- Sermon Notes
Changing Your Future
Genesis 49:1-12, 22-26
As we near the end of the book of Genesis we come to the end of Jacob’s life. At this point he had lived 147 years and the years of his life had been unpleasant. As was common in that time and culture, he drew his children around him to give them a blessing and to give his heart to each of them.
The words of father are very important. Children need the blessing of their father, it will shape their character and strengthen them for life, or at least it should.
On September 11, 1985 Pete Rose got his 4,192nd career hit thus breaking the record of career hits held by Ty Cobb. Later a reporter asked what was going through his head as he stood on that base with the crowd going wild in the stadium for a full seven minutes. He responded, “I thought about my dad, that he was probably looking down from heaven and was proud of me.” At that moment, of all the things that could have been going through his mind, he thought of the approval of his dad. How powerful are the words of a father.
In Genesis 49, Jacob draws his children to speak words of prophecy over them. This is one of the first places in scripture where we see a prophetic word spoken. “Draw near,” he says to them, “that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come.”
But the prophecies concerning them have everything to do with their character and how they lived their lives. In other words, there’s a connection between our past and our future. It’s also important to see, however, that you can make choices that will impact your future with God’s blessing.
There are great insights in these verses and in these prophecies. They contain many lessons for our lives today.
I. How We Live Today Matters
- In verse 2 Jacob said, “Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel your father.” He uses both names, Jacob and Israel.As you look at his life you realize that he had struggled with being Jacob, the heel-snatcher, or Israel, governed by God.
- In that culture it was common for the oldest to receive the greatest blessing, so he begins with Reuben, but it is not a blessing he gives.
A. We’re writing our legacy now
- Reuben was the first born, the beginning of Jacobs’s strength; preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
- But he was as uncontrolled as water, Jacob said.In other words, everything he did was done for himself.He even mentions his great failure, that he defiled his own father’s bed by sleeping with his father’s concubine.
- It was an attempt to usurp his father’s authority and to place himself in power, now Jacob is taking away his place as the first born.
- Apparently, Reuben tried to overlook it, tried to minimize it; he never sought repentance, he never sought change.That’s it, that’s all; he passed over Reuben and moved on to speak of the other brothers.
Illus – As a pastor, I’ve had the privilege over the years of doing a lot of graveside services and I’ve seen a lot of tombstones. There’s an old saying, that the most important part of what’s written on a tombstone is what’s behind the little dash between the year of your birth and the year of your death.
Illus – Whenever my mom would visit her relatives back in Arkansas,she made a point of visiting the cemetery where her father was buried.She would then walk through the cemetery to see what was written on some of the other tombstones.She started noticing a common theme, most of them said, “Gone but not forgotten.”
Finally, she stopped and said, “When I’m gone, and you write my tombstone, you can write anything but “Gone but Not Forgotten.” The family started teasing her that we were going to write, “Anything But – Gone but Not Forgotten.” They also saw one that said, Mother, Wife, Grandmother, etc. and mom asked, “What do you think of that one?” My sister responded, “I don’t like it.” “Why not?” she asked. “Because, it doesn’t say ‘friend.’” On my mother’s tombstone, we simply wrote, “Our mother, our friend.”
- How we live today matters, we are writing our legacy now.My mom was an example of self-sacrifice and faithfulness.
- Reuben was self-serving and self-focused. Everything was done for himself.It’s a question of the heart.
Illus – If someone described my life 30 years ago, they could have said, “Construction in process, please excuse the mess.”
The result of God moving in our lives, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, is the change from doing everything for ourselves to making a difference in other people’s lives. That’s godly maturity.
Those who serve so faithfully in children’s ministry, for example, are serving there to make a difference in the lives of the children.
- We see God’s grace in Reuben’s legacy, by the way.The tribe of Reuben is listed amongst the witnesses for Christ in the Revelation and Reuben’s name will be written on one of the gates in the New Jerusalem coming out of heaven.
B. Master your anger
- Simeon and Levi are next, but Jacob passes over them as well. They did not receive a blessing, because in their anger they slew men. And in their self-will, they lamed oxen.
- Jacob remembers what they did, and it was a sad episode in the family history.Their sister, Dinah, had been raped by a man named Shechem, from the town of Shechem.Simeon and Levi, in their anger, took vengeance on all of the men of the city and killed them all. Jacob never forgot the cruelty of their anger.
- Verse 6-7 — Jacob makes it clear that the problem was their anger and self-will.
- The tribe of Simeon becomes insignificant amongst the tribes of Israel, but the tribe of Levi rises above Jacob’s declaration. Later when the nation of Israel comes out of Egypt and are in the desert, there is a rebellion against Moses. The leader of Israel gathered the people and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves to Moses.
- They were given the ministry of the priesthood and they were in fact scattered throughout Israel as priests. Interesting.
- Simeon and Levi are examples of why you must master your anger.
- Everyone gets hot at times; but blessed is the one who keeps his anger under control.
Proverbs 1:19, A man of great anger shall bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.
Proverbs 29:11, A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.
James 1:19-20, This you know, my beloved brethren.Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
Illus – There it is a story of a pastor who was building a shed next to his house.A neighbor boy came by and sat down to watch.The youngster didn’t say a word, so the pastor kept on working. Finally, the pastor said, “Trying to pick up some pointers on how to build things?” “No,” the boy replied, “I’m waiting to hear what a preacher says when he hits his thumb with a hammer.”
