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The "Unexpected" Blessing of God

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The Blessings of God Often Come in “Unexpected” ways.

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As we come into Genesis 48 today, I would like to tidy up a bit from the previous three chapters.
Tracing one big idea and covering so much ground left a few points I wanted to touch on, untouched. So, briefly....

Tidying Up From Genesis 45-47

Genesis 45:8 - Father to Pharoah
At first I thought this may have been due to the young age of the Pharaoh…would not be unlikely for a child to inherit the throne if something happened to his father.
Almost all commentators point to the fact that this is likely referring to a position of great respect and counsel.
The use of the title “father of Pharaoh” most likely is related to the Egyptian title itntr, “father of the god,” used to refer to a variety of officials and priests who serve in the Pharaoh’s court. “Father” represents an advisory relationship, perhaps to be equated with the role of the priest hired by Micah in Judges 17:10 or the role of Elisha as the king of Israel’s counselor in 2 Kings 6:21.1
Genesis 45:22 - Joseph clearly lavished more excess on his brother Benjamin than any of the others. Is Joseph guilty of the favoritism like his father?
Maybe, maybe not. He and Benjamin are the only two FULL brothers born to the same mother and father.
Could be interpreted as greater kinship and love due to that reason.
If you study the passages out and attempt to trace Benjamin’s age, it is a fairly safe estimate that Benjamin was 10 when Joseph was sold, making him about 7 years younger.
This means, they had ten years together to build an intimate brotherhood bond before they were separated.
Given the level of dislike due to Joseph because of his favored status (we can also conclude that Benjamin shared this), it is likely that since the two did not have good relationships with the rest of the ten brothers, their bond became even deeper.
There would have been a significant age gap between Joseph and Benjamin and the rest of the brothers due to when they were born. They would likely have not had much to do with their older brothers on two separate accounts.
This could explain why Joseph lavished extra care on his brother Benjamin.
Favoritism? Maybe. Or it could just be because of the deeper bond that had existed between the two from their childhood.
Genesis 45:24 - Why would he tell his brother’s not to quarrel on the way?
It implies that they had a reason to argue amongst themselves.
It could also imply that there had been arguing amongst them in his presence, at least to a mild degree, which would compel him to encourage them NOT to argue any further about it on the way home.
Perhaps over the events that just happened in Egypt with Joseph.
Perhaps over fault or old events involving Joseph’s treatment at their hands.
If you have cross references in your bible, it may point you back to Genesis 42:22 where they argued Joseph’s treatment all those years prior.
Perhaps both. They are going to have a lot of explaining to do when they get home to dad and fill him in.
Joseph knows this and encourages them not to argue but to see it from the perspective of God’s sovereign control over it all.
Genesis 46:29 - This is likely where the fulfillment of the second dream would have taken place. It does not explicitly show it here, but since we know that God never fails to keep his word, it had to have happened.
I imagine that Israel bowed before Joseph first when he arrived and, as happened with the brothers, Joseph fell upon him after that.
Genesis 46:34 - Why were shepherds an abomination to the Egyptians?
This is the result of the class system.
And shepherds were the bottom of the class system.
The lowest class
They refused to intermarry with them
They were forbidden from entering temples
They were depicted in less than kind ways.
Therefore, they were not look upon favorably.
John MacArthur pointed out that because of this dynamic, they being shepherds and shepherds being an abomination to Egyptians, it prevented them from intermingling and Israel losing their identity within the nation of Egypt during the 430 years that they would be there.
Genesis 47:4 - Sojourn. To live as an alien and dependent in another person’s land. To be dependent upon the good will and favor of the owners of the land.
Since they had not inherited the land or taken possession of it, they were living as aliens or refugees in someone else’s land.

Introduction

300 Sermon Illustrations from Charles Spurgeon We Attribute Our Blessings to Earth rather than Heaven (Exodus 15:23–25; 17:1–7; Numbers 20:7–11; Deuteronomy 8:15; Nehemiah 9:15; Psalm 78:16; 105:41; Isaiah 48:21)

We Attribute Our Blessings to Earth Rather Than Heaven

Exodus 15:23–25; 17:1–7; Numbers 20:7–11; Deuteronomy 8:15; Nehemiah 9:15; Psalm 78:16; 105:41; Isaiah 48:21

Preaching Themes: Blessing and Cursing, God: Mercy, God: Providence

When Israel received water out of the rock it was not bitter, but at Marah the water came out of the sand. To this day in the desert water is found in different places, but where it oozes up from a sandy bed it is almost without exception so brackish and bitter, by reason of the sand, that it is not fit for human drinking; and even the camels, unless they are sore pressed, turn away from it with great aversion. The sand has tainted it; the flavor of earth has got into the blessing.

