Genesis 49:1-12 Do not despise your heritage but cherish and work it out by faith
Genesis 49:1-12 Do not despise your heritage but cherish and work it out by faith
1 Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come.
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.
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.
5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Their swords are implements of violence.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
12 “His eyes are dull from wine,
And his teeth white from milk.
Jacob’s blessings upon his sons were divine oracles outlining the destinies of the respective tribes. The pronouncements uttered for the sons were fulfilled in the division of land some 400 years later. Reuben, as firstborn was given preeminence and a glorious heritage, but he lost it because of sin. In today’s devotion we learn the importance of cherishing our heritage and work it out by faith. Jacob’s first three sons lost their divine heritage because they did not cherish their calling. However, God raised up Jacob’s other sons to take their place. We also learn not to despair when people are not faithful to us, for God will raise up others in their place.
Reuben, you are my firstborn; My might and the beginning of my strength
Reuben, being the firstborn inherited the call to preeminence among his brothers. During biblical times, the firstborn had special privilege to receive a double portion from his father’s estate as his brothers. However, Reuben lost this privilege because of sin as ”Reuben went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine” (Genesis 35:22). Jacob’s seeming silence was broken when he cursed Reuben on his deathbed. Reuben’s supreme calling has been ruined because he could not restrain his passions. Like water that flowed in the direction of least resistance, he yielded to his own devices. Consequently, he was disqualified and passed up on his glorious standing in God’s eternal kingdom.
Simeon and Levi are brothers; Their swords are implements of violence
Jacob treated Simeon and Levi as one (… are brothers) because they share the same traits of anger, violence and cruelty. Hence, they share the same fate and reap the same condemnation. Jacob was alluding to their cold blooded massacre of all the men of Shechem to avenge the rape of their sister, Dinah. Jacob had found the brothers so disdaining that he shunned their company and wanted nothing to do with them. Jacob’s blessing for them is again an anti-blessing where their descendants will be scattered and dispersed throughout the Promised Land (I will disperse them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel). This divine oracle of judgment sealed the eventual demise of their legacies. Simeon and Levi, like Reuben have disqualified themselves from their glorious destiny.
Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies
Jacob had pronounced for Judah a legacy of preeminence, power and dominance. Judah (and his descendants) will enjoy a position of dominance as his brothers willingly subject themselves to his leadership (Your brothers shall praise you,… Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.) And he will brandish superior strength and triumph over his enemies (Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies). The description (the lion’s whelp) portrays a powerful lion, having seized its prey, returns to its den challenging anyone to defy it. The rise of king David from the tribe of Judah and Jesus, the Lion of Judah (see Revelations 5:5) may be seen as the fulfilment of this blessing. Jacob also pronounced Judah’s future dominance and leadership not only over Israel but the world ( The scepter shall not depart from Judah… And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.) The following imageries of the donkey, the vine and milk serve to project a time of surplus and fruitfulness under his rule. So abundant is the wine that the people do not worry about using it to wash their garments in.
Do not despise your heritage but cherish and work it out by faith
Reuben as firstborn was given preeminence among his brothers and as possessor to the Abrahamic covenant. However, he did not cherish his heritage supposing that was his entitlement. Subsequently, he violated his father’s concubine (see Genesis 35:22) and passed up on his calling. Simeon and Levi, who were next in line to possess the Abrahamic covenant too lost their calling because of their unrestrained temperaments. But Judah, the 4th in line, became the unlikely possessor of the Abrahamic covenant because he remained faithful by doing what was right in the face of temptations and tribulations. Judah convinced Jacob to release Benjamin to travel with them to Egypt to buy food. He also offered himself as a prisoner in exchange for Benjamin so that he may return to his father. Judah became a type of Messiah who went out of his way to preserve the household. Joseph saved the people of the land through divine wisdom. But, Judah put himself on the line for the sake of Benjamin and his family’s safety. Judah who was 4th in line, became the unlikely heir to Abraham’s covenant by virtue of his selfless sacrifice. It is through Judah’s legacy of selflessness that Christ, came into the world.
Some wealthy nations of the world did not cherish the place of eminence by looking after the poorer nations. They use their wealth to force third world nations to conform to their policies; by withdrawing financial aid should they oppose their resolutions. Some churches and believers despised their calling by ignoring the cries of marginalised communities. They used their wealth to exalt themselves by peddling their watered down teachings, and flamboyant culture. Many focus on enriching themselves, being discontented, they fell into idolatry, worldliness and sensuality. Those who are wealthier and learned, inevitably carry a calling and responsibility to be a blessing to the nations.
God has this warning for the church,
But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place— unless you repent. Revelations 2:4-5
As believers we possess the call as priests and sons of God. The “lampstand” was symbolic of the Lord’s presence and His recognition of that church as belonging to Him. If the church continue to focus on its own welfare and despise the high call of the gospel, God will remove His favour from that church. The end of which is irreparable loss and regret of losing the place of eternal honour and glory. The apostle Paul admonished all believers not to become complacent, but to work out your salvation with fear and trembling (see Philippians 2:12). In heaven, the only sorrow that can possibly tint our joy will be when God reveals what we could have become if we hold fast to our calling.
Do not despair when people are unfaithful to us, for God will raise up others in their place
Reuben, who was firstborn and heir apparent to the holy covenant became a grave disappointment and so were Simeon and Levi. But what was irreparable loss to Israel, God raised up Judah and Joseph in their place. Therefore, do not despair when people who are in covenant with you turn their backs, for God is actively raising up others to take their places.
When Saul turned from God and pursued his own course, Samuel grieved over Saul and the Lord regretted in making Saul king over Israel (see 1 Samuel 15:35). Samuel grieved over Saul for a protracted period. Even when God had decided to move on, Samuel was still in a state of despair. One day, God rebuked Samuel by instructing him to anoint David as king in Saul’s place.
Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.” 1 Samuel 16:1
When Reuben, Simeon and Levi despised their calling and turned from the way of righteousness, God wasted no time in raising up Judah and Joseph in their places. Likewise, God will raise up good and faithful people who will walk alongside to help fulfil your calling.
Is your life constantly encircling your work, your family and your social activities? Is your cell group or church inward looking, with programmes that focuses on satisfying the members’ needs? Fulfil your calling by following the footsteps of Christ. Think of ways that you can be a light in your workplace, family and community. Participate in the work of charitable organisations that truly make a difference in the lives of where they operate. The apostle Peter said,
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. 1 Peter 2:21
If God has given you an unusual calling, do not give up but continue to work on it. People may not see the point because of its unusual nature, but you may just be ahead of your time. Soon, others will join you if you do not give up. Cherish your unique perspective and bring your vision to fruition.
Are you still despairing because someone important (a spouse, a friend, or a business associate) has betrayed you. Are you frequently engulfed by anger, feelings of injustice and thoughts of revenge? Release them to God and be open to people that God has sent to take their place. You can begin by thanking God in advance for the people who will come into your life.
Dear Lord, I thank you for choosing me out of the millions as your son and vessel to bring the gospel to the nations. I will be faithful to establish your kingdom where I am planted. I release and forgive the people who have turned their backs on me. I ask you to raise up trustworthy people and bring them into my life. Use me to uphold the work and fulfil the mission where others have abandoned. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.