The twelve sons of Jacob were all gathered around his bedside to hear their father’s last words to them before his death. And there were some surprises for them, not all pleasant.
At the church we attend in England, we have been hearing teaching on this from Pastor David Moore, pastor of Milton Baptist Church in Stoke-on-Trent. It is found in Genesis chapter 49. Talk about a dysfunctional family! You can read all about it in the Bible.
God does not hide the truth and the great thing about all this is the hope it gives us poor sinners alive now – that however rotten we are, however deep we fall into sin, God can change our hearts and restore us to Himself.
Most of you will know that Jacob loved Rachel, but was tricked into marrying her sister Leah. Then he was given Rachel as well, so he had two wives and they competed for him. Leah had the first four sons – Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.
When Rachel could not get pregnant, she followed the practice of the times and gave her maid to Jacob to produce a child for her – a surrogate pregnancy. The maid produced two sons – Dan and Naphtali.
Not to be outdone, Leah also gave her maid to Jacob, and this resulted in two more sons = Gad and Asher.
Then Leah fell pregnant twice more and bore Issachar and Zebulon. She also had a daughter, Dinah.
Then at last the beloved Rachel fell pregnant and bore Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph. All this took place up north where Rachel’s father Laban had settled. None of those first 11 sons were born in the land of promise.
The only one to be born in the land God promised Abraham (Jacob’s grandfather) was to be Benjamin, and Rachel died giving him birth.
This is all background. God was doing what He had promised Abraham, making him the father of many nations. The twelve sons were the start of the Jewish nation, Israel. The succession is crystal clear in the Bible – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, twelve sons of Jacob with four separate mothers.
But Abraham was not only the father of the Jewish nation, but the father of many nations, for his beloved wife Sarah also had a problem getting pregnant, and used her Egyptian maid Hagar as a surrogate mother. The child from that, Ishmael, became the father of a nation as well, a nation that would hate the Jews.
Then after his wife Sarah’s death. Abraham married Keturah and had more sons, becoming the father of other nations as well, all of whom would be fiercely jealous of Israel.
How it must break Abraham’s heart now, if God allows him to know what is going on here. His descendants that he no doubt loves, all fighting and scrapping, trying to kill the Jews and snatch their land, when they themselves have many times the land mass of tiny Israel.
The terrible struggle in the Middle East now is a family affair. Once in Israel I spoke to an old Arab shopkeeper and told him how the Lord Jesus loved his people, and his eyes just looked like they were filled with longing.
I said the Arabs were like one hand and the Jews the other hand, and I put my two hands together and said that Jesus wanted to heal them with love.
He was nodding in agreement, but maybe he just wanted me to buy more things from him.
All this, and I have not even got to the beginning of what Pastor David Moore taught us about Jacob’s final words to his sons! That will have to wait for another day now, sorry!
Note: if you are in a dysfunctional family, and all seems lost – all is not lost. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born as a man, and understands every problem you face. He is the One who can help you and save you if you will put your faith and trust in Him.
Only He can change a cruel, selfish heart into one full of love and forgiveness. Only He can forgive your sins and give you a fresh start and a new life. Only He can take something that seems insoluble and just turn it around.
A prayer: Heavenly Father, I put my faith and trust in Your beloved son, Jesus. Please forgive my horrible sins and change my heart. Please come into my life and change it into something that pleases You!