The story of Jacob and his ‘favourite’ son Joseph is an interesting glimpse into what it could mean to live a life of obedience to the will of God.
Like all of our life stories, we didn’t simply arrive at where we are today by chance. As we take the time to reflect back on life, we have the opportunity to see the ebb and flow of experience, circumstance and sometimes even the very direct intervention of God.
In Genesis 48, Jacob – already renamed Israel following an encounter with God – now nearing the end of life takes the time to ponder his legacy. As the events of his life pass before his mind’s eye, Jacob recognizes God’s divine provision in restoring his family, returning his beloved son and saving his family from the destruction of famine. Jacob has lived a blessed life and the time has now come for him to symbolically pass that blessing on to the next generation.
When Joseph brings his sons before his father Jacob, Joseph takes great pains to ensure that Manasseh, the older son, is placed at Jacob’s right hand and Ephraim at Jacob’s left. In the patriarchal system the day, the blessing was to be given to the eldest son – symbolically acknowledged with the touch of the right hand. Nonetheless, in a strange twist that hearkens back to Jacob’s own deception of his brother Esau – Jacob crosses his arms giving the blessing to Ephraim, the younger son.
One can only imagine that Jacob must have a had the hint of a grin upon his face as he passed on his legacy and once again turned the tables pointing to a theme that runs throughout scripture… ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first’. Even as the years have passed and so much has changed in Jacob’s life, so much remains the same. However, for Jacob, the legacy he seeks to pass along surpasses the patriarchal right of blessing as we hear in Jacob’s words in Genesis 48:
“May the God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life to this day,
the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
—may he bless these boys.
May they be called by my name
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly
upon the earth.”
For Jacob, this is the significant legacy he wishes to pass along…his faith! Faith in a God who is Companion, Shepherd, and Redeemer.
As this is true for Jacob, so it is true for all believers, as we seek to pass along a legacy of faith which declares that our God is with us, our God leads us, our God saves us. As you have opportunity to ponder your own legacy, consider Jacob and set aside all else to focus upon the legacy of faith you are leaving for the generations yet to come.
(A slightly adapted version of this article is scheduled to appear the July 25, 2016 edition of the Listowel Banner)