I recently read The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. It took me about four months to read. I kept having to stop, check the index in the back on who that character was, or where they were at on the map. Many of the characters had multiple names and places kept getting renamed. The family trees kept getting harder and harder to follow. Who came from who again? Wait, which Elf family did he come from…oh, that’s actually a dwarf family. What battle was that and when did it take place?
The first half of the book took three months, and the last half one month. I had finally gotten into a good rhythm with Tolkien’s writing style and the main characters. It was an arduous task, but I enjoyed it. I loved reading about the creation of Arda (the earth) by Iluvatar. Also, the making of the Valar (the Creator’s originals) who sang the earth into its being and formed the trees and flowers, the rivers and animals, the mountains and plains with their song.
There were heroes and villains, good against evil, dark against light. Magnificent creatures of destruction were created by Melkor, the fallen being of Iluvatar. He waited in the darkness and planted seeds of evil in men and elves. There were many great battles against Melkor and his lot. But other battles were fought because of the lies he told, and the pride and jealousy, the anger and distrust that he instilled in many of his followers. Death came to many as a byproduct of his work.
As I have been reading through the Bible chronologically this time, I’ve found that my perspective has changed. No longer is it a collection of individual stories, split into books, and then into testaments. There aren’t just a handful of quotable verses to live by and others to be discarded. It is one, long, collective story: God’s story. Everything in it is important and follows God’s narrative from creation to final victory over Satan. With this in mind, it makes reading and understanding it practically a little easier. I also realize that the Bible is “living,” and that God speaks in special ways to us through each word and story. This inspires me to study it.
Though Tolkien says that this work is not based on God vs. Satan, there are so many parallels within the story. Not unlike Tolkien’s work the Bible, can be a challenge to read, but tells a story of creation, the fall from perfection, battles against evil, strife between loved ones, envy, rage, redemption, and final victory over darkness.
These final chapters in Genesis reveal, in part, how God works and uses people, but also what his plans are to redeem them. With Jacob’s final message to his sons, he prophecies what is to come: God’s eternal plan and purpose. It’s so good!
S – Scripture: Genesis 48-50
- 48:4-6 – “He said to me, ‘I will make you fruitful, and I will multiply your descendants. I will make you a multitude of nations. And I will give this land of Canaan to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession.’ ‘Now I am claiming as my own sons these two boys of yours, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born here in the land of Egypt before I arrived. They will be my sons, just as Reuben and Simeon are. But any children born to you in the future will be your own, and they will inherit land within the territories of their brothers Ephraim and Manasseh.'”
- 48:11 – “Then Jacob said to Joseph, ‘I never thought I would see your face again, but now God has let me see your children, too!'”
- 48:14 – “But Jacob crossed his arms as he reached out to lay his hands on the boys’ heads. He put his right hand on the head of Ephraim, though he was the younger boy, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, though he was the firstborn.”
- 48:19 – “But his father refused. ‘I know, my son; I know,’ he replied. ‘Manasseh will also become a great people, but his younger brother will become even greater. And his descendants will become a multitude of nations.'”
- 49:9-10 – “‘Judah, my son, is a young lion that has finished eating its prey. Like a lion he crouches and lies down; like a lioness–who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.’”
- 50:19-21 – “But Joseph replied, ‘Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.’ So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.”
- 50:24 – “‘Soon I will die,’ Joseph told his brothers, ‘but God will surely come to help you and lead you out of this land of Egypt. He will bring you back to the land he solemnly promised to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.'”
O – Observation:
- Jacob is making his last commands and tying up all of the loose ends with is sons. He takes Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own.
- Like between Jacob and Esau, Jacob blesses the younger son of Joseph more than the older.
- Jacob gives a lasting message to each of his sons, prophesying what will happen to each. He foreshadows Jesus’ coming – “the one whom all nations will honor.”
- The brothers fear that Joseph will now turn on them since their Father is gone. But Joseph has forgiven his brothers completely. He understood that God worked mightily through what they had done and used it for the good of the whole nation.
- At Joseph’s death, he states that the Israelites will be brought out of Egypt and back to God’s Promised Land to them.
- The world intends to harm us, but God works it all for good.
A – Application:
1.) How the world works: It intends to harm us.
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.” John 10:10a
The world is fallen. Broken. Full of hurt, grief, struggle, sickness, and addictions. Depression, anxiety, worry, and fear take up residence in our minds. Many are far from God and act so. It’s seems sometimes that Satan has prevailed. He has managed to turn the beautiful world God created into a hazard zone. I don’t have to look far to see the pain of the world, both in humans and in nature.
Even more subtle, but just as powerful, the jealousy, envy, anger, regret, guilt, shame, doubt, pride, and unforgiveness that start as seeds and grow in us. These emotions, if left unchecked, can manipulate our actions and interactions. Worst of all, they can draw us away from God and all that he has for us. This is not the world that God intended for his children. We must be vigilent in checking our emotions, drawing close to God daily, and fleeing from the devil. We must guard our hearts and renew our minds constantly!
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2
“My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10b
1.) How God works: He works all things for good and uses the least of all people for his purposes.
Throughout the Bible, God shows the opposite view of the world. The world wants the powerful, wealthy, charismatic, influential, and strong to make things happen. And not that you can’t be any of these things for God to use you. But historically, those that made an impact in the Bible and today, are so, because they first humbled themselves to God and followed him.
“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Matthew 19:30
He takes the weak, poor, dull, unimportant, insignificant, and small and empowers them to do great things when they have the smallest amount of faith. He takes the impossible, tragic, devestating, and challenging and brings something good and purposeful out of it all. That’s not always what we want to hear if we are grieving, but it’s true. He can bring great joy out of great sorrow and purpose out of pain.
Like it says above, he wants us to have a good and fulfilling life. God desires for us to live abundantly in his care and provision. What the world intends for harm, God can use for good.
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
3.) God’s eternal plan and purpose: God will redeem his world and will reign victorious because of the sacrifice of Jesus.
“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot–yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. He will delight in obeying the LORD. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.” Isaiah 11:1-4
Jacob foreshadows Jesus’ coming in this passage when he is blessing Judah. (David is of the tribe of Judah.) God, here, gives a little hint of the narrative to come. That victory will be his eternally.
It’s easy to get caught up in the horribleness of this world. But it’s because of the big steps of faith that ordinary people take every day that thwarts the plan of Satan. It’s through God’s supernatural power that he bestows on us, that evil is stopped in our circle of influence. It’s by the grace and love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we no longer have to pay the price for our sins. And that we can stand strong against the power of the wicked. Satan has lost!
“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
So we can stop and breathe, and know that God is God. We can have full confidence that evil will not win. God will have the final say! Whew!
P – Prayer:
Wow, God! I just love you so much more today because of the scripture you have given. Thank you for your story. For putting it all together giving it to your children to figure out how to live and to receive the courage we need to stand against the devil. He has no power! He has no victory! Thank you for that God. Thank you for sending your son to die for me, so that I can live.
God, you choose the weak and powerless to do your best work. You can take tragedy and grief, and bring purpose. It’s hard to see the world for what it is, what you’d hoped it wouldn’t become, but did. Thank you for not giving up. Thank you for loving us enough to continue the story until Satan is completely vanquished.
Keep our hearts and minds vigilant. Keep us close to you, Lord. Helps us be strong against the powers of the devil. I pray a special prayer of protection to those reading. In your powerful name, Amen.