God’s Purposes in Grace

Genesis 48:1-49:231And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. 2And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed. 3And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, 4And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. 5And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. 6And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance. 7And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem. 8And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said, Who are these? 9And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them. 10Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them. 11And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath showed me also thy seed. 12And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. 13And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near unto him. 14And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn. 15And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, 16The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. 17And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head. 18And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. 19And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. 20And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. 21And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers. 22Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow. 1And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. 2Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father. 3Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: 4Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch. 5Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. 6O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. 7Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. 8Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee. 9Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? 10The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. 11Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: 12His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. 13Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon. 14Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: 15And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute. 16Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 17Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. 18I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord. 19Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last. 20Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties. 21Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words. 22Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: 23The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: (Genesis 48:1‑49:23)
When Jacob was about to die, Joseph brought his two sons to him to receive a blessing. Jacob spoke so beautifully of how the Lord had led him all the years of his life, caring for him and feeding him and recalled once again His wonderful promises of blessing. It is grand to see a bright sunset — a happy ending to a believer’s life, even though they have had a rough passage. Surely Jacob had had a stormy journey through life, but the end was bright.
Jacob’s eyes were dim, but he was in communion with the thoughts of God about what he was about to do. When Joseph put Manasseh, the oldest of his sons, at Jacob’s right hand, and Eph­raim, the younger, at his left, Jacob crossed his arms so that his right hand was on Ephraim’s head. The right hand in Scripture is looked at as the hand of power, and Ephraim was the one appointed of God to get the blessing even though he was the younger. God’s blessings are by sovereign grace and not because we deserve them, and His thoughts are not ours. Joseph was dis­pleased, and how often we, too, fail to understand God’s ways of grace, be­cause we bring in something of self.
Special Blessing for Judah
In the forty-ninth chapter, we read of the blessing of Jacob’s twelve sons. We could write a good deal about this, but since we are writing mostly for young folks, we will just draw attention to a few simple points. There was a special blessing for Judah. Now we know that the Lord Jesus was born of that tribe, and here, hundreds of years before His birth, all these things were foretold of Him. “Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise.” Isn’t that wonderful? Who is worthy of praise? Surely this refers to the Lord Jesus — the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:55And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. (Revelation 5:5)), and Jacob said that all were to bow before Him. Then we also read, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.” Judah was marked out as the royal tribe long before there was a king in Israel at all. Shiloh tells us of Christ, the one around whom the people will gather when He sets up His kingdom in a later day. His name of Jesus means Jehovah the Saviour, and He is the One who bore all the judgment of God against sin to bring about the promised blessings. In a coming day his clothes will be “washed in the blood of grapes,” when He treads the winepress of judgment (Revelation 14:1818And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. (Revelation 14:18)-­20). Will you meet Him now as your Saviour or later as your Judge?
One Rejected of His Brethren
The blessing of Joseph brings the Lord Jesus before us as the One who was rejected of His brethren the Jews, and just as God overruled and turned the wicked plans of Joseph’s brothers into blessing, so He turned the awful act of crucifying Christ into blessing, not only for Israel, but for all the earth. The Jews were enclosed, separated from the Gentile nations by a wall, but now through Christ the “branches (of blessing) run over the wall” to us poor sinners of the Gentiles.
Christ was hated and cast out, but the “arms of His hands were made strong,” and now He is mighty to save. What a wonderful Saviour He is! Is He your Saviour? He is both able and willing to save you now.
Further Meditation
1. On whose head did Jacob put his right hand?
2. The prophecies about the Lord, such as the lawgiver from Judah, are thrilling to any Christian. What prophecies about Christ from the Psalms can you name that have already been fulfilled?
3. You’d no doubt benefit from pondering the fifty fulfilled prophecies found in Old Testament Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus the Messiah.