So it is with most of our blessings. By reason of our sin and infirmity, too much of the flavor of earth enters into the gift of heaven. Our common mercies, when we receive them direct from heaven as God gives them, are mercies indeed—cool, flowing streams that gush from the rock of his favor. But we are so apt to trace them to the creature, so ready to look on them as derived from earth instead of coming from heaven—and just in that proportion may we expect to find bitterness in them.

When we see more of creature than creator, we are most likely to mistake a blessing as a curse.
When we attribute blessing to creature instead of creator, we will miss the transcendent and glorious beauty of the blessing and its intended purpose.
When we see creature, more than creator, we will be surprised when the “unexpected” produces blessing and wonder in our lives.
One of the themes we have continued to trace through scripture is the unexpected ways in which God works and blesses.
Last week in Genesis 45-47 we saw the unexpected fulfillment of God’s plan.
Today, as we look at Genesis 48, we will consider the unexpected blessing of God.
I say “unexpected” not because it surprises God, but because it surprises us.
We tend to see too much of man and not enough of God in the blessing we receive and thus we are often surprised, and even disappointed at times.

Outline

Big Idea: The Blessings of God Often Come in “Unexpected” ways.
A Burial Promise - Genesis 47:29-31
An Expanded Blessing - Genesis 48:1-7
A Switched Blessing - Genesis 48:8-16
A Displeased Response to Blessing - Genesis 48:17-18
A Confirmed Blessing - Genesis 48:19-20
A Confirmed Promise - Genesis 48:21-22

Sermon Body

Big Idea: The Blessings of God Often Come in “Unexpected” ways.
Let’s trace the narrative and see how this works out.

A Burial Promise - Genesis 47:29-31

A Concern
As Israel sensed his failing health, a major concern encroached upon his heart and he called Joseph to him to address it.
He did not want to be buried in Egypt.
Egypt was not the promised land, it was not Canaan. Israel clung to the promise that was made to him by God and he wanted to return to that land for his burial.
He may not have seen the full fruition of that promise, but this request evidences his complete faith in the fulfillment of that promise.
In fact, as we consider chapter 49 next week, we will see how the blessings he grants to his sons are in fact, an act of true faith in the promise of God.
Israel’s request here is not mere nostalgia, it is an act of faith in the promise land and God’s assurance (before he left for Egypt), that he and his descendents would return to the land that has been promised to them since Abraham.
This is deep upon Israel’s heart, enough that he calls Joseph to come for a special visit to acquire a promise from him.
A Phrase - Found favor in your sight
This phrase is very reminiscent and bears clear imagery to the picture of blessing that see throughout these next two chapters.
A blessing is that of finding favor, receiving favor from another. It is to bestow good things upon another for their benefit.
Israel here calls upon Joseph and asks for his blessing and favor to honor his request.
A Vow
Here again, we see a phrase we saw in Genesis 24:2 when Abraham procured a vow from his servant NOT to take a wife for Issac from among the Canaanites but from among his own people.
Hand under the thigh - Possibly on the insight, close to the intimate areas. A gesture of trust, intimacy, and solemnity.
Would be likened to the “pinky swear” or whatever extra measures one takes these days to show the sincerity of a promise and vow.
He asks for Joseph’s blessing and promise to take his body back home and bury it in the land that has been promised to him, in the land where his wives and so many loved ones are buried.
Having procured this promise, Israel lays back and rests in peace knowing that it is secure.

