“The Final Blessing of Jacob” – Genesis 49:1–33

by Jun 13, 2021Sermons0 comments

Hear now the word of the Lord.

49 Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.
2 “Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel your father.
3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, and the firstfruits of my strength,
preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
4 Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence,
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;
weapons of violence are their swords.
6 Let my soul come not into their council;
O my glory, be not joined to their company.
For in their anger they killed men,
and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.
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, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
9 Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11 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.
12 His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk.
13 “Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea;
he shall become a haven for ships,
and his border shall be at Sidon.
14 “Issachar is a strong donkey,
crouching between the sheepfolds.
15 He saw that a resting place was good,
and that the land was pleasant,
so he bowed his shoulder to bear,
and became a servant at forced labor.
16 “Dan shall judge his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way,
a viper by the path,
that bites the horse’s heels
so that his rider falls backward.
18 I wait for your salvation, O Lord.
19 “Raiders shall raid Gad,
but he shall raid at their heels.
20 “Asher’s food shall be rich,
and he shall yield royal delicacies.
21 “Naphtali is a doe let loose
that bears beautiful fawns.
22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough,
a fruitful bough by a spring;
his branches run over the wall.
23 The archers bitterly attacked him,
shot at him, and harassed him severely,
24 yet his bow remained unmoved;
his arms were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
25 by the God of your father who will help you,
by the Almighty who will bless you
with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
26 The blessings of your father
are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents,
up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.
May they be on the head of Joseph,
and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.
27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,
in the morning devouring the prey
and at evening dividing the spoil.”
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him. 29 Then he commanded 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 at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying 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 in it were bought from the Hittites.” 33 When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
Genesis 49:1-33, ESV

Well, the first summer after my wife and I were married, she unexpectedly was given a day off of work and I had a flexible schedule as a student over the summer. So on a whim we decided to go down to visit the ocean. We lived in Birmingham, Alabama at the time and so we drove down to Pensacola, Florida. For a Nebraska kid that was the very first time I touched the ocean. I’d seen it but never had actually touched it until that time.

So, we had a fantastic time. It is one of my most treasured memories from the first year of our marriage. On the way home, the great joy of that vacation was almost ruined in a moment when suddenly we hit something and we had a flat tire. So we had to pull over to the side of the road. We were about an hour away from Birmingham still and we were thinking what are we going to do now. I had changed a flat tire in the past, I knew how to do it, but I was a little leery doing it right there on the side of the interstate, where the wheel side was facing all the cars, where the sun was beginning to set a little bit.

So, we’re trying to think about what we should do. Then all of a sudden a man just pulled up behind us with a truck with lots of tools, a man who you could tell knew his way around changing a tire. He took a quick look at our situation and offered to help and just jumped in changing the tire and he had us going in just a few minutes.

Now we were at the height of vacation happiness then went down to the bottom of what are we gonna do to get out of this and get back home. Then all we could think about after that point was just pure gratitude. What a blessing that out of nowhere that this man just pulled over and did this, helped us to do this, so that we could get back on our way.

Now again if this man hadn’t stopped, I’m sure I would have been able to figure it out. At some point we would have been able to change that tire. However, there are situations sometimes in our lives, where that’s not the case, where we are in a sticky situation, where there is nothing that we could do to get out of that situation. Where we are entirely dependent on a blessing from someone else to rescue us from that difficulty that we are in.

In fact the whole Bible tells us just that kind of a story. The Bible tells us that at the very beginning of creation God blessed his people, God blessed Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28. God blessed them, but then very quickly because of their sin Adam and Eve forfeited that blessing, so that we are human beings who live in a world where we no longer have direct access to that original blessing that God gave to his people. We can’t fix it, we can’t solve it on our own, we are entirely in need of God to restore his blessing to us through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Well, this story today, this blessing that we read from the lips of Jacob to his sons immediately before he dies is a blessing, it tells us about the kind of blessing that God is going to give to his people as well as how he is going to bring that blessing about.

So our big idea this morning is this God blesses the world through the king of Israel.

