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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Genesis 48

 

 

Verse 15-16

DISCOURSE: 59

JACOB BLESSING THE SONS OF JOSEPH

Genesis 48:15-16. And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads!

THERE are not any more profitable scenes than those which we behold in the chambers of dying saints. There religion is exhibited in the most lively colours, and evinces itself to be, not a visionary phantom, but a real and substantial good. We are bidden to “mark the perfect man, and to behold the upright, because the end of that man is peace.” Some instances there are, where persons on their death-bed are transported with unutterable joy: they seem to breathe the very atmosphere of heaven, while they are yet in the body. But it is more frequent to behold them waiting for their dissolution with a peaceful dignified composure; and improving their precious moments for the benefit of their surviving friends. Such was the closing scene of Jacob. We read not of any particular ecstasies that he enjoyed; but we see him with a hope full of immortality, and an affectionate attention to the welfare of all his children. It seems indeed that several of the patriarchs were on these occasions endued with a spirit of prophecy, and directed to pronounce blessings on those, for whom God, of his own sovereign will, had reserved them. They were not left to their own caprice or judgment in this matter; but were overruled, sometimes contrary to their own intentions to convey the blessings of primogeniture to the younger branches of the family in preference to the elder. Thus Isaac, having unwillingly given the blessing to Jacob, was constrained to confirm it to him, notwithstanding Esau laboured with tears to prevail upon him to recall his word. Somewhat similar to that was the transfer of the blessing to the younger of Joseph’s sons in preference to the elder. Joseph brought his sons to his dying parent, and placed them so that Manasseh, his first-born, should have the right hand of Jacob placed upon his head: but the dying patriarch was inspired of God to counteract the wish of Joseph in this particular, and, by crossing his hands, to convey the principal blessing to Ephraim, who was the younger son. We might remark upon this subject, that God often, if we may so speak, crosses his hands in bestowing his blessings, since he gives them to those, who, in our eyes, are least worthy of them, and least likely to receive them. But our object at present is rather to inculcate the necessity of attending to the spiritual interests of young people, and especially of those who by the ties of consanguinity are connected with us.

In prosecuting this subject, we observe, that,

I. We should feel a concern for the spiritual welfare of the rising generation—

We should by no means be indifferent to the souls of any: on the contrary, the conveying of religious instruction to children is an occupation well worthy the attention of all, who have leisure and ability to engage in it [Note: If this were the subject of a sermon for the support of charity, or Sunday Schools, the idea of relationship should be dropped, and the sentiments a little varied.]. But we are more especially bound to instruct those who are related to us and dependent on us: indeed they may justly claim this service at our hands—

1. Their spiritual welfare is incomparably more important than their temporal—

[All persons feel it incumbent on them to consult the temporal welfare of their children, and account themselves happy, if they can bequeath them an inheritance, that shall make them independent of the world; or give them such an education, as shall enable them to make a comfortable provision for themselves. But how much richer is a child that possesses a saving knowledge of Christ, however low he be in outward circumstances, than the heir of a kingdom would be, if destitute of that knowledge! — — — Shall we then be diligent in promoting the temporal prosperity of our relations, and shew no regard for their eternal interests? God forbid! Let rather our care be most bestowed on those things which most of all deserve our care — — —]

2. Their spiritual welfare greatly depends on us–

[Who is to instruct our children, if we do not? or how can they gain knowledge without instruction? We provide for their bodies, because nature, as well as custom, tells us that it is our duty to do so. But is it not equally our duty to provide for their souls? If we educate them in ignorance, what can be expected but that they should grow up in sin? and how can it be thought that they should bestow any pains in cultivating divine knowledge for themselves, when they see us, whom they suppose to have formed a right estimate of things, indifferent whether they possess it or not? On the contrary, if we conscientiously discharge our duty to them in this respect, we have reason to hope, that God will bless our endeavours, and make us instruments of good to their souls. For though the best efforts may not universally succeed, we may assume it as a general truth, that “if we bring up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it.”]

