The End of an Era – Chapter 49-50

The end of an era, a lifetime, invites reflection.

Genesis 49-50 is the end of Jacob’s life. As he reflects over each son, he thinks about their lives and what would be appropriate to say. Sometimes it’s uplifting and sometimes it’s shocking.

Again, I cannot help but imagine the boys surrounding their father’s bed, eager to hear of wealth and fame. Instead, one was called “unstable,” another a “donkey,” another a “serpent,” another a “wolf” and two were “cursed” rather than blessed. One son never received land in the “promised land while the linage of Jacob to Jesus would go through Judah, the fourth son. And Joseph got a double inheritance since both of his sons were considered Jacob’s sons, despite their Egyptian heritage. The list goes on…

Not at all what the boys were expecting.

And then Jacob died. His family and Egypt mourned him for a length of time fitting a Pharoah. Then there was another grand parade back to Canaan to fulfill Jacob’s request to be buried in Canaan.

Then they all came back to Egypt to their homes, the brothers herding sheep and Joseph ruling. The brothers become nervous. What if Joseph only forgave them because his father was alive? 

So they sent a message to see if Joseph was going to take revenge. It may have also been tempting for Joseph to take revenge as the years went by, but he held firm to his relationship with God and continued to forgive. Then Joseph died, putting a seal on the end of this era.

What do I take away from these chapters?

First, what we do during our lives is remembered by others. Jacob (his earthly name) knew the character of each of his sons. It came out in his final words to them and was fulfilled throughout history of earthly nation of Israel.

Second, God’s forgiveness is eternal, going beyond history. Joseph forgave his brothers, continued to forgive his brothers. and never went back on his word. And even when the nation of Israel turned away from God, he never turned his back on them, giving them opportunity after opportunity to return to his love and blessing.

And it’s true for us – our character is built on the sum of our actions just as our actions come out of our character. That’s how people will remember us.

And it’s true for God – his forgiveness does not dissolve with circumstances. What he forgives, stays forgiven. Even when we sin, he gives us opportunity to confess and enjoy a personal relationship with him…

The relationship is what he desired when he created us, “In the beginning…”     

Forgiveness – Genesis 44

The party was over. The brothers were sent off with beloved Benjamin. The trip had been a success – or so they thought.

Until they were chased down by Joseph’s steward, with all kinds of accusations. Stunned, the brothers defended themselves, until the cup is found in Benjamin’s bag. Although Benjamin was the accused, they were not going back to Jacob without him. 

Judah steps forward. Yes, this is the Judah who wrongly accused Tamar and was humbled by her sense of justice. That experience matured him and gave him the boldness to refuse to return without Benjamin, even when Joseph makes the offer. He even offered himself to take Benjamin’s place rather than see his father hurt once again.

But it was when the brothers talked about the beloved son of their father who had been killed, that Joseph could no longer hold his emotions. 

I wonder what the brothers thought when Joseph cried, “Make everyone go out from me” and then started weeping so loudly, the Egyptians outside of the room could hear. Then he started talking without a translator that he was Joseph and asking if his father was alive. No wonder they were filled with shock and unbelief!

Reality hit when Joseph asked his brothers to, “Come near to me, please.” He told them his story, how “God sent me before you to preserve life.” He said, “So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” 

There was no recounting of their past sins. They were forgiven. In fact, what God had turned into good, it was if it never happened.

Joseph gave instructions for the family to be brought back to Egypt. Pharaoh even got in on the bandwagon, giving them possessions and land. Jacob was stunned when he heard Joseph was alive.

It’s not quite the end of the story, but let’s not blow past the forgiveness. We’ve been working up to it for several chapters, and it is key to understanding.

The brothers did something that was wrong, horribly wrong. They lived with the guilt of it for years, making up lies to cover their tracks. Joseph felt the impact of their sin the most, paying the price with his suffering. But God had a plan of redemption that sin and suffering could not defeat.

