. They told a doubtful scenario from our perspective, but it might have happened. Did Jacob know about the sin of the ten against Joseph? Did they mislead Joseph that Jacob did? Would Jacob doubt Joseph’s intentions? The brothers took advantage of the grieving process, when a tender heart would be even more sensitive to an appeal like this. They did ask for forgiveness. Perhaps they should have used a better approach, but they did attempt to correct their problem.
  • It was presented in an inexact way. We have the advantage of possessing the Scriptures, and so we should do better. They spoke through a messenger instead of personally. Fear, rather than love was controlling their hearts. The brothers appealed to Joseph with a legal attitude: “we are your slaves.” Compare the lost son in the parable (Luke 15). They wouldn’t claim the relationship that was theirs. How do you approach God after you have sinned? Do you attempt to pay your way back into his favor, or do you ask for cleansing because of Christ’s atonement? Christians don’t make light of their sin, but they exalt the preciousness of the blood of Christ. The brothers’ plan to fix their relationship caused Joseph more hurt. While he could be glad about their repentance, their distrust of him after years of kindness would hurt (50:17).

Are you in need of restoring a relationship with someone? Are you tempted to follow worldly wisdom to find a fix to the situation? Make a fresh start by seeking the Lord in prayer. Call upon him in your trouble. He can act in the hearts of all involved (you and the other person or people). Humble yourself in prayer, asking him to act by his powerful grace and love.

Grace and peace, David

Blessing and Encouragement (Part Two)

Genesis 48:8-22

Next, we see Jacob’s prophetic action: the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh (48:12-20). This was more than a godly grandfather’s concern for his grandchildren. Jacob communicated a message from the Lord. And so, he blessed them in the name of the God who had blessed him. Two aspects of this blessing:

  • Jacob blessed them by the Lord of providence. God had blessed him by caring for his physical needs. When we are old, we will do well to express our thanks to God for his provision for us before others that they might be encouraged.
  • Jacob blessed them by the Lord of redemption. The Angel mentioned is not a mere created angel but the Angel of the Lord. See Genesis 16:7; 31:11; 32:24. Jacob confessed his need for deliverance. Our Redeemer—the Lord Almighty is his name—is the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 47:4 NIV).

Jacob blessed them according to the covenant of promise. He included them with those already blessed by God, Abraham and Isaac. This renewed the promise of being part of God’s great nation through Abraham’s seed. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing (Genesis 12:2 NIV).

Jacob blessed them contrary to human expectations, for the younger was blessed before the older. Since every blessing is unmerited, the Lord is free to give to whom he pleases. To one he gives more, to another he gives less. God is free and sovereign in the exercise of his grace. What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy (Romans 9:14-16 NIV). God often gives to the least likely (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

Jacob’s prophetic has been fulfilled, because many years later the northern kingdom of Israel came to be called Ephraim. But let us notice this: Joseph was not very happy about this reversal of human expectations (48:17), though he himself had advanced higher than his older brothers. In this he was inconsistent. Let us not criticize God’s sovereign grace when we have benefited by it. One of the many exercises of faith is calmly to trust the holy and wise God to do what is best for his glory in our lives. This is not easy, especially when the Lord’s actions are contrary our comfort, our plans, and our preferences. Trust in God. He knows what is best for his dearly loved children.

Grace and peace, David

Blessing and Encouragement (Part One)

Genesis 48:8-22

It is remarkable that at the end of his life, Jacob became a prophet. He still had important work to do for the Lord. The latter days of God’s servants can be their best. Moses served the Lord constantly in the last third of his life. Don’t moan your way to glory. Trust God for grace and strength to glorify and to serve him until your last day.

In our text, we first see some common matters of life. When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?” “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father. Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.” Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them. Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.” (Genesis 48:8-11 NIV).