An Expanded Blessing - Genesis 48:1-7

There seems to be a gap between Genesis 47:29-31 and chapter 48. But not sure how much time we are talking about.
Israel sensed his impending death at the end of chapter 47 and called Joseph in to acquire his promise NOT to bury him in Egypt, but did not at that time extend the blessings that are customary prior to death.
Sometime after that, he fell ill and Joseph was called in to his side.
It is here that the blessings were bestowed upon the sons. This will encompass the next two chapters.
Joseph, hearing he was ill and suspecting (or being told) that his time was short, brought with him his two sons in preparation for the blessing that is customary before death.
NOTICE - when the text mentions he brought them, Manasseh is listed first. He is the eldest.
Israel was weak but hearing that Joseph was here, he gathered his strength and sat up.
In Genesis 48:3 - Israel reminds Joseph of the blessing that was promised to him by God (El Shaddai) in Luz, in the land of Canaan.
The Blessing....
I will make you fruitful and multiply you
I will make you into a company of peoples
I will give you this land (Canaan) to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession
God promised to make him fruit and multiply him
A promise God is already making good on.
A promise that Israel can see the fulfillment of
God promised to give the land of Canaan to his children
A promise that Israel knew he would not see and would not live to know.
But in this reminder of God’s blessing upon him and his descendants, he now also expands it.
He takes as his own, Ephraim and Manasseh.
NOW NOTICE…the order of the names…who is mentioned first…Ephraim, the younger.
He compares them to his two oldest sons, Reuben and Simeon to show that just like Reuben and Simeon were HIS biological children, the two oldest, and were full recipients of the familial rights of what that entails, so now are Ephraim and Manasseh.
Every other child born to Joseph would be Joseph’s and would not be considered part of Israel’s offspring. But Ephraim and Manasseh are being adopted by Israel to possess FULL sonship rights alongside every other son of Israel’s who were born of his loins.
Why? Why does Israel do this?
I will add as well…by so doing this, adopting Joseph’s two sons as his own and giving them equal inheritance alongside the rest of his sons, Joseph essential gains a double portion, a double blessing in the family…something that no one else gets.
So why?
Glance down at Genesis 49:3-5 for a moment. We will consider this entire chapter in greater detail next week but let’s take a look at a truth we have already previously seen but need to see again.
Reuben defiled his father’s bed by sleeping with his father’s concubine. As a result, he is being removed from the place of priority and privilege as the eldest child and that right and role is being given to Ephraim.
Simeon also fell from grace in his lead role in the violence against the men of Shechem when they slaughtered the whole city in retribution for their sins against Dinah.
BOTH sons, it would seem, are in some ways being replaced in their positions of eldest by Ephraim and Manasseh respectively.
1 Chronicles 5:1-2 - This chronicles the replacement of Reuben as the eldest with the sons of Joseph
To Judah would always belong the throne.
We have seen his rise of influence and prominence in this narrative.
But to Joseph (through his sons) belongs the birthright that should have been Reuben’s had he not defiled himself and his father’s bed.
They still inherit portions of the land, they are still counted among the tribes of Israel, but they lose their status and position because of their offenses and sins.
Joseph, clearly in a place of power and authority in Israel, of wealth and position, does not need the blessing of Israel…so instead…Israel bestows the honor on the first two sons born to him in Israel, Ephraim and Manasseh.
Israel had presumed Joseph dead for all those years and never suspected he would see him again, and yet not only did he see him, but he saw his children.
So moved by this, so in awe of this reality that he was moved to expand his blessing to include two of Joseph’s children as his own.
Genesis 48:7 seems a bit out of place in these verse, but may not be as much as it appears.
In the midst of this expanding blessing, in this reminder of God’s promise and blessing to Israel, there is this sorrowful remembrance of Rachel who died in the land of Canaan on the way to Ephrath (Bethlehem).
Some have concluded that this was the reflection and remembrance of his dearly beloved wife that was sparked and prompted by his walk down memory lane in the blessings.
Some have concluded that it was an integral part of the story and forms a foundation/explanation for why he chose Joseph and his sons as the replacements for Reuben and Simeon.
Perhaps both are true.
But clearly, after all these years, his grief and sorrow over her loss has been deep and real. He speaks in no such ways towards his other wives, only Rachel.
And it may well be due to her favored status and that of Joseph and Benjamin, this is the explanation for why he chose to give Joseph this double portion through his sons.
So, at the end of a long life, in these final moments, Israel expands his blessing through the adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh as his own sons to bear the full rights of inheritance alongside that of his other sons.
But yet, as the narrative proceeds....it is not just an expanded blessing we are seeing, but a switched one as well.

A Switched Blessing - Genesis 48:8-16

Joseph’s two sons are with him.
Israel’s poor eyesight kept him from discerning exactly who they were (though I imagine he had met them before…I would find it hard to believe that this was the first time).
Joseph tells him that they are his two sons, born to him here in Egypt.
Israel asked for them to come near so that he can bless them.
Blessing
Indicates the action of pronouncing good things upon the recipient.
Found OFTEN here in Genesis....most frequently in fact. (76x)
Deut - 40x
Psalms 76x as people return blessing to God in worship
William Mounce

When God blesses, it is not an impotent wish but the empowering and transforming word that accomplishes its purpose. To pronounce a blessing carries a sense of inevitability such that, once it has been uttered, it cannot be retracted (Gen 27:38). However, the OT does not portray a blessing as magical, but as a prayer offered to a sovereign God.

