Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Darris McNeely] Jacob's words were to his sons a prophecy foretelling the future and what their place would be in the last days.
[Narrator] Join our presenters from the United Church of God as we bring you help for today and hope for tomorrow directly from your Bible here on Beyond Today
[Darris McNeely] As the old man lay dying his son stood around his bed. After a long life, he had summoned them to hear his last words. Money, land and wealth were not his final gift to his sons, but this elderly man wanted to tell them was the story of their future, what would happen to their children far into the future generations. It's one of the most remarkable stories in all of the Bible, it's the story of the Biblical patriarch Jacob. It's told near the end of the book of Genesis. His words were "Gather together," he said "that I may tell you what will befall you in the last days. Gather together and hear you sons of Jacob and listen to Israel, your father." It's told in Genesis chapter 49. Now, Jacob's words were to his sons a prophecy foretelling the future of the generations of this remarkable family that we read about in the book of Genesis and what their place would be in the last days.
Now the term, “the last days” here in Genesis 49:1 means just the time at the end of the age before God steps into human history to inaugurate the Kingdom of heaven on the Earth. It's the time that so many prophecies in the Bible foretell as the time of the Messiah when He will come and an age of the restoration of all things on the Earth. In the majority of the uses of these words “in the last days” in the Old Testament, they mean that the prophecy and the blessings and what the topic is, extend into the days of the second coming of Jesus Christ inaugurating that messianic period.
This is the third episode in a series that we are going through in Beyond Today that is meant to show how the promises that God made to Abraham are playing out on the world's stage today and how it all connects to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. In the first two episodes, I focused on the importance of the life and the death of Queen Elizabeth II and how the coronation ceremony that she went through and her son will go through, how that coronation ceremony of English monarchs echoes the customs of the kings of Israel in the Bible.
Now in this program, I'm going to show you how the blessing of a dying Jacob to his son Joseph connects our world to the covenant that God made with Abraham all the way back in Genesis beginning in Genesis chapter 12. That covenant that God made with Abraham still stands, that covenant is about Jesus Christ, the seed of Abraham who lives and who will return as King of kings. He will come to sit on the throne of his father David, and to rule over the united Israel and all of the nations of the world. All of these prophecies have been told throughout the Bible and that covenant that God made with Abraham is about salvation for all nations and peoples through Christ, the one name under heaven and earth by which spiritual salvation is possible and it is central to the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. Now let's go back to what that scene is all about. In Genesis 49, Jacobs’s words there give us a key to understanding the modern world. The what and the why of so many world events that have happened and it helps us to understand certain great questions about history. Why is the world wealth that we see today, why is that wealth concentrated in only a few nations? Why do other developing nations fall behind other parts of the world in terms of wealth, health and standards of living? Why are the great disparity in our world today? Well, this story gives understanding about how God will bring justice and equity to all nations and to all peoples. This story that we are reading and studying is the key to unlocking the arc of history to discern where history is leading.
So let's look at this prophecy, and let's ask some important questions. The scene in Genesis 49 comes at the very end of the life of Jacob. Jacob was the grandson of Abraham. His 12 sons are with him in Egypt where they have gone with their families to escape a famine in the land. Joseph, the younger son all of us will remember, had been sold by his brothers into slavery but God was with him. He has risen, he's now presiding over the Egyptian economy and he was able to maintain ample food supplies, and maintain the social stability of ancient Egypt. Jacob and his family came down to Egypt and came under the protection of Joseph and the Pharaoh because they needed the food. Joseph's role in this whole story has been established earlier in the book of Genesis, the earlier narrative where he was sold into slavery, falsely imprisoned, came out of that prison and attained redemption and then he was placed into power right under Pharaoh in Egypt. Joseph was used by God to prepare and to preserve life, and stability in a very fragile world in Egypt at that time. Egypt was the most powerful nation in the world and his preservation through the work that Joseph did as we read in Genesis actually maintained world stability in order at that time and that's at a very important point to understand. Not only in the history of the story, but it also tells us something about today's world and today's world order. Joseph is the key feature of the prophecy that is here in Genesis 49. While all the other brothers are told their future, it's really Joseph that we focus on for some specific reasons.