Jacob was blind because of his age. It is a weakness of our fallen race (Ecclesiastes 12:3). Everyone who lives by sight rather than by faith will eventually lose their guide. Old age has burdens along with its blessings. You can’t have one without the other. But you can rejoice in what the Lord does in your weakness (cf. Romans 8:26; 2 Corinthians 4:16-17). The eye of faith may be clear when the eye of the flesh is very cloudy. You can see the kingdom of God when you can’t see the kingdoms of this world. By faith like Abraham, look for the city that has foundations (Hebrews 11:10). This we ought to do, rather than groan about the weakness of our failing bodies.

Jacob was affectionate toward his grandsons. He thought he would never see Joseph again, but he had the joy of seeing Joseph’s sons. Older people often have a special affection for their grandchildren, perhaps even more than they had toward their children. Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers (Proverbs 17:6 ESV). In his providence, God often blesses his people beyond what they might expect. Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3 CSB). “God is much better to us than our fears; yea, far better than our hopes” (Spurgeon).

Jacob and Joseph acknowledged God’s providence in their lives. Joseph praised God for the children he gave him. Jacob rejoiced that he could see Joseph and his sons after years of thinking Joseph was dead and sons had never been born to him. Every good thing we enjoy is sweetened when we see that all comes from the hand of a loving Father. Here is the way for the godly to talk. Neither father nor son praised the false goddess Luck, but the true GOD. For what five blessings are you thankful to God right now?

Grace and peace, David

An Important Personal Event (Part Two)

Genesis 48:1-7

In our last article, we saw that Joseph had taken his two sons to visit his dying father, Jacob. Everyone needs to honor the older members of their family, even when the visits might prove to be difficult. In our text, the visit became a little testy, because Joseph did not perceive what his father was doing. But Jacob was privy to God’s plan for Israel’s future. God told Jacob to do something that would affect the course of the tribes hundreds of years later. Jacob’s action is an example of God’s sovereign choice, an instance of gracious action (48:3-7).

Jacob recounted God’s goodness to him. He gave an account of God’s historical appearance to him. In a day without the written word, this would be very important to the next generation (cf. 35:9-13). We ought to give thanks for our Bibles, through which we have eyewitness accounts to the story of God’s glory. We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19 NIV).

Jacob also reminded them of God’s covenant blessing and promise. This was Jacob’s greatest treasure, and he shared it with his dear grandchildren. Those saved by grace should always speak highly of God’s grace. “In all our prayers, both for ourselves and for our children, we ought to have a particular eye to, and remembrance of, God’s promises to us” (Henry, Commentary). Let there be no doubt, Jacob was a man of faith (Hebrews 11:21). If Ephraim and Manasseh were worldly-minded, what would they have seen? Only a dying old man, who had been living off their father’s generosity for seventeen years. What could such a man give to them? To the spiritually-minded, however, the sight is vastly different. One of God’s chosen people, an heir of God, was speaking with them. Faith sees what human wisdom cannot.

Jacob received his grandsons as his own children. Though born in Egypt and not his own, Jacob called them his own sons. This is a picture of our adoption as sons (Galatians 4:3-5). Jacob pointed the two young men to the place where blessing truly is to be found. It was better for them to embrace God’s people in their affliction than Egypt in its wealth. This is a lesson rarely learned in our day (1 Timothy 6:9-10; Hebrews 11:26).

In this way, Joseph came to receive the birthright, for he received a double blessing (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:1-2).

Jacob added a wise proviso in the event Joseph had other sons. Wisdom on the part of parents can prevent much grief in a family after their departure. What struggles, by those who call themselves Christians, have been carried out for a small earthly inheritance!

Jacob spoke of his long-departed wife, Rachel. It was very natural that Jacob would think of her that he deeply loved such a time. Ephraim and Manasseh were her grandchildren, too! “Strong affections in the enjoyment cause long afflictions in the loss” (Henry). In the end Rachel was vindicated, for she was the wife Jacob chose, and though barren for a while, her firstborn received the pre-eminence. In summary, this section shows a man of faith with his eye on the promised land to the end. We will do well to imitate his faith (Hebrews 11:13-16). Let us keep Christ and our eternal inheritance fully and firmly in view.

Grace and peace, David