“Our end was near, our days were numbered, for our end had come.”
Despite our cultural diversity, political persuasion, economic status or religious preference, there is one commonality that humanity shares; none can escape the fact that one day we will no longer dwell on this earth. It has been said that the heritage we were given is not as important as the legacy we leave behind. As we reflect on the measure of our lives and ponder the inevitability of our departure, we can’t help but consider what will be our legacy. Although the Bible is filled with stories that provide us with role models to follow, there are lessons to be learned from the life of Jacob.
Jacob’s life teaches that we don’t need to be perfect to be blessed by God. We can identify with Jacob because in some ways his life echoes our own sinfulness. Jacob’s humanity was viewed throughout his life story, his human weaknesses and struggles with God are laid bare. However, as Jacob matured in his faith, his dependence upon God grew in increasing measure. After a lifetime of striving to control his own life, Jacob surrendered control to God who ultimately blesses greatly this imperfect person.
Jacob’s life also teaches that our legacy will ultimately be defined by our faithfulness and obedience to God. The two greatest commandments in the Bible are found in Matthew 22:34-40. Jacob fulfilled the first commandment as he loved the Lord his God with all his heart, soul and mind. He also fulfilled the second commandment as he loved his neighbor as himself. Jacob exhibited love for his nearest neighbor, his children, when on his death bed, he spoke truth into their lives. No doubt some of his words were difficult for his son’s to hear, but Jacob was faithful and obedient to God and is praised in Hebrews 11 for the way he passed on the blessing near his life’s end.
Jacob, on his death bed, recorded in Genesis 48:27, told his son Joseph, “I am about to die.” Immediately following in Chapter 49, Jacob assembles his sons saying, “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.” Some of Jacob’s predictions to his sons were blessings while others were warnings. This man, flawed in his humanity but faithfully devoted to God, leaves the earthly scene by individually encouraging, cautioning and affirming each of his sons, speaking of their past and their future. His God-inspired parting words appear to be carefully and thoughtfully articulated with every one of the sons given the blessing appropriate to him (Genesis 49:28). The words we speak will make a difference in the lives of our children.
Jacob’s life teaches that we must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Empowered by God, this father’s parting gift to his children was intended to prepare them for what was to come. It is incumbent upon us to share God’s word with our children, to prepare them for their future and instruct them while we have the opportunity to do so. If we are lax in this regard, we should pray as the Psalmists, “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is” (Psalm 39:4). “Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end” (Psalm 119:33). Blessings have a ripple effect into the future as witnessed in Galatians 3:14: “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”
Father God, Jesus, empower us by your Spirit to live in faithful obedience to your word. We are reminded, ‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law’ (Deuteronomy 29:29). ‘As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance,’ (Daniel 12:13). We rejoice that through Christ Jesus, we have been redeemed and the blessing given to Abraham came to us and, by faith, generations to come may receive the promised Spirit. We trust in your Word that reads, ‘For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants’ (Isaiah 44:3) In Jesus’ name. Amen.