Genesis 48:10-12 - Great affection passes between them.
Joseph then brings them to his father, their grandfather to be blessed.
He is very purposeful in how he does so. He brings Ephraim in his right hand (though his dominate hand, it would place Ephraim, the second born in front his father’s right hand, the hand of superior blessing) and Manasseh in his left hand so that Ephraim is standing before his grandfather’s left hand and Manasseh (the oldest child) is standing before his grandfather’s right hand, the hand through which he would receive the greater blessing as the eldest of Joseph’s sons.
HOWEVER....as Israel reaches out to bless them, he purposefully, intentionally crosses his hands (knowing which boy stood where) so that his right hand falls on Ephraim (the second born) and his left hand falls on Manasseh (the first born)
THEN he pronounces his blessing
In so doing, he places Ephraim, the younger, over Manasseh, the older.
Seen this before?
He then calls upon God, the God of his father and grandfather, the God who has shepherded/cared for/led him all these long years....the angel who has redeemed him from all evil...
Who is this angel he is referring to?
Hebrew word Mal’ak. Used to denote angels, messengers sent to do God’s bidding. Also used to refer to “angel of the Lord” - often hard to distinguish between this angel of the Lord and God himself.
Genesis 31:11 - This angel appeared to Jacob in a dream, one of many such occasions.
I believe that this reference to the angel who has delivered him from all evil is a reference to the very being, depiction, image of the one who has repeatedly appeared to him over the years in dreams and vision.
Redeemed - legal possession, to buy back, recover a (sold) house, to release one from debt bondage, to reclaim, to claim for oneself, etc.
The first half of this blessing is a calling upon El Shaddai, Almighty God who has taken legal possession of him, reclaiming him back from evil, saving him, and blessing him with abundance that he is not worthy of.
He invokes God’s name as the source of blessing
POINT - Shouldn’t we begin all things with acknowledgement and praise of His glorious name? Should that not be where we always begin? All things in our lives ought to begin with worship and praise.
POINT - All blessings are based in and founded upon GOD and HIS PERSON. Even when done from generation to generation, blessings done by man to one another were blessings calling upon the name and person of God to intercede and act on behalf of the person we desire to bless. The fulfillment of that blessing is not within our power to achieve. We are merely calling upon God to act.
The blessing he bestows...
In them, Ephraim and Manasseh, let my name be carried on, and that of Abraham and Isaac as well.
May they be fruitful and multiply.
The blessing is seeking God’s favor to continue the promise that was begun with Abraham, passed to Isaac, and to Jacob/Israel.
Now it is being passed on to Joseph through his sons.
Israel is asking God’s blessing to carry on the promise through these two boys AS WELL AS his other sons.
In bestowing this blessing, though, we must note that he was purposeful and intentional in switching his hands to lay his RIGHT hand on the younger son Ephraim.
Joseph noticed.

A Displeased Response to Blessing - Genesis 48:17-18

Joseph was displeased.
Displeased
To be bad, not fit for use. To be evil, displeasing. To inflict harm or damage.
Joseph understood the implications of what had been done. He knew that this blessing was putting the second born in greater position than the first born.
Why would this upset Joseph?
Because of what we have seen time and time again in this ancient culture. The oldest son is supposed to have the greatest blessing and birthright. It was not customary for it to bypass the eldest to go to the youngest.
And yet, we have seen in God’s economy, age and birth order DO NOT DETERMINE HIS plan and will.
God acts as He wills and with perfect purpose every single time.
I wonder....how often are we displeased with God’s plan because it does not match ours? How often do we get set in our own way of thinking and become upset with God choices to change it?
Course, we have seen this before, haven’t we?
Israel did not make a mistake. It was intentional.
But because Joseph did not see the larger picture, he became displeased.
The same is often true of us. Because we do not often see the larger narrative that God is writing, when he deviates from the norm, the expected, the traditional, we can become upset and displeased.
Joseph was displeased and tried to correct his father, but in response, his father only confirmed the blessing he had intended.

A Confirmed Blessing - Genesis 48:19-20

When Joseph tries to correct his father, his father resists. He is fully aware of what he has done. He has done so because he knows that Ephraim will become greater than Manasseh.
Numbers 1:33-35
Ephraim - 40,500 vs Manasseh 32,200
Deuteronomy 33:17
The blessing of God given through Moses
In his blessing upon Joseph, he traces ten thousands through Ephraim and only thousands through Manasseh.
Thus, we see this blessing come true down the line.
Not only did he confirm it as intended…and notice again that Ephraim is placed first in the order that that boys are mentioned....but he declared that SO GREAT would their abundance be that their names would be used in blessings given among men…May you be as great as Ephraim and Manasseh.
Each time after the initial mentioning of their names, their order is reversed…a deliberate move also emphasizing the point of Ephraim becoming greater than Manasseh.
Not only would they become great, they would become so great it would be recognized by all and used as the standard for abundance and blessing amongst one another.
We do not see Joseph continuing to resist after an explanation is given, which leads me to believe, that once it was explained, he accepted it by faith and trusted both his father and His God.
Upon the completion of this blessing, he affirms for Joseph the promise of God to return their family to the promised land.

