Tuesday after the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Scripture: Genesis 49-50 (NKJV)
49:1 And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days:
2 “Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel your father.
3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.
4 “Unstable as water, you shall not excel, because you went up to your father’s bed; Then you defiled it—he went up to my couch.
5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers; Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place.
6 “Let not my soul enter their council; Let not my honor be united to their assembly; For in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they hamstrung an ox.
7 “Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.
8 “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s children shall bow down before you.
9 “Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him?
10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
11 “Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes.
12 “His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.
13 “Zebulun shall dwell by the haven of the sea; He shall become a haven for ships, and his border shall adjoin Sidon.
14 “Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between two burdens;
15 “He saw that rest was good, and that the land was pleasant; He bowed his shoulder to bear a burden, and became a band of slaves.
16 “Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 “Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider shall fall backward.
18 “I have waited for your salvation, O LORD!
19 “Gad, a troop shall tramp upon him, but he shall triumph at last.
20 “Bread from Asher shall be rich, and he shall yield royal dainties.
21 “Naphtali is a deer let loose; He uses beautiful words.
22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; His branches run over the wall.
23 “The archers have bitterly grieved him, shot at him and hated him.
24 “But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
25 “By the God of your father who will help you, and by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
26 “The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.
27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.”
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them. And he blessed them; he blessed each one according to his own blessing.
29 Then he charged them and said to them: “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite as a possession for a burial place. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah. 32 The field and the cave that is there were purchased from the sons of Heth.” 33 And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.
50:1 Then Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him, and kissed him. 2 And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. 3 Forty days were required for him, for such are the days required for those who are embalmed; and the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days.
4 And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the hearing of Pharaoh, saying, 5 ‘My father made me swear, saying, “Behold, I am dying; in my grave which I dug for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.” Now therefore, please let me go up and bury my father, and I will come back.'”
6 And Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear.”
7 So Joseph went up to bury his father; and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8 as well as all the house of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s house. Only their little ones, their flocks, and their herds they left in the land of Goshen. 9 And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen, and it was a very great gathering.
10 Then they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, and they mourned there with a great and very solemn lamentation. He observed seven days of mourning for his father. 11 And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a deep mourning of the Egyptians.” Therefore its name was called Abel Mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan.
12 So his sons did for him just as he had commanded them. 13 For his sons carried him to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite as property for a burial place. 14 And after he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers and all who went up with him to bury his father.
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” 16 So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.”‘ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
18 Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
22 So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household. And Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. 23 Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation. The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were also brought up on Joseph’s knees.
24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” 26 So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
Notice here that Jacob blesses all of his sons. Though the prophecies directed to Reuben, Simeon, and Levi do not sound particularly good, we must bear in mind that in verse 28 it says, “And he blessed them; he blessed each one according to his own blessing.” So even what sounds like a curse here is ultimately a blessing. On one level this does make sense. Even Reuben, Simeon, and Levi are still part of the people of God, the tribes of Israel. They still inherit a portion in the land of Canaan, though not as much as they might have. But even this is not the ultimate point. The ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy is the One Who will come through Judah. They were all blessed to be part of the people of God Who bring us the Christ.
These individual prophecies work as warnings as well as blessings. The sons of Jacob must remember to live lives dedicated to the God of Jacob in order to be ready when the Messiah comes. Jacob goes back to the promised land and is buried there. We as the people of God look for the true promised land as the fulfillment here. We waited for Shiloh to come in His first advent, and now we wait for Shiloh to come again.
We pray: Lord, help us to understand all Scripture in the light of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us see it all fulfilled in Him. Let us keep our eyes upon Jesus so that we enter our promised land. Amen.