Fruitfulness Over Forgetfulness

Jacob lived a life. He had wrestled with his older brother Esau. He wrestled with God. He wrestled with his own sons. Now, as his life is coming to an end, he blesses Joseph, with whom he has been able to live in Egypt for seventeen years. The Torah says:

וַיְבָרֶךְ אֶת-יוֹסֵף

“And he (Jacob) blessed Joseph” (Gen. 48:15).

Yet, as we note in Genesis 48:14-16, Jacob did not bless Joseph, he blessed Joseph’s sons. Moreover, he blessed the younger, Ephraim, with his right hand and the older, Manasseh, with his left hand. Has Jacob not learned from the mistakes of the past?

Yes, he most certainly has learned. His father Isaac promised over his uncle Ishmael. Jacob himself was blessed over Esau; and now Joseph’s younger is blessed over the older!

Jacob blessed both boys, thereby blessing Joseph, and ultimately blesses the covenant mission of God’s people throughout the generations.

“And Jacob said: ‘Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them” (Gen. 48:9). The blessing was not for just one of them, but for both of them. Yet, Jacob has to set the younger before the older. Why? Their names: Ephraim before Manasseh.

Joseph named his sons during two seasons of his life: healing and prosperity.

Manasseh comes from a root meaning to forget. Forget what? The pain he has suffered by the hands of his brothers. He wants to forget; by this we note that he has not yet come to a place of forgiveness.

Ephraim is from a root meaning fruitful. Joseph had prospered in Egypt. He had a wife, children, and a position of great authority. This he wants to remember.

Jacob does not want to bless the forgetting over the fruitfulness, because it is when we recognize the blessing, the fruitfulness of our lives, that we walk in the healing that causes us to forgive and forget the pain, allowing us to echo Josephs words:

“And as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:20; cf. Ro. 8:28-29).

Joseph then demonstrates this deep forgiveness:

“Now therefore do not fear; I will sustain you, and your little ones.’ And he comforted them, and spoke kindly unto them” (Gen. 50:21).

Joseph demonstrates the strength and forgetfulness of forgiveness by caring for and sustaining the very ones who inflicted harm upon him.

This is how Jacob blessed Joseph. He set the fruit of Joseph’s life under the right hand of strength, and the wounded desire to forget second. Jacob, the patriarch aids in his sons healing by showing Joseph the fruit that came from the pain.

Both Ephraim and Manasseh would become adopted sons of Jacob, and receive an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. Paul sees in Jacob’s prophetic words regarding Ephraim “and his seed shall become a multitude of nations” (Gen. 50:19) the fullness of gospel fruit among the nations, as he writes:

“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Ro. 11:25).

“Hardness,” a healing callous, has come over Israel until the prophetic words of Jacob come to pass, when the fullness of the nations come to faith in Messiah. When blessed fruitfulness ripens on the vine of Yeshua/Jesus (Jn. 15:1-4).

Still, there is another clue that Paul is perhaps meditating on the blessing of adopted sons into the economy of God. What I’ve overlooked in years past is the reaction of the boys, Ephraim and Manasseh.

Ishmael, separated and put out by Abraham, is understandably distraught. Esau weeps and wails before Isaac. The sons of Jacob wrestle and jockey for the advantaged position in the house. Yet, Ephraim and Manasseh remain silent. These were not boys, they were men; and in silent humility they receive the prophetic divine blessing of the patriarch. One does not boast or react negatively toward the other.

What does Paul say to the Roman congregation, “do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you” (Ro. 11:18). What is Paul saying? Be humble. Receive the blessing of adoption as sons into God’s house with humility, and be part of His unfolding blessing to Abraham (Rev. 7:9).

How can we do that? Set the blessing of God, even during our tribulations, first, under the right hand of His might (Isa. 41:10); and allow Him to work the forgetfulness of forgiveness into the richness of His blessing, as we see in the life of Joseph (Mic. 7:18-20). Is it easy? Absolutely not. Yet, we set our faith on the Lord, and walk out the grace that we have received through His Son, as the Holy Spirit does the work of pressing and molding us into the image of the Son of God (Ro. 8:28-29).

Sometimes the depth of forgiveness surfaces when we walk it out, when the wounds are still fresh or as they heal beneath a callous. Trust Him. He knows what He is doing.

Be well. Shalom.

Not every limp is an injury…

Not every limp is an injury, sometimes it’s the touch of God (Gen. 32:25).

