In many cultures the final words of an individual facing death are given much value. Such was the case when Jacob summoned his sons to his bedside. “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel” (Gen 49:2 NIV).
For some of the sons, there was the stark reality that their father was well aware of their attitudes and actions that were most unbecoming and forfeit a final blessing. Other sons would hear of future prosperity and blessing. Most significantly would be the words shared with two of Israel’s sons Joseph and Judah. Both of these sons were given a promise of future blessing that would have impact throughout the world.
To Joseph, second only in power to Egypt’s Pharaoh, the aged patriarch said … “Your father's blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers” (Gen 49:26 NIV).
These words brought fear into the hearts of his brothers who had previously sold him into slavery. “When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?" They were still unwilling to admit their own wrong and thus fabricated a lie to avert their perceived demise. But Joseph did not manifest the thinking of this world but that of God’s. “His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said. But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them” (Gen 50:15-21 NIV).
Some years later, Joseph gave instructions concerning his death and foretold of a future for the Jews in the land of Canaan. “Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place" (Gen 50:25 NIV).
There in the land of Egypt the gospel message according to Joseph was displayed to all who walked by as it were the court house square. God had promised the Jews deliverance and a future in their own land of Palestine. God was at work bringing His promise of a Savior through the line of another son, Judah whose name means praise. This son would become the leader among the tribes and from Him would come One who would have the preeminence in all of humanity. Israel’s final words were firm though centuries would pass before being fulfilled. “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his” (Gen 49:10 NIV).
Over a millennium would pass before the King and Savior of Israel would appear on the scene. Sadly, when proclaimed the Lamb of God by John the Baptizer and when fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah as the Suffering Servant who would go to the Cross and pay the sin debt of every individual, the Savior-King was rejected by the people as the Promised One from the tribe of Judah. That One whom the Jews cried out to crucify, was the ruling scepter promised by Israel [Jacob] to his son Judah. The Cross did not negate the promise for God is not slack concerning His promises. Be assured, Shiloh will come and establish His kingdom on earth and rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords at His Second Advent.