Series of 15 Sermons by Pastor Ron Thomas On
"The Life of Jacob"

801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040

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Text: Genesis 49; 50:1-14.

Introduction: Psalms 90:9. "For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told." The word "tale" in the Hebrew is hegeh (heh'-geh) and it actually means moaning, sighing, or groaning. This psalm is attributed to Moses, and says that life is one big groan! In Romans 8:22-23, the apostle Paul speaks of this groaning. He writes, "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."

Sometimes life can make us groan, and the older we get, the louder we groan. The other day, I saw an interview with Joe Namath. Joe Namath played quarterback at University of Alabama for coach "Bear" Bryant, leading the Crimson Tide to a National Title in 1964. Coach Bryant referred to Joe as, "the greatest athlete I ever coached." As quarterback for the AFL's New York Jets, he went all the way to the Super Bowl and won in 1969. Joe has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But have you heard about his latest award? He has received the Freedom of Movement Award from the National Arthritis Foundation, and is now a spokesman for them. Joe has gone from glory days to groaning days. It happens to all of us. As believers in Jesus Christ, we groan in bodies that are growing old; we groan at the sin that surrounds us; and we groan for the day when Jesus will return to rapture and resurrect us.

Well, Jacob is in the last chapter of his groaning, his life story. Here we trace his final acts, final words, as well as the testimony of his life.

FIRST, JACOB'S FINAL CHAPTER RECORDS A BLESSING GIVEN. Genesis 49:1-2. "And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. 2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father." Verse 28. "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them." Jacob knows that the end of his life is near, so he calls his sons together and blesses them. This passage or chapter is known as the blessing chapter, however to some of these children it reads more like a curse. Jacob knew that while children are deductible, they can be very taxing! While Jacob indeed blesses his children, he does not set aside their moral indiscretions and or lack of character. In this chapter, Jacob or Israel fills the role of not just a father, but a prophet as his pronouncements upon his children reach far into the future.

In verses 3-4, Jacob addresses Reuben whose life and future portrays the danger of instability. Reuben thought his past sin, his immorality, was a secret, but Jacob reveals his knowledge of his son's past actions. Morality and character go together. Reuben's character flaw cost him his position as the first born. He forfeits the blessing!

In verses 5-7, Jacob addresses Simeon and Levi whose lives and futures portray the disgrace of treachery. These two hot heads were treacherous! In their anger and lust for revenge, they slew their peaceful and harmless neighbors. As a result, they were scattered in Israel.

In verses 8-10, Jacob addresses Judah whose life and future portrays the blessing of sovereignty. Judah had redeemed himself and as a result, could look forward to glory and blessing as a tribe. This is the tribe that would produce the future Messiah!

In verses 11-12, Jacob addresses Zebulun whose life and future portrays the responsibility of opportunity. Zebulun was situated by the sea with a port city. What an opportunity for this tribe to reach out and prosper.

In verse 13, Jacob addresses Issachar whose life and future portrays the reward of industry. Being compared to an ass or donkey was not a criticism, unless you take it to mean he was a Democrat! The donkey was a valuable animal of service. This tribe reaped the reward of hard work, shouldering burdens in a fertile valley.

In verses 14-15, Jacob addresses Dan whose life and future portrays the peril of being crafty. This tribe is depicted by Jacob as a snake, a serpent! Satanic influence and idiolatry would be a problem in this tribe.

In verses Jacob 16-18, Jacob addresses Gad whose life and future portrays the glory of victory. Gad is described as being overcome by a troop, but eventually overcoming and pressing upon the heels of his enemy.

In verse 19, Jacob addresses Asher whose life and future portrays the privilege of prosperity. This tribe would be blessed with fulness, with plenty.

In verse 20, Jacob addresses Naphtali whose life and future portrays the gift of speed and agility. This tribe was known for it's ability to rush troops to battle in defense of the nation.

In verses 21-26, Jacob addresses Joseph whose life and future portrays the blessing of productivity. Joseph would be a fruitful vine, a sustaining, surviving influence, reaching out over the wall.

In verse 27, Jacob addresses Benjamin whose life and future portrays an attitude of hostility. This tribe would possess vicious, warlike attitudes and actions.

Having spoken of Benjamin, Jacob or Israel pronounces one final benediction over his whole family as if not to leave anyone out. In verse 28 we read, "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them." As I read this, I thought of Esau's great and bitter cry to his father back in Genesis 27:34, "Bless me, even me also, O my father."

Dad, you have something to give your children that no one else can give, something that will have a profound impact upon your children beyond the grave. Do not leave your children unblessed! When your name, your memory, is summoned in your son or daughter's mind long after you are gone, what will accompany it? Will your name, your memory, be positive or negative? Will it be a stepping stone or stumbling block to that son or daughter's life and future? Proverbs 22:1 reads, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold."

