Sunday, July 30, 2006

End of Act One (Genesis 46-50)

Genesis ends in triumph, and the first great act of this story comes to a close. Jacob, long believing Joseph dead, now finds that his most beloved son is alive and beckoning him to come to Egypt. He is wary of going, but God speaks again, echoing the promise he gave him on leaving Canaan the first time:
Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes.
Joseph and Jacob are reunited. Joseph then presents his two sons before his father for a grandfatherly blessing. Jacob blesses the younger son Ephraim rather than Manasseh with the bigger blessing. Since Jacob is nearly blind (like Isaac before him), Joseph assumes he is making a mistake. He isn’t. “Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh” lest we think the preference for younger brothers so far has been a mere coincidence.

Jacob dies in Egypt. He is given great mummy-style Egyptian treatment, but his sons don’t bury him there. Instead, they take him back to Canaan and lay him to rest with Abraham and Isaac – on the one little piece of the Promised Land that the family owns.

After Jacob’s death, the brothers fear Joseph will turn on them. Thankfully, Joseph’s forgiveness goes deeper than mere appearances. He not only forgives them, but sees their evil deeds in the light of God’s plan. God had used their evil as a stroke in his good and perfect artistic project.

I can’t help but stop for a moment and comment on Joseph. Perhaps it’s just my particular modern framework, but I absolutely love the guy. What a fitting name for the man who would play the role of father to our Lord. He has character, vision, determination, faith, hope, and love – the combination of which I don’t see in anyone else in Genesis. I want to join Jacob in his blessing:
The blessings of your father, the blessings of the eternal mountains, 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.
The faithfulness of God, the realization of His promises, His preference for the younger, the trust His followers show even in their burial, His reunion of brothers who once sought to kill out of envy, and His use of the chosen ones in blessing the world – these are the themes upon which the book of Genesis closes. I have a feeling that they will also rocket us forward through the rest of the Bible.

Can we bless our children this way today ? Why or why not ? Was it a prophetic blessing, or did he simply know his children well enough to predict what their lives would be marked by ?

Great blog you have here.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Yours doesn't seem half bad either!

It's pretty clear to me that these blessings are beyond even prophetic - take Noah's curse of Canaan, for example. They almost seem causal as well as predictive, which makes me think of all of those debates attempting to distinguish predestination and foreknowledge.

Anyway, in general I'm a little wary of seeing the primary application of Genesis as "what if I were Abraham" or "should I be like Abraham" or even "Abraham is an example of an individual God deals with - like me". Not that these supposals are invalid, but that they are quite secondary to the question "what is God up to?" We find our application in the fact that we are part of the same story, though arriving at a much later stage.

So, the question of how we are to bless our kids should take the entire story into context - especially our place in it. I'm not entirely sure where this will lead us, but the whole The Lord bless you and keep you... thing has a great tradition. As is the tradition of giving Children biblical names. So if your child is named Daniel, you could say:

May you be like the great prophet Daniel, who refused to defile himself with the food and wine of the ungodly. May you have the courage to serve Christ and him alone, regardless of the spirit of the age. May God reveal to you wisdom and insight to see his plans for the time you live in. May you look to God as your judge in all things.

Those are my initial thoughts. What are yours?

I try to give my kids a "bedtime blessing" every night. The benediction usually entails encouragement in their strengths as you have mentioned. Anything that falls within the Aaronic barak is probably acceptable, and that is a vast umbrella. Your ideas are great.

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