3. Their souls will be required at our hands—

[This is a truth acknowledged in reference to Ministers: all agree that they must give account of the souls committed to their charge. Why then should not this be the case with those who have the care of children? Methinks every parent, as soon as ever a child is born, should receive it as it were from the hands of God, with this charge, “Bring this child up for me [Note: Exodus 2:9.].” As for the attention which a parent bestows on the temporal advancement of his children, it will not only not excuse his neglect of their better interests, but will be a fearful aggravation of it. The Judge will say to them as he once did to the hypocritical Pharisees, These things ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.]

If we should feel this concern at all times for the rising generation,

II. We should express it more especially in a dying hour—

Every word acquires weight from the circumstance of its being uttered at the approach of death. We should avail ourselves therefore of that advantage, to impress the minds of young people with a concern for their souls. Two things in particular we should do:

1. We should commend God to them—

[This Jacob did: and we cannot do better than follow his example.

Young people are ready to think, that religion is a new thing, and that the exhortations of their parents are the effects of needless preciseness, or of superstitious fear. On this account, it is well to shew them, that all those eminent characters of old, whom they profess to reverence, were devoted to the service of their God: and that, in recommending religion, to them, we recommend only what all the wise and good in all ages have approved; that, if God is our God, he was “the God also, before whom Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob walked.” Moreover, though it is not always expedient to be talking of our own experience, yet, at such a season, we may do it to good effect. We may declare to others what we have known of God, both as a God of providence and of grace. It is of great importance to make them entertain right sentiments respecting the providence of God, and to make them know, that whether they become rich by industry or by inheritance, it is “God who feeds them all their life long.” It is also indispensably necessary to direct their attention to that “Angel,” Jehovah, the Lord Jesus Christ, “the Angel of the Covenant [Note: The same Person is spoken of as in the former members of the text: nor would Jacob have prayed to him, if he had not been God. Compare Genesis 32:24; Genesis 32:28; Genesis 32:30 with Hosea 12:3-5 and Malachi 3:1.],” through whom alone we have redemption, either from the moral evil of sin, or from the penal evil of damnation. It is “He that redeems us from all evil,” temporal, spiritual, and eternal. If we can from our own experience bear testimony to Christ in this view, it will avail more than a thousand lectures given in a time of health: for then the surrounding relatives will see, the sting of death is taken away, and that “they are indeed blessed who put their trust in Christ.”]

2. We should pray to God for them—

[The prayer of Jacob is short, but sententious. The expression, “God bless you!” is often uttered in a dying hour, but without any just ideas affixed to the petition. But we, in imploring the blessing of God upon our children, should distinctly inform them wherein that blessing consists. We should inform them, that, to enjoy God in the dispensations of his providence, and Christ in the riches of his grace, and to walk before God in Christ, as our God and Saviour, in all holy obedience, is to be truly blessed; and that we are then indeed blessed, when God by his Spirit enables us thus to enjoy and to serve him. Having these things in our own minds, and conveying them to the minds of those whom we desire to instruct, we need not multiply words in prayer: while we entreat of God to bless those for whose welfare we are particularly concerned, we shall find acceptance with God, and obtain mercies for them.

It is recorded of Jacob, that in this prayer of his he exercised faith [Note: Hebrews 11:21.]. Now we have not precisely the same grounds for faith that he had; because he was inspired to pronounce over the youths the blessings which God had before determined to bestow: but the more we are enabled to believe in God as a prayer-hearing and promise-keeping God, the more reason we have to hope that our prayers shall be answered, whether for ourselves or others.]

Address—

1. To those who are advanced in life—

[You see before you the composure of a dying saint. Seek to obtain such for yourselves. And that you may “die the death of the righteous,” be diligent to live his life. If your own business be not already transacted with God, (so to speak,) you will have little disposition either to speak to others in a dying hour, or to pray for them: but if your own calling and election be made sure, then will your dying exhortations be delivered with ease, and received with benefit.]

2. To those who are coining forward into life—

[You are apt to slight the instructions of your parents, under the idea that they are unnecessary or unsuitable to your state. But you see what has always occupied the minds of dying saints. You know that Jacob’s example is commended by God himself. Be thankful then, if you have friends or relatives who walk in the steps of Jacob: and let that, which they above all things desire for you, be your chief desire for yourselves.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 48:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/genesis-48.html. 1832.

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