Friday, December 30, 2011

Genesis 50:22-26

Well, we’ve come to the end of this wonderful book! It’s time to say goodbye to Joseph, who lived to be 110 years old, seeing the “third generation of Ephraim’s children.” (Gen 50:23). The older I get, the less attractive that seems to me! Don said something to me the other day about cutting back on my salt intake (I LOVE salty foods - you can keep the sweets - give me chips and nuts!), and I told him my goal is to go out in a blaze and NOT to live forever! Even if I don’t live to see great-grandchildren, I know they will be safe in God’s faithful hands, and I will eventually meet them in eternity!

Anyway, it is the end of Joseph’s life that wins him the mention in the Hebrews roll call of faith:

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”

So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt. (Gen 50:24-26)

Joseph assures his brothers that God will “come to [their] aid” and lead them out of Egypt eventually, because God, the Promise Keeper, will keep His oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This family WILL enter the Promised Land. And Joseph is so sure of it that he instructs them to carry his bones with them. In Joshua 24:32 we find that Joseph’s bones were buried in Shechem, which is where, as a sharply dressed 17 year old, he went searching for his brothers! That just speaks to me of mercy! Amazing!

What do we find, at the end of the life of this amazing man, that God commends Joseph for? For his triumph over the temptation of Potiphar’s wife? For his great management skills in rescuing his family and all of Egypt during the famine? For his willingness to forgive his brothers? No, let’s look at what God commends in Hebrews 11:

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones. (verse 22)

It was his FAITH that God commended!

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

I’ll be harping on this verse throughout the next year, because God has really impressed upon me through this study how important our faith/belief is! That is why we will be moving into the gospel of John for 2012. It really struck me, when having a conversation the other day with a sweet young woman who claimed to have no belief system, that what we believe is ALL important. The correlation between Genesis and John is strong, so I really feel led to go back into the New Testament this coming year. I hope you will join me and bring some friends along, too!

2011 has been a year of extreme highs and lows, both globally and personally. We leave this year with the world still in political crisis: the remnants of revolutions in much of the Arab world, North Korea in flux, and Iran possibly ready with nuclear weapons, threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz! What will 2012 bring? We don’t know, but we DO know the One who holds our future - and He is trustworthy and faithful. So we can be at peace.

One final request for the year: will you all join me in praying for a dear young friend, Erin, who is currently in the hospital with contractions at 31 weeks into her first pregnancy? Please pray that God will hold her little one in that womb for the duration, because this little one is going to need open-heart surgery at birth, and needs all the time possible to develop! I’ll keep you updated!

Thanks for joining me in this journey through Genesis! I have learned so much and been so blessed by the stories of the amazing patriarchs! There is so much encouragement in their dysfunction for all of us! Our God is a merciful God who knows our frailties. His grace covers them all!!!

Blessings to you all!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Genesis 50:20-21

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen 50:20-21)

I’m going to have a difficult time leaving this passage because it is so powerful! Today, rather than focus on God’s amazing ability to use EVERYTHING that comes our way - even EVIL things - for good (UNBELIEVABLE!!) - I want to focus on the choice of Joseph. You know, it’s one thing to be able to view a betrayal from God’s perspective, but it is another to then choose to respond in God’s way.

“And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”

Joseph didn’t just choose to do a mental exercise and put a happy face on the situation; he chose to respond with the heart of God. He actually spoke kindly to them! I find this amazing, but I have experienced God’s power in a similar situation, so I know it’s possible. After all, I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Phil 4:13). I have had a few times in my life in which I’ve been betrayed (worse, watched my daughter be betrayed), and have had to seek God’s power not only to forgive, but to ACT forgiving toward the people. There is no way in our own strength that we can demonstrate love toward someone who has bitterly and purposefully hurt us, unless we take it to God. I have found Him so faithful to give me the desire and ability to ACT OUT forgiveness - even when I could not FEEL forgiving. In fact, the LORD showed me years ago that forgiveness is NOT a feeling - it is an action! God doesn’t ask me to feel all warm and fuzzy toward those who hurt me, but He does expect me to act out forgiveness as His child. The miraculous part of it, is that when we take actions that demonstrate forgiveness, the feelings follow!

