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…”