Most of the sermons preached at Eb can be accessed via our Church Website. This is where I usually insert a joke about a feature that is very helpful for insomniacs. Like most people, I find it difficult to hear a recording of my own voice. I suppose if there was ever a preacher who really loved the sound of their own voice they probably shouldn’t really be preaching. As challenging as it is, I believe listening back to our own sermons to be a really good discipline. It highlights the things we say that would otherwise go unnoticed; those little phrases that we repeat without realising and probably drive everyone else mad. It can show the things that are emphasised and the things that are not. All of this painful process should help the preacher to improve. It isn’t all the preachers fault of course, there’s a fault in out recording equipment that makes me sound as if I have a strong Welsh accent, when I know that my accent is in fact neutral.
If you have heard a person speak or read their writing, it’s possible to be become accustomed to their style and we have been reading Genesis now for nine weeks and as we approach the end we have become used to some of its themes. Today’s passage, seen in isolation, may seem a bit strange but having navigated through this important book, many of us will have seen it coming.
The thing we’ve seen coming is the idea of the younger son taking preference over the oldest. Jacob was about to bless his sons and told Joseph that he would bless Joseph’s sons; Manasseh and Ephraim, as if they were his own. We can see again that he is looking towards Canaan and the division of territory (48:6). It’s important to note here that both sons received the same blessing and Jacob was aware that God would bless both Ephraim and Manasseh but in a very deliberate way he gave preference to the younger of the two, even before blessing them (48:5). It’s a pattern we have seen from the beginning; Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, and Esau and Jacob. In each of these the firstborn has been a person interested in the things of this world whereas the second in the things to come. It shows us that God is not interested in the natural order of the world but chooses to bless by grace. There could also be the picture of our natural births and the second birth where we can be born again of the Spirit (John 3:1-21).
After following Jacob throughout his life we may have thought we can have a fairly good sense of his character but right at the end we are surprised. The quiet man who loved to stay among the tents (25:27) and the man who worried about getting into a fight with the Canaanites (34:30) was also the man capable of fighting with sword and bow in order to take land (48:22). It appears Jacob, like most of us, was a complex and multi-layered personality.
Jacob’s words at the end of his life are full of faith;
- He is able to look back and remember God’s faithfulness. He referred to the Lord as; ‘one the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day’ (48:15). His life had had many difficulties, many of them of Jacob’s own making, but God had cared for him and brought him through just as he had promised.
- He is able to rejoice in the present. He had thought he would never see his son Joseph again but now he is able to bless Joseph’s children in the safety and comfort of Egypt. God had been good to him.
- The blessings of the past and present gave him confidence for the future. Again he reinforced his wish to be buried in Canaan and he reiterated the promises he had received from the Lord, in effect, passing them on to his descendants. He realised that though his own life was coming to an end, God’s purposes would go on and the promises fulfilled.
We can take a lesson from Jacob, look back on our lives, remember the things God has done for us and where we are now. We do it not so that we can live in the past but to look forward to all the Lord will do in the future. The best is still to come.
Lord you’ve been good to me
All my life, all my life
Your loving kindness never fails
I will remember
All you have done
Bring from my heart
Thanksgiving songs (Graham Kendrick)