A Confirmed Promise - Genesis 48:21-22

Israel affirms to Joseph God’s promise to him, that God will be with Joseph, as he was with Israel, and will bring them all back home in time.
God will be with you.
Can there be any greater truth and words than these?
The older I get, the more I have come to value and appreciate these precious words.
Emmanuel....God with us.
Our fortress, our refuge, our safety, our haven, our delight, our joy, our peace, our hope, our delight, our everything.
Israel also affirms to Joseph that he will be returned to the land of his fathers.
Though Joseph, his brothers, and several succeeding generations will not see it, Israel WILL be returned to the land that they were promised.
It is so compelling to me how often we see Abraham and his family delayed and detoured from the fulfillment of this promise God made to Abraham.
Abraham himself had to leave the land and go to Egypt once due to famine. Now Joseph.
I think the compelling truth for me is simply this....though the plan of God takes detours, it is not deterred. Though it is “delayed” it is never defeated. The plan of God is unmistakable but irrevocable.
We just must trust him to fulfill it and keep it in his time and way.
As a final, parting gift, blessing, Israel also gives Joseph the mountain slope taken as spoils of war from the Amorites.
This mountain slope would become the final burial place for Joseph’s bones when they entered the promised land again.
I wonder if this was not a gift given in faith to bolster faith in the affirmation of the truth Israel just shared, that Joseph would indeed be returned to the land of his fathers.
It was a gift of faith to bolster faith in the promise of God to keep his word.
Thus, it becomes a fitting burial place upon the return of his bones to this land.

Conclusion

Big Idea: The Blessings of God Often Come in “Unexpected” ways.
A Burial Promise - Genesis 47:29-31
An Expanded Blessing - Genesis 48:1-7
A Switched Blessing - Genesis 48:8-16
A Displeased Response to Blessing - Genesis 48:17-18
A Confirmed Blessing - Genesis 48:19-20
A Confirmed Promise - Genesis 48:21-22
The blessings of God certainly came through “unexpected” means (though not to God, certainly to Joseph and his family).
But, nevertheless, God’s blessings were present and His word was kept.
The same God who kept his word then, who brought blessings upon his people IS THE SAME GOD we worship and serve today.
We can expect the blessings of God.
They may just come in ways we do not expect.
May we have faith to see, hope to trust, and peace to wait for those blessings as we commit ourselves to ever growing together to become more like Jesus for the glory of God.

Discussion Questions

Why is it so important to remember and acknowledge that God is the source of all blessings (especially when it comes through the hands/means of God’s creation)?
If we fail to understand this, we give credit to something or someone other than God and rob God of his glory.
If we fail to understand or remember this, we fail to give thanks and rob God of his glory
If we fail to understand this, we may miss blessings that come from him because we are not looking.
What steps can we take to strengthen our “first response as worship” instincts? (Asked another way…) What can we do to encourage and promote our natural inclinations to be first of worship in all circumstances?
Spend regular time in the word, in prayer, and around the body of Christ. The more we expose ourselves to God, the more we will be in tune with His will, desires, doings, and actions.
Ask and allow for sharing of God Sightings…things to acknowledge and give thanks for from this past week.
How can we teach and train the next generation to be first response worshippers?
Model it. Worship and give thanks often
Teach it. Show it from scripture where others did it.
Protect their influencers and put Godly men and women in their lives that will also model it.
PRAY
Why are we often surprised at the “unexpected” blessings of God?
We are not looking.
We are expecting material benefits when God intends spiritual. In order, we are looking for the wrong things.
We do not trust God and thus do not see his working because we doubt His goodness.
Pride. Self centeredness.
Why are we sometimes displeased with the turn of events or the “unexpected” blessing?
Because we are desiring the wrong thing. James 4
Our plan conflicts with Gods.
We fail to understand how God’s plan intends to work out for good.
What can we do to train and equip ourselves to be less surprised at the “unexpected” blessings of God?
Be in the word regularly.
Pray Often
Be around God’s people often
Invite openness, vulnerability, and accountability.
Build intimate relationships where spiritual truth is shared often.
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