So let's read what it says there about Joseph in Genesis chapter 49 and we can begin to understand exactly what is being said here. Jacob said to Joseph, "The archers have bitterly grieved him and shot at him and hated him." He goes on in verse 24 of Genesis 49 to say, "But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob." From there it goes on to say "is the shepherd, the stone of Israel." Continues in verse 25, "By the God of your father who will help you and by the almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above. Blessings of the deep that lie beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb."
Jacob says to Joseph that "Joseph is a fruitful bough, his branches run over the wall." What is this fruitful bough talking about here? What does it mean? Well, it's a symbol. The Bible uses a lot of symbols to convey meaning, it's a symbol of a branch of a fruit tree or a vine that's loaded down with with fruit that indicates prosperity, abundance, wealth. Jacob's predicting that Joseph's descendants would become a wealthy people. The phrase blessings of the breast and the womb indicate the sizable population of Joseph's seed at the end of the age. Jacob goes on to forecast a time when Joseph's branches it says would run over the wall and that implies a people who spread by colonization, by expansion literally to all four corners of the Earth. Jacob is actually showing Joseph's descendants as a people holding great power, military power, economic power. When he says that "his bow remained in strength and the arms of his hand were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob," referring to power. Like the blessing that was pronounced by Jacob's father Isaac upon him, Jacob also said that Joseph would enjoy favorable climate weather conditions. He says he would have the blessings of heaven above, abundant natural resources, all of which are essential to ensure an economic strength and a position within the world of dominance. Also included are generally peaceful conditions in which to live, to grow, have power, have influence over the peoples of the world. What Jacob says to Joseph is really unlike any of the promises to his other sons that he goes on to talk about here in Genesis 49. In fact, Joseph's blessing is really a summary of the core of the promises that we can trace in the book of Genesis back through Jacob, through his father Isaac all the way to Abraham. And they include through all of those specific statements of promise from God, including what it is called the due of heaven, the fatness of the earth, plenty of grain and wine, all symbols of abundance. The size of the promises which begin with Abraham that are passed to Isaac onto Jacob, they're staggering in their prospect and in what they mean and foretell.
Here are some of the central elements of that promise. It says “In blessing I will bless you and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and of the sand which is on the seashore, and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." And in the spiritual blessing of Christ and making salvation available to the whole of humanity rather than to a single people, it's really at the core of that blessing. But it also involves physical blessings and all of us God made to Abraham as a promise and God backed that promise because Abraham, it says, “obeyed My voice.” God says “he obeyed My voice and I will do it.”
When we put all of this together, these promises describe what history calls an empire. A people grown large, where they dominate all other peoples and nations within their particular sphere. Egypt was an empire in the ancient world, so was Assyria or Babylon, Persia, Rome, a great Roman empire. Like all the empires of other times that we find in history, in places in Europe and in Asia where empires have come and gone. But interestingly this prophecy is not dealing with those time periods of the past, of the ancient world and that period it's describing the last days.
Remember when we look at today's world, we call such nations that have these descriptors of peoples and the blessings that are given to Abraham and his family, we call these peoples and these nations today superpowers. And in today's world in the last 300 years there are only two nations that fit this description. In Genesis, God made promises to Abraham's family that he alone would fulfill. He comes to a certain point in Genesis 22:16 and he says, "By myself I have sworn." God stands behind what he made as promises to Abraham institute's descendants. To that contract, God is the soul benefactor, His word is given and He stands behind it. So what we have here in Genesis 49 is a description of Jacob's descendants again in the last days, meaning today's world, then who we would ask among the modern nations today fit the description laid down in those promises of economic greatness and superpower status in history? Going back to Genesis, we see Jacob brings this description of Joseph's blessings to a powerful conclusion. What He says then is that "The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers." And that final and emphatic pronouncement we find another clue to locate the people of Israel in the latter days. Within that final phrase, we have a clear illusion to the story of young Joseph's separation from his own human family when he was sold into Egyptian slavery at age 17. And like so many other aspects of the Joseph story, it's also highly prophetic. So we should look for the modern day descendants of Joseph in a setting where there are separated people insulated from the descendants of the other tribes, the Israelite tribes by physical barriers, by geographic barriers and indeed that has been the case with the descendants of Joseph during modern history.
