Fellowship at Cross Creek
O Sons, Gather Together and Hear…
Intro… 1) Do the sins of the fathers fall to their children, as the Old Covenant stated concerning Israel, or how do both one or a generation’s good and bad choices affect later generations, or do you think this is the case, and if so, how so? And if so, is it fair? Can you think of any examples from your life or from others’ experiences? Do you think about this with respect to your own decisions—that your actions could be affecting later generations of descendants?
2) If what God says about us his New Testament or New Covenant children is true—that we have the Spirit of God as down payment towards something much more, including heaven, joy and the presence of God forever–how does this shape your thoughts and choices now? Does knowing you have heaven, God, angels, the Spirit of God, joy, prayer, the Scriptures and the community of believers affect how you live, or do you even understand these blessings or rewards or their implications? Or do you take them for granted?
Recently, we began a new unit or section or person of, study…the life of Joseph. Essentially, the story of Joseph, is for the most part, our story. Chosen by God for a special purpose, Joseph must first endure much suffering and injustice before arriving at his God-ordained purpose and calling, and what a purpose it will be.
As we read, I want you to continue pondering, your special identity in Christ, and that just because you may be going through difficult days, your suffering…your waiting is NOT in vain. As God’s child…as God’s children, just as with Joseph and his brothers, you…we…all have a purpose in Christ (Romans 8; Eph. 1; 1 Peter 1)
The Bible’s very first word is the Hebrew word Bərēšīṯ, which means “in [the] beginning.” “Genesis” is actually the Greek word for “beginnings” or “origins,” and thus the origin for both the Latin and English transliteration: Genesis.
So what’s our goal? Just to explore. Like an archaeologist exploring ancient ruins, we are going back to the Scripture’s beginnings to do a little Spiritual digging and poking around to see what was God doing before God’s Son was Spiritually conceived in his mother Mary’s womb? What were the world, people and life like from the very beginning?
Summary of Recent Explorations…
The Creation: The Creator Creates His Creation and its Caretakers (Adam and Eve). Gen. 1-2.
• The Fall: But a Crafty Adversary Emerges, Infecting the Creator’s Caretakers with a Virulent Strain of Deceptive Evil (non-beneficial actions). Gen. 3-4.
• The Flood: The story of the righteous Servant and a devastating Flood. In order to Save his Creation from a self-destructive and merciless evil, the Creator Must radically purge or cleanse his Creation Gen. 5-7.
• Creation’s New Beginning…Gen. 8-11.
• Creation’s New Caretaker: The Creator Raises up, Chooses and Greatly Blesses a righteous and trusting Caretaker named Abraham. Gen. 12-25.
• The Torch of the Creator’s Trusting Caretaking Now Passes to Succeeding Generations (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph…) Gen. 26ff.
Joseph’s Story…Gen. 37-50.
• Jacob’s older sons grow deeply resentful of their favored youngest brother, Joseph. Gen. 37:1ff.
• Joseph’s jealous older brothers cruelly sell their younger brother Joseph, against his will, into slavery, and then inform their grieving father, Jacob, that Joseph has been killed by wild animals. Gen. 37:12ff.
• Despite being trafficked as a slave and falsely imprisoned, God’s favor mysteriously still accompanies Joseph. Gen. 39:1ff.
• Despite correctly interpreting the baker and cupbearer’s dreams while in prison, Joseph’s good deeds, go momentarily unrewarded. Gen. 40:1ff.
• Finally, when Pharaoh has two strange dreams that neither he, nor his priests, can’t interpret, the cupbearer remembers Joseph. Joseph is released from prison and is able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams as seven years of plenty followed by seven years of severe famine. Gen. 41:1ff.
• Pharaoh empowers Joseph to guide Egypt through these next fourteen years of plenty and famine. Gen. 41:38ff.