Not every limping of God is in the flesh, as with Jacob. For some it is a thorn, as with Paul, for others it is a grief, an illness, an insecurity, or a psychological stressor; but the grace of God that strengthens to the standing and moving in faith is the same, and it is sufficient (II Cor. 12:9).

In Messiah you are not broken, you are whole; sometimes you just limp differently than those around you. The Holy Spirit is always present to support you, as promised. Trust His limping, and grace will strengthen every step, and always go before you. He has made us, “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Ro. 8:37).

Be well. Shalom.

The Antimodel Reformed

Jacob, יַעֲקֹב, stands alone. The swindler who swindled, bested by a better swindler in Laban, לָבָן. He faces, it would seem, utter destruction at the hand of his brother Esau; the very one he swindled in the house of his father. He prays:

הַצִּילֵנִי נָא מִיַּד אָחִי, מִיַּד עֵשָׂו

“Deliver (save me, exodus) me, I earnestly pray Lord, from the hand of my brother, the hand of Esau” (Gen. 32:12, paraphrasing mine).

He is beseeching the God of his fathers (Gen. 32:10), to rescue him; but immediately he executes a plan to save his household (Gen. 32:12).

In Laban, Jacob finds not a role model, but an antimodel. Defining an antimodel is rather easy, not imitating an antimodel who has influenced your life or surroundings is quite another endeavor. Laban causes Jacob to look in the mirror of his own behavior as he stands utterly alone beside the stream of Jabbok (Gen. 32:23-25).

Jabbok is derived from the root בָּקַק/bāqaq, meaning to empty, void or spread out. Phonically it would remind you of the sound of a bottle being poured out. Jacob now stands beside a dry wadi, bereft of his family, even as dysfunctional as they could be, facing certain death.

In the moment of his greatest emptiness, the Lord who has stood heaven side above, in Genesis 28, now wrestles him in that empty place on the earth. All night they struggled, until the Man touches the Jacob’s hip socket, dislocating his hip, even then he would not let go.

Seemingly sensing the significance of the moment, Jacob answers the Man requesting to be let go, “I will not let you go, until you bless me” (Gen. 32:27).

The blessing Jacob had received so many years before was the result of a scheme that soured his life. This blessing would be the result of his desperate need, in emptiness, wounded, to fill the void his disposition had reaped.

Touched by God, Jacob limps to face his brother, utterly convinced of his own demise, but blessed of God. This blessing was not the result of theft, or deceit, but wrestling with God who overcame Jacob’s old nature by a touch that forever changed his walk.

Yes, his children would do unimaginable things breaking Jacob’s heart, but Jacob went from an antimodel to a godly role model for them, and those difficult children would have to wrestle with the consequences of their own deceit as they mirrored the father and uncle they knew in their youth; but even they, through another antimodel turned role model, Joseph, would learn how deep the touch of God’s grace is, when Joseph, welding absolute power of life and death over a nation, says to them:

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Ex. 50:20).

I remember vividly morning breakfast in Vellore India in 2016. I was sitting with a man of God I had, and still do, looked up to in faith for many, many years, Dr Karl Coke. We had been having a heart to heart about life struggles and ministry. He looked me squarely in the eye and said, “I do not trust a man who does not limp.” Of course, he was referencing the experience of Jacob.

In order to become modelers of faith for our family, friends, and community, we all need to have that moment beside the Jabbok, empty/void, when God arrives, wrestles with us, then changes us, not only internally, but externally.

Maybe you feel like you are wrestling right now. Perhaps you wrestled, and things seem to be remaining the same. Hold on, and as you see the new day dawning, the blessing of His presence there, in that empty place, will become apparent. Don’t despair. Endure.

Messiah said, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13). Jacob prayed: deliver me, save me. And he was. He walked out the salvation of the Lord. His walk may not have looked like ours, and that really does not concern me. Why? We are fruit from that night. We are the infilling of the void Jacob faced. We are evidence of what was yet unseen to Jacob (Heb. 11:1), but known to the Man who wrestled, touched, and then ascended to heaven until the fullness of time had come.

If you are limping in life right now, drop the cane, and take hold of Yeshua/Jesus’ hand. He will walk with you, as He bears the weight of your circumstance, even as you limp along. In the limp, you are saying to all those watching, and they are watching: I know in Whom I have trusted!

“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (II Tim. 1:12).

Be well. Shalom.