We do things that are wrong, sometimes horribly wrong. We live with the guilt of it, lying to ourselves rather than confessing. As a result, others who are innocent suffer.

And God suffers, knowing our sin, knowing how we are separated from him. So he put a plan of redemption into place so that we wouldn’t starve ourselves, so that he could redeem us. That plan was for the only one who was righteous to suffer and die in our place, Jesus Christ. Through him, we are redeemed.

And our sin? It becomes as if it never happened. 

Two Brothers – Genesis 25-27

“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.”

Sibling rivalry. 

It exists in most families, children trying to figure out who is the “favorite” and then trying to dethrone them.

And in the case of Esau and Jacob, it was obvious who the favorites were – Esau was loved by Isaac because he was masculine, a hunter, rough around the edges, a man’s man. He was born first, and despite what God told Rebekah, Isaac wanted a man like Esau to be his successor.

And then there was Jacob, his mother’s favorite, second by only seconds. His mother told him God spoke to her and he would be his father’s successor. But could he believe her? 

What Jacob lacked in strength, he made up for in cunning. He took advantage of Esau’s moment of weakness and traded his stew for Esau’s birthright. Obviously, Esau didn’t take his birthright seriously, or he would have never made the trade.

But the birthright and the blessing were somehow separated. If Esau could get the blessing, then birthright was empty.

The moment Esau was waiting for finally came. His father was ready to give him his blessing. All would be made right.

But once again, Jacob took advantage of the situation, with his mother’s prompting. He fooled blind Isaac into thinking he was Esau, so he gave his blessing to Jacob.

Oh, what regret all around!

Esau was weeping. Isaac was blessing him with what he could. Jacob ran away in fear of Esau’s revenge. Rebekah never even saw her son again.

Family relationships can be hard. Little do we realize as we are growing up, that the little things we do will set the course of generations to come. In this case, the favoritism of parents, the competition of sons, set the stage for conflict which affect us even today.

What if the story could have been written differently? What if the parents hadn’t played favorites, a united front in parenting? What if the boys had been furiously loyal to each other, defending each other before others? What if they had accepted God’s will and sought it together?

The world today would be a different picture.

What if my story had been written differently? What if I had sought God’s will? What if, instead of competing, I had been forgiving?

Is it too late? 

Saved by Grace – Philemon


So, if you consider me you partner,
receive him as you would receive me.
If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything,
charge that to my account.

Don’t you hate those darn “if’s” in life? If you do this, then I will do that? It makes life “conditional.”

And yet, life is conditional. There are tradeoffs and consequences for actions.

First, “If you consider me your partner,” Paul, once again, takes a position of humility, not as Philemon’s leader or elder, but as a equal partner.

After all, they are both sinners saved by grace.

Then, “receive him as you would receive me.” Just as Jesus takes our place in payment for our sins, Paul draws a dramatic picture of Onesimus taking Paul’s place, as a “partner,” not a runaway slave.

After all, they are both sinners saved by grace.

Second, “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything” Paul acknowledges the wrong done. He knows this is not easy. Onesimus is a sinner who has been saved by grace. Before God, he is holy. But, he still has debts here on earth that need to be reckoned. 

Then, “charge it to my account.” Just as Jesus took all our actions, our wrongs, our debts, and paid for them through the cross, Paul steps into position to take on Onesimus’ debts and put them onto his account. Remember, Paul is in prison. How would he pay? He doesn’t know, but he does know…

After all, they are all sinners saved by grace. 

It’s hard to forgive others, even if they are brothers or sisters in faith. The physical things they did, and maybe still do, grind within us. We want payment. At the very least, we want a confession. It‘s hard to move forward without it.

For me, it’s only when I’ve been able to say in my heart, “OK, God, put it on my account. You’ve saved me when I owed so much more, and you are continuing to save me as I continue to sin. Put it on my account, because I know…”

We are sinners…

saved by your immeasurable, freely given, sacrificial…