So three parts this morning.
1. Bestowing the Kingship
2. Blessing for the World
3. Buried in Faith

Bestowing the Kingship

So let’s start in the first section, bestowing the kingship in verses 1 through 12. I’ll start reading this, but before I do I just want to remind us of what happened in the previous chapter. In the previous chapter Jacob had given the double portion the birthright of his inheritance to Joseph. He did that by adopting Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh as his own son. So even Manasseh, when they split up their inheritance, they wouldn’t have to split up a single portion that their father Joseph had received with Joseph’s other brothers. Rather Ephraim and Manasseh would be given a single portion with all the other brothers and then that would be distributed and divided among their children after them.

So Joseph had been given the birthright, but now Jacob summons the rest of his sons to extend this blessing here. So let’s read in verses one and two, we’ll just read a couple verses and stop.

49 Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.
2
“Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel your father.
Genesis Genesis 49:1-33, ESV

Now stop there for just a moment. You’ll notice I call this a blessing, but that word doesn’t appear in verses one and two. We do know that this is a blessing, if you peek ahead to the very end of this chapter in verse 28 that’s how this is characterized.

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him.
Genesis 49:28, ESV

So this is a blessing, but in verse 1 Jacob identifies this as what will happen to you in the days to come. So it’s a blessing, but it’s also a prophecy about the future of each of the sons of Jacob. As a blessing Jacob is seeking, by the inspiration of God, to re-establish God’s original blessing for all humanity. Again, God gave his blessing to all his people in Genesis 1:28 that was lost and forfeited, because of sin.

Now God is seeking to re-establish that blessing, but as a prophecy God is identifying how he will extend that blessing to the world. Specifically he will extend that blessing to the world through Israel’s king. So the big question that is going to shape this first section in verses 1 through 12 is who is this king, through whom God will bless the world?

Now the answer is that it should be the firstborn of Jacob, but it won’t be as we will see. So let’s move on to verses three through four where we deal with Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn son.

3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, and the firstfruits of my strength,
preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
4 Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence,
because you went up to your father’s bed;
then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!
Genesis 49:3-4, ESV

Now Jacob is talking about the fact that Reuben had an affair with one of Jacob’s wives. Jacob is saying that because of this Reuben is disqualified for the kingship. Reuben will not inherit the kingship, though he was as the firstborn born with preeminence in dignity and power. Because of his instability he will not have the preeminence forever, Reuben is set aside.

Well then we come to Simeon and Levi in verses 5-7. Let’s read about them,

5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers;
weapons of violence are their swords.
6 Let my soul come not into their council;
O my glory, be not joined to their company.
For in their anger they killed men,
and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.
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.
Genesis 49:5-7, ESV

Now notice here this is a blessing, and yet Jacob is also speaking about cursings, cursed be their anger. Simeon and Levi, they were the second and the third born sons and Jacob is saying why they are disqualified from the kingship. They are disqualified for the kingship because of what happened back in Genesis chapter 34.

One man from the town of Shechem raped their sister Dinah. In retribution and retaliation Simeon and Levi murdered every Hivite male in that entire city. Now what the man did against Dinah, their sister was absolutely abominably wicked, but they overreacted extensively by killing every male in that city. Because of their cruelty they were condemned and disqualified from the kingship. They received this curse that they will be divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel.

Now the way this will play out in this prophecy is that for Simeon he will largely be forgotten. After Simeon is settled in the land of Canaan then we read almost nothing about the tribe of Simeon. As a whole that’s how Simeon will bear his curse.

For Levi this curse will be adapted by God into what will eventually be a blessing. The Levites will not have their own portion of the inheritance, rather they will be scattered and distributed through all the territories of the tribes of Israel to serve as something like pastors for all those tribes. They were to teach the law and to offer intercessory prayer, scattered throughout all of the territories. Yet they themselves were to have no territory of their own or no inheritance of their own, for the Lord their God would be their inheritance. So, that’s what happens for Simeon and Levi.

