A Well-ended Life

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), January 18 

Unknown“How old are you?” Women are often reputed to fudge the answer to that question. Jacob not only answers Pharaoh’s question, but he also offers commentary, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life” (Gen. 47:9).

Truly, Jacob’s life has been one of difficulty:

  • Jacob lived his boyhood in the shadow of his father’s preference of his elder twin. He never measured up to being a “manly man.”
  • Jacob and Rebekah’s deception of Isaac cost Jacob dearly. He had to flee the security of home, and he never saw his mother again.
  • Jacob’s years with Laban and his family were challenging, to say the least. He was deceived by Laban, married to two women who fought constantly, despised by most of his sons, treated unjustly by his employer, robbed of his favored son, and bombarded with deep grief.

Such is a life of one who seeks to live independently of God. No God, no peace. Know God, know peace. Even in the midst of adversity. Jacob’s story teaches a number of truths about God and life:

  • God takes a man as he is. He uses life’s hardships and consequences to corral a man, break him of an independent spirit, enlarge him (“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness. Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” – Psalm 4:1, KJV), and reveal Himself to him.
  • Continual friction and hardship are inadequate gauges to use in assessing life. A person may live a life of ease and not know God. Does a man come to know God in the process? That’s all that matters!

Seventeen years later Jacob summarizes his life, “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has fed me all my life long to this day . . .” (Gen. 48:15). Jacob, looking back over the entirety of his difficult life, sees the fingerprints of God’s shepherd-care. Rather live a long life of difficulty and get to know God than live a long, fun-filled life and not know God at all!

Before his death Jacob speaks a blessing or prophecy over the head of each of his sons. Judah’s blessing, in particular, points back to the redemptive thread begun in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

The promises of God to Abraham are transferred to Jacob: “Also God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body” (35:11).

Those promises will continue through Judah’s descendants: “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s children shall bow down before you . . . . The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (49:8, 10). This prophecy appears repeatedly throughout His story and culminates in the Book of the Revelation with dozens of glimpses of Shiloh, the One to whom it belongs: “But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals’” (Revelation 5:5). Through Shiloh comes redemption, and to Shiloh belongs the heavenly scroll.

Questions from today’s reading (Genesis 47:1-50:26):

How does God use Joseph during the global famine?

How does Jacob’s death affect Joseph’s brothers and how does Joseph calm their fears?

What do Jacob’s instructions regarding his body reveal about his faith in the promises of God?