The Blessing of Jacob’s Sons and What it Means for Us

Have you ever wished you could see into the future? Only if it’s good right? If you’d told me last Sunday – “Hey this week, is going to be rough. You’re going to witness multiple tornado’s. Your kids are gonna be held after school. Your husband’s gonna be exhausted. And you’ll be completely spent by Thursday.” I think I would have peed my pants. (Just keepin’ it real.)

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 49
Key Verse: “Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes.” Genesis 49:11

Though it turned out fine, if handed that kind of vague description, there would have certainly been some ungluing. Which has me wondering what kind of reactions surfaced when Jacob handed each of his sons a vague description of their future.

It was common in Bible times to pass a blessing onto your children. And in some cases (like this one) it was prophetic. How did Jacob know the future? My best answer is that God revealed it to him. (Genius conclusion, I know.) Hebrews 11 says, “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff” (v. 21).

Out of a sweet intimacy with the God of his father and grandfather, Jacob was able to say to his boys, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come” (v. 1). Literally meaning “in the end days” or “latter days.”

At this point in history, today, right now, some of what Jacob spoke seems to have already taken place and some of it not. Let’s also remember sometimes prophecies can have double meanings. The sons of Israel were not told exactly when each fulfillment would take place. They were only told it was yet to come.

Reuben was up first. With words like “firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power,” I’d say Reuben was all ears, until Jacob dropped the bomb – “unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed” (v. 4). In other words, you get nothing because you had sex with my servant wife Bilhah.  Oops.

Next came Simeon and Levi, who may have fought the urge to run after hearing Reuben’s “blessing”. Jacob knowing time was short, cut to the chase. “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence…Let my soul come not into their council…For in their anger they killed men” (v. 5-6). “Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce…I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel” (v. 7).  

Remember Simeon and Levi were the ones who killed all the Shechemites after a town wide circumcision party. As a result, these two tribes were later scattered among Israel, so they could do no more harm. (Think that announcement caused any anxiety?) Though little did Levi know God’s grace would overflow and his tribe would be divided as priests among the people.

Now before we get to Judah, who was next up according to birth order, consider the emotions evoked when Jacob told Issachar he would “become a servant at forced labor” (v. 15). And that raiders would get Gad. Or what about the fact that Dan would be a judge or Zebulun “a haven for ships” (v.13). “Hey not fair! Why does he get to live by the sea?”

However, I doubt any of them were surprised by the prophetic words of blessing spoken over Joseph, who received two allotments (or a double portion), through the adoption of his two sons.

But none of it compares to the blessing given to Judah. “Your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you” (v.8). “The scepter shall not depart from Judah…and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (v. 10). Judah was privileged to carry the messianic blessing. Through the person of Jesus Christ, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5), the scepter would forever be in his lineage.

Though right now Christ reigns on high in heaven, one day he will reign on high here, with us, on a new earth, “set free from its bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:21). It’s going to happen. It’s not make believe. It’s not a fairy tale. It’s not wishful thinking. Jesus, the radiance of God’s glory, the bright morning star, the promised descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and now Judah will reign as King forever over all nations and all people.

It hasn’t happened yet, but it will. And when it does, they’ll be so much prosperity and abundance because of God’s glorious presence, you’ll be able to tie a donkey to a choice vine without caring if he eats it all. Or wash your clothes in wine instead of water (v. 11), if it so pleases you.

Is it any wonder then that Jesus’ first miracle was to turn water into wine? It was not just a neat trick. It was a sign the Messiah had arrived. Amos 9 actually says “the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it” (v.13). The land will be so plentiful as soon as it’s planted, it will be ready for harvest. And as soon as it’s harvested, you’ll be able to plant it again. (Crazy for this farmer’s wife to even think about.)

Ezekiel 47 adds that the Jordan Valley will flow with fresh water from the throne of God itself. Fish will be abundant. Trees will yield fresh fruit every month (Ezek. 47:12). And you know what else? This copious and bountiful heavenly earth where God’s presence forever dwells with man, will be divided among the twelve tribes of Israel, including Joseph with his two portions (Ezek 47:13).

Talk about the ultimate fulfillment of a promise! Come what may, the sons of Jacob had no need to worry. And neither do we. In that day, when Christ’s kingdom is here and the heart’s of all people are in tune with him, every sojourner and foreigner will be treated as “native-born children of Israel,” and allotted an inheritance among the tribes (Ezek. 47:22).

Beloved of God, in Jesus Christ, this is your future. Peace and prosperity on a new earth abundant; with Christ our King forever on the throne. Though today may feel a bit uncertain, our fate is not. It’s steadfast and fixed and full of possibility. So don’t worry about tomorrow; don’t be anxious; don’t be scared. Our future isn’t vague, it’s victorious!

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Do you consider often the glorious eternity that awaits you as a believer in Jesus Christ or seldom think of it because the here and now seems all consuming?
How do you tend to view heaven? As one long eternal church service or life more abundant than we could possibly imagine in the presence of our God and King?

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

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