Then we come to Judah and Judah is the one through whom God will raise up his king. That’s revealed absolutely in this prophecy of this blessing of Jacob so let’s read in verse 8,

8 “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.
9 Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11 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.
12 His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk.
Genesis 49:8-12, ESV

You may know Judah means praise. So already there’s a little word play, Judah your name means praise, well your brothers shall praise you.

Let’s keep going, you may remember at the very beginning of the Joseph story, in Genesis 37, that Joseph’s dream was that his brothers, Jacob’s sons, would bow down to Joseph. That was one of the reasons that Joseph’s brothers hated Joseph and persecuted Joseph.

As we read through the rest of the story of the Joseph narratives we saw that Jacob’s sons, Joseph’s brothers, did come to Egypt to bow down to Joseph there, so that prophecy was fulfilled. Then no longer will we read of Joseph’s brothers bowing down to Joseph.

Now we read about Judah’s brothers bowing down to Judah. Why will they bow down to Judah? Well two reasons are given starting in verse nine. The first is that Judah is a lion, as the text says in verse nine. The first reason Judah’s brothers bow down to him is that you don’t mess with a lion. He’s fierce, he is valiant, he is a warrior.

The second and more important reason that Judah’s brothers will bow down to him is because from Judah will arise the king as it tells us in verse 10. So, the ruler’s scepter and the ruler’s staff will not depart from Judah. God will raise up a king and it will be from this tribe of Judah and this will last forever until tribute comes to him.

We read finally, and this is interesting at the end of verse 10, to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. It’s not just the Israelites who will bow down to Judah and who will treat Judah, the one from Judah, as the king. Rather to Judah will be the obedience of all the peoples. All the nations of the world will come under the kingship of this king who arise from Judah.

We’re seeing here how this blessing is going to be reestablished. It’s going to be through a king, and specifically it’s going to be a king, the lion of the tribe of Judah. Not just a kingship, Judah will also usher in prosperity. Look at verses 11 and 12. Now the only reason you would bind your donkey to a vine is if you didn’t care about the vine. Donkeys are much stronger than vines, which are very thin things. If you tie a donkey to it, almost certainly that vine will be destroyed. So for a donkey or a cult to be bound to a choice vine means that you have such a super abundance of choice vines, so that you don’t care if that donkey destroys it.

The same is true of the wine. Think about what it would mean, how much wine you would have to have to treat your wine as wash water and to wash your clothes in wine. It’s an incredible abundance of grapes, incredible abundance of vines, and incredible abundance of wine flowing through Judah. Judah will usher in incredible prosperity. So, we’re seeing here how some suns are excluded and the specific reasons that they are excluded from the kingship and that finally the kingship is bestowed to Judah.

Now what’s interesting is America has a very similar provision to this in the presidential succession act of 1947. The law states that if the president of the United states is dead or incapacitated that the vice president will assume the duties of the president. If the vice president is also dead or incapacitated or has not been installed to office, then the speaker of the house will become president. If not the speaker of the house, then it falls to the president pro tempore of the senate. If not the president pro tempore of the senate, it’ll be the secretary of state, then the secretary of treasury, and on and on and on. Whoever is incapacitated or disqualified from office, you know exactly who the next president will be. That’s the succession plan for the president of the United States.

Here we are seeing the succession plan in Israel. The first three sons born to Jacob are disqualified because of the various sins, leading the kingship to fall all the way down from the first to the second to the third to the fourth in line, Judah. Now this is critical, establishing the rightful king over Israel is Jacob’s main focus from the beginning, because God will bless the world through this king of Israel who will arise from Judah.

Blessing for the World

Still the kingship is not Jacob’s only focus. So, Jacob extends the appropriate blessings to the rest of his children, and through them to the rest of the world. This brings us to our second section, blessing the world, in verses 13 through 28. Now again as we read these, they’re going to be a lot of details. We’re going to start and stop and I also would say there are a lot of details that are very obscure. I don’t know what they’re talking about, commentators debate them endlessly, and there’s not always good answers. So I will say don’t get too bogged down on the details. We’re going to try to look at this from a big picture.

