Scripture: Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come. Genesis 49:1 ESV
Observation: Having settled in Goshen, the Lord extends Jacob’s life another seventeen years to where he could witness Joseph thrive in his leadership position and even see Joseph’s two sons grow into young men. So in his last days, Jacob summons Joseph and asks his son to swear that he will take Jacob’s soon deceased body back to his family burial site in Canaan. Soon after, Joseph hears that his father is ill and near death. So he takes his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to visit his father. When they arrive, Jacob musters enough strength to sit up and bless Joseph’s sons, but not before pronouncing that the two sons are Jacob’s inheritance. Thus, Jacob’s declaration establishes the tribes of Manasseh and Ephriam as substitutes for Joseph and Levis’ clans in the future Promised Land.
Finally, Jacob gathers all his sons and pronounces forthcoming blessings and consequences based on their character and past actions. Starting with the oldest and continuing in descending order, Jacob prophecies that Reuben shall not gain preeminence as the oldest son because he slept with Jacob’s concubine. And he curses Simeon and Levi (who exacted murderous revenge on the Hivites), declaring that they will be divided and scattered in the Promised Land. For the rest of his sons, Jacob pronounces positive outcomes. In particular, though, he declares that Judah is a lion’s cub of whom the ruler’s staff shall not depart until tribute comes to him and the people obey him (49:9-10).
Takeaway: Why does Judah receive this most incredible blessing? He reasoned with his brothers not to kill the teenage Joseph and later pledged his life to assure Jacob of Benjamen’s safe return and then offered himself as a substitute servant to free Benjamen when tested by Joseph. In sum, he demonstrated humility and sacrificial love for his two younger brothers when under duress. Thus, as Micah would foretell, the Messiah (our suffering servant who offered himself as a substitute sacrifice for our sins) would come from this highly exalted tribe (Micah 5:2). And as John reports in his revelation of the end times, Jesus is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5).
But what about the future generations of those cursed? Thanks to God, there is redemption! Moses and Aaron will rise from the tribe of Levi and lead the nation to the Promised Land. And while scattered among the other tribes without land for their possession, God himself is the Levites’ inheritance. They shall live on the food offerings presented to the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:1-2) and receive refuge cities within the territories of the other tribes (Numbers 35).
So what does this mean for you and me? Our past sins sometimes leave a long trail of consequences. Thankfully, though, our Lion of Judah has paid the price for our trespasses. And his Holy Spirit, in due time, will lead us onto paths of redemption where our once scattered lives find refuge in our Lord, for Christ is our inheritance!
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, the Lion of Judah, who is our inheritance. Would you please help us cooperate with your Holy Spirit to rise above the consequences of our sins to live lives worthy of our calling as your beloved, redeemed children? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling