• Genesis 48:3-6; 49:8-10; 50:15-21
The life of faith is not always the easy life. Indeed, it often can seem the more we try to faithfully serve God, the more obstacles seem to arise unexpectedly. We may commit to following God down a certain path only to be quickly sidetracked by circumstances and to find ourselves in a place we never anticipated and would not have otherwise chosen.
There are several different ways people might respond. Some may become focused on the unfulfilled expectations and become unproductive. Others might refuse to accept their situation and seek to force a change. Either of these reactions could lead the person to become angry with God and to ignore God’s direction.
The biblical stories of Abraham’s family provide us with numerous examples of this. From the initial barrenness of the wives to acts of extreme sibling rivalry to the effects of a famine, the path which successive generations of this family followed God down was certainly not always easy. It often was difficult to see how their circumstances would lead to the fulfillment of God’s promises of a great nation occupying the Promised Land through which God would bless the world.
Yet as we read these stories, we can see both the process and benefit of remaining faithful to God’s leading. The concluding chapters of Genesis once again show us how God desires his people to remain faithful to their calling regardless of our situation.
Reflect on God’s promises (Genesis 48:3-6)
One of the interesting (though often overlooked) aspects of the stories of Israel’s patriarchs is that while God personally appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in order to repeat his promises and reaffirm his covenant, there is no record that God ever appeared to Joseph.
According to the book of Genesis, it was Jacob who conveyed the words of God’s covenant to Joseph and only after their reunion in Egypt. Jacob always had known about God’s promises to Abraham, but for years he had wondered how they would be realized since his favored son, Joseph, had been taken from him.
Now, as he was reunited with Joseph, he could see how God was at work fulfilling his word. Jacob had thought he had lost a son, but now he had gained two grandsons. Through Ephraim and Manasseh, God will bless Joseph. Sensing his life is near an end, Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons as his own. This will ensure Joseph’s descendents receive a double portion of the covenant inheritance. The descendents of Ephraim and Manasseh will each occupy their own share of the Promised Land.
Often the difficulties we face in following God can lead us to question the path we are on or to wonder if God still is working to fulfill his promises to us. The story of Jacob teaches us that when those times come, reflecting on God’s promises and the ways God works can help us to always remain faithful.
Serve with confidence (Genesis 49:8-10)
Having been reassured of God’s continuing efforts to fulfill his promises, Jacob called his sons together to pronounce a blessing on their descendents. Within their tradition, such a pronouncement was seen as a guarantee of blessing on future generations. Jacob had been the recipient (even if through deception) of Isaac’s blessing, and now he was passing it on to his sons.
As they received this blessing, they could be assured of their individual place within the fulfillment of God’s promises to their ancestor Abraham. They could know that regardless of their circumstances at any given time, God was working to bring about the realization of his plans for Abraham’s posterity. Armed with that knowledge and assurance, each of them could focus on serving God with confidence.
God wants his children today to have the same confidence. For many who serve faithfully without seeing what they perceive as significant results, doubts and questions can lead to discouragement and the temptation to give up. Yet God never asks us to produce results. He merely asks that we continue to serve and leave the results up to him. As we rest in the knowledge that God always is at work fulfilling his word, we can boldly serve with confidence and thereby remain faithful to God’s call.
Act with compassion (Genesis 50:15-21)
Jacob eventually died, and with his death, Joseph’s brothers feared Joseph would seek revenge for their earlier treatment of him. Yet Joseph had learned their treatment of him had actually contributed to the fulfillment of God’s plans. God had used what they had done not only to humble Joseph, but to move him into a position through which he could save the lives of many people including his family.
Joseph had long before given up any negative feelings toward his brothers and assured them that rather than harm them, he would always make sure they were taken care of. Joseph understood the fulfillment of God’s promises was not limited to him, but included all of Abraham’s descendents.
Today, we may see others as obstacles to the fulfillment of God’s call on our life. Perhaps that promotion we expected goes to someone else. The temptation is there to see that person as well as the superiors as enemies. Yet as Joseph teaches us, often those situations we see as negative work into God’s plan, and God’s desire is that we always seek to demonstrate compassion and live at peace with others. Only by doing so can we claim to truly remain faithful to God.