13 “Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea;
he shall become a haven for ships,
and his border shall be at Sidon.
14 “Issachar is a strong donkey,
crouching between the sheepfolds.
15 He saw that a resting place was good,
and that the land was pleasant,
so he bowed his shoulder to bear,
and became a servant at forced labor.
16 “Dan shall judge his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way,
a viper by the path,
that bites the horse’s heels
so that his rider falls backward.
18 I wait for your salvation, O Lord.
19 “Raiders shall raid Gad,
but he shall raid at their heels.
20 “Asher’s food shall be rich,
and he shall yield royal delicacies.
21 “Naphtali is a doe let loose
that bears beautiful fawns.
22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough,
a fruitful bough by a spring;
his branches run over the wall.
23 The archers bitterly attacked him,
shot at him, and harassed him severely,
24 yet his bow remained unmoved;
his arms were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
25 by the God of your father who will help you,
by the Almighty who will bless you
with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
26 The blessings of your father
are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents,
up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.
May they be on the head of Joseph,
and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.
27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,
in the morning devouring the prey
and at evening dividing the spoil.”
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him. Genesis 49:13-28

We’ll start with Zebulun in verse 13. Now Zebulon’s territory does not quite reach the sea, if you look at where he falls on a map. Yet Zebulun apparently has much to do with the sea and trading by sea and seafaring. Moses, at the end of his life, gives a blessing to Israel very similar to what Jacob is doing here, to give a blessing to Israel to his sons. Moses, when he gives this blessing, says something very similar in Deuteronomy 33:19, he says that Zebulun will draw from the abundance of the seas. So Zebulun’s wealth will come from the seas, that’s the blessing for Zebulun.

Well what about Issachar in verses 14 through 15? Now for Issachar the main thing that sticks out about this blessing, this prophecy, is the phrase in verse 15, “he saw that a resting place was good.” Now this is the language of Genesis 1, the language of creation. God created something and then God saw that it was good. It also gets twisted and perverted by human beings. Very often human beings see something that is good, they judge for themselves apart from the word of God, contrary to the word of God. Because they ignore what God has said, they sin in this.

This is what Eve did, “the woman saw that the tree was good for food and she ate what God had forbidden her from eating.” We see this in various other places in the Bible. So commentators are divided, is this a good thing about what Issachar does here or is this a bad thing? If it’s a bad thing, then when Issachar sees that a resting place is good that would suggest that Issachar becomes complacent and is sold into foreign slavery. So that by the end of verse 15 he becomes a servant at forced labor to foreign powers.

However, if it’s a good thing, and I tend to think this is good, what Issachar is doing is to reflect what God has said. God has said that the Promised Land will be a good place for you to dwell and to rest. So becoming a servant at forced labor means that he is going to work hard to cultivate the land that God has given him as a very good gift. It could go either way.

What about Dan verses 16 through 18? Well, for Dan, the word Dan means judge, just as Judah means praise. So we read Dan shall judge his people, that’s a play on words. Now one of the judges of Israel, Samson, was a judge from the tribe of Dan. Yet it is saying that Dan’s role of judging people as one of the tribes of Israel, so the whole tribe was supposed to have some role of judging over the whole nation of Israel.

It seems that Dan does not live up to that, Dan does not serve as a judge, rather he is a serpent. A serpent who bites at the heels of horses, so that the rider falls backwards. He doesn’t give life and health to the nation as a godly judge, he’s a backbiter. Dan eventually became known for his violence. In Judges 18 especially, you see a story of Dan’s great violence as a tribe. So eventually Dan becomes largely excluded from Israel. If you look in Revelation 7:5-8, where all the 12 tribes of Israel are listed, Dan is excluded from that list. He’s wiped off the list of the tribes among Israel.

What about verse 18? “I wait for your salvation O Lord.” Some commentators think that this spins what is said about Dan in a very positive light. I would argue that the word, if you look back at verse 17, that word that bites the horse’s heels, that word for heal is a word that’s very closely related to Jacob’s name. Remember Jacob was born grasping his brother’s heel, he was a heel grabber, he was a back biter his whole life. His whole life he lived by this, he was always tripping people up from behind, scheming to get ahead in life. I wonder if Jacob is looking at Dan, and seeing this prophecy of Dan and the direction that Dan is going to go and knowing how hard his life has been because he did not live by faith.

