April 1, the Twenty-First Day of Lent

April 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.

-Hebrews 11.21-

As we continue to read of the patriarchs of Israel’s history, we now look at the time when Jacob passed on the blessing of the promise to those who came after him. Keeping the previous verse in mind, we may remember Jacob as a trickster who cheated his older brother, Esau, out of his rightful blessing as the firstborn.

Now, Jacob has grown old and is dying. The time has come for him to pass on the blessing that he was given. The story can be found in Genesis 48. Remembering the time that Joseph spent in Egypt, we can see that there would have been some kind of question as to how Joseph’s family would have dealt with the families of his brothers. However, Jacob welcomes Joseph from his deathbed and formally adopts Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.

Joseph brings his sons forward to Jacob; Manasseh, the firstborn, on his right, and Ephraim, the younger, on his left. However, Jacob crossed his arms and put his right hand upon Ephraim’s head, thus indicating that the blessing of the first-born was to go to Ephraim. Joseph took issue with this and told his father to switch hands; however, Jacob refused and prophesied that Ephraim would become a greater nation than Manasseh.

This story is similar to the one we saw yesterday; the blessing is passed on to one who would not have received it otherwise. However, this time, the change is deliberate; there is no deception or confusion. Jacob intentionally gave the blessing of the firstborn to his younger grandson.

From this we can see that just as God uses unlikely people to accomplish his will, he also accomplishes his will for unlikely people. As we look forward into the story and we realize that we are part of the multitudes promised to Abraham, we can see ourselves even in these Scriptures. However, we may also look around and see people that we did not think were worthy to become part of the same promise. This passage acts as a reminder that it is not our part to decide who gets to participate in the blessing; rather, our part is to encourage and uphold all those who have adopted God’s story as their own.

This has powerful implications. It means that we must forgive. We must welcome. We must live in peace with others, as much as we are able. We must join in community with people that we may consider “undeserving.” It is not our place to judge others in that way; others may kneel at the Cross, just as we do. However, God looks and sees Christ holding all who have made him Savior in their lives: the likely and the unlikely.

As we journey through Lent together, may we be reminded that each one of us is saved by grace alone.

“Dear Lord, I repent of the times when I have tried to see others as unworthy of hearing your truth. Part of the beauty of your story is that you accomplish the unexpected and use it to accomplish your ends. If I have made someone “unworthy” in my mind, please bring them to my attention and help me to reconcile with them. Bring your community together in harmony, for we are all sinners saved by the gift of your grace. Amen.”

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