Why Judah Got the Blessing

Shabbat, January 3, 2015

After blessing Joseph’s sons in a peculiar way, Jacob blessed his other sons in a most peculiar way—bypassing the three oldest sons to give Judah the greatest blessing of royal Messianic authority. Why did Judah get this blessing? The answer will teach us much about the relationship between God’s sovereignty & grace and our freedom & responsibility—great & practical lessons.
In Beresheet (Genesis) 48:14, Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons in a peculiar way, doing a switcheroo:“Israel stretched out his right hand & placed it upon Ephraim’s head (though he was the younger), and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands (though Manasseh was the firstborn).” Joseph probably thought Jacob was making a mistake (his sight was dim), so he (17) “took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head.” Usually the greater blessing went to the oldest son, right?

(19) “But his father refused & said, ‘I know, my son, I know. [The older] also will become a people, and he also will become great. But his younger brother will become greater.” Jacob’s prophecy was true—Manasseh did become a great tribe; but Ephraim became the leading tribe in the north, with the tabernacle in its territory at Shiloh, until David brought the ark to Jerusalem.

God Himself often did these sovereign switcheroos—as with Isaac & Ishmael, Jacob & Esau, Joseph & his brothers, David & his brothers, etc. Or for that matter: the Jew first, and then the Greek. Do these switcheroos mean God is playing favorites, as Jacob did with his wives and with his sons?

Not at all! In Genesis 17:20 reassures Abraham, “And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers….” Esau also prospered and had descendants all the way to the time of Yeshua. All twelve sons of Jacob became the fathers of the tribes of Israel. People from all nations are co-heirs with the children of Israel through faith in Messiah Yeshua. V’eemru? (And let us say?) God’s sovereign choice does not mean He plays favorites. For Romans 2:10-11 insists, “But there will be glory, honor, and shalom to everyone who does good—to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”

Can we all wrap our heads around this truth? Though God sovereignly orders things “to the Jew first,” the blessings of “glory, honor and shalom” will flow “to everyone who does good,” through trust in the God of Israel and the Messiah sent first to Israel—ultimately these blessings are now available to everyone who puts his trust in the Messiah and walks in obedience to His word. V’eemru?

In Beresheet (Genesis) 49, Jacob called his twelve sons to him for a final prophetic blessing. He starts with the oldest, in vv. 3-4 “Reuben, my firstborn are you, my vigor and firstborn of my power, endowed with extra dignity, endowed with extra strength—like water boiling over you will not have extra, for you got up into your father’s bed, when you defiled a maid’s couch.” Indeed, in Genesis 35:22, “Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine, and Israel heard of it.”

Reuben had some good qualities—he tried to protect Joseph from his brothers—but he made a poor choice, one that dishonored his father. So the blessing of the firstborn passed on. In vv. 5-7, Jacob speaks to the next two sons: “Simeon and Levi are brothers, instruments of violence are their knives. In their secret counsel may my soul not enter. In their contingent may my honor never be united. For in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they maimed oxen.”

Genesis 34 tells how Simeon & Levi took revenge on prince of Shechem for raping their sister Dinah, by urging all the men of the town to be circumcised, then while they were weak (28), the brothers “each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male.” As a result (v. 30), “Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the inhabitants of the land.”

So now, Jacob says (7) “Cursed be their anger for it was strong and their rage for it was cruel—I will disperse them in Jacob, I will scatter them in Israel.”

Joshua 19:1 records that Simeon’s “inheritance lay within the territory of Judah”—with no distinct portion, unlike the other tribes. And Levi was indeed scattered in towns among all twelve tribes.

Yet Levi did better than Simeon, so that to this day the descendants of Levi are honored in Israel. How many of you know why? Exodus 32 explains why. After Moses found the children of Israel worshipping a golden calf (26), “Moses stood at the gate of the camp and said, ‘Whoever is on ADONAI‘s side, let him come to me.’ Then all the sons of Levi gathered together around him.” After they executed judgment on sinners, in v. 29, Moses said, “Today you have been dedicated to ADONAI, since each man went against his son and his brother. Therefore you have brought a blessing on yourselves today.”

Thus, by choosing to stand with Moses and justice, the Levites turned Jacob’s curse into a blessing—the Levites became a priestly tribe—instead of land, their inheritance was ADONAI Himself!

So God’s sovereign word may be conditional, leaving room for people to turn a curse into a blessing, or blessing into curse. Here’s a theological question: is God sovereign or do people have free will? (Both!)

Do blessings & curses impact us from generation to generation, or are we responsible for our lives? (Both!)

So the great blessing passes on to Judah, in Beresheet 49:8-10, “Judah, so you are—your brothers will praise you.” How many of you hear the pun? Yehuda & praise come from the same Hebrew root. “Your father’s sons will bow down to you.” So Judah would rule over his brothers—through David. “He crouches, lies down like a lion, or like a lioness—who would rouse him?” The “lion of Judah” is proverbial among Jews to this day—and Revelation 5:5 recognizes its fulfillment in Messiah: “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed!”