On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001". It is designed to help close the achievement gap between disadvantaged and minority students and their peers. Listen, Christian fathers must not leave behind an unblessed child! Through our words and our deeds, we must authenticate our children, pointing them to the Lord and His great purpose for their lives!

SECOND, JACOB'S FINAL CHAPTER RECORDS A REQUEST REITERATED AND A PROMISE HONORED. Back in Genesis 47:29, Jacob called his son Joseph to his side, and made him promise not to bury him in Egypt, but to carry him out of Egypt to the place in Canaan where his father's were buried. Joseph promised his father that he would do just as he asked. Here in Genesis 49, after the pronouncement of the blessing upon his children, just before his death, Jacob reminds his children of his earlier request the Joseph's promise. Notice Genesis 49:29-33. "And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah (mak-pay-law') which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah. 32 The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth. 33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people."

All of this, the blessing of his children and the request to be buried in Canaan, was a great act of faith on the part of Jacob. It is noted as such in Hebrews 11:21. "By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff." Jacob died in faith, holding on to the promise of God. The death of Jacob is spoken of as being, "gathered unto his people." Even in death, especially in death, he is identified with the land of promise, as well as the people of promise, the people of God. Someone has said concerning Christians, "The sky, not the grave is our goal."

At the death of Jacob or Israel, Joseph acted upon his promise. Genesis 50:4 tells us that Joseph went to Pharaoh, informed him of his father's request and asked permission to fulfill his promise made to his father. Pharaoh more than granted permission, he provided an escort. Notice Genesis 50:7-9. "And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,8 And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father's house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen.9 And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company." Joseph keeping his promise is evidence of the love and respect he had for his father Israel, as well as his faith in the promise of God to Abraham.

THIRD, JACOB'S FINAL CHAPTER RECORDS A GRIEF OBSERVED. Genesis 50:1-3 reads, "And Joseph fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him, and kissed him.2 And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel.3 And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed: and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days." It is clear that the death of Jacob had a profound impact upon Joseph. It is clear that Jacob had lived for his favored son Joseph, and now we realize that Joseph had lived for his father. He was very close to his father. Joseph fell upon his father's face and wept and kissed him. There is nothing unmanly about in his tears and affection for his father. Jacob was far from perfect, yet there was a profound sense of loss at his death.

To grieve is a good thing to do at the passing of our loved ones. The grieving process helps us deal with our loss and bring about closure.

Wilmer Judson's ill tempered wife of fifty-three years had died, and as the mourners were on the way to the cemetery, one of the pallbearers tripped over a rock. This shook the casket and revived the woman. She lived another seven years and died again. They were on the way to the cemetery again, and as they approached the same spot, Wilmer shouted out to the pallbearers, "Watch out for that rock!"

The grief and sense of loss evidenced by Joseph, his family, the family of Jacob, as well as the Egyptians, was noticed by the people of Canaan. Notice verse 11. "And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning in the floor of Atad, they said, This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians: wherefore the name of it was called Abelmizraim, (aw-bale' mits-rah'-yim) which is beyond Jordan." These people were touched, they were moved by the grief of those who knew and loved Joseph.

Knowing Jesus Christ ought to have an impact on how we live and how we die. Knowing Jesus Christ should also influence how we grieve over our departed loved ones. Notice Paul's words in I Thessalonians 4:13-14. "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."

FOURTH, JACOB'S FINAL CHAPTER RECORDS A GOD ADMIRED. Psalm 46:1-3. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah." Verse 7. "The LORD of hosts is with us; the GOD OF JACOB is our refuge. Selah." Verses 10-11. "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the GOD OF JACOB is our refuge. Selah." It is startling and yet comforting to discover that God refers to Himself as the "God of Jacob." This divine title for God is found at least fourteen times in the Old Testament, and in addition, there are three times God is referenced as, "the mighty God of Jacob." We would not be so surprised to find Him calling Himself the God of Israel, the Prince, but when we hear the name, "God of Jacob," it speaks volumes.

The title "God of Jacob," speaks of grace. If God can be Jacob's God, He can be our God. At the door of a mission in a low, poverty stricken area, a man one evening was at the door saying, "I would come in, but my coat is in rags." The answer came back, "That is no matter, there's a man inside without a coat at all." We might be tempted to think that the "God of Abraham" restricts Himself to associate only with those who meet His standard, who somehow merit His attention. However, when we hear Him described as the "God of Jacob," we know it is all grace! James reminds us that God is "no respecter of persons," and when we are partial, we are most unlike God! He said, "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him?"

The title "God of Jacob," speaks of hope, because of God's transforming power. If God can be patient to love and work with Jacob, He can work with us. If God can make a "prince" out of a man like Jacob, He can do the same for us. With the "God of Jacob," there are no hopeless cases! All we need do is quit wrestling, and start clinging!

I Corinthians 1:27-29 reads, "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:29 That no flesh should glory in His presence." People, it is not about us, it is never about us, it is about God, ...the "God of Jacob!"

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