Now it should be understood that we are building a case here to discover what the Bible tells us about the fulfillment of this remarkable prophecy in Genesis 49. All of it is a summation of the promises given to Abraham that began in Genesis 12. We are looking to find Israel in the modern world in the last days of people with roots to Abraham's family with all the descriptions here of Genesis. Now this quest if I can call it that, the story, this effort this is not our ours alone here on Beyond Today. Do you know that throughout history many others have pursued this question because of what they read in the Bible? They have. In fact if the Bible did not show the clear trail of Israel all the way to the end of the Book of Revelation, we really would not concern ourselves with this study. But the path of Israel is clear from Genesis all the way to the end of the book in Revelation. God chose a covenant people, He made promises to Abraham and to His descendants including the most important descendant Jesus of Nazareth. Promises that are critically important to understanding the purpose that God has for all mankind.
Israel, the people, the nation, the spiritual entity, it figures prominently in the Bible and as we've shown in a previous program, Christ will return and He will sit on the throne of his father David. The apostles were told by Christ that at His coming they would sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel and during the thousand year reign of Christ on Earth it says that He will reign from Jerusalem where nations will come to learn of the God of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. Israel matters, God has unfinished business with the people who bear the name of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. We'll cover that topic specifically in a future program. This is a very important biblical topic. Unfortunately, it's grossly misunderstood even by many who have studied and searched for the lost tribes of Israel and who have found core aspects of this topic. But unfortunately, nationalistic bias, religious deception and even racial bigotry have all worked to obscure what the Bible does show us about Israel in the last days and why it's an important dimension of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
The identity of Israel in the modern world may lack the degree of evidence that modern scholarship would accept. I understand that, on Beyond Today we understand that, but modern scholarly methods alone are not sufficient to weigh the biblical record. Neither can this teaching be disproved by history, archeology, or any other academic discipline. There is credible reasonable evidence in support of what I'm talking about here today. Think about this statement that Jesus did make as he addressed his father. He said, "I thank you Father" at one point, "Lord of heaven and earth that you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes," it's in Matthew 11:25. While there are primary sources that we can cite in this study, the most significant primary source is the Bible. In fact, without the Bible there would be little basis and not even a need for this idea. If our study of Israel in the last day's rest on a firm biblical framework, the historical and the contemporary evidence can be presented with confidence. Our judgment on the matter stands, or falls according to the way we understand and apply scripture. We really stand at the end of a thousand yearlong succession of generations each striving to understand Bible prophecy in the context of their times. Identifying key modern nations as Israel, specifically the English speaking nations of Great Britain, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand does help us make sense of the events and the upheaval that is occurring in today's world and what lies ahead.
So does God through His spirit inspire His church with increased understanding of scripture including prophecy at the close of the age as that approaches? Well, consider the words that God said to Daniel at the end of the book of Daniel. He said, "shut up the words and seal the book until the time of the end," and He said that "the wise will understand." "God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants, the prophets," He said through the prophet Amos. It's really vital to know who Israel is in the last days if you want to understand all of the prophecies of the Bible and with faith and a balanced approach to scripture this subject can be understood.