Jacob now is issuing something of a modest repentance. He’s saying, I know that I lived like that through my life, I was a heel grabber or a backbiter. Now, oh Lord, I wait for your salvation. At the end of Jacob’s life he seems to finally see things clearly. I would take that as an expression of his faith.

Well verse 19, what about Gad? Now this,raiding at the heels, seems to be defensive. Raiders are raiding Gad and Gad comes back and raids at their heels. So I would put this in a positive sense here, this is a fierce tribe. What’s interesting about this prophecy is that it’s an extended pun. Four of the six words in this verse all contain the letters g and d. So it sounds really cool in Hebrew, I won’t try to replicate it for you this morning, but it’s an extended pun.

Then verse 20, Asher’s name means happy and we have something of a happy prophecy here. “Asher’s food shall be rich and he shall yield royal delicacies.” There is a question though about whether these royal delicacies will go to the Israelite king or to foreign powers. Asher lived very close to the Canaanites and the Phoenicians and we wonder if Asher was giving the bounty, the royal delicacies, from that tribe to foreign nations. They’re much caught up in foreign nations and idolatry later on.

Naphtali is next, in verse 21. I have absolutely no idea what this means, except some people would point to the fact that that nastily when you look at the territory spelled out for Naphtali there is no northern boundary. They’re the northernmost tribe and there’s no northern boundary spread out, so perhaps the doe being let loose is an idea that Naphtali could potentially expand the boundaries northward. We don’t know whether that happened or not.

Then in verses 22 to 26 we come to someone we’re a little bit more familiar with, Joseph. We read something we might expect in verse 22. Now this image of a righteous man who’s flourishing planted by streams of water and bearing much fruit, this shows up throughout the Old Testament, perhaps most famously in Psalm 1. It’s not surprising that Joseph is described in this way, but we read thinking about Joseph’s life, that Joseph will not just flourish, he will flourish in a way that comes through great suffering.

Then in verses 23 through 26, you hear that word blessing. Blessing, blessing, blessing all for Joseph, even as he comes unscathed, by the power of the Lord, from the repeated attacks of all of these archers.

Well finally in verse 27 we come to Benjamin, the youngest, the last born of the tribes of Israel. We read Benjamin as a ravenous wolf in the morning, devouring the prey in an evening, dividing the spoil. Benjamin is certainly a fierce tribe and its fierceness will go in two directions, for good and for evil.

For good we think about the king from the tribe of Benjamin, King Saul. One of the few things King Saul does right comes in 1 Samuel 11, when King Saul mobilizes an entire nation to come to the rescue of Jabesh Gilead who is under attack by foreign powers. That’s to his credit and he’s praised for that.

Benjamin’s fierceness is a ravenous wolf, nature is coming out at that moment, but it also comes out in Judges 19. That’s when Benjamin commits a rash, a ravenous crime at Gabia, raping and murdering a young woman, in a crime that is so horrific it’s told in terms of what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah back in Genesis 19. It’s a horrific crime and that’s attributed to Benjamin.

Well those are the tribes of Israel, but to close this section let’s look at the summary in verse 28 and this is really what grounds us. Here’s where we take all of those details and get a main picture of what’s happening.

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him. Genesis 49:28

Blessed, blessing, blessing, three times we read that word blessing. Again Genesis began with an original blessing to all humanity and what we are seeing here is God’s re-establishment of that blessing. It was lost and now it is being put back in order. So these are indeed blessings for Israel and for the descendants of the nation of Israel. These are the blessings that God intends to spread throughout the entire world, as the obedience of the peoples comes through the king of Judah. These blessings will spread to bless the whole world, but they will flow only and exclusively through Israel’s king.

Why is this blessing so important though? Let’s ask that question. Well let me answer the importance and try to give some sense of the importance of this blessing with something of an illustration. I think one of the most important signs that you’ll see as you drive through any given town, it’s so fascinating is whenever you see a sign that says under new management.

