Very interesting interaction between Joseph and his father Jacob here. His father is dying and calls in Joseph and his sons in order to bless them. But Jacob can’t see very well, so Joseph puts Manasseh, his older son, on Jacob’s right, and Ephraim, his younger son, on Jacob’s left. The custom in those days was to put the person of greater honor on the right side and the person of lesser honor on the left, and so Joseph wanted Jacob to know that it was Manasseh who should get the greater blessing.
But Jacob crossed Joseph up, literally. He crossed his arms and put his right hand on Ephraim and his left hand on Manasseh, and blessed them that way, giving the greater blessing to Ephraim. When Joseph saw this, he immediately tried to stop Jacob, saying “No, no, no. You’ve got it wrong, Father. Give your greater blessing to my older son.”
But Jacob just said, “No, I know what I’m doing. Manasseh will become a great people, but Ephraim will become greater.” And he blessed the two sons.
There is some sense of irony here. I can’t help but think that Jacob was recalling his own life, where his mother was told by God that Jacob, the younger son, would become greater than Esau, the older son, despite the hopes that Isaac had for Esau. And now, Jacob was telling the same thing to Joseph.
There are two points about God’s blessing and God’s will here that I think can be pointed out. First, God’s blessing in our lives has nothing to do with our position in life, or how people perceive us. In Joseph’s family, Manasseh had been treated with greater honor because he was the older son. But God had other plans. It was his will that Ephraim have prominence.
Maybe you look down on yourself because you don’t think you’re so special. “I don’t have any special talents or skills. I’m a nobody. I just work at McDonalds. I’m just a housewife. I just have a boring 9-5 job. Why would God want to bless someone like me?”
Maybe you were always being compared to your brother or sister by your parents and you were always finding yourself being found wanting. “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” “Why can’t you be more like your sister?”
Maybe you weren’t so popular in school, and even now you don’t seem to have many friends.
But God doesn’t care about all that. He doesn’t care about what others think of you. He doesn’t care about your position in life. He cares about you. And he wants to bring blessing in your life. Jesus said in God’s kingdom,
Indeed, there are those who are last, and first who will be last. (Luke 13:30)
Jesus was talking to the Jews who thought that they had a special position in the world as God’s people, but Jesus told them that when God’s kingdom came, people from all over the world would be there, not just the Jews. And there would be Jews who thought they were so special who would be humbled, and people that those Jews looked down upon that would be honored.
In a broader perspective, there are people that are in low positions and are looked down upon now, but they will be blessed and exalted, while there are people that are in high positions now that will be humbled.
So don’t think that you’re exempt from God’s blessing just because of your position in life, what your skills or talents are, or how people perceive you. As you follow Jesus, and live your life for him, he will shower you with his blessings.
But there’s another point to be made about God’s will. It doesn’t always coincide with ours. Joseph had his own plans for his sons, as had Isaac. Both had planned for their older sons to be the prominent members of their family. But that wasn’t God’s will.
So often we’re like Joseph, who when Jacob tried to express his will, said, “No, no. You’ve got it all wrong. Do it this way.” But Jacob said, “No, that’s not how it’s going to be.”
And God sometimes does the same thing with us. We have our own plans for our lives. And when God tries to do something different, we tell him “No, you’ve got it all wrong. I want things this way.” But as Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”
And so we can either fight God and try to do things our way, or we can trust him and do things his way. But it’s as we give in to him, that we find blessing in our lives. I mentioned before that for a long time I fought God’s will for me in my life that I come to Japan. But it was when I gave in, that I found God’s blessing in my life.
Do you want God’s blessing in your life? Remember that it doesn’t matter who you are or how people perceive you. God wants to bless you. But also remember that his will isn’t always ours. And if we truly want his blessing in our lives, we need to trust and follow him.