There is a companion verse to Genesis 20 that I believe is the other key Biblical principal that God wants us to learn from Joseph’s story. Jesus spoke these words from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:33-35)

Forgiveness is the overriding principal ALWAYS.

The reality is that ALL of us are miserable, lost sinners! (Rom 3:23) That’s our nature! So why are we surprised when people who are in darkness act that way??? People are going to hurt us, let us down, betray, and abandon us - because they are imperfect people! The problem is spiritual, not personal. In fact, in Ephesian 6:12, we are told that the root cause of our struggles is spiritual warfare:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

The conflicts we have with people are always spiritual at their core. If we can soak in these ideas - if we can look at our situations with the mind of Christ and rely on His strength to act out forgiveness as Joseph did toward his brothers, we will experience the victory and see God using even hurtful betrayals for good - for the saving of many lives. And isn’t that what we want to see?

WOW! God’s Word is amazing!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Genesis 50:15-20

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. (Genesis 50:15-17)

With their father gone, the brothers panicked! They thought, “Oh my gosh! We’re in for it now! With Dad out of the way, Joseph is sure to take revenge!” A guilty conscience can sometimes cause us to do crazy things - if we don’t actually repent! The brothers appeared to make up the story about what Jacob told them to say to Joseph. I believe Jacob actually understood who Joseph was and knew his integrity. He knew that Joseph was not holding a grudge against his brothers. Therefore, I don’t believe he ever said these words to his other sons.

But when the brothers brought this story to Joseph, it showed Joseph that they really didn’t get him - and it brought him to tears. They had been with him through the years of famine. Not only had they been beneficiaries of his kindness and care, they had witnessed how Joseph did business in Egypt. They saw what he had done to save the people of Egypt. They witnessed the respect that the Egyptians had for Joseph. They should have known who he was. Have you ever been there - where someone completely misunderstands your intentions, because they apparently don’t believe your motives are good and genuine? I have! It hurts and it is so frustrating!

Note, however, that with this story, came the line, “Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” Are they acknowledging their sins? I believe so. But they have still missed the message of forgiveness. Did they bring God into it just to manipulate Joseph? I don’t know... but Joseph jumps on that to make his point. When they throw themselves at his feet seeking mercy he makes his most important speech to them EVER, and he speaks one of the great truths of the Bible:

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen 50:19-20)

Now, notice that Joseph did not minimize what they had done. He did not let them off the hook. He affirmed that their intentions were evil. They had actually plotted to kill him - but settled for selling him into slavery. There is NOTHING good about that. But Joseph, even though completely abandoned and betrayed, could find God at work in it all. He saw how God had turned around something vile and used it to save His chosen people, through whom would come the Savior of the world. God had a plan and it would not be thwarted. He had promised to bless the seed of Abraham, and He actually used the evil act of Joseph’s brothers to keep that promise.

When Joseph was down in that well, then making the lonely journey with a caravan to Egypt, then up on a market stand being purchased like chattel, working as a servant, completely separated from his father, falsely accused, and languishing in prison forgotten, he learned that God was all he needed. He turned to God for everything and learned that God was faithful.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good...” Oh, that we would learn this truth deep down in our hearts! Whatever wrongs come our way, whatever intentional hurts others cause us, whatever tragic events come into our lives - ALL of it God will use for good - for His glory and for our eternal benefit! I believe all of us have experienced this truth at some point. Maybe you have been abandoned by someone - a friend, a spouse, or even a parent - and looking back you can see how God used something so painful and awful to make you more fit for His kingdom. Maybe someone at work betrayed you and you saw God turn that around to a blessing. I would LOVE it if you would share that with us all!

God LOVES to turn the tables on evil! The ultimate picture of that was the Crucifixion. Satan had plotted to get rid of this Savior one way or another - and there He was dying a humiliating painful death on a cross! But God received that sacrifice once for all and raised Jesus from the dead, securing our salvation! The victory was the LORD’s!