Anytime you see that sign you know there’s a story to be told. Something horrific has happened and the owner, the new owners of this business, want everyone to know that the old owners are no longer in charge of that business, now this is under new management. If the old management was good, they probably wouldn’t want anyone to know that the management has been changed. No, we’re just rolling along like we always have, we’re still the same company. Under new management says that there’s a story to be told and that changes are being made, hopefully, to fix those issues.

Well God in the very beginning established his infinitely valuable blessing under the management of Adam. The first manager of God’s blessing was Adam but Adam immediately forfeited and lost that blessing through his sin. So when God saw this, God sent his only son Jesus Christ into the world so that God’s blessing to all humankind might come under new management. Under the new management of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will perfectly fix whatever has gone wrong. We’ll do far more than that, as we’ll see in the next section, the final section, where we see a hint of God’s eventual promise and plan to raise even the dead.

Buried in Faith

So let’s come to this third section, buried in faith, where Jacob circles once again to the final concern of his to be buried in Canaan.

29 Then he commanded 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 at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying 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 in it were bought from the Hittites.” 33 When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
Genesis 49:29-33, ESV

Well remember Jacob had asked this question of Joseph back in Genesis 47:29-31, bury me in Canaan. Jacob now repeats this blessing to all of his sons that he be buried in Canaan. Now it was in Genesis 23 when Jacob’s grandfather Abraham purchased this field with a cave in it as a burial place for Abraham’s wife Sarah, Jacob’s grandmother. After that Abraham, Isaac (Jacob’s father), Rebecca (Jacob’s mother), and Leah (Jacob’s wife) are buried there. Rachel, Jacob’s other wife, was buried in Bethlehem while Jacob was still traveling. Jacob reminds us of that in Genesis 48:7.

Jacob now wants to be gathered to his people, not just in a spiritual sense but he wants his body to be gathered to his people, to be buried there with them. This is an act of faith. As we’ve been talking about, Jacob is embracing the promises to come after his death, the promises of inheriting the whole land of Canaan, promises that he never enters into during his lifetime. After Jacob makes sure once more that he will indeed be buried in Canaan he dies, thus bringing the era of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to an end.

The promises have not been fulfilled but Jacob is looking beyond his death to the day when God will fulfill those promises. That will ultimately require nothing less than the blessing of the resurrection from the dead, brought about from the one who died and has resurrected, the lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus Christ. Who was resurrected as the firstborn and will come again one day to raise us all from the dead with him.

Application

Well this is a rangy, sometimes obscure, chapter to work our way through, but let’s consider one main application this morning. Seek God’s blessings from King Jesus.

In modern culture we don’t often think about blessings. We recognize that sometimes unexpected good things happen and sometimes we might say what a blessing. Very often though we will speak about it as luck, well that was a lucky thing to happen. Luck is a random thing, luck is an impersonal thing, luck is something perhaps to enjoy when it comes, but even the most worldly know that luck is never something that we can depend upon.

The Bible however dispenses with the idea of luck. Instead we should be pursuing the blessings of God, because the blessings of God are not random. God himself brings them about according to his unsearchable wisdom. God’s blessings are not impersonal, God himself guides them by his steadfast love. God’s blessings are something that we can depend on in thick and thin and good times and in bad times, because God promises and establishes by the truthfulness of his word that he will indeed give us those blessings. So, the Bible urges us to seek God’s blessings, to pursue hard after God’s blessings.

Now I want to be really careful, because sometimes when people talk about seeking after God’s blessing, sometimes this has been twisted and perverted by what has come to be called the prosperity gospel. Such as seeking the blessings of worldly, material, temporal gains to live my best life now in this world, if we just pray the right prayer or donate money to the right televangelist. That’s not what we are talking about here, that’s not what we are talking about when the Bible tells us to seek God’s blessings.

One of the main ways we know this is because God’s blessings are not primarily material, they’re not primarily temporal for this passing away world. They’re spiritual, they are eternal, they are not earthly, but they are heavenly. Here’s the thing, we reformed Christians are sometimes too reluctant to seek God’s blessings. Maybe we’re worried that we might fall into the trap of the prosperity gospel, maybe we’re unsure if God has predestined certain blessings to come to us, or maybe we’re just slow to believe the promises. Maybe we are just too lazy to pray for them when God commands us to do so.

