Have you ever been reading through the Old Testament and stopped to ask, how does this affect me? Yeah, me too so recently I took the opportunity to consider a pronouncement Israel made to his sons while on his deathbed recorded in Genesis 49. What I would like to do for you today is provide some background material related to the verses 8-12 and then turn very quickly to a couple of ways you might apply the information to your own walk. In other words we are going to be talking about application of the Bible to your life!
Turning focus specifically to Genesis 49:8-12, addressing Judah, the first observation: this section turns toward the future. The initial focus lends itself to the fact of 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 preeminence is brought about through the birth and life of Messiah.
One issue we should examine very quickly is the priority of inheriting which seems to be displaced by this pronouncement. If we were to look at history we would find that in general most societies bequeath wealth, status, and position to the first born son of the family. In other words the heir is the oldest son. However, as we examine the Bible there seems to be a trend set by God to choose otherwise. For example, Cain is the first born 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. David is youngest of all his brothers. Solomon is not the first son of David, and so it goes.
So what is in view here is the transition of leadership immediately, near, and future. The immediate leadership transfer 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.
At this point the question should be asked, “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 combines the thoughts of these two previous inquiries.
2. I can trust the providence of God in all things when I consider …
So how do we complete these statements with what we see in Genesis 49? Perhaps it would be best just to complete the statements and then provide explanation on how the full statement should influence the manner we think and live.
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 of Scripture. In other words, it is permissible to study a book, chapter, verse, or even word of Scripture to completely understand a part of the whole. However, it is not permissible to divorce that small part of Scripture from the rest of Scripture. Therefore, when examining Genesis 49:8-12, 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. But 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 in the remaining pages of Scripture.
When this is undertaken one observes the Lord either used this pronouncement or inspired Israel to point forward to the particular line of the family from which Israel’s, the nation, 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. A look to 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 does open our eyes to be on the lookout for indications that this pronouncement finds fulfillment in the pages of 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. Thus the prophecy of Revelation can be trusted because of the proven faithfulness of God in keeping His promises displayed in the pages of Scripture.
As has likely been guessed, these two statements or applications work together. The one calls upon investigation of Scripture in order to better understand the facts presented. The second calls upon the investigator to trust in what has been discovered, because the writer of the report given in Scripture is trustworthy. When this is pursued the Christian is able to take comfort in the accomplished work of Christ on the Cross in securing salvation.