• When Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt in search of grain, they have no idea that the Egyptian official that they are seeking to purchase the grain from is their brother Joseph. Then still portraying himself as an unknown Egyptian official, Joseph accuses his brothers of spying and forces them to leave their brother Simeon behind as surety that they will return with Joseph’s brother Benjamin. Gen. 42:1ff.
• When Jacob’s sons tell him of the bargain that they were forced to accept for their grain, Jacob initially refuses to risk losing a third son. Gen. 42:19ff.
• Finally, accompanied by Benjamin, Joseph’s brothers are able to persuade their father to allow them to return to Egypt where the Egyptian official hosts a great banquet in their honor. Gen. 43:1ff.
• When a planted missing missing silver cup of the Egyptian official is found within Benjamin’s grain sack, Judah must now offer himself in place of his younger brother. Gen. 44:1ff.
• Finally, no longer able to contain his emotions, Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers and their need to return to Egypt with their father to survive the famine. Gen. 45:1ff.
• Pharaoh, in gratitude for all that Joseph had done for both Egypt and his realm, offers Joseph’s family, the children of Israel, the best that Egypt has to offer. Gen. 45:16ff.
• With God’s blessing Israel takes his entire family and flocks to Egypt where he is reunited with his son Joseph and settles in the land of Goshen. Gen. 46:1ff.
• Israel, close to his death, makes Joseph swear that he will return his body to in the Promised Land to be buried. Gen. 47:1-12; 27-31.
• During the famine, Joseph saves many lives from starvation, as well as, solidifying Pharaoh’s great wealth. Gen. 47:13-26.
• Jacob, shortly before his death, doubles Joseph’s inheritance by adopting Joseph’s two oldest sons. Gen. 48:1ff.
Pray; read three times (perhaps just twice) and ask questions…
49:1 Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come.
What is going on here—some kind of divinely-inspired prophetic utterance? So why does God do this through Jacob now? What’s the point to this prophecy?
2 “Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob;
And listen to Israel your father.
3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn;
My might and the beginning of my strength,
Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
Preeminent…meaning first…in first place…in both dignity and power, which is what a father would want his first so to be and do…a strong leader…
4 “Uncontrolled 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.
Is this a reference to Reuben having “lay” or had sexual relations with one of his father’s wives…Bilhah (Gen. 35:22)? Remember Bilhah was Rachel’s maidservant whom Laban also gave to Jacob as a wife. When Rachel could not have children, after her older sister, Leah, had already had four children, she gave Bilhah to Jacob by which he had two more sons, Dan and Naphtali. Note: some suggest that this was more than just sex–that this was an end run on Reuben’s part to take over control of the clan by sleeping with his father’s wife. King David’s son, Absalom, will attempt something similar in 2 Sam. 16. Others suggest that, after Rachel’s passing, Reuben was preventing Bilhah from taking over as his father’s favorite wife.
5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Their swords are implements of violence.
Is this a reference to Simeon and Levi’s massacre of the men of Shechem for Shechem, their young prince, having sexually taken advantage of their sister Dinah (Gen. 34)? Note: the Hebrew word translated “swords” here may also be translated “knives,” and therefore could be a reference to having persuaded Shechem’s men to be circumcised before Shechem could take Dinah as his wife. It was then due to their post-circumcision weakened conditioned that allowed Jacob’s sons to mercilessly slaughter the city.
6 “Let my soul not enter into their council;
Let not my glory be united with their assembly;
Because in their anger they slew men,
And in their self-will they lamed oxen.
This does not sound good. Their council was hasty, self-willed and vengeful. Thus now, God, through their father, does not validate neither their council nor their actions. I assumed lamed oxen is to hamstring them or make them useless for labor?
7 “Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
And their wrath, for it is cruel.
I will disperse them in Jacob,
And scatter them in Israel.
Is this a curse? A curse within the land? What will this look like?
8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.
Finally, after three negatives, a positive.
9 “Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He couches, he lies down as a lion,
And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?