So who among today's nations best fulfill the incredible predictions of physical national blessings, and inheritance spoken to Joseph and promise there? Well, another key is found in a separate scene from the one that we've just been studying. It's in Genesis 48, just a chapter before where it tells an intriguing story that occurred privately between Joseph and his father Jacob before the gathering of the sons around the bed. In that story, Joseph brought his two sons that were born to him while he was in Egypt. Their names were Ephraim and Manasseh to the bedside of his father. That visit soon became elevated beyond just a casual get acquainted chap. Jacob was moved to announce that his name Jacob or Israel would be put upon the two boys, Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph and that the blessings of Joseph's material abundance was to be theirs. So Jacob brought forward what God had given to him his son saying, "Behold, I make you fruitful and multiply you and I will make of you a multitude of people and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession." And upon Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh he said, "They will be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance," meaning that they would get what was said to Joseph. And Jacob asked the boys to be brought close, so that he might bless them. Joseph moved his eldest, Manasseh to the right hand of his father, Jacob which was the custom. But Jacob moved by God, put his right hand on the other Ephraim and his left hand on Manasseh and began to speak this blessing. He said, "God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has fed me all my lifelong to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads, let my name be upon them and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth."
Now Joseph thought that Jacob's failure, eyesight and his advanced age was leading him to make a mistake, he said, hold on dad, "Not so, my father, this one is the firstborn," meaning Manasseh, "put your right hand on his head. But his father refused and said, I know my son, I know that he Manasseh also shall become a people and he also shall be great, but truly his younger brother, Ephraim will be greater than he and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations." And so Jacob put his name on the boys and that name was Israel and they inherited the birthright blessing given to Joseph. One would become a great people, and the other would become a multitude of nations. This scene gives us more detail about Joseph in the last days.
If we look at today's world to determine a great multitude of nations acting as one and a single great nation both acting in history as brothers part of a family, where would we look? What nations in the modern world fit all parts of this identity? Two and only two. The United States and Great Britain, part of the English speaking peoples of the world. The amazing story of how God has fulfilled his promises is a story that we're going to explore further in the next chapter of this program that we do here on Beyond Today. You're going to want to understand how we can see from the Bible and from history how that has come to pass. We have been offering a study guide through this series of programs called “The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.” We urge you to get a copy of it. It's going to take you through this fascinating story with much more scriptural detail from the Bible about how these two nations rose, and about how these two nations came to be what they have through the centuries. Never in history have two nations held such power, wealth and influence among the nations. Why has so much been given to these peoples? What does this tell us about the unchangeable and the immutable promises of God to all nations and peoples? This study guide tells that story, a biblical story of how God has fulfilled promises to the patriarch Abraham through his descendants and it provides a dimension to the gospel of the kingdom that helps make sense of the modern world. This understanding has been known for years, but has unfortunately been rejected by mainstream historians and theologians. But if you want to know what the Bible says about America and Great Britain and all the English speaking nations, I encourage you to study this topic for yourself. This study guide takes you through the relevant biblical passages to show why these two nations have played such a large part in our time. This little understood key can be understood, so get your free booklet, study it with your Bible and then decide for yourself whether this is true. You can receive a free copy by calling the number on your screen, or going online to beyondtoday.tv. This free study guide can be used for other programs in this series as well, so call now to get your free copy. We're living through an important moment in history, and prophecy and God has not left us without living witnesses to show us his purpose and guiding hand in it all. This amazing story of prophecy will be explored in the next part of this series.
[Narrator] Call now to receive the free booklet offered on today's program, The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy. Are America and Britain described in Bible prophecy, if so where? This crucial study aid shows straight from the Bible how God foretold the rise of these two nations. Order now, call toll free, 1-888-886-8632, or write to the address shown on your screen. When you order this free study aid, we'll also send you a complimentary one year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. Beyond Today brings you understanding of today's world and hope for the future. Six times a year you'll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy, as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family, and godly principles to guide you toward a life that leads to peace. Call today to receive your free booklet, The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy and your free one year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. Call 1-888-886-88632 or go online to beyondtoday.tv.
[Gary Petty] Hi, I'm Gary Petty, a pastor with United Church of God. If you are looking for a church that encourages living what the word of God really teaches, you found the right place. Visit ucg.org to find a church near you. We're looking forward to meeting you soon.