There’s been lots of interest in the 1989 film ‘Back to the Future Part II’ in the news this week. The reason, in case you missed it, was that in the film, the three principal characters travel forward in time to October 21st 2015. It has been funny watching what the writers successfully predicted and what they had wrong. It’s also a little unfair because they were making a film to be entertaining and not trying to have a serious discussion on future technology. I suspect they were probably aware that cars would not be flying around and that hover boards wouldn’t replace skateboards in the foreseeable future. The big thing that has changed in the past twenty-six years, and the thing they did not see coming, is of course the development of the internet and that has changed almost everything.
Although experts are notoriously poor at predicting the future, thankfully, the Bible is amazing at it, as we shall see.
There is so much here, but we have time to just mention a few points;
- It’s poetry; we can see that in the way it’s laid out on the page and in the way there are repetitions to give emphasis. There are little word plays in the Hebrew like ‘Judah (Judah means praise), your brothers will praise you.’ The language used is poetic.
- It’s prophecy, we get that right at the start; ‘Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.’
- It’s just; Rueben, Simeon and Levi have all transgressed and will be judged accordingly
- Joseph takes the rights as the firstborn. It’s implied here and in the blessings of Joseph’s sons (48:16) but stated explicitly later (1 Chronicles 5:1). The word blessing is used repeatedly over Joseph and his sons (48:20, 49:25)
- Judah has the promise of kingship. Jacob has seen the promise of Joseph’s dreams come to fulfilment with all of the brothers bowing down to him but he is able to look to a future day when the brothers, or their descendants, will in fact bow to Judah. He is seen as the conquering warrior (49:9) and one who rules (49:10). The image is extended to point to one who will rule not just the nation but the nations. His rule is pictured as one of abundance and plenty where wine, a precious commodity, is used to wash garments. This beautiful imagery is picked up in the New Testament and applied directly to Jesus; “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.” (Revelation 5:5)
God called Abraham and promised to bless all nations through his descendants. The promise was repeated a number of times to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and now as we come towards the end of Genesis we find the promise is linked to the descendants of Judah. We began with a creation that was beautiful until human beings ruined everything by their disobedience but God had a rescue plan in place before the world began (1 Peter 1:20) and at the moment of our greatest shame there was hope (3:15). The plan was in place, it always was, ultimately, God would send his son.
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” (Galatians 4:4)
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel.
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear,
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,
Shall come to thee, O Israel. (John M Neale)