Today’s reading includes Genesis 48:1-49:33, Matthew 15:29-16:12, Psalm 20:1-9, Proverbs 4:20-27.
In Genesis 48 we find a small but very significant account between Jacob, Joseph, and Joseph’s sons. We find in Genesis 41:50 that Joseph had two sons:
Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph…Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, ‘It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering. Genesis 41:50-52
The names of Joseph’s sons are positive in an odd kind of way; however, Manasseh’s name is indicative of Joseph’s painful past while Ephraim’s name is indicative of his fruitful future.
When Jacob was on his death bed, he called all of his sons together so that he could pass on the blessing. This was very important in that culture as it was not just about monetary or material blessing, but it was emotional and spiritual blessing. They literally needed the blessing from the father to be successful in their future. A lack of blessing would be crippling. Though we don’t necessarily hold to the same tradition, the principles are still true for us today. How many people are emotionally crippled because they never received a “blessing”: physical touch and kind, positive, affirming words, from their parents, especially their father? I know many people who pinpoint the problems of their past and present to this issue.
It has become popular to blame our parents for every sin or hang-up we encounter or fall prey to. This should not be. Our parents are not to blame for all of our problems. Though there are tragic episodes of abuse or neglect, even then forgiveness must come, lest the victim remain a crippled victim for a lifetime. Sometimes healing must take place in our lives. No human father, or mother, can fulfill our needs or heal our hurts. We will hurt our kids at times. But we must point them constantly to the Perfect Father, God, who can meet their every need. And we must look constantly to Him to meet our every need.
If our parents, or anyone for that matter, have hurt us, we must free them from our lack of forgiveness so that we do not put ourselves into bondage. Unforgiveness quickly binds us up emotionally and spiritually and opens a wide door for Satan to wreak havoc in our lives. We can never be more like Jesus than when we have to forgive.
Joseph was deeply hurt by his family, yet he forgave. And he was blessed by God. As a result of his pain, his father wanted to give him a double portion of inheritance and blessing. To do that, Jacob claimed Manasseh and Ephraim as his own sons, not his grandsons, and he instructed Joseph to bring in both sons to receive the blessing. This is what happened…
“And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.
“Then he blessed Joseph and said,
‘May the God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life to this day,
“the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
—may he bless these boys.
May they be called by my name
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly
upon the earth.’
When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to him, ‘No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.’
But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” He blessed them that day and said,
“In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing:
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’
So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.”
When I first read that passage I was really intrigued by it. I never studied it in Sunday school, nor heard a sermon on it. It bugged me because I didn’t really get it. So I kept studying it. One day, I was looking for something to read and I came across a book on my shelf that I didn’t remember buying, and have no idea where it came from. It was called The Forgotten Blessing. And, it had powerful insight into this very passage.
Remember that the meaning of Manasseh’s name was indicative of a very painful past. The name Ephraim, the second born, was indicative of a fruitful future. When Jacob crossed his arms he was making a bold statement, saying from this day forward the fruitfulness of the future would take precedence over the pain of the past. In many people’s lives the opposite is true—the past hinders the fruitfulness of their life. And that is exactly what the enemy of your soul wants for you. If Satan can keep you caught up in the pain or shame of your past, he can hinder how fruitful and abundant your life is. Don’t let that happen! You can find all the healing you need by totally surrendering to the Great Physician, Jesus. And the reason that I know this is because of one more powerful and prophetic truth reflected in this passage.
I say prophetic because it is another mirror image of something that would take place many generations later. At the cross, God, our perfect parent, crossed His arms for us! For one powerful moment in time God put His right hand of blessing on us, and let His first born Son, Jesus, carry the weight of every painful past. The scripture says, “By his stripes, we are healed” (Isa. 53:5; NKJ).
It is because of this “crossing of His arms,” and because Jesus was willing to be placed in that position that the fruitfulness of our present and future can take precedence over any pain of our past. We can be totally free! And that is very good news!