We have more to chew on in this passage. In the meantime, please take a minute to share with us all how God has turned around evil in your life and used it for good!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Genesis 50:1-14

I can’t believe we are actually at the final chapter of Genesis. I have been looking forward to this one since we started this book in January! It has one of the best passages in the Bible! However, before we get to that, we will be talking about the mourning for Jacob.

When Jacob died, Joseph took charge of all of the funeral details. He arranged for the embalming (which took 40 days) and the transportation up to Canaan for burial. Jacob was given the VIP treatment in death.

So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him—the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt— besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large company. (Genesis 50:7-9)

This was quite an entourage accompanying Jacob’s body! I love the understatement of the last sentence in verse 9! In those days, you could judge the importance of the departed by the number of days of mourning. The third verse of this chapter tells us the Egyptians mourned Jacob for forty days even before heading up to Canaan. After reaching the burial site, they observed another seven days of mourning, with loud and bitter lamenting (verse 10).

Jon Courson points out that the importance given to Jacob at this time was really because of his relationship to his son, Joseph, who is a type of Jesus in the Bible. So, we are reminded that our worth is directly tied to our relationship to THE Son, also. Courson writes, “Thus, whatever happens in our lives presently and at the end of our lives ultimately will be based not on what we have done or haven’t done - but on our linkage to God’s Son.” (Application Commentary: Old Testament P.225)

The theme in my classroom is “Make Good Choices,” and I am always telling my students how important their choices are in their lives. Most major decisions at this point in their lives are made for them, and they have little or no say (where they live, whether or not Mom and Dad will stay together, etc.). However, they always have a choice in how they respond to their circumstances. The one BIG choice they control at this point is who their friends will be. As they head into middle school, I tell them that who they “hang” with is one of the biggest decisions they make - because they will be known by the friends they keep!

Even as adults, we, too, are known by our friends. If we choose to “hang” with the world - those people who have no interest in the things of God - we will be considered worldly. However, if we choose to spend our time developing our relationship with the Son, we will be identified as His. At this time of the year, it takes a conscious effort to “hang” with Jesus and to not be pulled into the busyness of the season. Let’s choose to start our days with Him and to be mindful of His presence (not “presents”) all day long. I can guarantee that the more time we spend with Him, the more people will recognize our relationship to Him.

Stay tuned - the next lessons are the most exciting in Genesis!!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Genesis 49:29-33

Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.”

When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people. (Genesis 49:29-33)

Having blessed his sons, Jacob gave final instructions for his burial then “breathed his last.” Jacob lived a long life punctuated with a multitude of mistakes and led a large family, mostly characterized by its dysfunction. We’ve spent a lot of time with this patriarch and his family. We read of his struggles, even from birth, with his twin brother. We saw him trick his father into giving him the blessing that belonged to Esau. Jacob met his match in Laban, who tricked him into working for seven years, only to give him Leah in marriage instead of Rachel. Jacob continued to work for his beloved Rachel - then took on two more wives!

He finally had a personal encounter with God that left him limping and changed. Did that mean he was perfect from then on? Far from it! He continued to struggle as a father. After losing the love of his life, Rachel, he poured his affection into her son, Joseph, creating disaster for all of his sons! So what would his epitaph be? Perfect son, perfect husband, perfect father?? No way! Let’s look at what God’s Word says in looking back over Jacob’s life. What stood out in God’s view?

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. (Hebrews 11:21)

Does God remember Jacob’s multiple sins and failures? Does He commend his cunning as a businessman? Does He praise the great love Jacob had for Rachel? No, in the “roll call of faith” found in chapter 11 of Hebrews, God commends Jacob for his final act of faith: the blessing of the sons and Jacob’s worship of God. In blessing his sons, Jacob was making his final declaration of faith in God’s promises to him. He new that God would indeed provide the inheritance to Jacob’s descendants that He promised in Genesis 35:11-12.