In v. 10, Jacob utters this mighty Messianic prophecy: “The scepter will not pass from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs will come. To him will be the obedience of the peoples.” David, descended from Judah, received this promise for his descendants. Though eventually they were exiled from the land, Z’rubavel returned, and through his seed came the Messiah, Yeshua—and to Him “will be the obedience of the peoples.” V’eemru?

This sermon may not to be reprinted in whole or in part without the express written consent of Messianic Rabbi Glenn D. Blank of Beit Simcha.  Your generous support for our ministry and building project is appreciated!

Questions for Breakout Discussion

Why did Judah inherit these great blessings? Did they just fall to him by default?

Not at all! In the moment of truth, the turning point of the story of Joseph & his brothers, Judah stepped up.

When Judah & his brothers had first come down to Egypt, Joseph devised an elaborate test for them. Joseph understood that he needed to give his brothers an opportunity to redeem themselves. For they had committed a vile sin—selling their own brother into slavery and telling their father a lie about wild animals killing him—for years that had lived in a lie. Have any of you lived in a lie?

For them to fulfill their destiny as the fathers of Israel, they needed to expose the lie, confess their sin and accept responsibility for what they had done, so that that might be forgiven and restored. As Messiah Yeshua said in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

So Joseph’s test was good and redemptive. V’eemru? Isn’t that how we all feel about God’s tests?

Then Joseph sent them off with more grain, and ordered his silver cup secretly stashed in Ben’s bag. Joseph’s steward catches up to them and finds the cup in Benjamin’s bag. The brothers could have let the steward drag Benjamin back to his doom—just like little Joe. But this time, they all tore their clothes and went back to Egypt with their little brother.

Then Judah stepped up. He told the ruler Joseph the whole story, and concludes: “So now, please let your servant remain as my lord’s slave in the boy’s place, and let the boy go.” Judah told the truth and accepted responsibility, laying down his life for his brother. There would no longer be any jealousy over Benjamin being the favored son—Ben was their brother, and Judah stepped up for him, even to the point of offering himself as a slave in his brother’s place.

How many of you see parallels between Judah & Yeshua? Philippians 2:7 says, “He emptied Himself —taking on the form of a slave.” Yeshua took the rap for us!

Have you ever questioned what the Heavenly Father is doing? Why did He give Joseph the dreams? Why did He choose so and so for this gift or that ministry and not you? Yet the blessing doesn’t flow from questioning or doubting the Father; it flows from honoring Him. V’eemru?

 

Because Judah had stepped up, he would be recognized as the leader among the older brothers. And today there are people all over the world know as Jews, even though they are descended from all twelve sons of Israel.

God chooses and blesses sovereignly and there’s a special reward, a special blessing for everyone who freely choose Him and in obedience fulfill their responsibility. V’eemru?

 

Questions for Breakout Discussion

 

What was the switcheroo that Jacob did with Joseph’s sons?

Yet how do all the sons of Israel receive Jacob’s blessing to this day?

 

Has God given the message of salvation to the Jew first?

 

Does God’s sovereign priority mean that He plays favorites?

 

How did Levi reverse Jacob’s prophetic curse of being “scattered in Israel”?

 

Judah had conspired with his brothers against Joseph. How did he bring about a redemptive reversal?

 

What practical lessons can we learn from the actions of Levi and Judah and their consequences?

 

Have you ever questioned what the Heavenly Father is doing? How about your earthly parents/leaders?

Can you still honor your Father even when you don’t understand what He is doing?

 

Are you OK with God choosing other people to receive certain gifts or ministries instead of you?

Why or why not?

 

Why did Yeshua say, “Whoever can be trusted with a little can also be trusted with much”?

 

(Leaders disperse among the people. The following questions on screen pertain to the building project.)

 

Why do the Rabbi and elders believe the Lord wants us to build a Synagogue and Community House?

 

Why does Nancy Hahn believe it is our congregation’s prophetic destiny to do so?

 

What blessings will flow to people through our own new Synagogue?

 

Acts 2:46 says, “Day by day they continued with one mind, spending time at the Temple and breaking bread from house to house. They were sharing meals with gladness and sincerity of heart.” What blessings will flow to from those live in the Community House to those who don’t actually live there?

 

Why is the leadership team asking congregants to join them in pledging to the building project?

 

Genesis 12:3 says, “I will bless those who bless you … and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Pastor Jack Groblewski and the elders of New Covenant quoted this verse as their motivation to support our project. Does their commitment to us motivate you? How else can you help to get the word out about this blessing to others?

This sermon may not to be reprinted in whole or in part without the express written consent of Messianic Rabbi Glenn D. Blank of Beit Simcha.  Your generous support for our ministry and building project is appreciated!

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