The lion has captured and now devours its prey…
10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
“Scepter” meaning “reign”? Judah’s descendants will rule the Promise Land or something? Who or what is “Shiloh”? One of the early places where the sacred ark or the box containing God’s covenant or legal laws with Israel, via its mediator, Moses, on Mount Sinai…was stationed or placed, and thus Israel’s tabernacle worship and sacrificial religious system, within the land many years later (Josh. 18)?
Note: other translations include…”until the ruler comes”, “until tribute is brought to him” or to whom it belongs,” all three suggesting that Israel and later Judah’s promised Davidic ruler and savior, the anointed one or messiah, would come descend from the tribe of Judah.
11 “He ties his foal to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine;
He washes his garments in wine,
And his robes in the blood of grapes.
I assume this means a season of incredible blessing and prosperity…blessing and prosperity associated with the Messiah’s future millennial kingdom as later described in the prophets, including Isaiah?
12 “His eyes are dull from wine,
And his teeth white from milk.
Drunk with wine? Lots of milk…again, lots of prosperity?
13 “Zebulun will dwell at the seashore;
And he shall be a haven for ships,
And his flank shall be toward Sidon.
14 “Issachar is a strong donkey,
Lying down between the sheepfolds.
Note: the NET Bible translates “saddlebags” for “sheepfolds.” Another translation would be “ash heaps.”
15 “When he saw that a resting place was good
And that the land was pleasant,
He bowed his shoulder to bear burdens,
And became a slave at forced labor.
Does this mean that even as a “strong donkey” Issachar was foolish to lay down where he lay and in so doing became slaves to another people or nation?
16 “Dan shall judge his people,
As one of the tribes of Israel.
17 “Dan shall be a serpent in the way,
A horned snake in the path,
That bites the horse’s heels,
So that his rider falls backward.
Is some kind of serpent-like shrewd, quick-striking ability being suggested here?
18 “For Your salvation I wait, O Lord.
What does Israel see here, some kind of struggle or war from which God will rescue Dan?
19 “As for Gad, raiders shall raid him,
But he will raid at their heels.
Gad will fight or raid back as he was raided?
20 “As for Asher, his food shall be rich,
And he will yield royal dainties.
21 “Naphtali is a doe let loose,
He gives beautiful words.
22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough,
A fruitful bough by a spring;
Its branches run over a wall.
23 “The archers bitterly attacked him,
And shot at him and harassed him;
Is this looking back at Joseph’s life or forward towards his descendants?
24 But his bow remained firm,
And his arms were agile,
From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
Though shot at by archers, he did not panic. His arm and hands were steadied by God who…
25 From the God of your father who helps you,
And by the Almighty who blesses you
With blessings of heaven above,
Blessings of the deep that lies beneath,
Rich soil? Springs?
Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
Fertility? Sexual intimacy with one’s wife and leading to children…the double blessing?
26 “The blessings of your father
have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors
up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills;
Meaning that Yahweh God has or will fulfill his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob of a people, land and becoming a blessing to the world?
May they be on the head of Joseph,
and on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.
Joseph or perhaps the Messiah?
27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
in the morning he devours the prey,
and in the evening he divides the spoil.”
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him.
It is interesting to note that v. 28 clearly says “with the blessing appropriate to him.” Are we to assume that these blessings are divinely-inspired? And what was their purpose? Did the sons really understand them, and or did it really matter, as long as they were receiving a blessing from their Father? Is this the Abrahamic Covenant split 12 ways? Is this similar to the blessing that according to custom was to go to his older brother, Esau, but Jacob himself deceived his father Isaac out of?
• As he is about to die, Jacob gathers his sons to him in order to prophesy concerning their future.
• Jacob (Israel) tells his first son, Reuben, who lay down (had sexual relations) with one of his father’s wives, Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant and the mother of Reuben’s half-brothers, Dan and Napthali, that though he is preeminent in power and strength, because his strength can also be destructive like water, he (and therefore the tribe of his descendants) will not excel. (Negative, and therefore, in this context functions much like a prophetic curse, and not a blessing.)