And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.”

Jacob BELIEVED God, and, ultimately, that was his legacy. That is what God commended. It is our faith in HIM (not in our works or accomplishments) that counts for eternity.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Like his father and grandfather, Jacob did not live to see the fulfillment of God’s promises, but he BELIEVED they WOULD be fulfilled by the God who keeps His promises. So, are we holding onto that belief? Are there things you have been praying for (including the salvation of loved ones) that you have not yet seen? Like Jacob, we may NOT see the fulfillment in our own lifetime, but we can trust the Promise Maker and Promise Keeper. HE is faithful - even when we are not!

One final note: Jacob requested that his burial be with his fathers in Canaan, next to his FIRST wife, Leah. He did not ask to be buried with Rachel! Again, this shows the priority of his faith in God. He would be buried in the land of promise alongside the wife who gave him the son of promise, Judah.

As I push on toward eternity - which seems to be rushing toward me - I think about what I would hope would be said about me when I’m gone. What do I want on my headstone? “Here lies Sally White, beloved wife, mother, and grandmother?” Nope! As much as I LOVE being a wife, mother, and grandmother, what I hope will be my legacy would be, “She believed GOD.” THAT’S what I want my family and friends to remember! :)


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Genesis 49:26-28

The blessing of Joseph by his father ends with an emphasis upon the source of all blessings, the Mighty One of Jacob, the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, the Almighty. Jacob knew his God intimately. He had wrestled one-on-One with Him until he, himself, had received a blessing. And he ends his blessing to Joseph with a statement that affirms what Joseph had dreamed so many years before:

Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers. (Gen 49:26b)

And verse 28 sums these blessings up with the first reference to the twelve tribes of Israel:

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

Don’t you love the fact that each of the blessings was appropriate to the man? As a teacher I totally understand that it is so important to be fair to all of my students. But I also recognize that “fair” is not always appropriate. The student who purposely hurt another student does not receive the same punishment as the one who accidentally injured a student, even if the damage done is identical. Our God knows us so intimately, and He knows exactly what each of us needs and can bear.

After the Resurrection, when Jesus was preparing His disciples for His return to the Father, he gave Peter explicit instructions to feed His sheep, along with a prophecy about how Peter would die (see John 21). Impetuous Peter wanted to immediately know what would happen to John. Jesus basically told Peter to mind his own business - what happened to John had no bearing on what Jesus would do in Peter’s life.

I imagine that the brothers’ heads were spinning at this point as each took in his own message then compared it to his brothers’. Some must have been thinking, “That’s not fair!” We so often compare our lives to those around us. Sometimes it seems like some people have just been given so much to bear, while others seem to remain unscathed by the world’s troubles, and, in fact, seem to be blessed beyond belief! Sometimes we want to shout to God, “That’s not fair!” His Word indicates here that each of us receives what is appropriate and particular to us.

If you are thinking today that your life is not what you dreamed it would be, or that you just cannot bear the “blessings” God has given you, trust that He knows exactly what you need. There isn’t a circumstance in your life that has taken God by surprise. Not only has He allowed certain things to come your way (as with Job), but He has purposely given you others to make you into the person He has designed you to be. Don’t fight it! Trust Him! He is making something beautiful out of you! He is “blessing” you to be a blessing to others. Don’t get caught up in comparing your blessing to anyone else’s. You are unique and so is your blessing!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Genesis 49:22-25

Last time we looked at the fruitfulness of Joseph’s life. Today let’s talk about WHY he was so fruitful, and what other factors made his life so satisfying.

Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.” (Gen 49:22)

What was Joseph’s secret? He planted himself near the well of Living Water.

Blessed is the one
   who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
   or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
   and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
   which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
   whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)

Joseph delighted in God and in His promises. He knew the secret of abiding in the Vine. So, just like the branches of an apple tree, he did not need to strain to produce fruit. Fruit just naturally grows on the boughs of a tree that is continually nourished by water. We can be certain that, if we continually seek God, meet with Him each day and study His Word, fruit will grow in abundance. We WILL be changed and grow to maturity.

