Community Group Study “Genesis: Receive the Blessing ”
Read Genesis 48:1-22
Genesis 48-50 revolve around the end of Jacob’s life and serve as a reflection back on the themes of Genesis and a pointing forward to what God will do in and through his people. We find Jacob terminally ill and struggling to sit up in his bed (Genesis 48:1-2). Joseph and his two 20+ year old sons go to meet Jacob as he lays dying. The significance of this moment is not lost on Joseph and he comes ready for the last words of his father. Genesis 48 and 49 record the blessings (and curses) he has for his children which serve to point backward at events that have happened and forward to what God is going to accomplish in his people. Yet, in what may be a surprising move, Jacob legally adopts his grandchildren to include them into the promise God made to this family and he blesses the youngest over the older. Why?
Jacob is focused on inheritance and blessing in Chapter 48. His motivation to adopt Ephraim and Manasseh is not because they need someone to take care of them, he adopts them so they would be included into the inheritance of God. It is no secret that Joseph was Jacob’s beloved son, but he was one of the younger boys in the family. In a roundabout way Jacob gives Joseph a double portion of the inheritance by adopting Ephraim and Manasseh as his own. Genesis 48:5-6 show us this as Jacob declares the status as Rueben and Simeon in the family.
During his blessing of these boys Jacob looks back at the events of his life and God’s faithfulness to him. We see this in Genesis 48:4 where Jacob remembers God appearing to him in Luz in Genesis 28 where God promised to be with him. Likewise, Genesis 48:15-16 where Jacob recounts how God walked with his fathers and had shepherd him and kept him from evil all the days of his life. We have seen all throughout the Joseph story how God was involved in small details in ordinary life for Joseph’s good, but let’s not forget that Jacob experienced this too and he prays blessing over these boys because he firmly believes that God intervenes and acts in the world for the good of his people.
His prayer of blessing is focused on God growing these boys into a numerous people, which is similar to the promises that God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Basically, his blessing is that they’d be included as full participants into the promise God made with this family which included being a people, given a place of home and the promise of a redeemer through them. In the process Jacob put his hands on the boys’ heads, but he switched up his right hand and left to give the youngest son Ephraim the greater blessing (Genesis 48:19-20). This “displeased” Joseph, which is a Hebrew word meaning “it was evil in Joseph’s sight”. Joseph was upset because this is not the way the world works, the older gets the greater blessing! However, at this point in his life Jacob understands the grace of God and shows us an example of God’s grace in this blessing. The way God operates in the world around us is by his grace. Grace is an unearned or undeserved gift; usually expressed in steadfast love or favor being show. The only thing Ephraim needs to do is receive the gift.
This passage shows us that Jacob understands that God acts in the world and he acts by his grace. Contrast this with Jacob’s earlier life where he fought for blessing, tricked his blind father to get it and spent his life on the run and in danger because of it. Followers of Jesus know that God works in the world by his grace. We are brought into the family of God and forgiven as a gift by the work of another: Jesus. God has intervened in the world for the good of his people in Christ and promises us an inheritance by being adopted into his family.
At the end of his life, Jacob is intent on giving his beloved son a double portion in their inheritance and he does so by adopting his grandsons to be equal heirs of the promise of God. Likewise, Jacob sees the power of blessing because God intervenes in the world and he does so by his grace. Followers of Jesus are brought into relationship with God by this grace and grow as they understand this gift that God has given to them.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read Genesis 48:1-22
What are some of the key things we see about God from how Jacob looked back on God’s interaction in his life during his blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh? (Look at Genesis 48:3-4 and 15-16 for some examples)
Many people today struggle to see God as someone who acts in the world for the good of his people. Can you think of how or why this is a struggle? As a group point to how Jacob fully believes God acts both in the past and through is blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh.
Grace is foundational to the Christian life. Read Ephesians 2:4-10 and as a group explore what Paul says about grace there. Essentially grace is not “fair”, but it is a great thing to receive. Why does Joseph find himself upset about the blessing? In what ways does grace go against how the world operates?