You know some of the things that people say on their deathbed are truly amazing. Let me read for you a few famous last words.
“I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” (Leonardo da Vinci, artist, 1519)
“I am ready.” (Woodrow Wilson, US President, 1924)
“How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?” (P. T. Barnum, entrepreneur, 1891)
“This the last of earth! I am content.” (John Quincy Adams, US President, 1848)
“Oh, do not cry - be good children and we will all meet in heaven.” (Andrew Jackson, US President, 1845)
“Go on, get out - last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.” To his housekeeper, who urged him to tell her his last words so she could write them down for posterity, (Karl Marx, communist revolutionary, 1883)
Tonight we’re going to examine the last words of the great Patriarch Jacob. He’s lived a long, difficult, amazing, faith-filled journey for 147 years. But now it’s come to an end and he knows it. So with his last few breaths he speaks with his sons – the 12 sons of Israel.
As we look at Jacob’s last day on earth it’s going to cause us to wonder about what we would say with our last breath. Would we lavish love on our family? Would we try and comfort them with our words? Would we give them instructions for after our death? Would we address the wrongs in their lives? Would we try and focus them on the eternal aspect of life? What would we say to our family right before we died. (That is, if we even had the chance.)
Well Jacob gives the sons a little bit of everything through his last words. And the thing that struck me is the fact that Jacob was expediently honest with his sons. He didn’t just give the things they wanted to hear. He gave them the truth that they needed to hear. He knew that his words would live on way past the emotions of the moment. With his last breaths he gave his sons everything he could to help them with the rest of their lives.
As we saw last week Jacob first spoke with Joseph and his two sons privately. He told them just how he wanted to be buried and he told them about just who God was. He told them how God was faithful, caring, loving and able to save.
Well now he asks for the other 11 sons to be brought in so he could speak with all the 12 sons together before he passed away.
[Read Genesis 49:1-2.]
It’s important to understand that when Jacob referred to “in the days to come” he was referring to subsequent times and beyond. (The promised land and the kingdom of God.)
Some of what he said would start happening soon while some wouldn’t take place for hundreds of years. Remember, they were in Egypt and would end up being there for 400 years. But Jacob is obviously prophesying here by the power of the Spirit because most of what he predicted has come true and the rest will be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom.
For some of the sons he spoke extensively. For some of the sons he spoke briefly. For some it was good news and for others it was bad news. But for all Jacob spoke expedient truth concerning their own future.
Reuben, Jacob’s first born son
[Read Genesis 49:3-4.]
I have a feeling that as Jacob spoke these words his heart was breaking. He expresses to his first born son how much potential he had. How that he would have been the leader of the nation of Israel moving forward. How all strength and power would have been his if he just would have been self-disciplined. But Reuben lived controlled by his sexual desires and had an affair with one of his father’s wives.
[Read I Chronicles 5:1.]
And I’ll bet that if Reuben had an affair with just about any other girl, the consequences wouldn’t have been this severe. But to sleep with another man’s wife, especially your father’s wife, shows a total lack of self-control. You can’t lead a nation if you have no discipline.
And just like Jacob predicted, Reuben’s tribe was incredible insignificant in Israel’s history. No prophet, judge or military hero came from his tribe. As a matter of fact it seems like his clan was in danger of dying out at one time as indicated by the way Moses prayed for them.
[Read Deuteronomy 33:6.]
[Read Genesis 49:5-7.]
Jacob expressly condemns the savage ways of these two brothers. This stems from when they slew all of the men from the city of Shechem for what one of their men did to their sister. Instead of punishing the one who raped their sister, they killed all the city’s men, lamed all the people’s cattle, and stole from them everything of value. Their revenge was nothing short of ruthless, excessive and criminal.