And not only will WE benefit, but all those around us will be blessed by that fruit. Note how Jacob says that Joseph’s “branches climb over a wall.” That speaks of fruit spilling over into our neighbor’s yard! Surely all of Egypt was blessed by Joseph’s fruitful life. “. . .[W]hatever they do prospers.” That was the hallmark of Joseph’s life - everything he touched prospered, whether in Potiphar’s house, in prison, or in Pharaoh’s court.

With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty. . . (Gen 49:23-25)

Another key to Joseph’s satisfying life was what he DIDN’T do! Jon Courson writes about the “archers” who plagued Joseph throughout his life: his brothers who were jealous; by Potiphar’s wife who was infuriated by his righteousness; and by Pharaoh’s butler who failed to remember him when he was released from prison. Courson says, “Joseph’s brothers fired the arrow of envy; Potiphar’s wife, the arrow of fury, and the butler, the arrow of apathy.” (Application Commentary: Old Testament, P. 219)

Joseph could have surely taken his revenge when he came into power. But he didn’t!Joseph never defended himself. He kept his arrows in the quiver. Would we do that? Don’t we just want to nail those who shoot arrows at us? When falsely accused, don’t you want to grab your attorney and your witnesses and make your case in your defense? What was it that held Joseph back? Verse 24 tells us it was “because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob.” WOW! He let God hold him back!

When we let God be God, when we trust in His sovereignty, there is no need to defend ourselves. If we give our hurt and anger and our desire for vengeance to HIM, He will take care of it all in HIS way and in HIS time. We can rest in that! And truly, didn’t God vindicate Joseph? This brought God so much more glory! And it worked to the benefit of all of Joseph’s family.

What was the secret of Joseph’s fruitful life? He remained connected to his God continually. He relied on God for His nourishment, and he relied on God to vindicate him. He let God have His way in his life. Of the twelve sons, Joseph was the only whose faith was acknowledged in his blessing. Don’t we want to be known for our faith in God? Don’t we want to be a blessing of fruitfulness to those around us? Don’t we want others to see that we can be at peace even in times of persecution? Then, like Joseph, we must remain in Him. And we do that by meeting with Him each morning.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Genesis 49:22

A dying man has much to reflect on, and certainly he thinks about the value of his own life - how he lived it, to what purpose - and to what degree he has lived a satisfying life. Certainly Jacob, on his deathbed, has a good perspective on what things truly matter in life. So when he blesses Joseph, he first acknowledges the way Joseph chose to live.

Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.” (Gen 49:22)

We will be spending a few days on the blessing of Joseph, because it is so remarkable in comparison to the others. Jacob immediately sets Joseph apart as being the “fruitful” son. Jon Courson has some great things to say about this in his Application Commentary: Old Testament, so I’ll be sharing some of them. He has an essay on this passage, entitled “The Secret of a Satisfied Life.” Don’t we all yearn for a life of satisfaction? Courson says the Bible is very clear about what will bring us deep satisfaction, knowing we have fulfilled our purpose in life:

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, 
for you created all things, 
   and by your will they were created 
and have their being.” (Rev 4:11)

First, God created us for HIS pleasure and to bring HIM glory, so when we seek to please and glorify HIM, we end up with a fulfilled life. What is it that pleases and glorifies our Father?

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8)

So Joseph is the example of the “fruitful vine.” Courson says the Bible defines fruit in several areas, including the following: fruit in the winning of souls (Paul speaks of those he led to Christ as his harvest in Romans 1:13); the fruit of holiness (Romans 6:22); the fruit of good works (Colossians 1:10); the fruit of praise (Hebrews 13:15); and, of course, the fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)

How were these fruit evident in Joseph’s life? Did Joseph win souls to God? Of course he did! He saved his whole family from starvation by bringing them all to Egypt. He displayed the reality of his God to Pharaoh and all of Egypt. Are we pointing others to Christ? Are we giving the good news about Jesus Christ to a world that is starving?