In contrast, the Bible hits us right between the eyes and it criticizes us and critiques us and convicts us for our lack of faith, by calling us to diligently seek the blessings that God would have us have. Paul pleads with the Corinthians in this way in 2 Corinthians 1:11 he said,

11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 1:11, ESV

Paul didn’t just pray for his own blessings, he prayed, he asked other people to pray for him to be blessed. Then the apostle Peter exhorts us in 1 Peter 3:9,

9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9, ESV

Do this so that you may have a blessing. However, the blessings we’re talking about are not more money, or a better job, or a better situation in life, the blessings we are talking about are spiritual blessings. They are given to us through the mediation of the kingship of our lord, Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:3 makes this so clear, Paul says,

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
Ephesians 1:3, ESV

Then Paul goes on through Ephesians 1, some of you were studying Ephesians this weekend, Paul goes on to detail what those blessings would be that God has promised to lavish upon us. The blessings of his love, the blessing of adoption as the sons of God, the blessings of his glorious grace, the blessings of redemption by the blood of Jesus, the blessings of forgiveness from our trespasses. Do you treasure these blessings? Do you seek an ever increasing knowledge of them, an ever increasing experience of these blessings?

God calls us to seek his blessings. Further the Bible reminds us that these blessings, the blessings of King Jesus, come at an extraordinary cost. The gospel tells us that in order to bless us, God the Father sent God the Son into the world to be cursed for us, in our place, so that we might receive the blessing of God by the fullness of the person of God the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 3:13-14 reminds us of this saying,

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Galatians 3:13-14, ESV

That’s the blessing that Jacob is giving here. He’s passing on the blessing of his grandfather Abraham so that in Christ Jesus, the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, to us, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. The Spirit is the blessing of promise that is looked forward to. The kingship of Jesus, that Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, has now poured out on us, just like we see from Jacob in this passage. God loves to bless his children still to this day.

Have you sought God’s blessing through trusting in Jesus Christ? Imagine if my wife and I had told that kind man on the side of the interstate, “No thanks, I think we’re good.” Well again I might have been able to figure it out, but knowing me I may not have. We might still be there to this day.

When we’re talking about the Bible though, we are truly in a situation that none of us can release ourselves from. God is so loving and so gracious to give us the blessings of Jesus Christ, to all those who turn from their sin and look to him. Have you sought God’s blessing through Christ? Have you trusted in Christ? Are you looking to him for your salvation in faith? If not make today the day when you do this, seek the blessing that Christ offers you through faith.

If you know Christ, are you seeking his blessings? We of all people should know what this means, yes we should pray for God to meet our needs, Jesus teaches us to pray for our daily bread. Yes, we should ask God to help us in our trials, he commands us to cast our cares upon him for he cares for us.

More than this, God teaches us to seek the spiritual blessings that he offers us through Jesus Christ. Are you asking God to make known to you more of his love, more of his kindness, more of his mercy, more of the riches of his grace that he lays out in his word, and promises and gives to us and establishes us through King Jesus? Are you asking God to make more of him known to you, more of himself, as he fills you with the blessing of the Holy Spirit? This is the blessing that God intended to give to all humanity, at the beginning of creation. This is the blessing that was lost, but has now come under the new management of the perfect son of God, Jesus Christ. This is the blessing that through King Jesus, has spread to all those in all the world, of all the peoples who come to him to the obedience of faith.

Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, we pray that you would give us faith to look to Jesus Christ. To trust him as our king. To repent from our sins. To confess them before him that he might forgive them of us. We pray that in doing so you would bless us with the fullness of your Holy Spirit, the down payment of all the infinite riches of grace that we have in Christ Jesus, to enjoy for all of eternity. We pray that it will be ours this morning, to the Holy Spirit and in Christ for all eternity to come. It’s in the name of our great savior King Jesus we pray. Amen.

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