• Because Simeon and Levi conceived of the violence to avenge their sister Dinah’s rape at the hands of Shechem, Israel curses their anger-driven reactions and prophesies that their descendants would be scattered throughout Israel.
Note: does this imply that the tribe of Levi, as priestly helpers, will not have its own set aside territory, but only Levitical cities throughout the tribes? Perhaps, but on the other hand, Yahweh tells the tribe of Levi that I AM your portion, which hardly seems like a curse (Deut. 18:2; Josh. 13:33). Their scattering throughout the tribes seems to serve more like a means of spiritual accountability within the tribes. (Another negative, with the term “curse” clearly being used here.)
• It would seem that because of their poor choices with respect to leading their brothers, Jacob’s elder three sons have forfeited their tribes’ leadership role among the future tribes and clans of Israel. Jacob’s blessing now places the leadership mantle squarely on the shoulders of Jacob’s fourth son, Judah. Seemingly embedded within this blessing is a Messianic prophecy concerning a special son or king…Israel’s Messiah…who will rule not only over Israel, but the nations and in a time of great blessing. (Blessing. In fact, super abundant blessing).
• Jacob forecasts that he and Leah’s sixth son (tenth in total order), Zebulun, will become a haven for ships, with his borders extending from the sea to Sidon north (which is interesting because that’s NOT what Zebulun’s borders turned out to be…Blessing. So if you are keeping count, it would appear…to be Curses 3 and Blessings 2).
• Jacob compares his fifth son with Leah (or ninth son in all), Issachar, to perhaps a stubborn donkey which lies down in a good protective place, but eventually becomes a slave. (Negative and therefore a curse; Curses 4…Blessings 2).
• Jacob compares his fifth son overall, Dan, to a viper along the road that bites the heel of a rider, causing the rider to fall backwards. This is followed by prayer for God’s deliverance. (Not sure if a blessing or a curse; perhaps both).
• Jacob tells his son Gad that though he will be attacked by marauder, he will attack back. (Again, not sure, both it would seem.)
• Jacob compares his sixth son overall to a free running doe that speaks delightful words. (Blessing…so Curses 4; Blessings 3 and 2 both Blessing and Curse).
• Jacob compares his eleventh son, Joseph, to a fruitful grapevine grown whose branches grow so rapidly that they climb over a wall, and though an enemy will attack him, because the LORD, his rock and shepherd, steadies his hands, his bow will remain steady and his hands skillful, He will also reap the blessings from the sky…rain and weather…good for growing crops and grasslands…and of the womb…many children…blessings that exceed even the great mountains and hills. (Curses 4; Blessings 4 and Both 2).
• Finally Jacob describes Benjamin as ravenous wolf that devours his prey and divides its plunder. (Blessings 5; Curses 4; Both 2).
Summary: As he is about to die, Jacob forsees fitting destinies, including both curses and blessings, for his sons and their future tribal descendants.
Why did God include this event in his record or what would we not know–about God, life, myself, others, etc.–if this story were not in the Bible?
• It is interesting to ponder why this even takes place or what purpose does this serve? For example, does it imply that one’s actions affects one’s descendants, or does this just apply to Jacob’s sons because something very special is taking place here. Major tribes of people, as a result of God’s promises, are being birthed, and so to demonstrate that God is still in charge, perhaps there must be a connection from the tribe’s destiny to its progenitor.
• Is this fair? I am not sure. It just is. And looking back onto history, we are not even sure how accurately these prophesies have played out, unless by some means, they are still not finished…or perhaps there is history outside of the Bible that we are not aware of.