Joseph surely had the fruit of holiness in his life. Being holy is being set apart for God. Joseph was surely distinct, set apart the world in which he lived. He chose to honor God through obedience as he resisted and fled from Potiphar’s wife. Joseph set his mind to live in holiness. Would those around us see as as “set apart?” Or do we look just like every other person in the neighborhood, with no distinction in the way we live out our lives?

Talk about good works! Joseph spent his life serving others - Potiphar, Pharaoh, the nation of Egypt, his brothers, and his father. Just like Jesus, he epitomized the servant-leader. Did those works of service make him more loved by God? No - but they did show all those around him that he indeed loved God. While our works don’t save us, they are a testament to God - they show others the reality of God in our lives, bringing Him glory.

Finally, Joseph gave God the fruit of praise, for he always gave God the credit for everything! (Gen 41:16) When someone acknowledges something we have done that pleases them, do we take in the praise or give it right back to God? How I long to be more like Joseph! What was his secret? We’ll look at that next time!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Genesis 49:13-21

As Jacob continues the “blessings” to his other sons, there are some harsh prophecies made, and they are fairly cryptic. Beth Moore says there is not a lot of certainty among scholars as to the exact meanings of these. But we will do our best!

Zebulun “will live by the seashore... his border will extend toward Sidon.” (vs.13)  Although this seems like a pleasant enough prophecy, Sidon is actually outside of the Promised Land. So I’m wondering if maybe this might have indicated a double-minded spirit - part in and part out. The tribe of Zebulon apparently settled on land between the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee, looking toward the sea both to the West and to the East.

Issachar, called a “rawboned donkey” (indicating strength and stubbornness), would “submit to forced labor” in exchange for peace. (vs.14-15)  In other words, this tribe would be exploited by others.

Dan “shall judge his people...” The tribe of Dan did include prominent judges (Samson was from this tribe). [He] will be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path...”  (vs.16-17)  YIKES! How would you like to hear that one from your father? In fact, Jacob appeared deeply distressed by his own words, for he pauses to plead, “I look for your deliverance, LORD.” (vs.18)

Gad was told “a troop shall tramp upon him, but he shall triumph at last.” (vs.19)

Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king.” (vs.20) At last, something positive! Moses affirmed a positive blessing on Asher’s tribe in Deuteronomy 33:24, so this tribe seems to have had it a little better than the rest!

Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.” (vs.21) Another rendering of this verse is “he utters beautiful words.” The tribe of Naphtali occupied the land near the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus did so much of his teaching, so surely “beautiful words” were spoken there.

The only prophecies remaining were for Joseph and Benjamin, the sons of Jacob’s beloved Rachel. We will look at these next time. But what is it that we can take from these verses? How do these apply to our own lives? Well, in reading over these blessings for the past two weeks, I am convinced more than ever that our words have power. We daily have the power to bless or curse all with whom we come into contact: our spouses, our children and grandchildren, our coworkers, our neighbors, and anyone God brings into our paths within a day. How important it is that we use our words to encourage. So often they become self-fulfilling prophecies!

Having immersed myself in this chapter a couple of weeks ago, the idea of blessings has truly been on my mind. So, when I met with the parents of my students for conferences the week before Thanksgiving, I tried to make that a time for “blessing” my parents - not with flowery words about their child - although there were lots of those - but about their roles as parents and the modeling they are doing in their commitments to each other, to their child, to the education of their child, and to the community as a whole - in that order. They were the best conferences I’ve ever had! I truly am blessed to teach in such a great community, where I’m able to have the same family several times, so I can really get to know them - so it was easy to “bless” them!

But how much more important to “bless” the hard-to-bless - those whose potential is not quite so easy to find! I have so many struggling students in my class this year, and I need to ask God every morning, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD.” He makes me very aware of the need to speak “blessings” over these kids - even when they show up with no homework done! Only the Holy Spirit can accomplish that in me! Thank you, LORD, for Your faithfulness that overrides the lack of mine!!!

Have a blessed morning!