Hebrews 11 speaks of people with an incredible optimism for their future. I guess that’s what faith is: looking to the years ahead with the certainty that the God who has been so faithful and kind for so long will never let you down; that all will be well.
So we read:
“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.”
There’s more here than just the desire of a father to see his children do well and prosper in their lives. The blessing meant a commitment to covenant and the active participation in the favour of God. When we say a “blessing” over food, we are acknowledging God’s gift and saying “Thank you.” But this is more: it’s the transfer of anointing and the memory of the promises of Genesis 12:1-3 being activated on a new generation, Look at the next verse:
“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.”
It’s a curious little moment: in a chapter full of the spectacular and the dramatic, Jacob’s claim to fame is recorded as worshipping, whilst “leaning upon the top of his staff” – it’s hardly a “miracle of faith”!
But this is the nub of why Jacob was able to look to the future with optimistic faith – because of the way God had dealt with him in the past. The reason why he was leaning was because his thigh had been dislocated at Peniel in a divine encounter. The limp was a permanent reminder that God had met with him and broken his stubborn self-will. His leaning upon his staff now symbolized his helpless, moment-by-moment dependence on his God.
He worshipped God now as a broken man. Maybe we all do.
Perhaps there’s something here of Paul’s testimony: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. He gloried in his weakness and his infirmity – and that was his daily testimony.”I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
I have learnt to rejoice in my limitations and not in my achievements. Otherwise you become proud and cocky in about twenty minutes flat.
And out of that sense of personal limitation, Jacob prophesied about the future of his descendats (in Genesis 49). Perhaps only someone who has been under God’s hand and who has submitted to the Divine disciplines is qualified to prophesy. Jacob had learnt through experience. He was no theological theoretician. He had been through the mill and knew the secret counsels of God. He was “a prince of God”!
And God honoured his submission. God calls Himself, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (not “Israel”, but “Jacob”).” He has linked His Name with the name of Jacob, the grabber and the deceiver. Do you see the point? Our God is the God of the man with the warped personality. He is the God of the woman with the difficult temperament. “The God of Jacob is our refuge” (Ps 46:7,11)! He is not only the Lord of Hosts but also the God of Jacob.
I’m sure you’re aware of your limitations. If not, give us a call and I’ll be glad to point them out. No charge.
But we can become so focused on the “jar of clay” that we miss the “treasure” within. And what God has begun in us He will complete. As perfect as was the work of the Father in creation and as perfect as was the work of the Son in our redemption, so perfect will the work of the Holy Spirit be in our sanctification. God is faithful!
“He Who began the good work within (us) will keep right on helping (us) grow in grace until His task within (us) is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns” (Phil 1:6).
And God’s work in us is not simply a matter of personal holiness, but of corporate life. We are part of the People of God. I remember that old song:
For I'm building a people of power And I'm making a people of praise That will move through this land by My Spirit And will glorify My precious name Build Your church, Lord Make us strong, Lord Join our hearts, Lord, through Your Son Make us one, Lord In Your Body In the kingdom of Your Son
And the next verse (Hebrews 11:22) reminds us that this faith for the future is a Big Picture view of what God is doing with His People.
By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.” (Heb 11: 20-22)
This isn’t an unimportant personal request like the codicil to a will (leaving the silver spoons to the gardener) but a confident assurance that God’s promises will come to pass. God is moving in history with purpose and design to bring all things together under the lordship of Christ. Joseph’s bones -like Jacob’s memory of past frailty- are part of the story of that goes with the People of God through Exodus into Promise.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)