Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
While reading the Old Testament, you’re not alone if you’ve asked “How does this affect me?” I too asked that question while recently considering a pronouncement Israel made in Genesis 49 to his sons while on his deathbed.
Focusing specifically on Genesis 49:8-12, which addresses Judah, the first observation is it deals with the future. The initial focus is Judah’s place as a younger brother to at least some of the sons of Israel. However, he, like Joseph, will take a place of preeminence within the family/tribes. Ultimately this blessing is brought about through the birth and life of Messiah.
One issue to examine is the priority of inheritance, which seems to be displaced by this pronouncement. A general look at history shows most societies bequeath wealth, status and position to the firstborn son of the family.
However, in the Bible there seems to be a trend set by God to choose otherwise. For example, Cain is the firstborn, but it appears to be Seth who is the recipient of blessing within the Adamic genealogy. Isaac is actually the second son born to Abraham. Moses is younger brother to Aaron, and David is youngest of all his brothers. Solomon is not the first son of David, and so it goes.
In view is the transition of leadership immediately, near and future. The immediate transfer is the leadership of the clan from Israel to Joseph. The near term is the transition or replacement of Israel’s older sons by Joseph’s sons. Finally, the ultimate transition of leadership to the line of Judah occurs with David being made king.
“What does all this have to do with me?” or “How can I apply this to my own Christian walk if it’s even possible?” Let us start by proposing alternate questions or statements that will combine the thoughts of these two previous inquiries.
1. I can view the plan of God at work in all of scripture when …
2. I can trust in the providence of God in all things when I consider …
So how do we complete these statements in relation to Genesis 49? First, I can view the plan of God at work in all of scripture when I consider the context of a passage within the context of all scripture. In other words, it is permissible to study a book, chapter, verse, or even word of scripture to completely understand that part of the whole.
But it is not permissible to divorce that small part of scripture from the rest of scripture. While examining Genesis 49:8-12, one is encouraged to look at the context of these verses within the entire pronouncement made by Israel. Likewise, it is noble to seek out a clear meaning for any difficult words or phrases. Yet, when all of this work is complete there is still the work of determining how this passage contributes to a greater understanding of God’s revealed redemptive purposes.
When this is undertaken, one is able to observe the Lord either used this pronouncement, or inspired Israel, to point forward to a particular line of the family from which Israel’s future king would come. Further, one is able to look to the promises God made to that king concerning a future heir to sit upon the throne forever. Revelation 5:5 seems to indicate a harkening back to Israel’s pronouncement to Judah, as it says in part, “behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, …” thus giving evidence that what Israel has pronounced for Judah has been fulfilled.
This leads to the second statement to be completed, I can trust in the providence of God when I consider the faithfulness He has demonstrated in bringing about the things he has promised. Although God has not specifically promised anything in Genesis 49:8-12, the verse opens our eyes to be on the lookout for indications that this pronouncement finds fulfillment in scripture.
When that hunch is followed the reader happens upon the selection of David as king (kings hold scepters) and it is in this fulfillment a specific promise of God is discovered. Thorough examination of scripture allows the reader to track this promise through generations of good kings, bad kings, rebellion and restoration until the coming of Christ as an infant. Then even after the completion of Christ’s First Advent, prophecy concerning His Second Coming is discovered. The prophecy of Revelation can be trusted because of the proven faithfulness of God in keeping His promises displayed in the pages of scripture.
These two statements or applications work together. The one calls upon investigation of scripture; the second calls upon the investigator to trust in what has been discovered. When this is pursued the Christian is able to take comfort in the accomplished work of Christ on the cross in securing salvation.
Andy Lynch is pastor at Stansbury Park Baptist Church.