• We certainly know that a portion of the prophetic blessings concerning Judah have changed the world with the person and actions of Christ and the quantifiable ramifications resulting in his church…even today…and that according to the New Testament, the church still awaits his return and the full establishment of his Messianic realm. Of course some Jews (more Orthodox) still await the Messiah’s initial appearing. Therefore even in Genesis, we have a hint of God’s plan for mankind’s redemption and salvation.
• In addition, we do know that via both his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, that Joseph was blessed with large amounts of tribal lands. As far as, the other blessings, their fulfillment is not as clear.
• So what do I do with all of this? Obviously, it’s not hard to make the case that the actions of parents and grandparents do affect their later generations of descendants, and that some of the things children experience go back to their parents and ancestors choices. For example, later generations either reap the benefits or consequences of immigrant ancestors. But is something more going on here? I think so. From a human perspective, there is no guarantee that these sons will spawn unified tribes four hundred years later, but it does occur, and it begins to fulfill of the Abrahamic Covenant, at least with respect to hundreds of thousands of descendants and that from one of the tribes, Judah, a special king will arise. Bottom line for me, this just says that God is still involved…that Israel’s very accountable growth from a great shepherd with 12 sons to a nation of 12 strong tribes was no accident. God was involved. God was always involved.
• And it suggests that there are both blessings and curses associated with our previous choices and actions. In other words, righteousness is rewarded or blessed, and disobedience is not or cursed.
Thanks… What a week. Great family visit with Rhonda’s sister’s family; God once again rescued me even though I had seemingly zero gas in the tank for Sunday; we hosted Taneycomo Festival Orchestra three times—once to feed them and twice while they fed us with their musical interpretations; this is our last day with Malachi in summer school; lots of good experiences with CRU; the Color Run; Father’s Day– It’s been a busy, demanding, good month…Thank you, God. Thanks for your grace. Thanks for your grace. And the financial support has been there as well. In addition, Rhonda and I also have gotten to attend several more of TFO’s fabulous concerts. I have been truly blessed and Shelly has been extremely helpful in working on a publishing packet, with writing and editing rocketing back and forth between us.
Struggle(s)… Trying to get to caught back up with my blog on what Yah-Saves says concerning how he will “save us, God’s people from their sins,” energy and expenditure of ministry time budget—who, where, when, why and how as to my ministry investment, particularly this next week, before I take some time off with Rhonda and Amanda.
Truth(s)… That there are lingering consequences to our sinful choices whether we like it or not, just as there are lingering blessings due to our righteous choices; via prophetic blessing, God demonstrates that he is still involved in fulfilling his Covenant promises, and if this is true for Israel and Judah, it is no doubt true for God’s New Covenant children through trust in Christ’s atonement. Everything the New Testaments says about our Spiritual destiny will come true.
Application… Obedience and disobedience each has their future ramifications, and via prophecy, or in this case, Scripture for us, God demonstrates that our future heavenly inheritance is very secure, despite the ups and downs of our current existence. Which means that my goal is to continue to do what I have been doing, only seeking to do it better and better, but not because the results of this learning is immediately apparent, because sometimes it is NOT. In others, don’t spend too much time looking backward or to far in the distant while running, but rather, keep my focus a few feet ahead…today…for starters, and no more than a week or two…in the background…including a week of ministry choices and another week drifting with my family, but especially Amanda, since we haven’t gotten to experience any time away with her for quite some time. My time is yours, Lord. My time is yours. Today, tomorrow, next week and the week after. It belongs to you; please allow it to enhance your glorious truth.
Biggest Struggle at the moment:
How does what happen here relate to you?
What about your kids?
Biggest Struggles (Imagine these or several–put yourself in their shoes–walk through a day with them at school, at home. What might they encounter?)
Now how does what happen here possibly relate/ (Remember this is only to give you a feel or an introductory hook or a reinforcing took; in there looking, they may come up with something entirely different.)
Remember to have fun, sense the Spirit’s leading and develop a love for these kids.
As always, thanks!
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org).