C. Do something about your future
- Next, Jacob turns to Judah, and here the tone of Jacob’s prophecy changes completely.It is to Judah that he gives the scepter of authority.It is Judah who will rise above his brothers.
- In fact, Jesus the Messiah, would be the Lion from the tribe of Judah.
- The amazing part of Judah’s story is how much Judah changed. Judah had moral failure and he was the one who suggested that Joseph be sold as a slave, although that was better than killing him as they originally planned to do.
- But it was also Judah who offered his life in exchange for the life of Benjamin.In fact, when Joseph saw Judah’s willingness to sacrifice himself, it touched his heart deeply and he wept.
App – Judah’s Life is an illustration of a profound truth; you can’t change your past, but you most assuredly can do something about your future.
Psalms 37:37, Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright; for the man of peace will have a posterity.
- It’s easy to trace the troubles of Jacob’s family to Jacob himself, but do dysfunctional families have to repeat themselves?
- Let the dysfunctional nature of our past end here.
- While it’s true that the iniquity of the father can be upon the third and fourth generation, in Jesus all those qualities of iniquity you inherited from your father can come to an end. He takes the curse of our past upon himself.
Galatians 3:13, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”
Illus – I came to the revelation that I don’t have to be an alcoholic, I don’t have to abuse those around me, I can be different. I can bless those around me, I can honor the Lord in my life. Let the dysfunction of the past end here!
- It’s interesting to see the connection between Judah and Benjamin in the future.In Egypt, Judah offered his life in exchange for Benjamin. Many years later it will be the tribes of Judah and Benjamin together that make up the southern kingdom of Israel.Only those two tribes will stand faithfully, while the 10 northern tribes wandered away from God.
II. Godly Character is a Great Blessing
- Move to verses 22-26, here Jacob gives the prophecy regarding Joseph.
- Joseph stands head and shoulders above his brothers in his godliness and his faithfulness of character through the difficulties of life.
- He is an example of the blessing that comes with godly character.
A.Let God be your spring of living water
- Jacob said that Joseph was a fruitful bough by a spring.
Illus – For many years, much of the Middle East does what is called dry farming. This is a process where the seed is planted, and the results of the harvest are dependent on how much rain falls. Unfortunately, very little rain falls in the Middle East and crops are often sparse.
But Israel has undertaken a water project of pumping the fresh water from the Sea of Galilee and Jordan River throughout Israel, even down to Beersheba, and the desert is bearing fruit. Water is the key to bearing fruit, of reaping a harvest.
Illus – When we were growing up, we used to bury large cans next to our tomato plants, fill them with water, and punch very small holes in the bottom. We would always have an abundance of tomatoes, even in the harshest of summers.
- In verse 24, it’s clear that it is the hands of the Mighty One that are on Joseph.That is the key.
- Let God be the spring of the water of life, and you will see a great blessing in your life. The fruitfulness will even extend over the wall, so others can enjoy the fruits of your blessing as well.
Illus – When fruit hangs over a wall, it’s free for anyone to enjoy.
Psalm 23:5-6, You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
App – A friend gave us a couple of large palm trees. One of them was dug up with just a small ball of roots. It’s struggling to survive. Not having many roots, it doesn’t have the capacity to drink in the water. It’s a great illustration. We need a spiritual thirst, we need spiritual roots, we need a spiritual capacity to receive the living water God gives.
John 4:14, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
B. Let God hold you back
- In verses 23-24, Jacob tells his sons gathered around him, “The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him; but his bow remained firm.” In other words, he didn’t shoot back.
- It was the hands of the Mighty One that held him back.In other words, it was his relationship to God that made all the difference in his life. It’s why he didn’t take revenge against his brothers. It’s why he didn’t compromise and give in to Potiphar’s wife…
Illus – When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, his response was, “How can I do this and sin against my God?”
- Imagine the hurt he endured; he pleaded with his brothers, and they would not listen.How it must’ve hurt when he was falsely accused. All these arrows against him, but he would not shoot back.
App – the trouble with arrows is that they can be shot from a distance. Social media today creates a distance and people end up saying or writing things that are deeply hurtful, things they wouldn’t say in person, at least we hope they wouldn’t.
- But the point is that Joseph didn’t shoot back.He had the power, he had the opportunity, but he would not shoot back.That is the character of God within him.
Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”
- Revenge pleases the flesh, but it does not please the spirit.That’s the key; we can’t afford anything that draws us away from God.
Psalm 73:28, But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.
Genesis 49:1-12 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
49 Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the [a]days to come.
“Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob;
And listen to Israel your father.
“Reuben, you are my firstborn;
My might and the beginning of my strength,
[b]Preeminent in dignity and [c]preeminent in power.
“[d]Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence,
Because you went up to your father’s bed;
Then you defiled it—he went up to my couch.
“Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Their swords are implements of violence.
“Let my soul not enter into their council;
Let not my glory be united with their assembly;
Because in their anger they slew [e]men,
And in their self-will they lamed [f]oxen.
“Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
And their wrath, for it is cruel.
I will [g]disperse them in Jacob,
And scatter them in Israel.
“Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.
“Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He [h]couches, he lies down as a lion,
And as a [i]lion, who [j]dares rouse him up?
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
[k]Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
“[l]He ties his foal to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine;
He washes his garments in wine,
And his robes in the blood of grapes.
“His eyes are [m]dull from wine,
And his teeth [n]white from milk.